Murder Cases

(Does not include cases in which
a spouse was also killed)
46 Cases

Choctaw County, AL

Choctaw Three


In Feb. 1999, Victoria Bell Banks was in the county jail and pretended to be pregnant as a ploy to get released. She had two doctors check on her, the second of which claimed to have heard a fetal heartbeat. Victoria was released on bond in May 1999, after she threatened to sue the jail for failing to provide prenatal care. In August, the sheriff, Donald Lolly, stopped Victoria and questioned her about the baby that was due in June. After Victoria told him she miscarried, the sheriff took her to the second doctor who examined her before, and he could find no evidence she had ever been pregnant. The sheriff then had officials with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation question her to find out where was the missing baby. Victoria could not have been pregnant because she had had her tubes tied in 1995.

After being questioned for extended periods of time, Victoria, her husband Medell Banks Jr., and her sister, Dianne Bell Tucker all reportedly confessed to participating in the killing of the non-existent child. They were charged with capital murder in Sept. 1999. Rather than face the electric chair, Victoria pleaded guilty to manslaughter after her trial had begun in Nov 2000, and the other two did likewise six months later as their trial dates approached. All were sentenced to 15 years in prison. A nationally known fertility doctor examined Victoria and concluded she was sterile. The prosecutor filed perjury charges against Victoria for telling a judge she had not been pregnant. The charges were dismissed in Jan. 2003 when Victoria signed a statement that said, “I, Victoria Banks, hereby state that I lied when I said I didn't have a baby. I am sorry.” Medell Banks faced retrial on capital murder charges in Jan 2003, but all charges were dropped after pretrial hearings established that Medell never admitted to killing a baby. (Justice: Denied) (ForeJustice) (IDE) (Small Town Justice) (P2) (P3)  [11/05]

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.
Read More by Clicking Here

Maricopa County, AZ

Debra Milke

Dec 2, 1989 (Tempe)

Debra Jean Milke was convicted of the 1989 murder of her 4-year-old son.  (American Justice) (JD#1) (JD#2) (  [5/05]

Maricopa County, AZ

Christina Mason

Mar 6, 1993

Phoenix police elicited a confession from Christina Mason that she killed her three-month old child by letting another woman inject the child with heroin and cocaine to keep the child from crying. Autopsy results revealed no drugs other than Tylenol in the child's body. The medical examiner concluded the likely cause of death was pneumonia or a viral infection.  [9/05]

Yavapai County, AZ

Ray Girdler

Nov 20, 1981

Ray Girdler was convicted of setting a fire that killed his wife and child. The conviction was based on testimony by the prosecution's “expert” witness that a flammable liquid was present in Girdler's home. Subsequent tests showed there were no such liquids and that the fire started from natural origins. Girdler was cleared in 1990 after 8 years of imprisonment.  [7/05]

 San Bernardino County, CA

Rivera & Walpole

Jan 16, 1965

In 1965 Antonio Rivera and his wife, Merla, were unable to support their seriously ill 3-year-old daughter, Judy Rivera, and abandoned her at a distant San Francisco gas station in the hope that she would receive better care. The San Francisco Chronicle reported the finding of the little girl the next day. In the years following, the couple divorced, and Merla remarried, becoming Mrs. Walpole. In 1973, the body of a little girl was found near Fontana, about ten miles from where the couple had lived. Authorities concluded the found body was Judy Rivera and that her parents must have murdered her. When Rivera and Walpole were brought to trial, the jury did not believe their story and both were convicted of murder. Before sentencing, the judge set aside the verdict and directed the prosecution to investigate the parents' claim. An investigator located the girl mentioned in the newspaper story and after tests were performed, authorities were satisfied that the girl was in all likelihood Judy Rivera.  (CWC) (ISI) (NY Times)  [7/05]

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.
Read More by Clicking Here

 Orange County, FL

Alan Yurko

Nov 24, 1997

Alan Yurko's 10-week-old son, Alan Jr., was killed by an adverse reaction to a vaccination and by subsequent iatrogenic complications in the hospital. Medical conditions mimic shaken-baby syndrome and Yurko was convicted of his son's murder and aggravated child abuse. The medical examiner who testified at his trial did not check child's medical history and issued an autopsy report that was riddled with mistakes. He later admitted these mistakes in court. In 2004, following a four-day evidentiary hearing, Yurko's first degree murder conviction was overturned. That same day he pled no contest to the manslaughter death of his son and was sentenced to time served.  (Free Yurko) (Orlando Weekly) (JD)  [11/05]

Mitchell County, GA 

Denise Lockett

Sept 1997 (Baconton)

Sixteen-year-old Denise Lockett gave birth to a full-term baby boy while sitting on the toilet in her mother's apartment. The baby was stillborn or died within minutes of falling into the toilet bowl. Lockett has an IQ of 61 and did not know she was pregnant, nor did anyone else. She was charged with murder. Her court appointed attorney persuaded her to plead guilty to manslaughter. Lockett was sentenced to 20 years in prison.  (Justice: Denied)  [2/07]

Honolulu County, HI 

Tayshea Aiwohi

July 17, 2001

Tayshea Aiwohi was convicted in 2004 of manslaughter in the death of her son, Treyson, who died two days after being born. His cause of death was ruled to be methamphetamine poisoning. Aiwohi was charged with manslaughter based on her methamphetamine use during pregnancy. She pleaded no contest on the condition she could appeal her conviction, and she was sentenced to 10 years probation. In 2005 the Hawaii Supreme Court overturned her conviction, ruling that she could not have committed manslaughter as it requires behavior against a person that is related to that person's death. Since her alleged behavior occurred prior to her son's birth, and since a fetus is not legally a person, she could not be guilty of the crime.  (State v. Aiwohi) (Star Bulletin)  [9/08]

 Cook County, IL

David Dowaliby

Sept 10, 1988 (Midlothian)

David Dowaliby was convicted of murdering his 7-year-old stepdaughter, Jaclyn. Police initially assumed that the window, through which an intruder had allegedly entered to abduct Jaclyn, had been broken from the inside of their home. There was more broken glass on the outside than on the inside but forensic analysis established that it had been broken from the outside. During the investigation, Dowaliby and his wife, Cynthia, had followed police advice not to talk to the press, but such refusal had made them appear guilty.

At trial, for which both Dowaliby and his wife were charged with first-degree murder, the prosecution presented a witness, with a history of mental illness, who stated that he saw someone with a nose structure resembling Dowaliby on the night the victim had disappeared and near where her body was found five days later. This witness, Everett Mann, made this identification from an unlighted parking lot 75 yards away on a moonless night. The prosecution also presented 17 gruesome autopsy photos that are disallowed in many jurisdictions because they serve to prejudice a jury. The trial judge gave Dowaliby's wife a directed verdict of acquittal, but the jury convicted Dowaliby.

Afterwards, in an interview, the jury forewoman said that fist marks on the door of a bedroom were critical to the jury's decision to convict Dowaliby. These marks appeared in one of the evidence photos, but were never mentioned by either side. The jury concluded from these marks that Dowaliby had a terrible temper. In fact, they had no bearing on the case, as they had been present years earlier, before the Dowalibys had moved into their home. The jury forewoman also said, that if given the chance, the jury would have convicted Dowalibly's wife as well.

An appeals court reversed Dowaliby's conviction in 1991, on the grounds of insufficient evidence. The case came to a legal end in 1992 when the Illinois Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by the prosecution. The case is the subject of a book, Gone in the Night: The Dowaliby Family's Encounter With Murder and the Law by Protess and Warden (1993).  (CWC) (American Justice)  [12/06]

Henry County, IL 

Tabitha Pollock

Oct 10, 1995 (Kewanee)

Tabitha Pollock was convicted of murder and sentenced to 36 years imprisonment. Pollock's live-in boyfriend killed her 3-year-old daughter, Jami Sue, and prosecution contended that Pollock “should have known” he posed a danger to her child. Pollock's conviction was upheld on appeal even though the trial judge had acknowledged that Pollock “did not commit the act of killing, nor did she intend to kill the child, nor was she present in the room when her boyfriend killed the child.”

Even though the deadline for filing a further appeal had passed, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed in 2001 to hear the case and in Oct. 2002, unanimously reversed Pollock's conviction, holding that a defendant cannot be convicted on an accountability theory based on what he or she “should have known.” The court barred a retrial, by a vote of four to two, and Pollock was released in Dec. 2002.  (CWC)  [7/05]

Lake County, IL

Jerry Hobbs

May 8, 2005 (Zion)

Few cases have damaged Lake County’s credibility as much as the one against Jerry Hobbs. In the spring of 2005, Hobbs arrived in Lake County after a two-year stint in a Texas prison for chasing a rival for his girlfriend’s affections with a chain saw. His plan was to reconcile with the girlfriend, who was now living in Zion, Ill., and to become reacquainted with their three children.
Read More by Clicking Here

Lawrence County, IL 

Julie Rea

Oct 13, 1997

Julie Rea was convicted of stabbing to death her 10-year-old son, Joel Kirkpatrick. Julie maintained that a masked intruder stabbed her son. The intruder also left a bruise over her eye and an inch deep gash on her arm. A physician noted that Julie's injuries, such as the horizontal scrapes on her knees, did not appear to be self-inflicted. In escaping, the intruder ran through two sets of glass doors.

Despite the bloodbath found in her son's room, Julie was found with no blood on her except for a small transfer pattern presumably caused by her contact with the intruder. Her toilets, sinks, washer, and dryer were found free of blood. A search of her septic tank and the lines leading to it failed to reveal the presence of any blood. Her ex-husband, Len Kirkpatrick, with whom Julie had a bitter divorce, had recently gotten residential custody of Joel, because he remarried, allowing Joel to have a two-parent home. The prosecution alleged that Julie's thinking regarding custody was, “If I can't have him, nobody will.” Julie was not charged until three years after the murder. No new evidence had surfaced after the initial investigation, but her ex-husband and chief accuser had become a sheriff's deputy in a neighboring county. He had vowed in writing to “destroy her.”

After the case was featured on 20/20, serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells confessed to the murder. Sells was a cautious killer who liked to kill but learned to avoid danger to himself. He would often kill sleeping victims, as awake victims were more dangerous. After a would-be adult victim sent him to the hospital for a week and to prison for five years, he stuck exclusively to killing children. Sells is also a suspect in the Texas intruder murders of Devon and Damon Routier. Their mother, Darlie Routier, has been sentenced to death for the murders. The state denied Sells confession, but the confession is reportedly too accurate to be dismissed as coincidence. In 2004, Julie's conviction was overturned because her prosecutor did not have the legal authority to try her. She was acquitted on retrial in 2006.  (ABC News) (CWC)  [11/05]

Will County, IL 

Kevin Fox

June 6, 2004 (Wilmington)

Kevin Fox was charged with the murder of his 3-year-old daughter, Riley. Fox had confessed to the crime after a grueling interrogation that lasted more than 14 hours. Riley had fallen asleep on the living room couch, but was missing from her house the next morning. The front door was open. She may have opened it herself and gone outside. There were no signs of forced entry. Riley was found later that day, drowned in a creek four miles from her home. She had been sexually assaulted. Her arms and mouth were bound with duct tape. Fox was released after spending 8 months in jail. DNA tests failed to link him to the crime. Fox and his wife were awarded $15.5 million from Will County in Dec. 2007. The County plans to appeal the award.  (Chicago Tribune)  [4/08]

Elkhart County, IN 

Edgar Garrett

1995 (Goshen)

“Police in Goshen, Indiana persuaded Edgar Garrett that he killed his daughter, Michelle, who had mysteriously disappeared. During fourteen hours of interrogation, Edgar Garrett gave an increasingly detailed confession describing how he murdered his daughter, whose body had not yet been found. No independent evidence linked him to the crime or corroborated his confession. At the same time, his post-admission narrative contradicted all the major facts in the case. Edgar Garrett confessed to walking into a park with his daughter through new-fallen snow, bludgeoning her with an axe handle at a river's edge, and dumping her body in the river. However, the police officer who arrived first at the crime scene did not see footprints in the snow-covered field at the entry to the park but, instead, saw tire tracks entering the park, bloody drag marks leading from the tire tracks to the river's edge, and a single set of footprints going to and returning from the river. Obviously, someone had unloaded Michelle Garrett's body from a vehicle and dragged it to the river, but Edgar Garrett did not own a car and no evidence was ever developed that he had access to one that day. Michelle Garrett's coat was recovered from the river separately from her body and had no punctures, suggesting that she had been killed indoors and transported to the river bank.”

“Edgar Garrett's confession regurgitated the theory the police held at the time of the interrogation: that his daughter had been clubbed to death. Weeks later, when Michelle Garrett's body was recovered, police learned that she had been stabbed thirty-four times; that her body showed no evidence of significant head trauma; and that the axe handle Edgar Garrett confessed to club her with showed no traces of her hair or blood. At trial, the jury acquitted Edgar Garrett.”  – Leo & Ofshe

Rapides Parish, LA 

Amanda Hypes

Jan 2001 (Tioga)

Amanda Hypes, aka Amanda Gutweiler, was indicted in April 2002 for the arson murder of her three children, Sadie Plum, 10, Luke Hayden, 6, and Jessica Gutweiler, 3. A fire “expert,” John DeHaan, ruled that the Jan. 2001 fire that destroyed her home on Friar Tuck Road in Tioga was arson. Prosecutors said they would demand the death penalty. After being held in jail awaiting trial for more than four years, a judge dismissed the indictment and released Hypes. He ruled that the original arson finding was based “merely on an old wives tale,” of discredited fire investigation techniques.  (Chicago Tribune)  [3/07]

Lowndes County, MS 

Sabrina Butler

Apr 12, 1989

Sabrina Butler was sentenced to death for the murder of her nine-month-old son, Walter Dean Butler. At her trial, the prosecution sought to prove that Butler's account of the events leading to her son's death was false, and that she had inflicted the fatal wounds intentionally. On appeal, the court remanded the case for a new trial based on a number of flaws in the trial proceedings. By the time of the retrial in 1995, one of Butler's neighbors had come forward with evidence that corroborated her account: that the injuries to her son occurred during the course of an unsuccessful attempt to administer CPR. The retrial jury acquitted Butler of all charges. It is now believed that her son may have died either cystic kidney disease or from SIDS.  (PC)  [7/05]

St. Louis County, MO 

Sandra Kemper

Nov 16, 2001 (Black Jack)

Sandra Kemper confessed to starting a house fire that killed her 15-year-old son after she was told that she failed a lie detector test. The defense argued the confession was coerced. The trial judge allowed evidence of the lie detector test into the trial. The defense argued that it showed an 88 percent probability she was telling the truth. The judge then declared a mistrial because he changed his mind about the admissibility of the test. In 2006, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that Kemper cannot be retried, as a retrial would violate the law against double jeopardy.  (Appeal)  [9/06]

Washoe County, NV 

Kriseya Labastida

Jan 9, 1993

Kriseya Labastida was convicted of murder because her husband had physically abused her infant son, Thunder, an abuse that resulted in his death. She was convicted because she “should have known” that her husband was likely to abuse and kill her son. The conviction was overturned in 2000.  (IPT)

Queens County, NY

Alice Crimmins

July 14, 1965

Alice Crimmins was suspected of abduction murders of her son, Eddie, and daughter, Missy, in part because the investigator thought she did not show “proper” grief. Some also thought Crimmins was too interested in her appearance. The murders occurred on July 14, 1965 and the case became a tabloid sensation. Police wiretapped her phone and were treated to titillating talk with her many sweethearts. However, the tapes did not reveal any conspiracy with others. The murders would have required at least two accomplices. Police waged a campaign of harassment to break her. They called up Crimmins' employers and repeatedly got her fired. They also called her estranged husband when she was with another man. The husband chased one of her paramours outside without giving him a chance to get his clothes.

Crimmins was eventually convicted of the murder of her son Eddie, and the manslaughter of her daughter because of the memories of witnesses, which grew over time. One witness claimed to hear normal speaking voices from two hundred feet away. The prosecution alleged Crimmins killed her daughter because she intruded on her and her lover when they were having sex, and then killed her son because he learned about the killing of his sister. Crimmins was paroled in 1977.  (Crime Library)  [5/07]

Cuyahoga County, OH 

Eve Rudd

June 10, 2001

Twenty-seven-year-old Eve Rudd was indicted by a grand jury for the arson murders of her 4-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. Authorities charged Rudd after finding pour patterns, which they said were evidence that she had doused clothing and papers in a second-floor bedroom with cooking oil and set the room ablaze. But the pour patterns proved to be a faulty indicator of arson.

Kenneth Gibson, a fire investigator retained by defense lawyers, videotaped an experiment with cooking oil and found it was not an accelerant – the oil by itself was not flammable unless it was heated to 540 degrees. Gerald Hurst, who also investigated the fire for the defense, said there were so many burn patterns, “you can't interpret them anymore.” A jury acquitted Rudd after she spent nine months in jail.  [10/07]

Hocking County, OH

Dale Johnston

Oct 4, 1982 (Logan)

Dale Johnston was sentenced to death for the murders of his stepdaughter, Annette Cooper Johnston, 18, and her fiancé, Todd Shultz, 19. The two were reported missing on Oct. 4, 1982. Ten days later their torsos were found in the Hocking River. Body parts were later found buried in a cornfield. The conviction was due to hypnotically induced testimony and alleged boot print forensics. The prosecutor contended that the victims had been killed in Johnston's home and that their bodies were later discarded in the cornfield eleven miles away. After Johnston's conviction was vacated, it became known that the prosecution had withheld knowledge of four independent witnesses who had seen the couple shortly before their murder and had heard gunshots near the cornfield. Johnston could prove he was home at the time the shots were fired. Johnston was released in 1990 and charges against him were dropped.  (CWC)  [7/05]

Lucas County, OH

Elizabeth Golebiewski

May 21, 1983

Elizabeth Golebiewski was convicted of murdering her 19-month-old daughter, Tennille. Tennille was found wedged between her bed and a closet door. The case against Golebiewski was largely circumstantial and hinged on testimony from a prison informant who had a long rap sheet.  (Toledo Blade)

Allegheny County, PA

Michael Day

Aug 10, 1994

Michael Day was convicted of the rape and murder of his three-year-old daughter, Tequyla Pierce Day. On the night of her death, Michael’s wife, DeAnndra Day, called 911 and reported that she found Tequyla face down in the bathtub. She was not breathing. When paramedics arrived they found Michael, wrapped in a bedsheet at the waist, incorrectly attempting to perform CPR on Tequyla. Michael’s naked body was exposed when the sheet was taken to wipe vomit from Tequyla’s face. Michael said he had genital herpes and had not been wearing underwear to speed up the healing process. The initial autopsy report, completed by forensic pathologist Dr. Shakir, said that Tequyla died as a result of severe brain edema due to meningitis with drowning as a contributory cause.
Read More by Clicking Here

Delaware County, PA

Ronald Lewis

Mar 2, 1998 (Chester)

Ronald Winston Lewis was convicted of murdering his 5-month old son, Shirron Lewis, by shaking him. Shirron had been born premature and required a breathing monitor and as many as 10 medications to survive. Lewis and Shirron's mother, Jackie Allen, had already lost another child, Darius Lewis, to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome when he was nine days old. Darius was born with a heart defect. Shirron reportedly had seizures after he was born and Allen wondered if the hospital released him too soon. Lewis is the father of at least nine children.
Read More by Clicking Here

Delaware County, PA

Robert Rivera

Aug 10, 1999

Robert Norman Rivera was convicted in 2002 of murdering his 20-month-old daughter, Katelyn Rivera. On Aug. 10, 1999, Robert picked up Katelyn at her day care in Boothwyn, PA, took her to the zoo, to a fast-food restaurant, and to other places. Technically, Aug. 10 was not a scheduled day for Robert to have custody of Katelyn. Robert then repeatedly tried to return her to her mother, Jennifer Helton, but Helton refused to take her. Apparently, Helton wanted greater custody rights and wanted to prolong Rivera's care of her so she could argue that he did not return her. Later that night Rivera took Katelyn to a tourist location (Longwood Gardens) and while there said he met a couple and ended up giving them custody of Katelyn as he had no money to continue caring for her.
Read More by Clicking Here

Lehigh County, PA

Dennis Counterman

July 25, 1988 (Allentown)

Dennis Counterman was sentenced to death for the arson murder of his three children. The children perished in a fire at their row house home located at 436 Chestnut St. in Allentown. On the morning of the fire, neighbors reported seeing Dennis in his back yard in his underwear screaming for help because his kids were inside. The fire department believed that the fire was set and accelerants must have been used because of the speed with which the fire spread through the house. Expert testimony has since shown that the type of sofa that was in the Counterman's house acts as its own accelerant, and that the fire theories relied upon by the local fire department were outdated and have long since been repudiated.

At trial, the prosecution suppressed exculpatory evidence, although it released some evidence in the middle of the trial when the defense team was too overwhelmed to review it. Counterman's six-year-old son, Christopher, had a history of fire starting and in fact had burn scars from a prior fire that he had started. Christopher had set fire to the curtains in the house one month before. The prosecution's lead witness, Counterman's mentally retarded wife, told investigators at the time of the fire that Dennis was asleep when the fire started (he had worked the night shift the evening before) and that she had awakened him to alert him that the house was on fire. Under the joint influence of police interrogation and heavy medication for severe burns, she subsequently gave a statement that Dennis had set the fire. Counterman's conviction was overturned in 2001 because the state withheld evidence of Christopher's fire starting. Rather than face the uncertainty of a new trial, Counterman agreed to a time served plea in which he did not have to admit guilt. He was released in Oct. 2006.  (TruthInJustice) (CounterPunch)  [1/07]

Monroe County, PA

Han Tak Lee

July 29, 1989 (Stroud Twp)

Han Tak Lee was convicted of murder for allegedly setting a cabin fire that led to his daughter's death. Investigators schooled in old and now discredited fire investigation beliefs ruled the fire an arson. Beginning in the 1980s, some investigators began setting experimental fires and observing the results. The results of these experiments overturned old beliefs and made fire investigation a science. Modern science-based arson investigators say that the cabin fire that led to the death of Lee's daughter was an accidental fire.  (USA Today) (Arson Investigation)  [3/07]

Philadelphia County, PA

Daniel Dougherty

Aug 24, 1985

In 2000, Daniel J. Dougherty was convicted of starting a 1985 fire at his Carver St. house that killed his two sons, Danny Jr., 4, and John, 3. He was sentenced to death. Thirteen years after the fire, Dougherty's ex-wife called police and said he used gasoline to start the fire. Despite the fact that no traces of gasoline or accelerant were found during the fire investigation, the fire marshal, John J. Quinn, changed his original story to match that of Dougherty's ex-wife. On the day of Dougherty's arrest, his ex-wife left a message on his sister's answering machine stating, “I know he didn't do this. I still love him.” The tape then mysteriously disappeared after being given to his court-appointed attorney. However, paperwork surfaced that documented the tape.

By this time, two prison informants claimed that Dougherty confessed to them that he started the fire. The fire marshal then changed his story again so as to not so closely match the discredited testimony of Dougherty's ex-wife. Dougherty's ex-wife was not used at trial. At trial, the fire marshal testified that there were three separate sources of ignition, a classic indicator of arson according to old school fire investigation techniques.

Three arson experts using modern techniques have since reviewed the case and dispute the alleged separate sources of ignition. They found the original investigation to be so flawed that it was impossible to tell whether the fire was arson. One of them, John J. Lentini, estimated that nationally between 100 and 200 people might be “doing hard time” for arsons that were not arsons. As of 2007, Dougherty is appealing his conviction.  (DeathRowUSA) (News Article) (04) (09)  [3/07]

York County, SC 

Billy Wayne Cope

Nov 29, 2001 (Rock Hill)

Billy Wayne Cope, a white man, was charged with beating, sexually assaulting, and murdering his 12-year-old daughter Amanda. Amanda died at her family's Rich Street home in Rock Hill. Police suspected Cope, as there were no signs of forced entry to their home. After four days of interrogation while suffering from the stress of finding his daughter dead, Cope confessed to the crime. Later DNA tests of the semen found inside Amanda matched a black man, James Edward Sanders, who had a history of break-ins involving sexual assaults. Sanders had moved into Cope's neighborhood a few weeks before. Instead of dropping the charges against Cope, police, not wanting to waste a coerced confession, merely added a conspiracy charge, despite the fact that no connection was established between Cope and Sanders.

As trial neared in 2004, Judge John C. Hayes III refused to sever Cope's trial from that of Sanders and thereby prevented Cope's defense from presenting evidence of Sanders' other crimes. Sanders, who was released from prison before Amanda was killed, was charged with several York County crimes, including break-ins and a sexual assault that occurred after Amanda died. At the conclusion of the trial, both Cope and Sanders were convicted of the crime.

The television news magazine Dateline NBC later produced a two-hour report about the case which Prosecutor Kevin Brackett called, “...a blatant, slanted, one-sided, hit piece designed to make us look bad.” Brackett has since created a website in which he attempts to defend the conviction.  (TruthInJustice) (The Herald)  [12/05]

Coffee County, TN 

Andy Houser

June 3, 2003

Andy Houser's son Ethan died suddenly while in his care. After the medical examiner, Dr. John Gerber, ruled that that Ethan died of “shaken baby syndrome,” police arrested Houser for Ethan's murder. Besides the police, Houser's in-laws and wife soon believed he was guilty. Houser's first child was born with a chromosome disorder and a hole in his heart, and died days after birth. His wife became pregnant again, but miscarried in the first trimester. Ethan, Houser's next child, appeared healthy for the first 9 weeks of his life. He then had three bouts of projectile vomiting, after which doctors could find nothing wrong with him. While in Houser's care, Ethan then stopped breathing. Houser resuscitated him using CPR, but Ethan stopped breathing again while Houser was driving him to the hospital. The hospital declared Ethan dead.

Houser's trial was delayed because the medical examiner died. The prosecution needed time for an assistant to examine the autopsy findings so that a witness could present medical testimony. In the meantime, Houser's defense found a defense expert, Dr. Ronald Uscinski, who was a skeptic of shaken baby syndrome and had testified in numerous shaken baby trials. Uscinski found nothing to indicate that Ethan was shaken. Instead he found that Ethan had suffered a series of strokes over time including possibly prior to birth, and that he had died from these. The medical examiner's assistant, Dr. Thomas Deering, then had second thoughts on the original autopsy findings and subsequently agreed with Uscinski. Deering then issued an amended autopsy report and the charges against Houser were dropped.  (Tennessean)  [3/07]

Davidson County, TN 

Russell Maze

May 3, 1999

Russell Maze's 5-week-old child, Alex, suffered internal head bleeding on May 3, 1999 consistent with “Shaken Baby Syndrome.” Alex died 18 months later in Oct. 2000. Maze was convicted of Alex's death and sentenced to 51 years in prison. Recent biomechanical studies have shown “Shaken Baby Syndrome” to be a largely imaginary diagnosis as it is almost impossible for an adult to shake a baby hard enough to cause brain injury. Alex had been born underweight and 6 weeks premature.  (  [3/07]

Dallas County, TX 

Darlie Routier

June 6, 1996 (Rowlett)

Darlie Routier and two of her sons were attacked by an intruder in their Rowlett home at 5801 Eagle Drive. The two sons died. The prosecution claimed the attack was staged and convicted Routier of murders. An investigator took steps to steer the investigation away from his son, who is now in prison for other violent crimes. Prosecutors and the courts continue to stonewall against turning over or testing evidence that will prove her innocence. A book was written about the case entitled Media Tried, Justice Denied by by Christopher Wayne Brown.  (American Justice) (JD#1) (JD#2) ( (ODR)  [6/05]

Navarro County, TX 

Todd Willingham

Dec 23, 1991 (Corsicana)

Cameron Todd Willingham was convicted of murdering his three daughters by setting his house on fire. Under police interrogation, Willingham said that his wife, Stacy, had left the house around 9 a.m. After she got out of the driveway, he heard his one-year-old twin daughters cry, so he got up and gave them a bottle. The children’s room had a safety gate across the doorway which his two-year-old daughter, Amber, could climb over but not the twins. He and Stacy often let the twins nap on the floor after they drank their bottles. Since Amber was still in bed, he went back into his room to sleep. Willingham's house was warmed by three space heaters, one of which was in the children's bedroom. This heater had an internal flame. Amber had been taught not to play with the heater though she reportedly got “whuppings every once in a while for messing with it.”
Read More by Clicking Here

Greenbrier County, WV 

Marybeth Davis


Marybeth Davis was convicted of the attempted murder of her son and the murder of her daughter. In Sept 1981, Davis's two-month old son Seth went into convulsions and ended up in a permanent vegetative state. Six months later Davis's daughter Megan went into convulsions and died. Following these incidents, police launched an investigation, but concluded there was not enough evidence of foul play to charge Davis with any crime.

In 1995, Davis's case was reopened by State Trooper Michael Spradlin as part of a task force committed to solving cold cases. The following year, prosecutor Mark Burnette took the case to trial, stating “the medical evidence was overwhelming.” The prosecution claimed Davis injected Seth with insulin and poisoned Megan with caffeine. It also presented Dr. Basil Zitelli to give his expert opinion that Davis committed the alleged crimes because she suffered from Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

Münchausen Syndrome is an alleged psychological disorder in which one feigns, exaggerates, or creates symptoms of illness in oneself in order to gain the sympathy or attention of others. Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy is similar except that one purportedly feigns, exaggerates, or creates symptoms of illness in another person, such as a child, in order to gain sympathy.

Following Davis's conviction, Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy was debunked by many experts in psychology. Courts in England and Australia have prohibited medical experts from testifying that anyone has MSBP after ruling the syndrome is merely descriptive and not a psychiatrically identifiable illness or condition.

Advanced testing showed that Seth's illness was related to a human growth hormone deficiency and other evidence showed that that Megan died from from a rare condition known as Reye's Syndrome. In 2007 Davis was released from prison after agreeing to a plea deal, that gave her a time served sentence.  (Justice)  [11/09]

 New Brunswick, Canada

George Pitt

Oct 2, 1993 (St. John)

George Pitt was convicted in 1994 of the rape and murder of his six-year-old stepdaughter, Samantha Dawn Toole. Samantha was found dead behind her home at the edge of the Saint John River. The key evidence against Pitt was that he was washing a comforter at four in the morning. Biological evidence that was not tested before trial has since been tested and such tests clear Pitt. Pitt is still imprisoned as of 2006, serving a life term.  (Ottawa Citizen) (R. v. Pitt)  [9/06]

 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 and her conviction was quashed in Feb. 2011. The pathologist, Dr. Charles Smith, was stripped of his license to practice medicine in Ontario.  (Toronto Star) (Ottawa Citizen) (The Record)  [3/09]

 England (Birmingham CC)

Julie Ferris

1993, 1998

“Julie Ferris was wrongly convicted in June 2000 of smothering two of her children. [The first child, Hayley, died at nine months in 1993 and initially was thought to have been a cot-death victim. When the second child, Brandon, died five years later, aged eight months, Ferris was arrested.] The prosecution relied on the ... testimony of discredited expert witness Sir Roy Meadows – the same expert whose erroneous testimony contributed to the wrongful convictions of Sally Clark and Angela Cannings. [Ferris's] conviction was reversed in May 2003 and she was released on bail pending a retrial, which was scheduled for November 2004. On August 6, 2004 the prosecution announced it was dropping all charges against Julie Ferris.” – FJDB  (Times)

 England (Winchester CC)

Sally Clark

Dec 1996, Jan 1998

“Sally Clark was wrongly convicted of killing two of her young children 13 months apart. Her conviction was based on the testimony of a medical ‘expert’ that it is virtually impossible that two babies in one family would die of natural causes, and on the perjured testimony of the government's forensic scientist that she smothered the children. The first baby, Christopher, died at 11 weeks of age in Dec. 1996, and the second child, Harry, died at 8 weeks of age in Jan. 1998.”

“In 2002 it was discovered that the prosecution concealed a medical report that indicated there is identifiable physical evidence the second child died of natural causes, and it was the concealment of that report that led to the death of the first child being changed from natural causes to smothering, and the death of the second child being attributed first to shaking, and then to smothering. It was learned by Sally Clark's husband, Stephen, after the trial that at least 50 families in the UK every year suffer the death of a second child after the previous death of a child, and Manchester University researchers discovered in 2001 that there is a ‘crib death’ gene (SIDS). A common denominator in both of the deaths is they both occurred shortly after the babies received vaccinations.”

“Clark's convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeals on January 29, 2003 ... Clark died of an apparent heart attack [in] 2007, at the age of 42.” – FJDB


Jean Calas

Oct 1761

“Jean Calas was wrongly convicted on March 9, 1762 of murdering his son [Marc-Antoine] by hanging him. 63-year-old Calas was executed later the same day he was convicted by being strangled and burned. Calas had been horrifically tortured in an effort to extract a confession, but he did not confess. Voltaire took up the cause of finding evidence to prove Calas was innocent. On June 4, 1764, France's Great Council annulled Calas' judgment of guilt. On March 9, 1765, Calas was acquitted after a retrial, and his son's death was officially ruled a suicide. After the decision was announced, Voltaire wrote, "This is an event that seems to allow one to hope for universal tolerance." At the time Voltaire was 71-years-old. After making an application to the King, Madame Calas was awarded 12,000 livres, his two daughters were each awarded 6,000 livres, 3,000 livres was awarded to each of his sons and the Calas’ housekeeper, and 6,000 livers was awarded to the family to cover legal expenses. One thousand livres was equal to 10.8 ounces of gold, so these were very significant sums in 1765 given the generally low standard of living in France.” – FJDB


Franz Bratuscha

Apr 16, 1900 (Majsperk)

Franz Bratuscha was convicted of the murder of his 12-year-old daughter, Johanna. On April 16, 1900, she disappeared from her home in Majsperk, Slovenia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Bratuscha reported her disappearance to the police. About 9 weeks later he read in a newspaper that the body of a dead girl was found in Spielfeld, Austria, a town 26 miles to the north. Bratuscha went to Spielfeld and when police showed him the dead girl's clothes, he identified them as belonging to his daughter. He told police he had bought the fabric out of which the clothes were made and offered to bring the leftover portion of the fabric. Police were satisfied that the dead girl was his daughter and they gave him the clothes.
Read More by Clicking Here


Gawenda & Gallus

1882 (Radgoszcz)

Johann Gawenda was convicted of the murder of his 16-year-old stepdaughter, Katharina Sroka, also known as Katie. Katie's mother died in 1867, leaving her two-year-old daughter an estate consisting of three acres of fields and a cottage. Katie's father, Ignatz Sroka, managed the estate following the death of his wife. He subsequently married Marie Gallus. This marriage did not last long, as Ignatz was convicted of murder and died in prison in 1875. His widow Marie then married Johann Gawenda, who took over the administration of the estate for the still underage Katie and at the same time pledged to provide for her maintenance and upbringing. Gawenda neglected these obligations in a most unscrupulous manner, as he monopolized the land and treated its owner so badly that she had to work as a maid and also to depend on charity.
Read More by Clicking Here


Tatsuhiro & Keiko

July 22, 1995 (Osaka)

Shimada Tatsuhiro and his common law wife, Aoki Keiko, were both sentenced to life imprisonment for the arson murder of Keiko's daughter. On the day of the alleged crime, Tatsuhiro filled the gas tank of his van before returning to his home in the Higashi-Sumiyoshi ward of Osaka. Ten minutes later he smelled smoke and noticed a small fire in the garage under his van. Tatsuhiro searched for a fire extinguisher, but the fire quickly grew and spread. Keiko's daughter died in the fire after being overcome by smoke in a first floor bathroom. Keiko had 15 million yen life insurance policies on both her children. Life insurance on children was not uncommon, but 5 million yen and 10 million yen policies were more typical. The couple had no financial difficulties at the time of the blaze.
Read More by Clicking Here

 Australia (NT)

Lindy Chamberlain

Aug 17, 1980

Lindy Chamberlain was convicted of murdering her 10-week-old daughter Azaria. Lindy claimed Azaria was snatched by a wild dog, known as a dingo, from a campsite in central Australia. Azaria was never seen again.  ( (A Cry in the Dark)  [12/10]

 Australia (VIC)

Tomas Klamo

July 2005

Tomas Klamo was convicted of manslaughter in the alleged shaking death of his four-week-old son, Izaiah. Klamo admitted to having shaken Izaiah a little harder than normal a week or two before his death. Izaiah subsequently died of a brain hemorrhage. At trial the crown's medical expert was unable to say what caused the hemorrhage, but said he did not believe it was caused by shaking as Izaiah had no other injuries consistent with shaking. Klamo was sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment. On appeal in 2008, the Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal found the evidence against Klamo was insufficient to convict. It quashed his conviction and ordered his acquittal.  (R v. Klamo) (Herald Sun)  [11/09]