Newly Written or Updated Case Summaries

3rd Quarter 2009 Cases





Date of Alleged Crime


Nueces County, TX Carlos De Luna Feb 4, 1983 (Corpus Christi)

Carlos De Luna was sentenced to death for the murder of a convenience store and gas station clerk named Wanda Jean Lopez.  Lopez, 24, was stabbed at a Sigmor gas station on South Padre Island Drive in Corpus Christi.  Her blood splattered on the store walls, the cash register, and the floor.  Forty minutes after the murder, police found De Luna hiding under a pick-up truck on a side street a few hundred yards from the station.  He had taken off his shirt and shoes.  But there was no blood on his face or pants. And when his shirt and shoes were found, no blood was on them either.

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Uganda Edmary & Masembe 1981
Mpagi Edward Edmary and his cousin Fred Masembe were sentenced to death for the alleged 1981 murder of George William Wandyaka, a neighbor in Masaka, Uganda.  Mpagi thought he saw Wandyaka standing at the back of the court during his trial.  A few years later, further sightings were made of Wandyaka in Jinja, Uganda.  Masembe died in 1985.  In 1989, authorities in Masaka confirmed that Wandyaka was alive, and informed the attorney general, though Mpagi remained on death row for a further 11 years.  It transpired that Wandyaka's parents had a grudge against Mpagi's parents, and had staged the murder to hurt them.  A doctor had received a bribe to testify that he had carried out a post-mortem on the alleged victim's body.  Mpagi was pardoned in 2000.  Wandyaka died of natural causes in 2002 before Mpagi had the chance to meet him.  (Guardian) (AI) (Video) [9/09]


King County, WA Rafay & Burns July 12, 1994 (Bellevue)

Atif Rafay and Glen Sebastian Burns were convicted of the murders of Rafay's father, Dr. Tariq Rafay, his mother, Sultana, and his sister, Basma.  The victims were bludgeoned in their home in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, WA.  The walls, floor, and ceiling of Dr. Tariq's bedroom were covered in blood, bone, teeth, and tissue.  In addition, tremendous amounts of blood were tracked throughout the property.  Rafray and Burns, then both 18, reported the murders when they returned to Rafray's home at 2 a.m. following an evening out.

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Columbia County, OR Arthur Pender Sept 3, 1911

John Arthur Pender was convicted of the murder of Mrs. Daisy Wehrman and her four-year-old son, Harold.  The murders happened at a rural hamlet known as Schnitzerville, which was five or six miles west of Scappoose, OR.  Suspicion may have been placed on Pender by a neighbor, G. H. Sierkes, who had disputes with Pender and whose wife had reported the murders.  Evidence indicated the Sierkes family had a good idea who the actual culprit was.  The jury at Pender's first trial could not agree on a verdict, but he was convicted at his second trial.  The evidence against him consisted of speculation about how he could have committed the murder.  Pender was initially sentenced to death.

The Sierkes had a son, John G. H. Sierkes, age 20 at the time of the murders, who was a mental defective with homicidal tendencies. He had made attempts to kill his father and different members of his family when he was thwarted or angry.  John Sierkes later confessed to the murders, then repudiated his confession after his family threatened to disown him.  He then reconfessed and there is much evidence to indicate that he did, in fact, commit the murders.  Oregon Governor Olcott pardoned Pender in 1920.  (Why Some Men Kill or Murder Mysteries Revealed) (MOJIPCC) [8/09]


Japan Govinda Mainali Mar 9, 1997

Govinda Mainali, a Nepalese migrant worker, was convicted of the rape and murder of a Tokyo woman.  The victim, though a prostitute by night, was a respected economist for the Tokyo Electric Power Co.  Although Mainali initially denied knowing the victim, he later admitted to investigators that he twice paid her to have sex with him.  Mainali said he had not seen the victim for days prior to her murder.  There were no witnesses to dispute his statement.  A condom found at the scene of the crime contained Mainali's semen.  After reviewing an expert's analysis of the semen, the trial judge ruled that the semen found was too old to have been produced on the day of the murder.  The judge then stated there was no evidence of Mainali's guilt and acquitted him.

Following Mainali's acquittal, he was held in detention for over eight months while prosecutors sought a court more receptive to their case. In Dec. 2000, the Tokyo High Court reversed Mainali's acquittal and sentenced him to life in prison. The presiding judge, Toshio Takaki, was the same judge who had granted the prosecution's request to keep Mainali imprisoned pending appeal.  After a few brief hearings that introduced no new evidence, he wrote that the record from the Mainali's first trial left no doubt of his guilt.  (Japan Times) (Legal Affairs)  [8/09]


Yamhill County, OR William Branson Oct 8, 1915

William Branson was convicted of the murder of William Booth.  It was alleged that Branson, 23, was improperly intimate with Mrs. Anna Booth, 32, the victim's wife.  Branson had been seen on numerous occasions some months before the murder talking to Mrs. Booth as she stood on the front porch of her house in Willamina while he was on the sidewalk outside of her yard.  There were several witnesses who claimed they saw Branson and Mrs. Booth going in the direction of the murder location separately (not together) before the time of the murder.

The victim was killed with .38 caliber gun and Branson had borrowed a .38 caliber gun from his uncle for a fishing trip two months before the murder.  Branson said the gun later went missing from his house along with some jewelry.  Witnesses testified the killer wore a black or dark blue jersey with a black hat, while evidence indicated Branson wore a red sweater and no hat on the day of the murder.  The soil near the victim's body showed the killer wore hob-nailed shoes while Branson reportedly wore smooth shoes.

In May 1917, another man, William Riggin, gave a confession to the crime, a confession that was later fully corroborated.  In 1920, Oregon Governor Olcott granted Branson an unconditional pardon.  (Why Some Men Kill or Murder Mysteries Revealed) (MOJIPCC) [8/09]


Jefferson County, OR David Lee Simmons Sept 2005

David Lee Simmons was charged with four counts of felony third-degree rape and two counts of felony sodomy for having consensual sex with his girlfriend dating back to Sept. 2005 when he was 17 and she was 14.  Under a plea deal, Simmons pled guilty to two counts of the charges rather than risk many years in prison if convicted by a jury on all counts.  He served 30 days in jail.

However, James Greer, the foreman of the grand jury that was asked to indict Simmons, happened to read a newspaper account of the plea deal.  Since the grand jury specifically declined to indict Simmons, Greer was shocked and he confronted prosecutor Steven Leriche, who in turn contacted Simmons's defense attorney.  The prosecutor may have mistakenly failed to read Simmons's paperwork and thought he was indicted.  However, since the refusal to indict individuals are rare events which receive notice, some observers do not believe it likely the prosecutor made this mistake.  Instead they believe he simply proceeded as though Simmons was indicted.  Simmons's defense attorney failed to catch this error.  In Oct. 2006, Simmons's convictions were vacated.  (Popehat) (FJDB)  [8/09]


Australia (NSW) Ljube Velevski June 1994

Ljube Velevski was convicted of murdering his wife, Snezana, his daughter, Zaklina, age 6, and his twin babies, Daniela and Dijana, age 3 months.  The throats of all the deceased had been cut.  At trial, Velevski's defence argued that Snezana had killed her three children, then herself.  The killings occurred in a three bedroom suburban house in Berkeley, Wollongong, New South Wales.  Velevski's parents lived with Velevski and his family at the time of the killings.

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Nicaragua Eric Volz Nov 21, 2006

Eric Volz, an American citizen, was convicted of the rape and murder of his Nicaraguan ex-girlfriend, Doris Jiménez.  Jiménez had been found tied and strangled in the clothing store she owned in San Juan del Sur.  Evidence established that Jiménez had been murdered between 11:45 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Nov. 21, 2006.

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Pima County, AZ Larry Youngblood Oct 29, 1983

Larry Youngblood was convicted of abducting 10-year-old David L. from a church carnival and repeatedly sodomizing him.  David said his assailant had a disfigured eye.  Youngblood fit this description and the traumatized child identified Youngblood in court as the perpetrator.  Youngblood lived alone, had a history of mental illness, and had had previous run-ins with the law.

Youngblood appealed his conviction because the state had collected semen samples left by the assailant both in and on the victim, but had failed to perform tests on the samples to determine the blood type of assailant.  It had also failed to refrigerate the samples so that tests could be performed at a later date.  Such tests might have completely exonerated Youngblood.  The Arizona Court of Appeals agreed with Youngblood that he had been denied due process and overturned his conviction.  The state appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court which reinstated Youngblood's conviction in 1988.  This decision was later recognized as an important precedent which limited the rights of criminal defendants.

In 1998, Youngblood was paroled from prison, but was reincarcerated the following year for failing to register his new address as required by sex offender laws.  However, by this time, advances in DNA testing technology allowed DNA tests to be performed on the degraded semen samples.  In 2000, Youngblood was exonerated of the crime after such tests were performed.  In 2001, the DNA profile obtained from the tests was found to match a Texas inmate, Walter Cruise, who was subsequently convicted of the crime.  (IP) (JD13) (Arizona v. Youngblood)  [8/09]


El Paso County, CO Todd Newmiller Nov 20, 2004

Todd Newmiller was convicted of murdering 22-year-old Anthony Madril.  On the night of Madril's death a dispute arose between two groups of young men at a Colorado Springs nightclub.  The club management forced one group to leave while the other left shortly thereafter.  Two vehicles carrying these men subsequently stopped a short distance away on Conrad St. near Terminal Ave.  The first vehicle, a pickup truck, was driven by Charles Schwartz, with Chisum Lopez on the passenger side and Anthony Madril in the middle.  The second vehicle, a Jeep, contained Todd Newmiller, his brother Joel, Mike Lee, Jason Melick, and Brad Orgill.  The dispute had primarily been between Madril and Orgill.

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San Diego County, CA Cynthia Sommer Feb 18, 2002

Cynthia Sommer was convicted of murdering her husband, 23-year-old Todd Sommer.  She was alleged to have poisoned him with arsenic.  Todd was a U.S. Marine Corps sergeant and died in February 2002 after collapsing at the couple's apartment at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.  A pathologist first suggested that Todd's death was due to a heart attack.  Months later, an examination of Todd's organs found large amounts of arsenic in his liver and kidneys.  At trial in Jan. 2007 there was a lack of evidence that Cynthia bought any arsenic or poisoned Todd.  Since the science of arsenic poisoning was fuzzy, defense experts were prepared to argue that Todd died of the effects of the now-banned weight loss pill Ephedra, or a prescription drug taken for diarrhea, or a rare, undiagnosed condition.

Cynthia's mother testified that, in the days after Todd's death, Cynthia curled into a fetal position on her bed and wept.  Cynthia got a tattoo with her husband's name, birth date, date of death and the Latin words Semper Fidelis, or "always faithful," the Marine Corps motto.

However, prosecution rebuttal witnesses testified that Cynthia used her husband's life insurance money to have her breasts enlarged, have sex with three Marines, hold raucous parties, and perform in a thong and wet T-shirt contest at a Tijuana bar, flashing her breasts.

In Dec. 2007, Cynthia's conviction was overturned due to ineffective assistance of counsel.  After the prosecution performed new tests on tissue samples taken from Todd's body, experts could find no evidence of arsenic.  Because of the new evidence, the prosecution dropped charges against Cynthia in April 2008 and she was released from prison.  She had been imprisoned for more than two years.  ( (LA Times)  [8/09]


Alberta, Canada Richard McArthur Jan 24, 1986
Richard McArthur was convicted of the stabbing murder of a fellow inmate at the Drumheller Penitentiary.  Following McArthur's conviction he met four witnesses in regard to the stabbing while serving time at the Edmonton Institution.  They informed him of what they knew about the stabbing, explaining their earlier denial of knowledge to Drumheller investigators was because they did not want to get involved.  These witnesses supported McArthur's contention that he killed the deceased in self-defence.  Three of these witnesses saw the deceased, armed with a knife, go to McArthur's cell shortly before the stabbing incident.  Based on this new evidence, the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned his conviction.  Since McArthur had already served the minimum time for his conviction and the crown did not wish to retry him, the Court also ordered his acquittal.  (R. v. McArthur)  [8/09]


France Omar Raddad June 23, 1991

Omar Raddad was convicted of the murder of Ghislaine Marchal.  Marchal, 65, was a wealthy widow who lived alone in the affluent village of Mougins, near Cannes on the French Riviera.  One morning when Marchal was relaxing by her pool, her neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Koster, called over the fence and invited her to lunch at 1 p.m.  Marchal readily accepted.  She later telephoned a friend at 11:48 a.m.  At 1:30 p.m., when Marchal had not shown up at the Kosters for lunch, Mrs. Koster telephoned Marchal, but there was no answer.

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San Juan, Puerto Rico Jonathan Roman Sept 23, 2005

Jonathan Roman Rivera was convicted of the murder of Adam Anhang.  Anhang was a wealthy real-estate investor, an online gambling executive, and a native of Winnipeg, Canada.  He was stabbed and beaten to death along the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan as he and his wife walked from the Pink Slip restaurant to their car.  His wife, Aurea Vazquez Rijos, was wounded in the assault.

Witnesses identified Roman as the assailant, although Vazquez disagreed.  Roman was sentenced to 105 years in prison.  Following Roman's conviction, FBI investigators determined that Vasquez had offered another man, Alex Pabon Colon, $3 million to kill her husband.  The FBI believed that Pabon had agreed to the offer and that he carried out the murder for hire.  Reportedly, Roman and Pabon could easily be mistaken for one another, so it is believed that Roman was a victim of mistaken identity.  Roman was released from prison in June 2008 after having spent 8 months imprisoned.  Charges against him were dropped 3 months later.   (Dateline Video) (CBC)  [8/09]


Broward County, FL Herman Lindsey Apr 19, 1994 (Ft. Lauderdale)

Herman Lindsey was convicted in 2006 of the 1994 murder of Joanne Mazollo.  Mazollo was shot to death during a robbery of the Big Dollar pawnshop in which she worked.  The evidence against Lindsey consisted of testimony which merely raised suspicions about him.

The strongest piece of evidence was the testimony of Mark Simms, who reportedly had a jailhouse conversation with Lindsey about a month after the crime, long before Lindsey was charged in the Mazollo murder.  Simms told Lindsey he had been involved in a robbery in which someone was shot but not killed.  Lindsey then told Simms that he should have killed the person he shot because this person had seen his face.  Lindsey also told Simms that he had to do that once.  Simms said he had no idea at the time what robbery or murder Lindsey might have been talking about.  Lindsey was sentenced to death.

In July 2009 the Florida Supreme Court overturned Lindsey's conviction after finding that the evidence used against him was insufficient to convict.  The Court also ordered Lindsey's acquittal.  (Lindsey v. Florida) (Miami Herald)  [8/09]


Brevard County, FL William Dillon Aug 17, 1981

William Dillon was convicted of the murder of James Dvorak.  Dvorak was found murdered at Canova Beach.  He had been beaten to death and left in a wooded area, an apparent homosexual meeting place near the beach.  A motorist, John Parker, had picked up a hitchhiker near the scene of the crime and drove him to a tavern three miles away.  Along the way, Parker stopped his truck and performed oral sex on the hitchhiker.  After dropping off the hitchhiker, Parker found that his passenger had left behind a bloody yellow T-shirt which he disposed of in a trash can near a grocery store.  After he saw a news story about the murder, he called police, and police recovered the T-shirt.

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Charleston County, SC Keith Bradley May 2002
Keith Renard Bradley was convicted of murdering Miriam Leeks and sentenced to life in prison.  Leeks, a 37-year-old homeless woman, was found bludgeoned to death in a wooded area off of Willtown Road in Adams Run, SC.  Her body was wrapped in garbage bags and sheets.  Bradley's conviction was due to the testimony of two incentivized witnesses which contradicted testimony of the witness who reported the murder and who had no known incentive for coming forward.  All the other evidence in the case was exculpatory of Bradley.

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City of Norfolk, VA Norfolk Four July 8, 1997

U.S. Navy sailors Danial Williams, Joseph Dick, Jr., and Derek Tice were all convicted of the brutal rape and murder of Michelle Moore-Bosko.  Michelle was the newlywed wife of a Navy signalman.  All confessed to the crime after hours of police interrogation.  However, their confessions were inconsistent with each other and with the facts of the crime.  Another man, Eric Wilson, also confessed and was convicted of rape charges only and released in 2005.  A fifth man, Omar Ballard, a convicted rapist, confessed to the crime in a letter to a friend. 

Two weeks before the murder, Ballard had attacked a woman with a baseball bat in the same apartment complex as that of the murder.  He had sought refuge in Bosko's apartment right after the attack when a group of residents sought to apprehend him.  Police were able to match his DNA to the semen left at the Bosko murder scene.  Ballard initially told police in an audiotaped statement that he acted alone, but at the behest of detectives, he testified to participating in the crime with the other four at their trials.  No physical evidence linked the four to the crimes.  Ballard has since reaffirmed his original story.

The Norfolk Four petitioned to be pardoned.  They were joined in their request by 13 jurors from two of the trials, a dozen former judges and prosecutors, four former Virginia attorneys general, and 30 former FBI agents.

In 2009 best-selling author John Grisham announced that he planned to write a screenplay about the case.  A few weeks later, in Aug. 2009, Virginia Governor Kaine announced that he would free, but not pardon the three members of the Norfolk Four who were still imprisoned.  The three will remain on supervised parole for at least 10 years and, along with Wilson, will have to register as sex offenders.  A book was written about the case entitled The Wrong Guys by Tom Wells and Richard Leo.  ( (Virginian Pilot)  [8/09]


Delaware County, PA H. Beatty Chadwick Apr 1995

In July 1994 a court ordered H. Beatty Chadwick to deposit $2.5 million into a court bank account for use in his divorce settlement.  Chadwick contended that he did not have the money.  In 1990 he had invested in a limited partnership called Maison Blanche run from the British territory of Gibraltar.  The partnership invested in European real estate.  Chadwick said the investment made him liable for $2.75 million if the Maison Blanche partners ever issued a capital call.  Chadwick says a capital call came in January 1993, two months after his wife filed for divorce.

Forensic accountants traced a $2.502 million transfer of funds from Chadwick to the partnership in Gibraltar.  They said some of the money briefly returned to accounts in the United States before going to Luxembourg and Panama.  However, accountants could produce no proof that any part of the $2.5 million still belonged to Chadwick.  In April 1995 Chadwick was imprisoned on a civil contempt charge to coerce him into producing the missing funds.

After more than a decade of imprisonment, Chadwick's attorney noted that if Chadwick had been convicted of stealing the money, he could have completed the maximum seven-year sentence years ago.  The attorney also compared the "missing" money to Saddam Hussein's "missing" weapons of mass destruction.  In July 2009 a judge freed Chadwick after Chadwick had been imprisoned for more than 14 years.  The judge noted that Chadwick's incarceration had lost its coercive effect.  He added he agreed with previous court rulings that Chadwick "had the ability to comply with the court order ... but that he had willfully refused to do so."

Chadwick insisted that he was unable to pay the money and said the law should be written so people in his situation can have a jury decide if they are capable of complying with court orders. He said there also ought to be time limits on jailing people for contempt, adding that there is an 18-month limit in the federal courts for refusing to testify before a grand jury.  "There's no question about whether they're able to do it -- everybody's able to testify.  But in my case, of course, there's a question: Was I able?" he said.  (CJA)  [8/09]


England Nico Bento Dec 13, 2005 (Bedford)

Amilton Nicolas Bento (aka Nico), a Portuguese immigrant, was convicted of the murder of his 26-year-old Polish girlfriend, Kamila Garsztka.  The alleged crime occurred in Bedford, England in or near the River Great Ouse.  A CCTV security camera caught Garsztka walking alone on the embankment of the river toward Priory Lake which adjoined the river.  Garsztka's coat, scarf, and shoes were found by the river bank about an hour later.  Bento reported Garsztka missing and pestered police to step up their search for her and keep him informed.  He told police Garsztka had left her handbag in his apartment, which police later retrieved.  Seven weeks after she went missing, canoeists found her body floating in Priory Lake.

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Lee County, NC Donald Edward Sweat Feb 23, 2007 (Sanford)

Donald Edward Sweat was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.  He was sentenced to 93 to 121 months of imprisonment.  Sweat's alleged victim, John Hunter, was assaulted between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. near his mailbox at the intersection of Cletus Hall and Buchanan Farm Roads in Sanford, NC.  The assailant struck John several times in the face, breaking a cheekbone and his jawbone.  John's brother, Joe Hunter, had driven John to the mailbox and told the assailant to stop, but the assailant threatened to kill him if he did not get back in his car.  The assailant then threatened to kill John and slashed his arm with a knife, cutting the sleeve of his coat and requiring him to get nine stitches on his arm.  The assailant left the scene and the Hunters drove 1 1/2 miles to John's house where they called the police at 9:08 p.m.

Sweat lived with his aunt, Vonnie Hall, across a five acre lot from John Hunter's mailbox.  Between 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Hall pulled into her driveway behind a car driven by Sweat's friend in which Sweat was a passenger.  She reprimanded Sweat and his friend because out on the road they had been driving closely behind her with their bright lights on.  According to Hall, Sweat “started acting crazy” and argued with his friend about having his high beams on.  Sweat went outside and Hall watched him walk down the road in a direction away from the intersection with the mailboxes. Sweat came back to the house and said, “I can't satisfy nobody.  I hurt everybody I see.”  He began giving his things to his aunt such as a watch and jewelry he was wearing and items in his pockets, including his wallet and a fold-up razor blade.  Hall stated he used the blade to cut dogs' ears.  Sweat went outside and began yelling, then asked his friend to take him to jail.  The two men left.  Magistrate Randy Carter testified that Sweat came to his office and stated that he “wanted to turn himself in, that he had hurt somebody, and he needed to be locked up.”  Carter called the Sheriff's office and police soon charged Sweat with assaulting John Hunter.

At trial, neither John Hunter nor Joe Hunter could not identify Sweat as the assailant they saw.  The only description they had given of the assailant was that he was a man or a boy.  Sweat's defense asked for a directed verdict of acquittal due to insufficient evidence, but it was refused.  On appeal in April 2009, the North Carolina Court of Appeals agreed with Sweat that the evidence was insufficient and reversed his conviction.  (State v. Sweat)  [7/09]


Aiken County, SC L. D. Harris Apr 28, 1946

L. D. Harris was convicted of murdering Edward L. Bennett and his wife.  The victims were killed at the country store and filling station they owned near the city of Aiken.  Bennett's last words were "A big negro shot me and robbed me."  Harris, a slightly built Negro, came under suspicion some months after the murders following reports that he had a pistol and left for Nashville, TN shortly after the murders.  Following his arrest Harris was placed in a small cubicle during stifling heat, and police officers working in relays questioned him continuously for more than 48 hours.  One officer reportedly struck Harris with force, although the officer claimed he merely laid a hand on Harris's shoulder.  Eventually officers threatened to arrest Harris's mother for having stolen property.  Harris then took up the officers' offer and confessed in order to prevent his mother's arrest.

During the whole interrogation, Harris, an illiterate, was not told of his right to request a lawyer, his right to request a preliminary hearing, or his right to remain silent.  He was not warned that what he said might be used against him and was denied the benefit of consultation with friends and family.  He also had no contact with disinterested third parties.  At trial the judge instructed the jury that there was no evidence against Harris that would support a conviction if they found that his confession was not voluntary.

In 1949 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Harris's conviction, ruling that the circumstances of his interrogation made his confession involuntary.  In 1957 a man originally suspected of the Bennett murders was arrested for similar murders.  He confessed to the Bennett murders and convinced authorities that his confession was genuine.  (Harris v. South Carolina) (ISI)  [7/09]


Queens County, NY Paul Pfeffer Aug 23, 1953
Paul A. Pfeffer was convicted of murdering 22-year-old seaman Edward S. Bates.  Bates was found beaten to death in his car which was parked in a Rockaway Beach waterfront lot.  Bates initially confessed to the crime, but then repudiated it, saying his confession was the product of coercion.  Following Pfeffer's conviction, another man, John Francis Roche, confessed to the Bates murder as well as to a number of other killings.  Pfeffer was granted a retrial after passing a series of lie-detector tests.  He was subsequently indicted for manslaughter in the killing of Bates, but the indictment was dismissed prior to trial.  (MOJIPCC) (NY Times)  [7/09]


Kings County, NY John Valletutti Oct 11, 1945

John Valletutti was sentenced to death for the murder of Pfc. Leo Conlon, a 30-year-old disabled paratrooper who was home on leave.  The murder occurred during an attempted robbery of a bar and grill at 5011 Avenue L in Brooklyn.  After another man, William Cronholm, was arrested for the crime, he first said he committed the robbery alone, but later said he committed the robbery with two others.  Cronholm said he implicated others solely to stop lengthy police questioning.  He said he had only recently met his two accomplices.  He did not know the name of the getaway driver, and the guy who accompanied him into the bar he only knew as "Johnny."  At his trial Cronholm went back to his original story of committing the robbery alone.

Police investigated Cronholm's background and found out that he knew a John Valletutti, 19, who had once been arrested for car theft.  Thirty hours after taking Valletutti into custody, police had their second confession to the crime.  Valletutti maintained that he only confessed after he had been brutally assaulted by police.  No independent evidence connected Valletutti to the crime.  Cronholm testified in Valletutti's defense that he committed the robbery alone.  Alibi witnesses testified that Valletti was playing shuffleboard several miles from the scene.  After convicting Valletutti, the jury recommended mercy, but the trial judge sentenced him to death.  Prosecutor James McGough later said that while the jury was deliberating, he had offered Valletutti the opportunity to plead guilty to second-degree manslaughter, a charge that carried a maximum sentence of 15 years.  Valletutti declined the offer, insisting he was innocent.

Valletutti's conviction was reversed by the NY Court of Appeals which found that his confession was of doubtful reliability due to the evidence of the wounds he received while in police custody and to the lack of other evidence implicating him in the crime.  Charges against Valletutti were subsequently dropped and he was released from imprisonment in 1948.  (NY Times) (The Innocents)  [7/09]


Semi-Major Update to PA - Philadelphia - Robert Wilkinson 1975


Kings County, NY Samuel Tito Williams Apr 20, 1947

Samuel Tito Williams was sentenced to death for the murder of 15-year-old Selma Graff.  Graff was fatally bludgeoned by an intruder about 2 a.m. in the bedroom of her home.  She lived at 143 East 96th St. in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn.  Graff's 9-year-old brother, Donald Graff, shared her room and struggled with the intruder before being clubbed into unconsciousness.  Donald described the intruder as a 5'5" white man who simpered or giggled.  The murder touched off one of New York City's biggest manhunts.

Five months after the murder, police arrested 18-year-old Williams for a series of alleged burglaries.  He reportedly was inclined to giggle.  After police questioning, Williams confessed to the Graff murder and identified a flashlight found at the scene as his own.  However, Williams was not a 5'5" white man, but a 6' tall black man.  Following Williams' confession, eight police officers involved with the case received rewards in the form of promotions, added pay, and certificates of commendation.  Eleven officers on the case were awarded $50 government bonds during an eight-course banquet sponsored by the Pitkin Avenue Merchants Association.

At trial the victim's brother identified the killer as a white man, but later said he "was all mixed up."  Williams testified that his confession was obtained under duress.  He said detectives had was beaten him with "a blackjack, a rubber hose, and a club," and that they also burned him with "lighted cigarettes and cigars." The jury convicted Williams of murder with a recommendation of mercy.  However, trial judge Louis Goldstein imposed a death sentence.  Governor Dewey later commuted Williams' death sentence to life in prison.  In 1963 the U.S. Court of Appeals vacated Williams' conviction after ruling that his confession was coerced.  In 1973 New York City awarded Williams $120,000 for his false arrest and the malicious prosecution he suffered.  (NY Times)  [7/09]


Union County, NJ Nathaniel Walker Oct 19, 1974
Nathaniel Walker was convicted of kidnapping, rape and sodomy.  He was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 50 years.  The victim was accosted after she parked her car near her home in Elizabeth, NJ and was forced to drive to the parking lot of a housing project in Newark where she was assaulted.  Four months later she picked Walker out of a police lineup.  The victim had told police her assailant was in his mid-20s and did not wear glasses.  Walker, however, was 33 and had worn glasses with thick lenses for many years.  In 1986 Centurion Ministries convinced prosecutors to re-examine a semen sample taken from the victim 12 years earlier.  Tests on the sample revealed the presence of B antigens indicating the assailant or the victim had blood type B or AB.  Since the victim had blood type A, the antigens had to have come from the assailant.  Since Walker also had blood type A, he could not be the assailant.  Following the tests Walker's conviction was overturned and he was freed from imprisonment.  (NY Times) (CM)  [7/09]


Union County, NJ George Merritt July 16, 1967 (Plainfield)
In the midst of a five-day race riot, a white Plainfield patrolman, John V. Gleason, Jr., 39, shot and wounded a black youth who allegedly had attacked him with a hammer.  He was surrounded by an angry mob of blacks and was beaten, stomped, and shot to death with his own service revolver.  Of 12 defendants put on trial, two were convicted including George Merritt.  The case against Merritt rested solely on the testimony of one witness, Donald Frazier.  Frazier testified that Merritt assaulted Gleason with a meat cleaver, but the wounds on Gleason were not indicative that such a weapon was used on him, nor was this weapon found.  Merritt's conviction was reversed in 1972 and 1976, but he was reconvicted after each reversal.  Following Merritt's third conviction, a pretrial police interview with Frazier surfaced that was completely at odds with his trial testimony.  The prosecutor had withheld this document from Merritt's defense.  Because of this document, Merritt's conviction was again reversed in 1980, but this time charges against him were dropped.  (NY Times) (MOJIPCC)  [7/09]


Monmouth County, NJ George Parker Mar 26, 1980 (Howell Twp)

George Parker was convicted of aggravated manslaughter for the shooting death of Donna Lynn Smith, 25.  Smith's body was found in Allaire State Park in Howell Township.  Smith had gone to the park with Parker, Pamela Pope, Carol Hancock, and James Covington.  Hancock was Pope's sister, while Covington was Parker's brother.  According to an appellate court, Pope, then age 29, believed that Smith had broken her nephew's arm and she wanted Parker to beat Smith.  However, Pope took Parker's gun and shot Smith twice, killing her.

Parker at first confessed to the crime, but he recanted it at trial saying he confessed because he loved Pope's two children and thought Pope was pregnant with his child.  Pope and Hancock denied being at park at the time of the shooting.  Covington did not witness the shooting because he was asleep in the car at the time.  Parker was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Pope was later convicted of Smith's murder as well as committing perjury at Parker's trial.  Hancock was also convicted of perjury.  Parker's conviction was overturned in 1986 and he was freed on bail.  It is doubtful that he will be retried as the state essentially conceded that his confession was false.  (NY Times) (MOJIPCC)  [7/09]


San Francisco County, CA Robert Lee Kidd Dec 13, 1954

Robert Lee Kidd was convicted in 1960 of the 1954 murder of Albert Clarke, 71, an antique shop owner.  The murder occurred in Clarke's shop at 171 Valencia St. in San Francisco.  The prosecution alleged Kidd killed the victim with the victim's own sword.  Kidd's defense was prevented from informing the jury that the coroner determined that the victim could not have been killed with this sword.  Subsequent investigation showed that police had photographic evidence in their files indicating the victim was beaten to death with a revolver.  No evidence connected this revolver to Kidd.  In addition the jury was falsely led to believe that a three-page document produced by a police witness was Kidd's rap sheet, implying Kidd had a long series of prior arrests.

Kidd was sentenced to death.  At retrial in 1962, Kidd was acquitted because presented evidence showed that Clarke was alive several hours after the time Kidd allegedly murdered him.  This evidence had been withheld by the prosecutor at Kidd's first trial.  (MOJIPCC)  [7/09]


Los Angeles County, CA Gordon Robert Hall Feb 25, 1978 (Duarte)

Gordon Robert Hall was convicted of murdering Jesse Manuel Ortiz, 27.  The victim died after a gunman in a passing car fired several shots at him and his two half-brothers.  A few blocks away from the incident, police found what they thought was the gunman's car.  After they surrounded the area, which was the locus of a party, they found Hall hiding in some bushes.  Hall, 16, said he was at the party all night and that he hid because his attendance at the party violated his probation for involvement in a graffiti painting incident.  The victim's half-brothers, Victor and Daniel Lara, identified Hall as the killer.

Following Hall's conviction, the victim's brothers recanted their testimony.  Instead they claimed a man named Oscar Sanchez was the killer.  Hall's defense also discovered a new eyewitness who identified Sanchez and another man, Alfred Reyes, as the killers.  Reyes admitted being at the party but denied any involvement in the crime.  Instead he implicated Sanchez as the driver of the passing car.  Other witnesses also implicated Sanchez and/or Reyes, but none implicated Hall.  Additional witnesses confirmed Hall's alibi.

In Dec. 1981, an appeals court overturned Hall's conviction.  Two months later, charges against Hall were dropped and he was released.  (ISI) (MOJIPCC) (LA Times)  [7/09]


King County, WA Arthur Emery Dec 1952 (Seattle)
Arthur F. Emery was convicted of robbing bus driver Charles D. Taulbee of $105.  The conviction was based on eyewitness identification of the victim who happened to see Emery on a downtown Seattle street.  After Emery served 9 months of imprisonment, another man, Eugene Albert Gough, confessed to Denver authorities that he had robbed the bus driver and even revealed where he hid the bus driver's money changer.  Gov. Arthur Langlie pardoned Emery in Jan. 1954.  Emery was later awarded $13,000 by the state legislature for his wrongful imprisonment.  (News Article) (The Innocents)  [7/09]


El Paso County, TX Kenneth Massey May 22, 1952 (El Paso)
Kenneth Massey was convicted of the armed robbery of an El Paso drug store due to eyewitness identification.  Following Massey's conviction, police in Iowa arrested William G. Karston for the murder of a farmer.  Among the many crimes Karston confessed to was the drug store robbery for which Massey was convicted.  It was subsequently proved that Massey was working in New Mexico at the time of the drug store robbery.  Texas Governor Allan Shivers subsequently pardoned Massey in Nov. 1954.  Massey served 22 months of imprisonment.  (The Innocents) (Google) (News Article)  [7/09]


Hunt County, TX George White Convicted 1951 (Greenville)
George White was convicted of armed robbery in Nov. 1951 due to mistaken eyewitness identification.  He was tried without a lawyer and had no funds to prove that he had been in another state at the time of the crime.  In May 1959, Governor Price Daniel pardoned White after the actual culprit confessed.  (The Innocents)  [7/09]


Cherokee County, TX Curbow & Strickland 1938 (Bullard)
Samuel Curbow and J. C. Strickland were convicted of robbing Mr. and Mrs. Ben Pritchard at their gas station in Bullard, TX.  The Pritchards identified the two as the men who robbed them.  Following the defendants' convictions it was determined that robbery suspects in Oklahoma admitted robbing a gas station in Texas.  The suspects did not know the name of the town in which the gas station was located, only that it was somewhere near Jackson.  When the Pritchards were brought to Oklahoma, they identified the suspects as the robbers.  Governor Lee O'Daniels subsequently pardoned Curbow and Strickland in April 1940.  (The Innocents)  [7/09]


Caldwell County, NC Kendall & Vickers Sept 25, 1906

Hamp Kendall and John Vickers were convicted of the murder of Lawrence Nelson, 25.  Nelson disappeared from his rooming house in Lenoir and was found dead 10 weeks later.  Kendall was Nelson's roommate and Vickers was Kendall's close friend.  Both men had not gone to work on the day that Nelson disappeared.  At trial, 15-year-old Omey Greer (aka Omah Grier) testified that the defendants had given her money to lure Nelson to a location in the mountains that was four to five miles from Lenoir.  After luring Nelson, Greer said she ran away, but heard a shot fired.

Following the convictions, police arrested Sam Green and his cousin Omey Greer for the murders.  Both were later acquitted by a jury at trial.  In 1916 an investigation conducted by Governor Bickett found that despite his acquittal, Green had murdered Nelson and framed Kendall and Vickers.  The governor issued an unconditional pardon to the two men.  Five years later, Green had a coffin built for himself.  When it was done, he confessed he had murdered Nelson and then committed suicide.  (Google) (The Innocents)  [7/09]


Allegheny County, PA Anthony Piano Mar 1937 (Pittsburgh)
Anthony Piano was convicted of participating in the robbery of a retired mailman named George Fleet.  Piano was convicted after being identified by Fleet.  Months later Fleet identified another man, Charles Pampana, as the assailant he thought was Piano.  Piano was released from prison and exonerated after serving 7 months of imprisonment.  (Not Guilty)  [7/09]


Philadelphia County, PA Joseph Smith Feb 17, 1950
Joseph Smith was convicted of the armed robbery of a Philadelphia check-cashing service.  The check-cashing attendant, John Mitchell, was robbed of $800.  Police later arrested George Clark and Joseph Farro for the crime.  Under police pressure Clark named Smith as an alleged lookout man for the crime.  Clark testified against Smith while Farro remained silent.  Smith was freed from imprisonment in July 1963 after both Clark and Farro admitted that Smith did not participate in the crime.  (The Innocents)  [7/09]


Philadelphia County, PA William S. Green Convicted 1947

William S. Green was convicted of murdering a night watchman.  The watchman had found that a rear door to a theater had been forced open.  He entered the theater and apprehended an intruder.  He then took the intruder to a police call box.  When the watchman turned to make a call, the intruder snatched his gun and fatally shot him.  The watchman had an elderly friend who watched from some distance away.

Two weeks later, two witnesses came forward who placed themselves within forty feet of the call box at the time of the shooting.  They identified Green, a Navy veteran, as the killer.  The watchman's friend could only say that Green looked something like the killer.  At trial in Jan. 1947, Green's defense presented several witnesses who were in the area at the time of the shooting and who testified that Green did not resemble the killer.

In 1957, after Green had served 10 years of imprisonment, one of the two identifying witnesses came forward and admitted he did not see Green at the scene of the murder.  He said the other identifying witness paid him $100 to give false testimony.  This second witness was a homosexual who had once been beaten up by Green after propositioning him.  The district attorney investigated the claim of the recanting witness and satisfied himself that it was true.  Green was subsequently pardoned.  (The Innocents)  [7/09]


Stark County, OH Dale Bundy Nov 23, 1956

Harry Dale Bundy was convicted of murdering Reynold P. Amodio during a holdup of the County Line Market north of Uniontown.  Amodio was the store manager.  A clerk, Paul E. Cain, was also killed.  In Feb. 1957, a few months after the crime, Bundy's friend and former co-worker, Russell T. McCoy, visited him when he was working the night shift at a Zanesville plant.  McCoy asked Bundy for a loan and told him he had just murdered the people he lived with.  Bundy did not believe McCoy's story and told him to go home.  McCoy, age 22, then threatened Bundy, age 39, with a gun and told him not to repeat what he heard.

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Union County, NM Francisco Garcia Convicted 1913
Francisco Garcia was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for killing a man in a saloon.  According to N.M. Supreme Court, "Francisco Garcia, one of the defendants, became engaged in an altercation with the deceased, whereupon deceased shot Garcia and he fell to the floor, and remained there, unconscious, during the whole of the remainder of the difficulty.  Cipriano Garcia, his brother, was at the time at the back end of the saloon where the difficulty occurred, and took no part in the same up to this time.  Upon hearing the shot and seeing his brother fall to the floor, he rushed to his rescue, encountered the deceased, and killed him.  No proof of concerted action on the part of the brothers is shown."  The Court found that Francisco was not entitled to relief from his conviction because his counsel failed to ask the trial judge to instruct the jury to acquit his client.  Nevertheless, at a rehearing the Court used its discretion to overturn Francisco's conviction "because the evidence conclusively establishes his innocence."  Charges against Francisco were subsequently dropped.  (State v. Garcia) (MOJIPCC)  [7/09]


Los Angeles County, CA Bob Williams 1955-56

Robert E. Williams, also known as Bob, was was convicted of the murders of Matt Manestar and Ralph Burgess.  Manestar, 56, was the owner of the Rose Motel located at 1345 West Pacific Coast Highway in Harbor City.  He was killed on the night of Jan. 22-23, 1956.  Williams confessed to this murder while in a northern California juvenile correction camp.  He figured his confession would allow him to contact his girlfriend as it would force his transfer to police custody in southern California for questioning.  He was anxious to contact her because he believed she was about to marry someone else.  He also figured that he could not be convicted of murdering Manestar as he was incarcerated at the correction camp when the murder occurred.  Unfortunately Williams figured wrong.

Two years later, in an effort to free himself by proving that an innocent person could be convicted of murder due to a false confession, Williams decided to confess to another murder that occurred while he was in the correction camp.  In a Long Beach newspaper Williams found a story about the unsolved murder of Ralph Burgess.  Burgess, a salesman, was murdered on Nov. 20, 1955 at McKinney's furniture store at 2430 East Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach.  While five fellow inmates watched him, Williams wrote out a confession to this murder using details from the newspaper.  Williams was proven right more than he had hoped.  When put on trial for the murder, he was convicted again.  He was not allowed to refute his confession by calling his fellow inmates as witnesses.

Seventeen years later, in 1975, Williams was paroled from prison.  He began working on establishing his innocence.  Eventually, in a San Pedro police records room, he found a letter from a correction camp supervisor camp stating he had been in custody at the time of Manestar's murder.  This letter had been withheld from Williams' defense at trial.  In 1978, a judge released Williams from his life parole, effectively ending his sentence.  (News Article) (ISI)  [7/09]


Los Angeles County, CA Edward Avila Dec 22, 1956

Edward Echarria Avila was convicted of charges relating to the robbery and shooting of used car dealer Sam Bravero at his car lot in East Los Angeles.  Two eyewitnesses to the crime had been shown 30 mug shots of possible assailants but failed to identify anyone.  A detective then showed them a single photo of Avila that he had with him in relation to another case.  The witnesses both identified Avila.  However, after viewing Avila in a lineup, only one of these witnesses was still sure Avila was the assailant.  When detectives questioned Avila, they doubted his guilt because of the way he answered their questions.  Nevertheless, Avila was convicted due to the witness identification.

Two months later, the detectives thought another man, Delbert Wilson, might be responsible for the crime.  Wilson had been arrested several days before Avila.  After detectives matched a fingerprint found in Bravero's car to a print of Wilson's thumb, Wilson confessed to the crime.  Wilson also told police that he had coincidentally been held in the same jail cell as Avila and knew that Avila was being charged with a crime he himself had committed.  Wilson said he remained quiet as he had enough troubles of his own.  In Sept. 1957 Avila was granted an unconditional pardon.  (The Innocents)  [7/09]


Los Angeles County, CA O. J. Simpson June 12, 1994 (Brentwood)

Orenthal James "O.J." Simpson was found civilly liable for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and Ronald Lyle Goldman, 25.  He had earlier been acquitted of the murders in criminal court, but he is perceived by many as guilty despite his acquittal.  The victims, who were white, were found outside Nicole's home at 875 S. Bundy Drive in Brentwood, CA.  O.J., who was black, was a Heisman trophy winner, a Hollywood movie actor, a network TV football commentator, and was known for the TV commercials he made for the Hertz Rental Car Agency.  He was the most famous American ever charged with murder.  O.J.'s criminal trial was dubbed the "trial of the century," although that designation had previously been used to describe the 1935 trial of the alleged Lindbergh baby killer.

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Los Angeles County, CA Daniel Kamacho Mar 11, 1946

Daniel Kamacho was convicted of the murder of Deputy Sheriff Fred T. Guiol.  Guiol had attended a movie with a friend, Miss Pearl Rattenbury, and had driven her to her home at 1117 Elden Ave.  Before Rattenbury could step out of the car, a young man armed with a gun wrenched open the car door and demanded the occupants hand over their money.  When Guiol reached for his gun, the young man shot Guiol dead and then ran off.

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