Date of Alleged Crime
|Otsego County, MI
|Dec 6, 1986 (Gaylord)
Five men were convicted of charges related to the murder of 31-year-old oil field worker Jerry Tobias. It was argued by some that Tobias overdosed on drugs, went to sleep in the bed of a pickup, and froze to death without waking up. The truck where Tobias's body was found was parked by a butcher shop owned by Laurie Moore.
In Nov 1987, a jury convicted Moore of involuntary manslaughter after the medical examiner identified as the probable murder weapon a metal skewer that Moore used for roasting chicken. Three months later, four jurors in the case asked to change their votes. They said 10 members of the 12-member jury had wanted to acquit Moore but had voted guilty after they were falsely told that a hung jury would harm Moore's chances for a new trial. The jurors' actions were the first sign that something was seriously wrong about the Tobias case, which would eventually cost the community many millions of dollars and become a convoluted web of official misconduct, perjury, and outright craziness.
Following Moore's conviction, case investigators then began listening to a witness, Debra Parmentier, who told them that she and another woman, Sherry Payton, had been in Moore's butcher shop and had seen the murder. She implicated Moore's brother Walter “Terry” Moore and two other men, Mark Canter and Donald Heistand, as participants in the murder. She also said a fourth man, Doug Brinkman, helped them load Tobias into the back of the pickup.
Terry Moore and Canter were convicted of murder charges based on the testimony of Parmentier and Payton. Both were sentenced to life in prison. Heistand and Brinkman, offered a chance at reduced sentences, confessed to lesser charges. Terry's appointed appeal attorney then began an investigation. When investigators questioned Payton, she said she had not witnessed any murder, but had been forced to corroborate Parmentier's story by a Michigan State Police officer who told her she would go to jail and never see her newborn baby if she refused to go along. Appeals based on the new testimony were unsuccessful.
However, Laurie Moore's original conviction was overturned on appeal because the trial judge had issued incorrect instructions to the jury. One member of the three judge appeals panel also issued a scathing denunciation of police and and of prosecutor Norman Hayes. The judge charged Hayes with “severe and reprehensible prosecutorial misconduct” and of pursuing Moore in a spirit of personal vindictiveness. Hayes had known Moore from high school and Moore had married Hayes' former girlfriend. After three years, Laurie Moore was a free man. So were Brinkman and Heistand who had served their sentences.
During an appeal of Terry Moore's conviction, a box of evidence surfaced that was withheld from his defense. It contained evidence of Parmentier's unreliability. Psychological evaluations showed she had a history of lying and of mental illness. She had also told a series of wild stories about international drug smuggling, gun-running, and the theft of weapons from a Michigan National Guard armory. By this time Parmentier had moved to Utah, gotten married, and changed her name to Debra (sometimes Brieanna) Herrick. Police brought her back to Michigan for a series of hearings in the summer of 1993.
At the hearings three of Parmentier's former boyfriends testified that Parmentier had hired them to shoot into two homes where she was staying in order to boost her credibility and persuade police that her life was in danger. Parmentier had committed crimes while under protective custody, faked her own kidnapping, and had an sexual relationship with one of the officers assigned to guard her.
Evidence showed that she had been thoroughly coached in her testimony by someone who provided her with court transcripts and newspaper clippings about the case. Parmentier's former roommate, Cynthia Glesen Steele, revealed that Parmentier had been home the night she supposedly witnessed the Tobias murder. Steele said Parmentier later persuaded her to tell police she was gone that weekend, and even had her change her diary to reflect the official story.
The hearings were suspended twice, but by May of 1994 the judge consolidated Moore's and Canter's appeals into a single case. The following month he ordered Parmentier arrested on perjury charges. In March of 1995, Parmentier jumped bond and disappeared from view. She left behind a 129 page document in which she recanted most of her previous testimony and said she had been extensively coached by police. She said the police had threatened her with prosecution when she tried to retract her earlier statements. She said police warned her she might herself be prosecuted for Tobias's death.
In Jan. 1996, Moore's and Canter's convictions were overturned. Charges against the two were dismissed after a judge ruled that Parmentier's testimony was no longer admissible. In 2002 Moore and Canter were awarded $4 million for their wrongful convictions and imprisonment. (TCRE) (91) (92) (96) (01) (02) [9/08]