Burton Abbott

WIkipedia Article | Book by Keith Walker : A Trail of Corn

There is a whole chapter on the case in “It’s Me, Edward Wayne Edwards, the Serial Killer You Never Heard of“, Chapter 25, starting page 223.

The claim:

July 16, 1955, a post card was sent to Berkeley Police, in Edwards’ handwriting. The day after, Edwards contacted the San Francisco Examiner, and lead them to the body, planted across from Abbott’s cabin. He planted the body the day after police had searched. Further letters were sent.

Also in the book, page 238, is a letter dated April 24, 1995, from George T. Davis, Abbott’s lawyer, to Keith Walker who wrote a book about the case. Davis says he is convinced that Abbott did not commit the crime, and the book is accurate.

Book description ( via Amazon ):

How could a man be guilty of kidnaping and killing a 14-yr.-old school girl while on a fishing trip miles away when she disappeared? The district attorney claimed the suspect was a vicious sex killer who stalked the victim – and kept her possessions as a fetish. But Burton Abbott said he was 175 miles away when young, pretty Stephanie Bryan was last seen near her Berkeley, CA, home. And he had witnesses to prove it. Keith Walker’s compelling story asks: Did Abbott leave a “trail of corn”, showing evidence of his implication, as the district attorney claimed, or did someone else leave the “trail of corn”, perhaps purposely? A phone call with only two minutes to spare, a mother’s anguished cries, soil on boots nine inches down in the grave, human fingers protruding from under a trunk lid – these are some of the strange ingredients that went into this fascinating story. Burton Abbott was a tubercular ex-GI student at the University of California in Berkeley, CA, when Stephanie disappeared on her way home from school on April 28, 1955. Investigation showed Abbott made a trip to the family cabin on the day the girl disappeared. Later, Stephanie’s remains were found in a grisly grave 339 feet up a steep hillside above the cabin. But Abbott flatly denied any implication in the girl’s death. He said he was the victim of cruel hoax, a ruthless district attorney who based his case on suppositions and innuendoes, and a biased judge. The case was a controversial one, with almost everyone divided on whether he committed the crime. There was only circumstantial evidence to implicate him. Puzzling twists of the story produced blazing headlines month after month in California newspapers. Keith Walker, a newspaperman at the time, spent 35 years researching and writing this book. He has produced a powerful story of intrigue, suspense, drama, grief, conflict and human emotions. He has used his reporter’s skills to bring you the full scope of this bizarre, compelling story.

Discussion Oct 2017

Discussion Sep 2019


Cameron Todd Willingham

One of the clearest examples of an innocent man who was executed, there is clear evidence that the prosecution concealed exculpatory evidence.

It’s official, the State of Texas executed an innocent man – an innocent father – after prosecutors deliberately concealed evidence in his children’s arson deaths. Now the state bar of Texas has filed a formal misconduct accusation against the prosecutor in this case.

The bar had already filed a petition in Navarro County, near Dallas, earlier this month that alleged that prosecutor John Jackson deliberately withheld evidence which indicated that Cameron Todd Willingham was innocent. Because of this, Willingham was executed in 2004 for supposedly murdering his three young daughters. His daughters died in a house fire back in 1991, but the evidence Jackson suppressed showed that Willingham had nothing to do with the fire that took his daughters from him.

from Texas Executed An Innocent Father After Prosecutor Hid Evidence In Kids’ Arson Deaths March 19, 2015.

See also Fresh doubts over a Texas execution Washington Post, August 3, 2014

Jimmy Dennis

Calling the conviction a “grave miscarriage of justice,” the judge noted that the prosecution, whose case was based “on scant evidence at best” covered up evidence pointing to Dennis’ innocence, including evidence undermining the reliability of the police investigation, and statements pointing the finger at three other men in the murder.

“Dennis’ conviction was based solely on shaky eyewitness identifications from three witnesses, the testimony of another man who said he saw Dennis with a gun the night of the murder, and a description of clothing seized from the house of Dennis’ father that the police subsequently lost before police photographed or catalogued it,” the judge said.

Further, the court wrote that the Commonwealth “ignored Dennis’ own explanation for where he was at the time of the murder. … It allowed a witness who saw Dennis on that bus to give incorrect testimony about what time that interaction occurred. Police never recovered a weapon, never found the car that witnesses described, and never found the two accomplices,” she added.

In addition, the defense counsel was ineffective, having failed to interview a single eyewitness–including a girl who was with the victim at the time and said she knew the killers and their nicknames, or a witness whose felony assault charges against his girlfriend suddenly were dropped after he implicated Dennis.

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May 6, 2015 ( Via the website )
Good news! The full Third Circuit court vacated (voided) the February 9, 2015, decision. They have granted Jimmy a rehearing: http://www2.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/139003po.pdf

Dec 24, 2016

“James Dennis entered a no-contest plea, not a guilty plea, because he maintains the same position that he has maintained for 25 years: that he is innocent of this crime,” one of his lawyers, Karl Schwartz, told the judge. “He and his family have made this incredibly difficult decision based on his and their strong desire to have him home and free, [in] lieu of potentially years of continuing litigation.”