Shortly after the 2006 shotgun slayings of Wayne and Sharmon Stock in their rural Cass County farmhouse, investigating officers zeroed in on Matthew Livers and his cousin Nicholas Sampson as prime suspects.
Livers, nephew of the murder victims, was 28 years old at the time of the murder and had no criminal record or exposure to the criminal justice system. Livers had been a special education student, and his IQ test score of 63 placed “his intellectual functioning below 99 percent of the population at large,” according to the suit.
Separated from his family and without a lawyer present, Livers was interrogated for 11 hours by investigators from the Cass County Sheriff’s Office and Nebraska State Patrol. Livers repeatedly denied any involvement in the crime. But after several hours of increasingly harsh and threatening questioning and being told his refusal to confess would result in the death penalty, Livers believed telling the officers what they wanted to hear would allow him to go home, and he finally implicated himself and Sampson in the murders. The following day, he recanted the confession.
Initially, no evidence linked either Livers or Sampson to the murders. Several weeks into the investigation, lawsuit Defendant David Kofoed, then head of the Douglas County (Neb.) Sheriff’s Crime Scene Investigation Unit claimed to have found victim Wayne Stock’s blood in a car, linked to Livers and Sampson, that investigators theorized was used in the murders.
At the murder scene, investigators found a marijuana pipe, a ring with an inscription and a flashlight that did not belong to the Stocks and likely had been left behind by the killers. After Livers’ confession, a Douglas County forensic investigator, who is not a defendant in the suit, was able to trace the ring to a Wisconsin man, who had left the ring in the glovebox of his truck. His truck had been stolen by Wisconsin residents Gregory Fester and Jessica Reid, who were in a Wisconsin jail in connection with that theft. They later confessed to killing the Stocks, and their confessions were supported by DNA evidence on the ring and pipe and by blood found on their clothing.
Officers in Nebraska attempted to cover their tracks by fabricating additional evidence against Livers and Sampson. They attempted to coerce and manipulate Reid, Fester and at least one other witness into implicating Livers and Sampson as co-conspirators in the murders. They continued to claim that the blood evidence supposedly found by Kofoed supported their case against Livers and Sampson.fter more than seven months in jail, the Cass County Attorney dismissed the charge and gave Livers his freedom. Dismissal of the case followed a State expert’s finding that psychological coercion was used to obtain the false confession and that Livers was especially vulnerable to heavy-handed tactics.
After the charges were dismissed against Livers and Sampson, David Kofoed was charged with evidence tampering in connection with the bogus finding of blood in the suspect vehicle. Kofoed was convicted and sentenced to prison. He was released after serving 18 months. Kofoed’s conviction was been affirmed by the Nebraska Supreme Court.
Livers settled his civil suit against the Nebraska State Patrol investigators and Cass County, Nebraska, Sheriff’s Deputies for coercing him to confess falsely to the brutal murder of his aunt and uncle and fabricating evidence to make the false charges stick. Under the settlement, Livers received a total of $1.65 million as compensation for his seven months of pretrial incarceration while the false charges were pending.