Newly Written or Updated Case Summaries

1st Quarter 2009 Cases





Date of Alleged Crime


Los Angeles County, CA Madge Meredith June 30, 1947
Screen actress Madge Meredith was convicted and sentenced to prison for 5 years to life for complicity in an assault of her former manager, Nicholas D. Gianaclis, and his bodyguard, Verne V. Davis.  Gianaclis and Davis reportedly were beaten, kidnapped, and robbed by a group of men as they neared Meredith's Hollywood Hills home.  Meredith's off-screen and legal name was Marjorie May Massow.  In March 1951, the CA Assembly Interim Committee on Crime and Corrections issued an official report concluding that Meredith had been framed.  In July 1951, Gov. Earl Warren commuted her sentence to time served.  Available news clips on the case suggest that Gianaclis framed Meredith to gain ownership of her home.  After her release Meredith got her home back and Gianaclis, an immigrant, was denied U.S. citizenship by the Immigration Service.  (Google) (FJDB)  [3/09]


England Luton Three Sept 10, 1969 (Luton)

David Cooper, Michael McMahon, and Patrick Murphy  were convicted of murdering a Luton, England post office clerk during an attempted robbery of the post office.  An unusually large amount of money was being held in the post office overnight.  The victim, Reginald Stevens, a sub-postmaster, had locked up the post office and was shot to death in a nearby parking lot (car park) after he refused to hand over his keys.

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Manitoba, Canada James Driskell June 16, 1990 (Winnipeg)

James Patrick Driskell  was convicted of the murder of Perry Dean Harder.  Harder, age 29, was last seen outside his rooming house in a pickup truck.  His decomposed body was found three months later in a shallow grave just outside Winnipeg near Brookside Boulevard and Logan Avenue on Sept. 30, 1990.  He had been shot three times in the chest.  Driskell and Harder had been involved in a chop shop operation which was raided in 1989.  They were jointly charged in a series of break-and-enters following the raid.  Driskell said he had nothing to do with the criminal activity.  But according to police Harder named him as an accomplice.  Five days before the preliminary hearing into those charges, Harder disappeared.  The Crown's theory was that Driskell had committed the murder in order to prevent Harder from testifying against him.

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England Sean Hodgson Dec 1979 (Southampton)
Robert Graham "Sean" Hodgson was convicted of the murder of Teresa de Simone, 22.  De Simone's partially clothed body had been found in the back of her Ford Escort outside the Tom Tackle pub in Southampton where she worked part-time as a barmaid.  She had been strangled with her own gold chain.  Twelve months later, Hodgson, who had been in the area at the time, confessed committing the murder to a prison chaplain, prison warders, and police while serving a jail sentence for a separate crime.  Four other people had also confessed to the crime, but their confessions were discounted by detectives.  Hodgson later pleaded not guilty on the grounds he was a pathological liar.  Material recovered at the scene belonged to a man of blood group A or AB.  Hodgson shared this group, although so did about one-third of the male population.  However, in 2009, DNA tests of semen recovered from the scene showed that it did not belong to Hodgson and his conviction was quashed.  He was released after serving 27 years of imprisonment and believed to be the victim of Britain's "longest miscarriage of justice."  (Telegraph)  [3/09]


Baltimore City, MD Nick Bagley Nov 28, 1961

Nick Donald Bagley was convicted of the murder of Donald J. Davis.  Davis operated a retail meat store on Falls Road in Baltimore City.  Around 7 a.m. one morning, he was found in his store lying in a pool of blood with a gunshot wound to his head.  A revolver belonging to Davis was on the floor close to and pointing toward the left side of his head.  He died four days later.  The medical examiner reported that his findings indicated a typical self-inflicted wound.

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Ontario, Canada Tammy Marquardt Oct 9, 1993

Tammy Marquardt was convicted of the murder of her 2-year-old son, Kenneth.  Marquardt said she woke from a nap to find Kenneth tangled in his bed sheets and when she freed him he wasn't moving.  However, a pathologist, Charles Smith, testified that Kenneth had died from asphyxia after being smothered or strangled.  Smith's findings were subsequently rejected by six forensic experts, including Newfoundland and Labrador's chief medical examiner, Dr. Simon Avis, who said Kenneth, an epileptic, could have died from a seizure.  Another expert, Dr. Pekka Saukko, said Smith's conclusions in Marquardt's case were "illogical and completely against scientific evidence based reasoning."  Marquardt had rejected a plea bargain that would have given her a five-year sentence for manslaughter.

The Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario found that Smith made serious errors in 20 of 45 criminally suspicious deaths he investigated between 1991 and 2001.  Smith's findings led to homicide charges against parents and caregivers, many of which were unwarranted.  In early 2009, Marquardt was the last person included in a review of of Smith's work still behind bars. She has maintained her innocence and said she discovered her son struggling and tangled in a bed sheet after he called out to her from a bedroom.  Marquardt was released on bail in Mar 2009 pending a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada on whether her case will be reopened.  (Toronto Star) (Ottawa Citizen)  [3/09]


Scott County, MS Jamie & Gladys Scott Dec 24, 1993 (Hillsboro)

Jamie and Gladys Scott, sisters, were convicted of participating with three males in the armed robbery of Johnny Ray Hayes and Mitchell Duckworth.  According to a prosecution witness, each participant earned $9 to $11 from the robbery.  Both sisters were sentenced to two consecutive life terms each.

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Alamance County, NC Ronald Cotton July 28, 1984 (Burlington)

Ronald Cotton was convicted of raping Jennifer Thompson in 1985.  The crime occurred in Thompson's apartment in Burlington, NC.  The rape was almost identical to another rape committed immediately after Thompson's rape, but the other victim, Elizabeth Watson, had picked a different man out of a police lineup.  Cotton was also excluded as the source of blood found on the door through which Watson's assailant entered.  Later, the NC Supreme Court overturned Cotton's conviction because the trial judge refused to allow exculpatory evidence from the Watson rape. 

While serving time in Central Prison, Cotton happened to meet a new inmate, Bobby Poole, who closely resembled a composite drawing that Thompson had made of her assailant.  Poole also happened to be from Burlington and was serving time for rape.  Cotton confronted Poole about the Thompson and Watson rapes, but Poole denied he was the assailant.  However, another inmate soon reported that Poole had confessed to both rapes.  Both Cotton and Poole worked in the prison kitchen and looked so similar that people there were mistaking the two by calling Cotton, "Poole."

In 1987, Cotton was retried for raping Thompson and tried the first time for raping Watson.  Watson had belatedly decided that Cotton was her assailant.  At the retrial, the judge refused to allow evidence that an inmate had heard Poole confess to the rapes.  Poole's blood type matched the blood spot found in Watson's case, but when Poole was called as a witness, he denied both rapes.  Thompson also told the jury, “Bobby Poole didn't rape me. Ronald Cotton did.”

Cotton was convicted of both rapes, but in 1995, DNA tests showed that Poole had committed the Thompson rape.  The biological material preserved from the Watson rape was too degraded to test.  However, under questioning, Poole confessed to both rapes.  The NC Governor subsequently pardoned Cotton.  Cotton and Thompson have since become friends.  The two appeared on a 60 Minutes episode about the case and on a consecutive episode about the fallibility of eyewitness identification.  They also have jointly authored a book entitled Picking Cotton.  (60 Minutes) (Frontline) (CWC) (IP) (CBJ)  [3/09]


Stark County, OH Robert Domer Apr 23, 1963

Robert K. Domer was sentenced to death for the murder of Howard Riddle.  Domer owned a Canton, OH mortgage company which was going through hard times due to an economic downturn, and also because an employee had made loans that went bad because he did not follow proper procedure.  This employee then ran off with some of the company's funds.  Domer himself had illegally manipulated the company funds to keep the company afloat.  After auditors came to look at his books, Domer faced disgrace and possible criminal charges.

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Ulvade County, TX Gilbert Alejandro Apr 27, 1990

Gilbert Alejandro, star of the 1972 Texas state championship high school football team, was convicted of rape.  In her initial description, the victim said she could not describe her assailant other than giving his basic physical size as he had placed a pillow over her head during the assault.  She also noted that her assailant was wearing some kind of cap, a gray T-shirt, and dark-colored shorts.  The victim later picked out Alejandro from a police mug book.

At trial, forensic technician Fred Zain testified that a DNA test of the evidence conclusively matched Alejandro, when the test he referred to was inconclusive.  Two other tests were performed, one before trial, and one after trial, which were exculpatory, but Zain failed to report the results of these tests to anyone.  Later it became known that Zain had falsified results and lied about his credentials when he was employed as a State police serologist in West Virginia.  In 1994, after the results of the exculpatory tests were made known, Alejandro was released.  In 1995, Alejandro was awarded $250,000 by Bexar County, at whose laboratory Zain had worked.  (IP) (CWC) (CBJ)  [2/09]


San Diego County, CA Jose Aguado Cervantes Oct 22, 1999
(Federal Case) Jose Aguado Cervantes, a Mexican national and Tijuana resident, spent more than three months in a U.S. jail after border agents stopped him on his entry into the U.S. and found 119 pounds of marijuana hidden in the bumper of his car.  Cervantes, 67, had bought the car three months earlier at a U.S. auction.  The car had been seized four months prior to the auction in connection with its use in smuggling illegal immigrants.  "I put 100 percent of my trust in the American government," he said in Spanish. "I never imagined they would sell me a car loaded with drugs."  Cervantes subsequently filed a civil suit against the U.S. based on negligence, and the U.S. settled the suit for $275,000.  (E&B) (LA Times) (Cervantes v. USA)  [2/09]


Santa Clara County, CA Roy Lopez Garcia Nov 19, 1998 (Morgan Hill)

Roy Lopez Garcia was convicted of the murder of mental health therapist Deborah Gregg.  Garcia had feuded with Gregg after he bought 250 acres of land adjoining her property and began to bulldoze the land.  The two were involved in civil disputes over their shared property boundary.  Gregg was found with two shotgun blasts to her head near the line separating their properties on Armsby Lane in Morgan Hill.  But there was a shortage of physical evidence pointing to Garcia, who has maintained his innocence. The guns in his home did not match the weapon used in the killing. There was no eyewitness, fingerprints, or DNA match.

Garcia was convicted after a prison informant, Timothy Flores Villalba, came forward and claimed he heard Garcia implicate himself in the crime. Villalba was serving a sentence for first-degree murder and defense attorneys argued he came forward after he was notified he could be eligible for parole as soon as 2003 if he improved his conduct.

Less than a year later, Villalba again came forward and stated that another inmate, Glen "Buddy" Nickerson, had confessed his involvement in the shooting murders for which he was convicted, just as the case against Nickerson was unraveling.  At a 2002 hearing, Villalba testified that Nickerson told him long ago that he instigated the shootout as revenge.  But U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel found Villalba's testimony "entirely without credibility," and overturned Nickerson's conviction.

Garcia's conviction was overturned in 2005 because the trial judge had permitted the jury to visit the crime scene without Garcia or his attorney being present.  At retrial Garcia was acquitted of Gregg's murder even though the prosecution again called Villalba as a witness.  (Tainted Trials)  (Mercury News)  [2/09]


Maricopa County, AZ John Knapp Nov 16, 1973 (East Mesa)

John Henry Knapp was sentenced to death for allegedly setting a fire that killed his two daughters, Linda Louise, 3 1/2, and Iona Marie, 2 1/2.  The fire occurred in the children's bedroom at the Knapp house located at 7435 East Capri in East Mesa, AZ.  Shortly before the coroner's inquest, Knapp's wife, Linda, fled to Nebraska.  Knapp was told that a fuel can found at the site of the fire had no identifiable children's prints (thus ruling out accident), but did contain numerous adult prints.  During his interrogation, Knapp confessed to setting the fire, but recanted within minutes and never wavered in maintaining his innocence.

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Lake County, CA Balu & Loftus July 1996

Arvind Balu and Brendan Loftus were convicted of raping a teenager.  Balu was a UC Berkeley student.  The "victim" did not tell anyone about the alleged crime until nine months after her trip to the Konocti Harbor Resort where she said it had occurred.  She then gave implausible and inconsistent accounts of the assault.  She said that Balu had cut her and drank her blood.  After the victim's account was reported to authorities against her will, she immediately destroyed pages of her diary relating to her trip to the resort.  Loftus was sentenced to five years in prison, but was completely cleared of the charges within two years.  Balu served 8 years in prison, three of them in solitary confinement, before he was cleared.  (DP Focus)  (People v. Balu)  [2/09]


Los Angeles County, CA Fred Rogers 1941

Courtney Fred Rogers was sentenced to death for the murders of his parents.  In Oct. 1941 his 50-year-old father was rescued from a burning house, but later died of smoke inhalation.  Investigators found burning candles in the house and determined that fires had been set in several rooms.  The death of Rogers Sr. was ruled a suicide.  Eight months earlier, Rogers' mother had died from the inhalation of chloroform.  Her death had also been ruled a suicide.

Four months after the death of his father, Rogers was arrested for making a false $400 insurance claim.  Police found that the 24-year-old was heavily in debt and began to wonder if he had killed his parents in order to collect on life insurance.  Rogers, however, received no insurance proceeds for the death of his mother, although he did receive full ownership of the home he had jointly owned with her.  He received only $1000 for the death of his father plus $2300 for damage to the house.  Such proceeds were small compared to Rogers' debts.

After 16 days of more-or-less continuous questioning by police, Rogers confessed to the murders of his parents, a confession that he soon retracted.  Nevertheless, he was convicted of these alleged murders.  In 1943, the California Supreme Court unanimously threw out Rogers' convictions.  Evidence that his mother had committed suicide was clear and convincing.  The same was true in regard to the death of his father.  Neighbors had testified at how despondent Rogers Sr. was over the death of his wife and how he often had spoken of taking his own life.  Neighbors also said he had spoken of his dread of being left alone, after Rogers Jr., his only son, answered a draft call into the army.  Rogers Jr. was scheduled to report the day after the fatal fire.  At retrial, in the face of no evidence against Rogers, the retrial court dismissed charges.  (ISI) (Time) [2/09]


Hennepin County, MN George B. Slyter Mar 18, 1931 (Minneapolis)

George B. Slyter was convicted of robbery due to eyewitness identification.  During the early morning hours of Mar. 18, 1931 two intruders entered the garage of Nelson Brothers at 500 S. 11th St. South in Minneapolis, and at gunpoint forced the night man, Aaron Oxendale, open the cash register.  The robbery netted about $50.

Several days later, Oxendale saw a man who he thought was one of the assailants pass the garage.  He called police, who watched for the man's return.  Slyter was arrested after he again passed the garage.  Oxendale identified him with certainty.  Slyter said he had been at a St. Patrick's Day party with his mother and sister.  His sister and another guest gave different versions of the party and of the personnel present, though they said Slyter was there.  The jury deliberated on the verdict for several hours before convicting him.  Because Slyter had a previous conviction for attempted robbery, he was scheduled to be sentenced to 10 to 80 years in prison for the $50 robbery.  But sentencing was deferred for four days.

On the day of sentencing, the state asked that Slyter's conviction be stricken from the record and that he be freed due to new developments in the case.  The night previous, Oxendale and one of the Nelson brothers had been in the garage when it was again robbed by the same assailant that Oxendale had identified as Slyter.  The judge granted the state's motion and Slyter was freed.  (CTI)  [1/09]


DeSoto County, FL James Richardson Oct 25, 1967 (Arcadia)

James Joseph Richardson, a farm worker, was convicted of murdering his oldest child after all seven of his children were poisoned with the pesticide parathion.  The children, six daughters and a son, ranged in age from 2 to 8.  Richardson was believed to have murdered all seven, but for strategic reasons was only tried for the murder of one.  If he had been acquitted, he could have been tried successively for murders of each of the others, giving the prosecution seven chances of a conviction.  Richardson was sentenced to death.

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Forrest County, MS Stephanie Stephens May 1, 2001 (Hattiesburg)

Stephanie Stephens was convicted of the murder of her 59-year-old husband, Dr. David Stephens.  David was chief of surgery at Hattiesburg's Forrest General Hospital.  David appeared to have died in his sleep, while Stephanie slept next to him.  However, two drugs were found in his system, Etomidate, an anesthetic, and Atricurium, a drug used to relax muscles during surgery for patients on life support. Without life support, Atricurium is lethal as it will paralyze a person's heart and lungs.

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Nassau County, NY Daivery Taylor Convicted 2005

Daivery Taylor, a personal injury attorney, was indicted on charges that he used "steerers" to sign up accident victims and that he coached clients to fabricate injuries.  Following a two-week non-jury trial in 2005, Judge Jeffrey S. Brown convicted Taylor and his Freeport, NY based firm, Silverman & Taylor, of these charges.  Taylor was subsequently disbarred due to these convictions.  The case became a symbol of the efforts of the anti-insurance fraud campaign launched by NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

Following Taylor's conviction, his lawyers argued to an appeals court, "It is remarkable that for all of the years-long investigation ... and the thousands of taped conversations, the prosecution had no solid evidence -- not a single patient, not a single medical record, not a single document -- that demonstrated Mr. Taylor's complicity in an alleged fraud."  In 2008, the NY Appellate Division, 2nd Department agreed that Taylor's convictions were based on insufficient evidence.  It not only threw out the convictions, but also dismissed the 32-count indictment against him.  (NY Law Journal)  [1/09]


Sunflower County, MS Arthur Johnson July 9, 1992
Arthur Johnson was convicted of breaking into a Sunflower apartment and raping a young woman who lived there.  The assailant did not leave enough semen for police to determine his blood type, but the victim stated her assailant was "Boo Rabbit," which was Johnson's nickname.  She subsequently identified Johnson in person and he was sentenced to 55 years in prison.  In Nov. 2007, DNA tests determined that Johnson could not have been the rapist.  He was freed in 2008 after test results were run through the state's data bank and a match was found to the DNA of the real rapist.  (Delta Democrat Times)  [1/09]


Neosho County, KS Willie Sell Mar 8, 1886

Willie Sell was convicted of murdering his parents, brother, and sister.  In the early morning hours of March 8, 1886, 16-year-old Willie banged on the door of a neighbor, Robert Mendell, talking hysterically and incoherently.  Mendell did not understand Willie's story, but had caught the words, "blood, murder and hatchet."  Mendell accompanied Willie back to his family's two-room house.  On the floor lay the bodies of Willie's father, James W. Sell, a schoolteacher and farmer, and Willie's mother, Susan.  In the corner, still in her bed, was Willie's teenage sister, Ina.  Their skulls had been beaten with a hatchet and their throats had been cut.  The floor was slick with blood.  In an adjoining room, where Willie had been sleeping, was the body of Willie's brother, Watta Sell, 19, who was killed in the same manner as the other members of his family.

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Fulton County, IL Lloyd Eldon Miller Jr. Nov 26, 1955 (Canton)
Lloyd Eldon Miller, Jr. was convicted of the murder of 8-year-old Janice Elizabeth May.  May had been raped and severely beaten.  She died in a hospital less than two hours after she was found.  Hours after the murder, Miller, a Canton cab driver, illegally took his cab and abandoned it outside of town.  He then continued to travel by bus.  Putting two and two together, police concluded that Miller was fleeing after assaulting the girl.  Miller, however, said he left town because his ex-wife was threatening to put him in jail for failure to pay child support.

After being held incommunicado for 52 hours and grilled relentlessly by relays of policemen, Miller signed a police written confession.  He had been threatened with the death penalty if he refused to sign it, but received the death penalty anyway.  The confession was inconsistent with known facts of the crime.  In the confession, Miller admitted that a pair of blood stained jockey shorts was his.  They were found a mile from the scene of the crime and were alleged to be stained with the victim's blood.

After Miller's trial, his landlady, who had not testified, told his appellate lawyers that Miller had been asleep at home when the crime occurred.  In addition, it turned out that the jockey shorts were too small for Miller, who regularly wore boxer shorts.  The prosecutor, Blaine Ramsey, had led the jury to believe that the stain on the jockey shorts was blood, but the stain turned out to be paint, which the prosecutor knew because the state crime laboratory had so reported.  After Miller won a federal writ of habeas corpus, the prosecution dropped all charges in 1971.  A book was written about the case entitled Scapegoat Justice by Willard J. Lassers.  (CWC) (Until You Are Dead...) (Time) [1/09]


Genesee County, MI William Hetherington Sept 24, 1985

William J. "Wil" Hetherington was convicted of raping his wife, Linda.  Previous to the passage of a new Michigan law, a husband could be convicted of assaulting his wife, but not raping her, as consent to sex was viewed a part of the marriage contract.  The new rape law only applied to married couples who lived separately.  A divorce court had frozen all Hetherington's assets so he had no money to hire a lawyer or make bond. Nevertheless, the criminal court ruled that he was not indigent and refused to provide him with a lawyer.  There was no physical evidence.  A pelvic examination of Linda at a hospital three hours after the alleged offense showed no evidence of injury or forced penetration.  The examining doctor described the lack of evidence as "very unusual."

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Jefferson County, AL Anthony Ray Hinton 1985

Anthony Ray Hinton was sentenced to death for the murders of two restaurant managers.  The victims were John Davidson, an assistant manager at a Mrs. Winner's Chicken & Biscuits restaurant in Southside Birmingham and Thomas Vason, an assistant manager at a Captain D's restaurant on First Avenue North in Woodlawn.  The managers were shot during robberies in February and July 1985.  In a third robbery at Quincy's steakhouse in Bessemer, the manager, Sidney Smotherman, was shot, but survived.  Smotherman subsequently identified Hinton as his assailant.  Hinton was never charged for this robbery, but he was convicted of the murders in the first two robberies because the gun used in the third robbery was purportedly the same weapon as that used in the first two robberies.  Similar restaurant robberies occurred in the area after Hinton's arrest.

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