Miscellaneous Forensics

19 Cases

Dog Scent Evidence

 Orange County, CA

Earl Rhoney

Jan 20, 1994 (Irvine)

Earl Henry Rhoney IV was convicted of the murder of 46-year-old Patricia Lea Pratt. Pratt was beaten and strangled during a burglary at her home in the upscale Turtle Rock neighborhood of Irvine, CA. Rhoney had committed a burglary with six other teenagers about a mile from the Pratt residence more than a week prior to the murder. He was arrested for it two weeks after the murder. Eight months later, police followed Rhoney with a bloodhound upon Rhoney's release from juvenile hall for the prior burglary. Police had given the bloodhound, named Duchess, material extracted from Pratt's sweatshirt to sniff and videotaped the dog allegedly tracking the scent of Pratt's killer. The scent material was removed from the sweatshirt using a Dustbuster type device that was called a Scent Machine. This device was patented by the dog's handler, Larry Harris.
Read More by Clicking Here

 Orange County, CA

James Ochoa

May 22, 2005

James Ochoa was accused of a robbing two victims of $600 and stealing their Volkswagen Jetta after a bloodhound followed a scent from a swab of the perpetrator's baseball cap to his front door. The victims also identified Ochoa. Ochoa had five family members to confirm his alibi. Nevertheless, against his attorney's advice, he pleaded guilty to the crime in exchange for a two-year sentence after Judge Robert Fitzgerald threatened him with a life sentence if a jury found him guilty. DNA tests exonerated him and implicated an unknown male. Ochoa was released after a DNA match was found in Oct 2006 to a man entering the Los Angeles County Jail on an unrelated carjacking charge. After Ochoa applied for compensation for his wrongful conviction under California law, the state attorney general opposed Ochoa's claim, by stating that Ochoa contributed to the wrongful conviction by voluntarily pleading guilty.  (IP) (L.A. Times)

 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.
Read More by Clicking Here

 Brevard County, FL

Wilton Dedge

Dec 8, 1981 (Sharpes)

Wilton Dedge was convicted of raping a 17-year-old girl and sentenced to life plus 30 years. The victim identified Dedge in court, but she originally told police that her assailant was 6 feet tall, weighed 200 lbs. and had a receding hairline. Dedge is 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighed 125 lbs., and still has a full head of hair. In addition, a prison informant testified that Dedge had confessed to the crime. In exchange for his testimony, the informant got a 120-year reduction in his sentence and his wife got a truck that was confiscated by the state. The conviction was also based on microscopic hair analysis, and scent identification by a dog that performed a scent lineup. Six defense witnesses testified that Dedge, an auto mechanic, was working at a garage nearly 45 minutes away at the time of the crime. DNA tests exonerated Dedge in 2004. In Dec. 2005, the Florida legislature awarded Dedge $2 million for 22 years of wrongful imprisonment.  (IP) (JD)  [10/05]

Brevard County, FL 

Juan Ramos

Apr 23, 1982 (Cocoa)

Juan Florencio Ramos was convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of 27-year-old Mary Sue Cobb. A bloodhound, which had been given the opportunity to smell Ramos's scent, was put into a room with five knives and five blouses. The dog stopped at the knife and blouse that had been involved in the crime. Later it was learned that only the knife and blouse involved in the crime had blood on them, proving only that the bloodhound was drawn to blood. In addition, five days after the initial identification, the dog failed to replicate the identification. The prosecution also presented a jailhouse informant who for his testimony was allowed to serve two years on a conviction for which he faced up to 70 years. The Florida Supreme Court overturned Ramos's conviction after ruling that the bloodhound evidence was thoroughly unreliable. On retrial, Ramos was acquitted of all charges.  (PC) (FLCC)  [7/05]

Ear Print Evidence

Clark County, WA 

David Kunze

Dec 16, 1994

David Wayne Kunze was convicted of murdering his ex-wife's fiancé, James W. McCann. Kunze was convicted solely on the basis of an alleged ear print left on a door in the victim's house. In 1999 an appeals court reversed his conviction because of the unreliability of ear print evidence. After Kunze was released on $500,000 bail in Aug 2000, Kunze's second trial ended in a mistrial, and prosecutors declined to retry him a third time because of a lack of evidence.  (Forensic) (State v. Kunze)  [10/05]

 England (Leeds CC)

Mark Dallagher

May 7, 1996

Mark Dallagher was convicted of the murder of 94-year-old Dorothy Wood. Wood was found dead at her home on Whitby Avenue in Huddersfield. She had been smothered with a pillow. A burglar had entered the home through a transom window above her bed. Wood was profoundly deaf and slept downstairs because of a heart condition.

Ear prints were found on the glass immediately below the transom. West Yorkshire police sent these prints along with prints of Dallagher's ears to Cornelis Van der Lugt, an alleged ear print expert. Police suspected Dallagher might be the culprit because he was a small-time burglar who lived in the area. Van der Lugt was Dutch police officer for 27 years and a lecturer at the Dutch Police College. He had no formal qualifications, but he had become interested in ear print identification and read what was available on that topic. He had built up a portfolio of about 600 photographs and 300 ear prints.

At trial, Van der Lugt testified that he was “absolutely convinced that the prints of [Dallagher's] left ear were identical with the prints of the left ear on the window.” Another Crown expert, Peter Vanezis, considered Van der Lugt to be the ear print expert in the world, and testified that “it was very likely that it was this defendant who made those prints,” although he could not be one hundred percent certain. Vanezis was Regius Professor of Forensic Medicine and Science at the University of Glasgow.

Following Dallagher's conviction, two other criminal convictions that relied on ear print evidence were overturned, one in the U.S. (David Kunze), and another in the Netherlands. Both relied on Van der Lugt's testimony. In 2002, an appeals court also overturned Dallagher's conviction because it found fault with the manner in which the experts expressed their opinion of Dallagher's guilt. Following the reversal, an initial report given by Van der Lugt surfaced in which he stated that the ear prints found on Wood's window were definitely not those of Dallagher. The words “definitely not” were underlined twice.

A retrial for Dallagher began in 2003, but it was halted after 10 days as the prosecution sought to gather additional evidence. However, additional evidence was not forthcoming and DNA tests of the ear prints showed they did not belong to Dallagher. As a result, charges against Dallagher were dropped in 2004. He was released from imprisonment after serving seven years of a life sentence.  (Innocent) (Forensic-Evidence)  [11/09]

Foot Impressions

 Ontario, Canada

Dimitre Dimitrov

Feb 21, 1996 (Vanier)

Dimitre Dimitrov was convicted in 1999 of murdering his friend and landlord, Hristo Veltchev, 37. Veltchev's body was found in a public parking lot, stuffed in the trunk of his car. Evidence indicated that he had been bludgeoned to death in the garage of his house. Dimitrov's conviction was based on expert testimony that his feet matched impressions found inside a pair of bloody boots at the victim's house. The boots were found in a front hall closet in the house. The closet was used by all the boarders of the house including Dimitrov. Apart from the expert's testimony, there was no evidence Dimitrov owned or had worn the boots. A retrial was ordered in 2003 after a court ruled that the impression evidence was inadmissible to establish positive identification unless it was accompanied by corroborating evidence. At retrial in 2004, DNA test results were presented, which showed that the blood on the boots belonged neither to the victim, nor to Dimitrov, nor to anyone else known to have entered the house. Dimitrov was acquitted. He had spent 4 1/2 years imprisoned.  (JD)  [5/08]

Handwriting Analysis

Fulton County, GA 

William Broughton

Feb 22, 1900

(Federal Case)  After receiving a letter he considered obscene, the City Solicitor of Atlanta, Nash R. Broyles, turned it over to Federal Authorities. The letter reflected pointedly on Broyles' moral character. It was signed Grant Jackson, so a man named Grant Jackson was arrested as well as William Broughton who was considered by authorities to be a close friend of Jackson and of necessity involved in whatever mischief Jackson might be involved. Broyles had sent both Jackson and Broughton to jail at various times for a variety of misdemeanors. Both Jackson and Broughton denied writing the letter or having any knowledge of it.
Read More by Clicking Here

New York County, NY

Oscar Krueger

Dec 10, 1910

(Federal Case)  Oscar Krueger was convicted of sending an obscene letter based in part on handwriting analysis. Following his conviction and his letters of protest to various officials, an Assistant United States Attorney reinvestigated the case and concluded Kreuger was innocent. Based on the attorney's recommendations, U.S. President Taft pardoned Kreuger and he was released after serving nearly a year of imprisonment.  (CTI)  [10/08]

Pickaway County, OH

Paul Freshour

Feb 1983 (Circleville)

Paul Freshour was convicted of the attempted murder of his sister-in-law, Mary Gillispie, a school bus driver. In 1976 Mary received a letter in the mail telling her that the letter writer was aware that she was having an affair with the superintendent of schools and that it had better stop. The letter also contained the threat, “I know where you live. I've been observing your house and know you have children. This is no joke. Please take it serious.” The envelope was postmarked Columbus, Ohio. There was no return address, no signature inside, no way to tell who sent it.
Read More by Clicking Here

Lip Print Evidence

Kane County, IL 

Lavelle Davis

Dec 18, 1993 (Elgin)

Lavelle L. Davis was convicted of murdering Patrick “Pall Mall” Ferguson. Ferguson was killed outside an Elgin apartment complex with a single shotgun blast at close range. Davis's first trial ended in a mistrial after a key eyewitness said she was backing off testimony she gave at the earlier trial of a co-defendant. At Davis's second trial, the woman said she was finally coming forward with the truth – that she saw him shoot Ferguson. Even Prosecutor Alice Tracy called the woman “an admitted liar” during the second trial. A crime lab examiner, Stephen McKasson, testified that Davis's lips matched lip prints left on duct tape found near the scene of the slaying. The prosecution theorized that Davis left his lip prints on the sticky side of the tape while demonstrating to others what he was going to do if Ferguson started to scream.

For some jurors in Davis's trial, including Doris Gonzalez, the lip print evidence was convincing--much more than the witnesses called by both sides who she said “were not very truthful people.” However, following conviction, other forensic experts of weighed in. Andre Moenssens, the author of a book on forensics said the use of lip print evidence amounted to “pure speculation and unadulterated conjecture.” Ronald Singer, the president of the AAFS, the nations chief forensic society said, “At this stage of the game, you can put ear prints and lip prints and nose prints and elbow prints all in the same category – unverified and unvalidated.” In Mar. 2006, Davis's conviction was overturned and he was granted a new trial. Charges against Davis were dropped in 2009.  (Chicago Tribune) (Forensic-Evidence)  [3/08]

Video Analysis

Los Angeles County, CA

Jason Kindle

Nov 22, 1999

Jason Kindle was convicted of the armed robbery of an Office Depot store where he worked as a janitor. The store was located at 2020 S. Figueroa Ave. A thief had robbed it of $15,000 in cash and $7,000 in checks. Following the robbery, Kindle continued to work at the store for seven weeks without his fellow employees pointing a finger at him. After police detained him in the store, letting everyone know he was a suspect, five employees identified him as the robber from a police photo lineup. At trial the prosecution presented a “things to do” list that Kindle says he compiled during a training session on working as a janitor. The prosecution contended the list was a “recipe for robbery.” Judge Lance Ito refused to order a retrial after learning that items on the list were janitorial tips.

An appeals court ordered a new trial because Kindle's counsel failed to introduce an expert on witness IDs. An analysis was performed on a videotape of the robbery, which showed that the perpetrator was 6'6" tall. Kindle was only 6' tall. The DA declined to retry the case. Kindle served 2 years of a 70 years to life sentence given under the three strikes law.

Los Angeles County, CA

Juan Catalan

May 12, 2003 (Sun Valley)

Juan Catalan was charged with the murder of 16-year-old Martha Puebla. Puebla had testified against Catalan's brother in another case. Catalan insisted that he was watching the Los Angeles Dodgers with his six-year-old daughter at the stadium minutes before Puebla was killed about 20 miles north of the stadium. He said he had ticket stubs from the game and testimony from his family. However, police said that they had a witness who placed Catalan at the scene of the crime.

Catalan's attorney, Todd Melnik, subpoenaed the Dodgers and Fox Networks, who owned the team, to scan videotape of the televised baseball game and footage from its “Dodger Vision” cameras. Some of the videotapes showed where Catalan was sitting but Melnik could not make him out. Melnik later learned that HBO had been at the stadium the night of the killing to tape an episode of the TV show Curb Your Enthusiasm. The attorney found what he was looking for in footage that had not made the final cut. “I got to one of the scenes, and there is my client sitting in a corner of the frame eating a hot dog with his daughter,” Melnik said. “I nearly jumped out of my chair and said, ‘There he is!’”

The tapes had time codes that allowed Melnik to find out exactly when Catalan was at the ballpark. Melnik also obtained cell phone records that placed his client near the stadium later that night, about 20 minutes before the murder. The attorney said it would have been impossible for Catalan to get out of the parking lot, change vehicles and clothing, and play with his daughter as well as kill Puebla during that span.

Catalan, who could have been sentenced to death had he been convicted of murder, was released after 5 1/2 months of imprisonment because a judge ruled there was no evidence with which to try him.  (CBS)  [7/07]

Santa Clara County, CA

Michael Hutchinson

Oct 25, 1998 (Milpitas)

Michael Hutchinson was convicted of the robbery of a Milpitas 7-Eleven store. After the robbery, the clerk who was on duty told the store manager that his friend had robbed the store. With a local police officer, the store manager reviewed a video/audio surveillance tape of the robbery. The manager expressed surprise that the robber appeared to be Michael Hutchinson. The officer agreed that the robber appeared to be Hutchinson. Both had known Hutchinson since childhood. The robber wore a stocking mask, so it is not clear what basis the two men used to recognize him. The clerk identified Hutchinson in a photo lineup and at trial. At trial, the manager and the officer identified Hutchinson from the surveillance tape, although the officer expressed uncertainty. Hutchinson was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Hutchinson's appeals attorney thought the robber on the surveillance tape was too small to be Hutchinson. In 2001, he sought funds from an appeals court to scientifically analyze the tape but was denied. However, the San Jose Mercury News had the tape analyzed and the analyst concluded that the actual robber is several inches shorter than Hutchinson. A frame photo of the robber leaving the store with a height overlay added to the door shows that the robber could not be more than 5'8" tall. Hutchinson is 6' tall.

In 2006, a federal court overturned Hutchinson's conviction. The prosecution planned to retry him using his apparently hostile ex-wife as a identification witness. Rather than face retrial, in 2007 Hutchinson pleaded to a time-served deal.  (Tainted Trials (with robber photo)) (Mercury News)  [1/08]

Wayne County, MI 

Dominique Brim

Apr 15, 2002 (Lincoln Park)

A security guard at the Sears store in Lincoln Park stopped a woman leaving the store on April 15, 2002 with $1,300 in unpaid merchandise. In an attempt to get away, the woman severely bit the guard. After being arrested, the woman was taken to a police station where she told police her address, her phone number, that she was 15-years-old, and that her name was Dominique Brim. She was allowed to leave without being booked.

Two weeks later, 15-year-old Dominique Brim was charged with retail fraud and felony assault. She claimed she had not been at the store on April 15 and that she had not been arrested. In court, several Sears employees, including the security guard, identified her as the person who was apprehended and who bit the guard. The judge did not believe Brim's mistaken identity defense and convicted her on both counts.

However, Brim's vehement claim that she was the wrong person did impress Sears officials enough to review their store videotape of the April 15 incident. They discovered that Brim was not the person who was involved in the incident. After the prosecutor and Brim's lawyer were contacted, the judge vacated her conviction before she was sentenced. The woman on the tape was later identified as Chalaunda Latham. She was not 15-years-old, she was 25. Latham was able to pass herself off as Brim because she was a friend of Brim's sister. Prosecutors decided not to charge Latham because the Sears employees had already given sworn testimony that Brim was responsible for the theft and security guard assault.  (Justice: Denied)  [3/07]

Bexar County, TX 

Kia Johnson

Oct 29, 1993 (Balcones Hts)

Kia Levoy Johnson was sentenced to death for the shooting murder of William Matthew Rains. Rains, a store clerk, was shot during a 2:45 a.m. robbery of a Stop 'N Go convenience store at 3309 Hillcrest Dr. in Balcones Heights, Texas. The assailant was unable to open the cash register and took it with him. The details of the crime were captured on video by a store security camera.
Read More by Clicking Here


Dixon & Sangster

Sept 18, 1996

“Randall Dixon and Mark Sangster were wrongly convicted on July 9, 1998 of murdering a policeman during the robbery of a a Western Union branch in Spanish Town, Jamaica of $18 million in September 1996. Their convictions were based on their identification in a line-up by two policemen who witnessed the robbery. Sangster was sentenced to life for non-capital murder, and Dixon was sentenced to death by hanging for capital murder. After their convictions the men learned that the prosecution had failed to disclose to them that they did not appear on the film of the robbers recorded by a security camera in the Western Union branch. Eyewitnesses saw four robbers, and neither man was among the four robbers captured by the security camera. The men appealed their convictions to the Privy Council in London, which is the highest court of appeal for Jamaica, and on October 7, 2002, their convictions were set aside and their sentences were quashed. On October 8, 2003, Jamaica's Court of Appeal ordered judgments of acquittal for both men and they were released after seven years of wrongful imprisonment. In 2005 the men sued the government of Jamaica for false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, breach of their constitutional rights and for exemplary and aggravated damages. In October 2007 Mark Sangster was awarded $13,450,500, and Randal Dixon was awarded $13,192,500. [$71 Jamaican = $1 U.S. in 2007]” – FJDB  (Jamaica Observer)

 England (Luton CC)

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.
Read More by Clicking Here