On May 1, 2008 Richard and Brenda Kowalski were found dead at their Livingston County home in rural Michigan. Both had been shot. In the 911 call, their adult son named his uncle, Jerome Kowalski, as a suspect.
Jerome was addicted to alcohol, and after being questioned by police began to think it was possible he committed the crime but didn’t remember. When he was told the murder weapon was a 0.38 gun rather than the 9mm gun he owned, he realised he couldn’t have done it.
Lead detective Sean Furlong started accusing Jerome’s sons of committing the murders. Jerome denied it. Furlong then threatened to bring them in for questioning.
Jerome claimed he didn’t want his sons to go through what he was going through, so he finally gave police a signed confession.
At trial, forensic pathologist Werner Spitz testified the time of death was in the middle of the night, when Jerome was working security at a military base.
Jerome’s attorneys expected to get the confession thrown out, but this was denied by Livingston County District Court Judge Theresa Brennan, who also refused to allow an expert on false confessions to testify, calling the expert witness “unreliable and irrelevant.”
However, Brennan was having an affair with the lead detective, failed to recuse herself and lied about the affair. She has now been removed from office by the Michigan Supreme Court, and pleaded guilty to a charge of perjury ( other charges were dropped ).
Jerome’s attorneys have requested a false confession expert be allowed to testify at the new trial, scheduled to take place in January. Shiawassee County Circuit Court Judge Matthew Stewart will rule on the motions on December 17, 2019. The retrial is set for January 20, 2020.
On June 25, 2015 two-year-old Bella Bond’s unidentified body washed up on shore in a trash bag, on deer island in Boston Harbor.
Bella was the third child of Rachelle Bond, who had a lengthy criminal history. Rachelle’s first two children had been removed from her care, but the Department of Children and Families (DCF) nevertheless deemed Rachelle fit to care for Bella.
In July, police set up a tip line, and a woman called in who told them that the washed up child was Bella, and Rachelle had been behaving in a psychotic fashion when Bella was last seen, however there was no follow-up on the tip.
In September after Bella’s father Joe confronted Rachelle, police called to question Rachelle, but she jumped out of a window and fled. She then told Joe that Michael had killed Bella, and held her hostage for four months. When Joe became upset, Rachelle said “shut the F–K up, they are on to me, you’re going to get me bagged.”
When finally questioned by police, Rachelle told yet another bizarre story claiming Michael had killed Bella and “I couldn’t call the police or anybody after that as he held me hostage and had hitmen waiting outside of my house that would shoot me if I called 911.”
In spite of the changing, bizarre and impossible stories from a woman who was apparently mentally ill, police decided to charge Michael with murder, even though there was nothing to corroborate Rachelle’s impossible story.
At trial, Rachelle’s testimony was contradicted by the Medical Examiner. In spite of the obvious credibility problem, and no independent evidence to link Michael to the crime, the jury convicted Michael of 2nd degree murder after deliberating for just over four days.
Michael Doolin, a Dorchester criminal defense attorney who followed the case closely said he was very surprised by the verdict.
Jonathan Shapiro, defense attorney, said the verdict was a travesty of justice and incomprehensible.
Paul Skalnik learned about the benefits of being a jailhouse informant when he was in the Harris County Jail in Texas in 1978 for passing bad checks.
Skalnik had drained his wife’s checking account, used her good credit to buy a Lincoln Continental and a customized Dodge van, and opened credit cards in her name, according to a New York Times Magazine investigation with ProPublica.
Skalnik was in jail when police began asking inmates for information on the “Moody Park Three,” anti-police-brutality activists who were charged with inciting a riot. Skalnik called the DA’s office and said he could help.
In court, Skalnik told jurors that one of the defendants had confessed to him in prison that his plan all along was to “incite the Mexican American youngsters.” The defendant and his two co-defendants were convicted.
Skalnik soon learned how his information would benefit him in Florida, where he had been convicted of grand larceny and sentenced for violating probation. Prosecutors recommended he that Skalnik be moved from jail to work release.
Since then, Skalnik’s testimony helped send dozens of people to prison, including four on death row, according to the article. In Pinellas County, Florida, alone, Skalnik testified or supplied information in at least 37 cases from 1981 to 1987.
In 1998, John Maloney’s wife under the influence of alcohol, attempted to commit suicide, didn’t succeed, but then died in an accidental fire.
Due to a group of corrupt right-wing investigators and attorneys ( including a defense attorney who threw both the trial and the appeal ) John Maloney was convicted of murder and is in prison, sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years.
The case of Elizabeth Short ( the “Black Dahlia” ) murdered in January 1947 turns out to be a key piece in a complex puzzle of evidence connecting serial killer Edward Wayne Edwards to seven wrongful convictions. This article gives an overview of ten related cases, and explains significant new evidence discovered since John Cameron’s book on Edwards was published in 2014.
The Ten Cases
1. Josephine Ross, Frances Brown and Suzanne Degnan
( William Heirens convicted )
On June 5, 1945, 43-year-old Josephine Ross was found dead in her apartment at 4108 North Kenmore Avenue, Chicago. She had been repeatedly stabbed, and her head was wrapped in a dress. She was presumed to have surprised an intruder, who then killed her. Dark hairs were found clutched in Ross’ hand, indicating that she had struggled with the intruder before she was killed. No valuables were taken from the apartment.
On December 10, 1945, Frances Brown, a divorced woman, was discovered with a knife lodged in her neck and bullet wound to the head in her apartment at 3941 North Pine Grove Avenue, Chicago, after a cleaning woman heard a radio playing loudly and noted Brown’s partly open door. Brown had been savagely stabbed, and authorities thought that a burglar had been discovered or interrupted. No valuables were taken, but a message in lipstick on the wall of Brown’s apartment was left:
On January 7, 1946, six-year-old Suzanne Degnan was discovered missing from her first-floor bedroom in Edgewater, Chicago. Police found a ladder outside the girl’s window, and a ransom note:
“GeI $20,000 Reddy & wAITe foR WoRd. do NoT NoTify FBI oR Police. Bills IN 5’s & 10’s. BuRN This FoR heR SAfTY.”
A man repeatedly called the Degnan residence demanding the ransom, but hung up before any meaningful conversation could take place.
William Heirens confessed to these three murders, and pleaded guilty, but there are numerous indications that the confessions were false.
2. Elizabeth Short
On the morning of January 15, 1947, Elizabeth Short’s naked body was found severed into two pieces, after being last seen alive on January 9, 1947.
On March 14, an apparent suicide note scrawled in pencil on a bit of foolscap was found tucked in a shoe in a pile of men’s clothing by the ocean’s edge at the foot of Breeze Ave. Venice. The note read: “To whom it may concern: I have waited for the police to capture me for the Black Dahlia killing, but have not. I am too much of a coward to turn myself in, so this is the best way out for me. I couldn’t help myself for that, or this. Sorry, Mary.” The pile of clothing was first seen by a beach caretaker, who reported the discovery to John Dillon, lifeguard captain. Dillon immediately notified Capt. L. E. Christensen of West Los Angeles Police Station. The clothes included a coat and trousers of blue herringbone tweed, a brown and white Y shirt, white jockey shorts, tan socks and tan moccasin leisure shoes, size about eight. The clothes gave no clue about the identity of their owner.
Crime authors such as Steve Hodel (son of George Hill Hodel) and William Rasmussen have suggested a link between the Short murder and the 1946 murder and dismemberment of six-year-old Suzanne Degnan in Chicago, Illinois. Captain Donahoe of the LAPD stated publicly that he believed the Black Dahlia and the Chicago Lipstick Murders were “likely connected”. Among the evidence cited is the fact that Short’s body was found on Norton Avenue, three blocks west of Degnan Boulevard, Degnan being the last name of the girl from Chicago. There were also striking similarities between the handwriting on the Degnan ransom note and that of the “Black Dahlia Avenger”. Both texts used a combination of capitals and small letters (the Degnan note read in part “BuRN This FoR heR SAfTY” [sic]), and both notes contain a similar misshapen letter P and have one word that matches exactly.
3. Marilyn Reese Sheppard ( Husband Sam Sheppard wrongly convicted )
Samuel Holmes “Sam” Sheppard (December 29, 1923 – April 6, 1970) was an American osteopathic physician and, toward the end of his life, a professional wrestler. He was convicted of the brutal murder of his pregnant wife, Marilyn Reese Sheppard on July 4, 1954, at their Bay Village, Ohio, home. He spent almost a decade in prison, mostly at the Ohio Penitentiary, before a retrial was ordered, where he was acquitted in 1966.
On June 6, 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court, by an 8-to-1 vote, struck down the murder conviction. The decision noted, among other factors, that a “carnival atmosphere” had permeated the trial, and that the trial judge Edward J. Blythin, was clearly biased against Sheppard because Judge Blythin had refused to sequester the jury, did not order the jury to ignore and disregard media reports of the case, and when speaking to newspaper columnist Dorothy Kilgallen shortly before the trial started said, “Well, he’s guilty as hell. There’s no question about it.”
Stephanie Bryan (age 14) was last seen on April 28, 1955, walking home from school where she went through the parking lot of the Claremont Hotel. A large-scale search failed to find her. In mid-July, Georgia Abbott, Burton Abbott’s wife, reported finding personal effects which had belonged to the girl, including a purse and an ID card, in the basement of the Abbotts’ home in Alameda. The basement was in the home she shared with her husband, their son Christopher, and Burton’s mother, Elsie Abbott (née Moore).
In interviewing the Abbotts, the police learned that Elsie Abbott had found the purse earlier, but said she did not connect it with the case. She would profess her son’s innocence until she died.
Police subsequently recovered Stephanie’s glasses, a brassiere, and other evidence in the basement. No one in the family could account for how the victim’s personal effects came to be in the basement.
Abbott stated he had been at the family’s cabin 285 miles away near Weaverville, California, in Trinity County, when Stephanie disappeared.
On July 20, 1955, the victim’s body was found by The San Francisco Examiner reporter Ed Montgomery, in a shallow grave, a few hundred feet from the cabin and Abbott was charged with her rape and murder.
Abbott was subsequently convicted, sentenced to death, and executed after a stay from the governor reached the execution chamber too late.
Edwards apparently led Montgomery to the body, using a false name:
5. The Robison Family Murders
On June 25, 1968, near Cross Village Michigan, a family of six were executed in their summer cabin. The bodies were not found until July 22.
John Cameron obtained the case file with a FOIA request.
The letters “EBE” are highlighted in two documents, see “It’s Me”, page. 254. Cameron suggests Edwards thought of himself as “Edward Burns Edwards”.
When the prime suspect Scolaro learned of the impending charges and arrest, he committed suicide on March 8, 1973.
6. The Zodiac Killings
The Zodiac killings started on December 20, 1968. The killer targeted four men and three women between the ages of 16 and 29, with two of the men surviving attempted murder. The Zodiac himself claimed to have killed up to 37 victims. The killer originated the name “Zodiac” in a series of taunting letters and postcards sent to the local Bay Area press. See here for more evidence that Edwards was the Zodiac killer.
8. Laci Peterson ( Husband Scott Peterson convicted )
Laci Peterson disappeared while 8 months pregnant with her first child around December 24, 2002. Her husband Scott Peterson was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. An anonymous message was sent to the press soon after Laci and her son Conner’s remains were discovered on the shore of San Francisco bay, hundreds of further messages posted by “I Killed Laci Peterson” were subsequently posted. A cryptic signature apparently encoding “Edward E” ends “1947”, apparently referring back to the murder of Elizabeth Short. See here for more evidence on Laci/Scott Peterson..
9. Teresa Halbach ( Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey convicted )
Sometime during the day on October 31, 2005, photographer Teresa Halbach was scheduled to meet with Steven Avery, one of the owners of Avery Auto Salvage, to photograph a maroon Plymouth Voyager minivan for Auto Trader Magazine.
On November 11, 2005, Steven Avery was charged and later convicted of the murder of Halbach. Avery protested that he had been framed. Brenda Dassey ( who was an alibi for Avery ) was also convicted after making a confession that has all the hallmarks of being false. Two anonymous notes were left. See here for more on Teresa Halbach.
10. Coleman Family ( Husband and father Chris Coleman convicted )
Chris Coleman was convicted of strangling his wife, Sherri, and their boys Garrett, 11, and Gavin, 9, on May 5, 2009. Red, spray-painted graffiti messages were left inside the house. The messages apparent reference the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short. See Opinion: New trial likely for murder of wife, two sons.
The Old Evidence
John Cameron connected the above murders ( with the exception of Teresa Halbach and Laci Peterson ) to Edwards in his 2014 book mostly using various anonymous writings – either discovered at a crime scene, sent to newspapers, or left on the internet, most notably in a website about the Black Dahlia case ( BlackDahliaSolution.org ).
The Peterson case is mentioned in appendices, but without any detail. John Cameron contacted me in 2015, sending me a copy of his book. I started to understand Edwards, and the evidence linking Edwards to the Peterson case, including the “Message from God” and the “I Killed Laci Peterson” messages, I also decoded the “Short Code” signature, see here. I already knew Scott Peterson was innocent on the basis of other evidence.
The New Evidence
In August 2019, I was contacted by Margot Burns ( first name changed ), who explained that she encountered Edwards in 1971, she had been forced to help him prepare one of the Zodiac cards, and he confessed to the murders of Elizabeth Short, Stephanie Bryan, Paul Lee Stine and to directing the planting of the remains of Laci Peterson on the shore of San Francisco Bay using a boat.
Finally there is evidence that Edwards and/or his associates was manipulating and mis-directing people who were studying the murders:
The “fratpack” forum on which the “I Killed Laci Peterson” messages were posted was apparently being run by Edwards and/or his associates. This was used to mis-lead people into thinking the author of the “I Killed Laci Peterson” messages was someone who was looking into the case.
On April 11, 2003 Steve Hodel’s theory that his father murdered the Black Dahlia in 1947 was announced, on April 13 further rumours in the Black Dahlia case were announced, the very same day that Conner’s body was found. See here.
The final page of the the BlackDahliaSolution website discussed Larry Harnisch, a Los Angeles Times copy editor and writer, who published books about the case.
The author of the BlackDahliaSolution website claimed he was 13 years old in January 1947, after being challenged about knowing an inordinate amount about the case in the FAQ section ( It’s Me, page 303 ). If Edwards was born June 14, 1933, as he claimed in this autobiography that would be true, but in fact records show he was born May 30, 1928 ). Conclusion : Edwards was using his fake birth date as a cover story.
The evidence linking Edwards to the wrongful convictions of William Heirens, Sam Sheppard, Burton Abbott, the West Memphis Three, Scott Peterson, Steven Avery, Brendan Dassey and Chris Coleman is extensive and compelling. Edwards committed murders and framed innocent people from 1945 to 2009. See here for more on Edwards.
[ Teresa Halbach disappeared on October 31, 2005 ]
Selected messages, with possible interpretations in brackets [ … ]
95. Tue Oct 11, 2005 6:05 am Thus in a matter of days. I will return to my old ways. Read the paper. It will happen sooner than later. [ Edwards gives notice there will be a high profile murder reported by newspapers. ]
96. Tue Oct 11, 2005 6:10 am
Fore if you may have my number. You will enter a permanent slumber. [ If someone has Edwards’ telephone number, they will be killed. ]
97. Tue Oct 11, 2005 6:15 am
Fore you and I should meet. Only once never to repeat. It is those as you.
Whom look best when turning blue.
98. Tue Oct 11, 2005 6:18 am
Not wise enough to figure my numbers.
Fore which you write proves your dumber.
99. Tue Oct 11, 2005 6:24 am
Fore now it is my time to leave.
Thus this is a time you should believe.
Now to prove what I say.
I return to my old ways. [ Edwards re-iterates he is leaving, returning to some previous MO ]
100. Tue Oct 11, 2005 6:27 am
As the waters become cool. I seek out someone new.
121. Posted: Sun Oct 23, 2005 10:41 am
Subject: Judge May Rule On Life Insurance Today
Put my money in a bag. We will play a game [ Perhaps a reference to collecting the life insurance money for his “adopted” son Danny Boy that Edwards murdered in 1996 ]
157. Sun Oct 30, 2005 1:25 pm [Annie has this as 12:25 p.m.]
Fore if you break the code. Then it is you who will know.
Fore now we will see. If you are as smart as me.
218. Nov 13, 2005 7:25 pm
Fore thee who break ith thee code. Will be led to my humble la bode. [ The long code somehow points to Edwards’ home address ]
245. Posted: Sun Nov 27, 2005 4:27 pm
Fore thou say what I do shocks the world. I laugh at thee so seek a
woman with a man an earl. [ A reference to Steven Avery’s brother, Earl Avery. Steven accused his brothers, Earl and Charles, of possibly killing her. But Earl says that Steven apologized to him and that they’ve made up. ]
The timing and content of these messages suggest that Edwards was involved in the murder of Teresa Halbach, confirming the interpretation of the other anonymous messages.
Austin T Burke was charged at 18 years old of murder and an unrelated robbery that were tried in the same case In Trumbull County Ohio. He was convicted by jury and sentenced to 58 years in prison.
The family of Charles Lorraine (who is sitting on death row from Trumbull County Ohio) pointed the finger at my son and had him convicted of murder through hear say in collaboration with the victims heroin addicted best friend. They are the kids who are products of this man and the Roupes of Niles, Ohio. Even though the victim’s family, And the detective knew that the victim and best friend were heroin addicts, They allowed him to lie on the stand in front of the jury. They knew that the victim had contacted his heroin dealer every 8 hours for a month, And the same dealer was the last person he talked to before never being seen again.
They told lies to the jury. The detective told lies to the jury that were directly contradicted in his own detective’s report, And the prosecutor indicted my son with no physical evidence whatsoever. A couple weeks later they used an unrelated robbery of a Pizza Joes, to frame my son and make him look more likely to have done this (Even though the 2 girls that were robbed, described the robber as being bi-racial with green eyes).
My family was demonized and de-humanized by Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Becker, and local media. The prosecutor personally called individuals that were friends or family of my son and other witnesses, and told them lies as if he had actually known us. And then he framed my son while he was incarcerated and awaiting trial – with ridiculous accusations of a deadly weapon in detention (broken plastic spoon), an absurd escape plan (through a 5th story, 6 inch by 6 inch, steel barred window), and threats to other inmates (that were disproved through video evidence during interior investigations).
This prosecutor still uses these ridiculous claims regard less of whether he was charged or actually convicted of any of these circus acts – In order to have him incarcerated in a maximum security prison. This teenage boy was forced and tricked into a plea bargain on the broken plastic spoon, And then subsequently given the maximum time (because the prosecutor said that the plea bargain was not “on the record”).
On December 20th 1990, John Brookins visited his friend Sheila Ginsberg’s house, to help her clean before the arrival of her son from out of town. Around 5 PM, John left to give his friend a ride to work. When he returned, he found Sheila’s daughter, Sharon, standing over her with a pair of scissors, stomping them into her chest, screaming that she had to die. Sharon fled the scene shortly after John’s arrival. John, a black man standing over a dead white woman, panicked and left the scene.
Months later, John was arrested for the murder of Ms. Ginsberg. The case was permeated by police misconduct, an ineffective display of counsel, and a clear absence of morality. Based on witness testimony from Sharon Ginsberg (a prostitute who had consistently harassed her mother for money to fuel her meth & crack cocaine addiction) and suspected planted DNA evidence, John was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. He has been in prison for 28 years for a murder he did not commit.
The students of Georgetown University under the direction of Marc Howard and Marty Tankleff have created a documentary to bring awareness to Johns case:
Serial killer Edward Wayne Edwards confessed that he planted Laci Peterson’s remains where they were discovered.
Margot: “He told me about parking the car and walking by the tree, going past the puddle, and taking the walk down to where he could direct how the body was positioned. The raft floated between the two rocks and the body was lifted to the flat rock.”
This adds to the existing evidence that Edward Wayne Edwards was involved : two anonymous confessions, the “Message from God” and the “I Killed Laci Peterson” messages. See Who Killed Laci Peterson.
James Dailey was convicted in the 1985 murder of a 14-year-old girl in Pinellas County.
According to the Innocence Project of Florida:
“There is nothing more shocking than the thought of executing an innocent man,” Seth Miller, executive director of the Innocence Project of Florida, said in the statement. “Yet, that’s what will happen if Florida proceeds with the execution of James M. Dailey, a Vietnam veteran who has spent more than 30 years on Death Row for a crime he did not commit. There is no physical or eyewitness evidence tying Mr. Dailey to this tragic crime. Prosecutors used discredited snitch testimony to wrongfully convict him.”
News report Oct 4, 2019
“Despite a lack of evidence, James Dailey will likely be executed for the 1985 murder of a Pinellas girl”
Lindsay Partin was with Hannah Wesche for a matter of seconds or minutes on March 8, 2018, before she collapsed.
The child’s father, Jason Wesche, who dropped her off that morning, could have caused her injury, or it could have been a fall.
In an appeal filed October 2019 Linday’s appellate attorney Neal Schuett said the state should have disclosed to the defense that Jason had a friend staying at his home on March 7, 2018, and that he “lied to investigators that he did not go to Walmart with Hannah to get milk on March 7, 2018, and that he lied to investigators for over a year.
News Report October 2019: https://www.journal-news.com/news/crime–law/linday-partin-appeals-conviction-death-toddler/Qe8Pw3y32hfKQApEDI133I/
Just after midnight on July 19, 1995, Jefferson County, Ala., deputy William Hardy was moonlighting as a security guard for the Crown Sterling Suites hotel in Birmingham. Around 12:30 a.m., Hardy must have heard something in the parking lot that got his attention, because he stepped away from his post to investigate, and was shot dead.
At the time William Hardy was killed, Toforest Johnson, then 22, and his friend Ardragus Ford, 21, were partying at a nightclub called Tee’s Place on the other side of Birmingham. Johnson’s appellate attorneys would later provide 10 witnesses who saw him at the club.
Over the next few years, six young black men and one black girl would be arrested for crimes associated with Hardy’s murder. Four were charged. Two were tried — one was acquitted; Johnson was convicted and sentenced to die.
Law enforcement officials threatened witnesses with incarceration and the loss of custody of their children if they didn’t tell authorities the story they wanted to hear.
Yolanda Chambers, age 15, was threatened with arrest if she did not implicate anyone, and was responsible for Johnson’s arrest. At one point, prosecutors themselves conceded that since William Hardy’s murder, Chambers had told more than 300 lies about who was involved and what she knew. Chambers was never a credible witness, she told many different stories and at various points admitted she knew nothing.
At trial, the principle prosecution witness was Violet Ellison who claimed to have heard a phone confession from an inmate who identified himself over the telephone as Toforest ( who she did not know ). This alleged confession allegedly occurred the day after a $10,000 reward was announced by the governor. In 2003, Johnson’s appellate attorneys learned that the state of Alabama paid Ellison $5,000 in 2001 for her assistance to the prosecution. DA David Barber wrote that Ellison came forward “pursuant to the public offer of a reward.” even though the jury was told she came forward solely because of “her conscience” and so that she “can sleep at night.”
At Johnson’s first trial, the jury hung. After a second trial he was convicted and sentenced to death.
In the early hours of March 22, 2006 Deputy James McGrane was murdered during a traffic stop in the East Mountain area of Bernalillo County.
The license plate number given to the dispatch operator by Deputy McGrane was registered to a Dodge truck owned by Michael Astorga.
However a witness described the truck at the scene as white, non-diesel, and battered with a lot of wear and tear, whereas the Dodge truck owned by Astorga was gold, diesel and in almost excellent condition. Moreover, although the deputy was shot 6 to 9 inches from the truck, and apparently run over, no forensic trace on Astorga’s truck ( blood, DNA ) was found.
In addition, when Astorga’s truck was discovered, the plate had been removed, and was in the driver’s cab, suggesting that an unknown criminal may have used the plate while carrying out some crime, so that if the vehicle was seen Astorga would be blamed. ( Note: in New Mexico vehicles only have a single rear plate ).
David Garcia testified that he was with Astorga the day of the shooting. He told the jury they went to Astorga’s East Mountain trailer late in the afternoon, then returned to Albuquerque before 10 p.m. that night in Astorga’s purple Jeep, and he was dropped off at his mother’s house.
Astorga was driving the purple Jeep as he made a living buying and selling vehicles from auction. Astorga was in Albuquerque all day driving around in the purple Jeep because he was going to sell it to his wife’s co-workers at the time.
Danielle Lyon said Astorga worked for her brother-in-law in the past. She told the jury that on the night McGrane was killed, she and her husband went to tattoo artist Martin Saiz’s house so her husband could get a tattoo. She told the jury that Astorga arrived about 10 p.m. with food and stayed through most of the night.
Her husband and Martin Saiz confirmed Astorga’s whereabouts at the time of the crime also.
Nevertheless, after considerable adverse pre-trial publicity ( a defense request for a change of venue was denied), Astorga was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
There was a separate penalty-phase trial, at which the State sought the death penalty. At this trial, the jury stated that not all jurors agreed on Astorga’s guilt.
The prosecution theory in the Scott Peterson case is that Scott dumped the body of his wife in San Francisco bay, weighed down by concrete anchors.
An appeal brief summarises the search of the bay like this:
As discussed more fully below, the state searched the bay for weeks and weeks looking for the anchors but found nothing. (64 RT 12644-12645; 65 RT 12709-12710, 12779, 12786-12787; 66 RT 12813-12825, 12837.) Police used dive boats, sonar, a special underwater search vehicle and specialized dive teams from the FBI, Contra Costa County, Marin County and San Francisco County. (64 RT 12644-12645; 65 RT 12786-12787; 66 RT 12819-12820.) Because they found nothing at all, the state was left with pictures of concrete dust to prove that five anchors had been made.
GERAGOS: Well, there were other searches. There is a lot of garbage down there. They brought the garbage up, correct? Back in September they brought up a number of items that were garbage, correct?
GERAGOS: Beer bottles, tea glass bottles, small items of garbage were brought up repeatedly from the bay floor by the divers, correct?
GERAGOS: The third location the divers found a wooden stick, right?
ARMENDARIZ: You are referring to F45. And that’s correct.
GERAGOS: How big was this wooden stick?
ARMENDARIZ: There is a photograph of it on 33096. And it was F45.
GERAGOS: How big would you estimate it to be?
ARMENDARIZ: There is a ruler in the photograph, which is a foot long. And looks like it’s approximately foot and half, possibly about two feet long.
GERAGOS: So apparently the, whatever, however you got these targets, the divers were able to find pieces of wood that were a foot and a half long, correct?
ARMENDARIZ: Correct. They went to the dive location. And in that general dive location was a piece of wood that they found.
GERAGOS: Okay. And they went down looking for a target, and after ten minutes they came up with a tea glass bottle?
GERAGOS: How big is the tea glass bottle?
ARMENDARIZ: It’s photographed in 33026. And it’s a standard, this is an estimate, approximately twelve-ounce tea bottle, glass tea bottle.
GERAGOS: When you say standard, like a Snapple bottle?
ARMENDARIZ: No, it was a little larger than a Snapple bottle.
GERAGOS: And apparently they were able to, divers were able to find that on the bottom of the bay floor?
ARMENDARIZ: They recovered that from the bay.
GERAGOS: And so they found there was a target area, somebody was able to, either through side-scan, or through mapping, or something, to find something on the floor and they found a blue square bucket, right?
ARMENDARIZ: Blue square bucket was the item that was recovered by the dive team that brought that up to the boat, correct.
GERAGOS: How about the A15? What is that?
ARMENDARIZ: A15 was another bucket that was recovered from the dive team.
GERAGOS: Okay. A7?
ARMENDARIZ: A7 was a beer can that was located.
The second witness, Hendee, explained the scope of the search:
HENDEE: No. They’re far apart. What I started to say was that the operation that we set up, we tried to search a grid one and a quarter miles in length across and one and three quarters of a mile down. If you try to, in terms of trying to understand how big that area is, it’s 21 football fields across from end zone to end zone. If you lined one up after the other, that’s 21 football fields by 39 football fields down. You take that and you make that your perimeter, and that’s a huge area to cover. And that’s what these people were trying to do. We broke them down into quarter mile grids, and each agency that had a side-scan sonar operator searched those grids with their side-scan sonar device. And if they found an object, then we had dive teams standing by to go in and try and recover whatever object that they saw on the side-scan sonar.
HARRIS: How many divers would go out at any particular given time?
HENDEE: It all depended, on the, if we’re talking about the May 16th through May 23rd operation, I’d have to check each individual officer’s reports to find out how many were on their particular dive boat. The FBI dive team probably had six divers, maybe eight operating on an every day basis. The spot divers that would go down when a side-scan sonar operator found something, depending on how many were on that boat, and I don’t know for sure how many were on any particular dive boat at that time, but the entire operation that we were running over this eight days was averaging about 45 to 50 people a day, total, in the operation.
JUDGE: Does that include all the divers?
HENDEE: That included the divers, the boat operators, the Coast Guard personnel. Everybody.
GERAGOS: So that we all understand, when they are traversing this, what they are actually doing is going down on one side, and as far as you know, the REMUS device actually will take images so that they mapped the entire bottom of the bay floor that it covers; isn’t that correct?
GERAGOS: Then the machine, as far as you understand, can piece together each of those little images so that you get a mosaic, that when you look at it all together, I suppose if they could do, that if you had a large enough screen, you could see, you would have a map of the entire area here; isn’t that correct?
HENDEE: I don’t know if they have that equipment. But if you could put it all together, you would he have a mosaic. Problem with that, though, is, it covers a hundred fifty percent coverage area. So you would have to put one picture on top of the other a little bit, because that’s what you are getting, a hundred fifty percent coverage.
GERAGOS: So that we understand, and when you say a hundred fifty coverage area, you have got the coordinates here, right? What I’m pointing to. There is four of them; is that correct?
GERAGOS: Now, out of those four coordinates, you say a hundred fifty percent coverage area. Do you mean that it goes a little over fifty percent this way? Do you mean as they are going up and down, that they are actually kind of slopping over into the next area that they are going to cover?
HENDEE: It spans a little bit of the next area so that you are actually, you are not missing any areas. You are going up. You are turning. It comes back down, and it’s covering part of what it had just seen the last lap.
GERAGOS: Not only are you not missing any areas, you are covering the same square twice.
HENDEE: Right, yes
To summarise, the search was systematic, the searchers made a complete map of the floor of the bay area where Scott could have dumped Laci’s body, with 150% over-lapping coverage, and objects as small as a beer can or small glass bottles could be located and brought to the surface. The only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn is that Laci Peterson’s body was NOT on the bottom of the bay for several months ( near the island where Scott went fishing ), weighed down with concrete anchors, as the prosecution claim. Instead, something else entirely occurred.
According to the appeal ruling overturning Casmer Volk’s conviction, on April 28, 2011, Thomas and Sarah Hart left their four-year-old son Larry (names changed) in the care of their friend and daycare provider Diedre Cleary, while they vacationed in Oregon. Diedre lived with her boyfriend, now husband, Casmer Volk.
On April 30, Diedre took Larry to hospital, where a physician prescribed an antibiotic for a recurring ear infection. Larry soon suffered diarrhea, a common side-effect from the antibiotic. On May 1, Casmer Volk, by himself, cared for Larry for two hours.
Larry’s parents returned later on May 1, and Diedre and Casmer returned Larry to his home. The next morning, May 2, Larry complained of soreness, and according to his mother when questioned stated “Cas hurt me” and Casmer “put his pee-pee in my bum”.
However when examined at hospital, there was no sign of rectal bleeding. Moreover, when questioned the child equivocated on whether he was telling the truth or not. On hearing the equivocation, his mother indicated that Larry had been offered a reward for repeating the accusation, and repeated the offer of a reward.
Larry’s underwear was submitted for forensic testing ( even though it is unknown if it was the underwear he was wearing on the date of the alleged rape ). It tested positive for p30, a presumptive test for sperm, however no sperm was found.
Note that a presumptive test is a test that does not prove the substance tested for exists in the sample, it merely indicates that the substance MAY exist. A confirmatory test is needed to confirm the result.
The prosecution argued that only Casmer could be responsible for the p30 result, as he had not fathered any children, so (the prosecution speculated) his sperm count might be low. In fact the p30 could come from other sources, and according to forensic expert Greg Hampikian it is unlikely it came from semen.
At the first trial, there was a hung jury. At a second trial, Casmer was convicted and sentenced to 28 years to life. However, the defense failed to submit scientific evidence that Casmer has normal levels of sperm, and also failed to explain to the jury that the detected p30 may not have come from sperm.
Thus Casmer was convicted even though the prosecution’s forensic case was entirely false, and even contradicted by the hospital examination, which detected no rectal bleeding or trauma.
In February 2018, the conviction was overturned, on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel, and according to the Facebook support page “Casmer Volk is Innocent” at a hearing on November 12, attended by 12 supporters, a retrial date was set for December 4, 2018.