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Three-year-old June Devaney, recovering from pneumonia at Queen’s Park Hospital in Blackburn, England, is kidnapped from her bed. Nurses discovered her missing at 1:20 a.m. the next day, and police were immediately summoned to investigate. Two hours later, her body was found with multiple skull fractures. The medical examiner determined that Devaney had been raped and then swung headfirst into a wall.
Two significant clues were found in the children’s ward that would prove helpful in catching the killer: footprints on the freshly cleaned floor and a water bottle that had been moved. Although there were several fingerprints on the bottle, police were able to account for all but one set. These prints also failed to match any of those in the police’s database of known criminals.
Investigators fingerprinted over 2,000 people who had access to the hospital. Still, they couldn’t find a match. Detective Inspector John Capstick then went even further: He decided that every man in the town of Blackburn, a city with more than 25,000 homes, would be fingerprinted.
A procedure such as this would be impossible in the United States where Fourth Amendment protections prevent searches without probable cause. But the plan went into effect in Blackburn on May 23, with police assurances that the collected prints would be destroyed afterward. Two months later, the police had collected over 40,000 sets of prints yet still had not turned up a match. Checking against every registry they could find, authorities determined that there were still a few men in town who hadn’t provided their prints.
On August 11, police caught up with one of these men, Peter Griffiths. His footprints matched the ones found at the scene. When his fingerprints also came back a match, he confessed to the awful crime, blaming it on alcohol.
Griffiths was found guilty of murder and was executed on November 19, 1948.
10 Absolutely Brutal Child Killers
Of all of the aspects of the human existence, very little has been as constant and ubiquitous as the tendency to become violent. Whether the dead had elaborate burials or were left out in the sun to rot, murder has been around since as long as there have been humans, and as long as there has been murder, there have been bodies to discover and people to hold accountable for such crimes. But in some seemingly unusual cases, the person discovered to be the evil murderer is a child.
The question of why children commit murder leads us down a long, winding path of possible explanations, some of which give credence to the idea that some people are just quite simply born violent. Another line of thinking suggests that children who murder are, more often than not, victims of abuse, neglect, or other chaotic home lives which make for a recipe for disaster.  Children under 12 years old who commit murder are exceedingly rare, but it does happen, and child murderers over the age of 12 are actually quite common and have been throughout the entirety of human history. Here are ten child murderers from the past and their stories.
A three-year-old's brutal murder begins an unusual investigation - HISTORY
Wikimedia Commons A mugshot of Elizabeth Short from 1943, when she was arrested for underage drinking.
The “Black Dahlia,” Elizabeth Short, was an aspiring actress who wanted be famous more than anything else in the world. She never could have imagined, though, how she would earn it: as the victim of a brutal murder that has haunted America for decades.
On Jan. 15, 1947, a young woman and her three-year-old daughter stumbled upon the body of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short. She was horribly mutilated, lying in the grass of a Los Angeles residential neighborhood, her body completely chopped in half.
Bettmann/Getty Images A sheet covers the horrific dissection of Short’s corpse.
The two pieces of her body were about a foot apart. Her intestines had been removed, folded up and then shoved back into her gut. There were ligature marks on her wrists, pieces of her skin had been removed, and her body had been completely drained of blood.
Perhaps the worst part, though, was her face. The killer had cut it open from the corners of both sides of her mouth to her ears, permanently etching a Joker-like smile on the young woman’s face.
Wikimedia Commons The body of Elizabeth Short lies uncovered in the grass on the day of one of America’s most famous murders: January 15, 1947.
One week later, an editor at the Los Angeles Examiner received a call from someone claiming to be the murderer. He’d kept souvenirs, he said, and he’d be sending them over in the mail.
He made good on his promise. Four days later, a postal worker pulled out a letter addressed to the Examiner. Inside was Elizabeth Short’s birth certificate, business cards, photographs, and her address book.
But like so many other famous murders, this one’s ensuing chaotic media circus only obscured the investigation. The police were overrun with too many tips to filter out the truth from the lies. They interviewed 12 possible suspects and listened to more than 60 people who tried to insist they were the killers, but they never managed to make a single arrest.
D.B. and Finn hunt for missing Kaitlyn, while Sara convinces Nick to return to the Las Vegas Crime Lab ("Karma to Burn"), in the thirteenth season of CSI. Russell, Finlay and their team are met with the gruesome, the brutal, and the unusual, including a shootout at the CSI's favorite diner ("Code Blue Plate Special"), the murder of a runaway sex slave ("Wild Flowers"), a body in a piano ("It Was a Very Good Year"), the death of a police dog handler ("Play Dead"), the discovery of a mass grave ("CSI on Fire"), a plane crash ("Risky Business Class"), a news anchor killed on live TV ("Dead Air"), the murder of a tennis star (Double Fault), the murder of a Cuban singing sensation ("Exile"), a cheating scandal at a poker tournament ("Last Woman Standing"), a body near a forest reserve (Sheltered), a ghost hunter's murder (Ghosts of the Past) a sole witness in the form of a 6 year old girl (Backfire) and a body in a mud-bath ("Fearless"). Meanwhile, things get personal, as Russell's sons coach is murdered ("Pick and Roll"), a body is found on Warrick's grave ("Fallen Angels"), Brass learns more about Ellie ("Strip Maul"), NYPD Lab Director Mac Taylor heads to Las Vegas ("In Vino Veritas"), Sara became a suspect in a homicide (Forget Me Not). Phillips heads to a high school reunion ("Dead of the Class"), and an investigation into a series of Dante's Inferno killings bring the CSIs face-to-face with Black Sabbath ("Skin in the Game"), before jeopardizing the life of one investigator.
- as D.B. Russell, a CSI Level 3 Supervisor and the Lab Director as Julie Finlay, a CSI Level 3 Assistant Supervisor as Nick Stokes, a CSI Level 3 as Sara Sidle, a CSI Level 3 as Greg Sanders, a CSI Level 3 as Al Robbins, the Chief Medical Examiner as David Hodges, a Trace Technician as David Phillips, an Assistant Medical Examiner as Morgan Brody, a CSI Level 3 as Henry Andrews, a DNA and Toxicology Technician as Jim Brass, a Homicide Detective Captain
- as Conrad Ecklie (episodes 1, 2, 14, 16, 22) as Lou Vartann (episodes 11)
- Larry M. Mitchell as Officer Mitchell (episodes 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19–21)
Guest stars Edit
- as Gil Grissom (voice only in episodes 3 & 11) as Mac Taylor (episode 13)
- Catrinel Marlon as Elisabetta, Hodlges Fiance ( Episodes 13 and 20)
In episode thirteen of the season, CSI staged a two-part crossover with its spin-off show CSI: NY in which Gary Sinise marked his first appearance in CSI and as his CSI: NY character Mac Taylor cast member Ted Danson subsequently appeared in the CSI: NY portion of the story. Former cast member William Petersen also returned as Gil Grissom for a voice over in the episode "Dead Air", on the phone with Sara. This appearance was uncredited. On March 20, 2013, CBS renewed CSI for a fourteenth season, which aired in September 2013. 
June Anne Devaney had been admitted to the Queen's Park Hospital in Blackburn, Lancashire on 5 May 1948, to recover from a mild bout of pneumonia.  She was placed in Ward CH3 of the premises, being under the supervision of nurse Gwendolyn Humphreys at night.  By 14 May, Devaney's condition had improved, and she was due to be discharged from Queen's Park Hospital the following morning. 
Shortly after midnight on 15 May, nurse Humphreys was in the ward's kitchen preparing the children's breakfast when she heard the cry of a small boy emanating from Ward CH3. She checked the ward, soothed the child—six-year-old Michael Tattersall  —and returned him to his cot, noting as she did so the child in the adjacent cot—June Anne Devaney—was sound asleep.  Humphreys then returned to her breakfast duties before checking on the children in her care in Ward CH4, then CH3. [n 1]
Abduction and murder Edit
At 1:20 am, Humphreys felt a draught and noticed an open porch door at the end of Ward CH3. She closed the door, then saw that June Anne's cot was empty, and that a trail of adult footprints—made by stockinged feet—were upon the highly waxed floor. Ominously, the drop side of Devaney's cot was still in place, meaning the child had to have been lifted from her cot. 
Nurse Humphreys made a quick search of the ward, desperately attempting to find June Anne, before alerting other staff to the fact a child was missing from Ward CH3. After 30 minutes of fruitless searching, staff contacted the local police, who arrived at 1:55 am and immediately began a search of the hospital and its grounds. 
At 3:17 am., police found June Anne's body. She lay face down in the grass directly alongside an 8 feet (2.4 m) tall sandstone boundary wall some 300 feet (91 m) from the ward. [n 2] Her nightdress was torn and raised to waist level, exposing her buttocks and immediately apparent were extensive bloodstains upon her clothing, numerous skull fractures, bludgeoning about her face, and blood exuding from her nostrils. 
|"I am not ashamed to say I saw it through a mist of tears. Years of detective service had hardened me to many terrible things, but this tiny pathetic body, in its nightdress soaked in blood and mud, was something no man could see unmoved, and it haunts me to this day . I swore, standing there in the rain, that I would bring her murderer to justice." |
|Detective Chief Inspector John Capstick, recalling his impressions upon first viewing the body of June Anne Devaney|
The discovery of the child's body and the injuries she had suffered immediately sparked a major murder investigation. As such, the area where June Anne's body was discovered was promptly cordoned off, the hospital became a crime scene, and the entire ward was secured and searched. At 4:20 a.m., the Chief Constable of Blackburn Police contacted Scotland Yard, seeking the assistance of an experienced investigator, who—alongside a sergeant—caught the 6:20 a.m. train from Euston to Blackburn. 
Post mortem Edit
A subsequent post mortem revealed that June Anne had died of shock due to both extensive internal injuries and multiple skull fractures.  The internal injuries were consistent with the child having been raped,  and the multiple, extensive fractures and blunt force trauma to her skull had been inflicted from the child being repeatedly swung into the boundary wall while her rapist and murderer had held her by her legs, ankles, or feet.  Numerous teeth marks were also notable on her left buttock, two ante-mortem bruises—the pressure of which indicated had been made by the application of a human thumb and forefinger—were located upon each of her upper, inner thighs and neck, and puncture wounds from human fingernails were found upon one ankle.  Every injury upon June Anne's body had been inflicted before death. 
Considering the area where the body was discovered, plus soon being contacted by a taxi driver who informed police that he had picked up a man with a local accent close to the hospital on the night of the crime, Blackburn Police came to believe early in the investigation that the crime would very likely have been committed by a local person, or an individual with extensive local geographical knowledge.  
Beside Devaney's cot, a glass 1946 Winchester bottle, partially filled with sterile water, was found alongside further footprints—measuring ten-and-a-half inches—which were clearly visible on the highly polished hospital floor   furthermore, the pattern of these stockinged feet impressions evident throughout the ward revealed that June Anne's abductor and murderer had evidently removed his shoes after entering the premises before prowling throughout the ward to view each cot and bed before selecting June Anne's cot as the one from which he chose to abduct his victim.  The bottle itself had inexplicably been removed from its customary place (a trolley at the end of the ward) and placed beside the child's cot. This bottle itself was examined for fingerprints, being found to contain several sets. 
After all hospital staff had their fingerprints compared against those upon the bottle, [n 3] a team of detectives from the Lancashire Constabulary traced all individuals who could have had a legitimate reason to have been in Ward CH3 within two years prior to the murder for the purposes of both alibi tracing, and fingerprint comparison. The individuals traced included ambulance drivers, nurses' boyfriends, electricians, and tradesmen. All were eliminated as suspects. Following the completion of this exhaustive task, one unidentified set of fingerprints remained. This set of fingerprints was declared by the head of the Lancashire Fingerprint Bureau to have belonged to the child's murderer. The ridges of this sole remaining set of fingerprints were well-defined and unbroken, suggesting they may belong to a young man with little or no experience of hard labour. 
After first establishing that no match for this set of fingerprints could be found within the police fingerprint bureau—meaning the perpetrator had not previously been convicted of any crime—attention turned to every male at or over the age of 16 within the local community. In a joint effort between local police forces and senior detectives from Scotland Yard, the Detective Chief Inspector in charge of the investigation, DCI John Capstick, then proposed that every male at or over the age of 16 who lived or was in the vicinity of Blackburn (then a town of 123,000 inhabitants) between 14 and 15 May be fingerprinted.  The public were asked to cooperate with police throughout this undertaking, with the promise that all records obtained would not be compared for usage in other cases, and that these records would be destroyed at the completion of this task. 
The mass operation began, and a special card was developed so that the identifiable sections of the perpetrator's left hand found upon the bottle (the left forefinger, middle finger, ring finger and a section of the left palm) could be recorded swiftly. The card also recorded the individual's name, address, and National Identity Registration Number. Also on the card was a section pertaining to the individual's stated movements between 11 p.m. on 14 May and 2 a.m. 15 May.   
The task-force to carry out this endeavour was led by Inspector William Barton and comprised a team of 20 officers who, armed with details from the Electoral Register, set about the districts collecting fingerprints and comparing them against those upon the Winchester bottle. Over the course of two months, over 40,000 sets of prints were taken from more than 35,000 homes without a match being found. [n 4]
Further fingerprint records Edit
By late July, investigators had checked the fingerprints of each individual upon the Electoral Register. Each individual had been eliminated. As World War II had ended just three years previously and ex-servicemen who had left the vicinity, or had recently been discharged from military service, would not have their names upon the Electoral Register, police then concentrated on these individuals. By way of checking the National Registration Number upon the most recently issued ration books  against individuals registered at the local Food Office, investigators identified over two hundred men whose fingerprints had not yet been obtained. 
One of the Blackburn addresses to be checked that of Peter Griffiths, a 22-year-old ex-serviceman who lived at 31 Birley Street,  and who worked as a packer on the night shift at a local flour mill. His fingerprints were obtained for comparison on 11 August.  When asked to provide his fingerprints, Griffiths—whose niece had been in Queen's Park Hospital at the time June Anne had been abducted  —supplied them without hesitation.  Shortly after 3 p.m. the following day, a comparison for the fingerprints upon the Winchester bottle was made with the fingerprints obtained from Peter Griffiths.  Upon discovering the comparison, the fingerprint expert who discovered this match, Colin Campbell, rose to his feet, shouting, "I've got him! It's here!" 
By the time this comparison had been made, officers had taken 46,253 sets of fingerprints, and had less than 200 sets of prints left to check before the completion of their task. Investigators chose to withhold this development from the public until they had arrested Griffiths. A decision was made to discreetly arrest him when he next left his home. 
Peter Griffiths was arrested by DCI Capstick as he left his Blackburn home to attend work on the evening of 12 August.  He was taken to Blackburn Police Headquarters, where he was formally cautioned as to his right to silence. During the ride to police headquarters, and throughout his first interview, Griffiths attempted to deny any involvement,  although when confronted with the fact his fingerprints had been a perfect match for those discovered upon the Winchester bottle, he turned towards DCI Capstick and stated: "Well, if they are my fingerprints on the bottle, I'll tell you all about it." 
In the statement he subsequently gave to detectives, Griffiths claimed that on the night of 14 May, he had chosen to go for a night's "drinking alone" in Blackburn, and that as a result of his heavy drinking, by closing time, he had become severely intoxicated. [n 5] He had then decided to walk around in an attempt to "sober up" before returning home. Griffiths then claimed to have spoken with a man in a parked car, whom he had asked to light his (Griffiths') cigarette. According to Griffiths, this man, noting his state of intoxication, had said to him: "Get in, open the window and I'll give you a spin."  This man had soon parked his car in close proximity to Queen's Park Hospital, and it had been at this stage at which Griffiths had chosen to break into the premises to commit his crime. [n 6]
Griffiths claimed he "remembered being outside" the children's ward, where he found a door unlocked. He had left his shoes outside the ward, and entered the premises, hearing a nurse "humming to herself and banging things, as if she were washing up or something". He had then picked up the Winchester bottle to use as a weapon in the event any member of staff had attempted to challenge him, before he had chosen June Anne as his victim. According to Griffiths, he had "hushed her" as he lifted her from the cot, before discreetly leaving the premises through a window to a small room at the end of Ward CH3 close to the lavatories. [n 7]
Griffiths refused to talk in much detail as to the atrocities he inflicted upon the child, beyond claiming that he had killed June Anne in a fit of rage when she had begun crying after he had carried her from the premises. Nonetheless, in one section of his statement, Griffiths stated that as he had carried the child across the field to where he assaulted and murdered her, June Anne had trustingly placed her arms around his neck. He then claimed to have returned home, sleeping soundly until approximately 9 a.m. 
Although Griffiths showed no remorse for his actions (which he blamed upon his state of intoxication) throughout the course of his confession, he did end his formal statement with a sentence indicating he wished to be hanged for his crime: "I'm sorry for both parents' sake and I hope I get what I deserve." 
Following Griffiths' confession, he was immediately remanded into custody at Walton Gaol to await trial.
On the evening of 13 August, Peter Griffiths was formally charged with the murder of June Anne Devaney.   Beyond providing investigators with a further set of his fingerprints and foot impressions for additional comparison with those upon the Winchester bottle and upon the floor of the ward of the Queen's Park Hospital, he would refuse to cooperate with all subsequent requests either to discuss aspects of his crime, or to provide blood or pubic hair samples for additional comparison with samples obtained at the crime scene prior to his upcoming trial simply making statements to the effect of, "I don't wish to say anything" when these requests were made. 
To both substantiate Griffiths' confession, and to garner further evidence, investigators went to his house to conduct a thorough search. During this search, a ticket was found from a local pawnbroker, dated 31 May 1948, for a suit belonging to Griffiths. Police collected this suit, only for the police forensics laboratory to discover that it bore bloodstains in several locations on both the jacket and trousers. These bloodstains were found to be the same blood type of June Anne Devaney—type A.  Furthermore, fibres from this suit proved to be a perfect match to fibres found upon the child's body, clothing, and the window ledge where her murderer had entered the hospital,  thus proving this to have been the suit Griffiths had been wearing on the night of the crime.  Fibres from a pair of red and blue socks belonging to Griffiths were also discovered to be a perfect match for those retrieved from the footprints upon the waxed floor of Ward CH3. 
The trial of Peter Griffiths began on 15 October 1948. He was tried before Mr. Justice Oliver at the assize court of Lancaster,  and chose to enter a formal plea of not guilty to the charge of murder on this date. 
Among those to testify on behalf of the prosecution was Inspector Colin Campbell, who testified as to the prints on the Winchester bottle being a precise match for the samples Griffiths had twice provided for investigators, and which he readily acknowledged were his own. To demonstrate this, enlarged copies of both sets of fingerprints were displayed to the jury, with Inspector Campbell indicating 16 ridge characteristics which were in agreement on both sets of impressions. Inspector Campbell also testified as to the stockinged feet impressions Griffiths had provided for investigators also being remarkably similar in characteristics with those found upon the ward from which June Anne had been abducted. Also to testify on behalf of the prosecution were individuals who described how the suit Griffiths had pawned shortly after the murder was found to be heavily bloodstained in several locations on both the jacket and trousers, and that these bloodstains were of the same blood type of June Anne Devaney. The jurors were told how fibres from this suit were of a perfect match to fibres found on the child's clothing, body, and on the window ledge where her murderer had evidently entered the hospital. None of these experts were cross-examined by Griffiths' defence counsel.
During the trial, Griffiths' defence counsel openly stated they were not fighting for his freedom, but for his life (murder being a capital offence in the United Kingdom at the time). As Griffiths had already pleaded guilty to the offence,  all that remained was a question of his sanity, and as such, the defence had entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.  This opinion was voiced by Dr. Alaistair Robertson Grant, who stated for the defence that Griffiths was displaying the early signs of schizophrenia (a condition for which he had treated Griffiths' father some thirty years previously when he had been hospitalised with the condition). Dr. Grant stated to the jury that although Griffiths knew what he was doing, he did not realise the criminality of his actions. To refute this testimony, the prosecution produced the medical officer from Walton Gaol, a Dr. F. H. Brisby. Dr. Brisby testified on 18 October as to his observations of Griffiths while he had been held on remand since 14 August. He stated that, based on his observations of Griffiths throughout his incarceration, Griffiths was sane when he had committed the crime. 
During the trial, Griffiths described how he had entered the hospital while intoxicated, and had then picked up the Winchester sterile water bottle, which he stated to the Court he had intended to use as a weapon if he was challenged. He also described how he had lifted June Anne Devaney from her cot and then carried her, in his right arm, out of the hospital, down the field to where he had proceeded to beat and rape her, adding that the child had trustingly placed her arms around his neck as he had carried her to this destination. Although he confessed to having swung the child's head into the boundary wall approximately four times, Griffiths made no response when he was specifically asked about the sexual aspect of the assault. (After hearing Griffiths' recollection of the events, Dr. Alaistair Grant privately conceded that Griffiths was of sound mind.  )
The trial lasted for two days. Following closing arguments delivered by both counsels, the jury retired to consider their verdict, although they would deliberate for just 23 minutes  before announcing they had reached their verdict.  Peter Griffiths was found guilty of June Anne Devaney's murder. In response to this verdict, Mr. Justice Oliver donned his formal black cap and made the following speech:
Peter Griffiths, this jury has found you guilty of a crime of the most brutal ferocity. I entirely agree with their verdict. The sentence of the Court is that you be taken from this place to a lawful prison and thence to a place of execution, and that you there suffer death by hanging [. ] and may the Lord have mercy on your soul. 
Peter Griffiths did not lodge an appeal against his conviction. He was hanged at HM Prison Liverpool on the morning of 19 November 1948. His body was later buried within the confines of the prison. His executioner was Albert Pierrepoint. 
Just weeks prior to the execution of Peter Griffiths, all the fingerprint records obtained from individuals who had been in the vicinity of Blackburn between 14 and 15 May were publicly destroyed in a mass pulping exercise at a local papermill. Several local journalists were present to record the destruction of the records. 
The Truth Behind JFK's Assassination
On November 29, 1963, President Lyndon Johnson directed the Warren Commission to "evaluate all the facts" in the brutal November 22 murder of his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, on a downtown Dallas street in broad daylight. Reduced to its bare essentials, the investigation sought answers to three fundamental questions: Who, why and how?
"Why" was entirely contingent on "who," and that depended on "how." Thus, the linchpin of the Warren Report&mdashand every subsequent investigation&mdashhas always been precisely how Kennedy was assassinated in Dealey Plaza. That is the finding from which all the important answers flow mishandle that question and the credibility of the entire report is undermined. The Warren Commission's bungling of "how" is a primary reason why there have been so many residual doubts and conspiracy theories over the past 50 years.
In the 1964 Warren Report, just seven pages (of 888) reconstruct the shooting sequence. Three spent cartridges were found in the sniper's nest on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, corroborating the testimony of most ear- and eyewitnesses that three shots were fired. But after 10 months of investigation, the report did not present a compelling explanation of the sequence instead it offered up three slightly different scenarios. In each, one of the bullets fired by Lee Harvey Oswald fatally hit Kennedy in the head another struck and passed through the president before hitting Texas Governor John Connally and the third shot fired by Oswald&hellipwell, the commission could not say where that bullet went or even when it was fired. Depending on which of the three scenarios one favored, the total time span of the assassination ranged from as little as 4.8 seconds "to in excess of 7 seconds."
The story of how the Warren Commission fumbled this pivotal question is long and convoluted, and only the barest outline can be presented here. The saga involved not just the lawyer-dominated commission and staff but also the FBI, the Secret Service and the media, primarily the then-mighty Time Inc. empire. The crucial element, of course, was the most famous movie ever taken by a cameraman, the 26-second-long Zapruder film.
As the Bullets Struck.
In 1963, Abraham Zapruder was the 58-year-old co-owner of a Dallas dress manufacturing company, Jennifer Juniors, and an avid amateur filmmaker. Yet he didn't bring his top-of-the-line home movie camera to work on November 22 even though the president's motorcade was scheduled to pass right by his office sometime after noon. Only after his secretary suggested he would regret not capturing JFK on film&mdashafter all, how often is a president less than a block away?&mdashdid Zapruder dash home to fetch his Bell & Howell Zoomatic.
An important fact to realize is that the film he shot that day consists of two parts. The first segment, 132 frames (seven seconds long), shows police motorcyclists riding by. Zapruder stopped recording the advance escort because he did not want to run out of film. He restarted his camera only after he clearly saw Kennedy acknowledging the crowd from a gleaming blue stretch limousine. Thus, the 19 seconds of Zapruder film everyone is familiar with begin at frame 133&mdashwell after the Lincoln Continental had already negotiated the sharp turn onto Elm Street, putting it about 71 feet into the plaza, as illustrated in Figure 2.
The FBI and the Secret Service swiftly got copies of Zapruder's footage, which seemed destined to be a key exhibit in the upcoming trial of Oswald, arrested 75 minutes after Kennedy was shot for killing a police officer while fleeing downtown Dallas. But the film's role abruptly changed on November 24, when a self-appointed vigilante, Jack Ruby, murdered Oswald as the accused assassin was being transferred to the Dallas County jail.
In the absence of a cathartic, public trial in Dallas, the Zapruder film displaced Oswald's view from the sixth-floor window a partial but mesmerizing visual record had to stand in for seeing the assassination through Oswald's eyes, and hearing it described in his words. The assassination, in fact, was becoming "fused with one representation, so much so that Kennedy's death became virtually unimaginable without Zapruder's film," as the critic Richard B. Woodward put it in 2003.
Well before investigative agencies had their say, the notion that Zapruder had captured the assassination in full was put forward by a very self-interested party: Time Inc., which had snapped up all rights to the film. Thirty-one black-and-white stills from the footage appeared in the November 29 issue of Time's flagship publication, Life, along with an article titled "Split-Second Sequence as the Bullets Struck." The following week, Life exploited its exclusive control over the film to publish an article rebutting rumors about "the presumed difficulty of firing three accurate shots in the time Oswald had." In "End to Nagging Rumors: The Six Critical Seconds," the magazine asserted that the film provided "a frame-by-frame chronology of events [making it] possible to reconstruct the precise timing&hellipof the shots." The article even specified the frames in which bullets could be seen hitting President Kennedy in the upper back, Governor Connally in the back and the president in the head, all within the span of 6.8 seconds, and in that order. That Zapruder had caught the entire sequence from beginning to horrific end was the position Life staked out and has never budged from, judging from the essays in a lavishly illustrated, $50 book it published on the 50th anniversary of the assassination.
This interpretation of the evidence proved almost indelible. The fact that Life was America's biggest weekly magazine in 1963, with a circulation of 7 million, hardly does justice to its pervasive influence. It was nothing less than America's image of itself, the mighty colossus in a media landscape where television was still struggling to prove its bona fides as a serious medium. "[Life] was People magazine before there was a People magazine," as media critic Daniel Okrent once observed. "It was 60 Minutes and the Today show and the [networks'] evening news all rolled into one." The two post-assassination issues of Life sold out so quickly&mdashcopies of the 25-cent magazine were being scalped for as much as $20&mdashthat Time Inc. printed a special memorial edition of 3 million copies.
Life's explanation fit so neatly with the account that Connally broadcast nationwide from his Dallas hospital bed that even the FBI was promptly "Zaprudered"&mdashso mesmerized by the footage that it lost perspective. Merely seeing should not be believing, yet the bureau accepted Life's claim that the film was a full time-clock of the shooting sequence. In its January 1964 supplemental report to the Warren Commission, the bureau confidently declared that according to "a motion picture taken. by an amateur photographer, Abraham Zapruder&hellip The best estimate of the time interval of the shots fired is that approximately six seconds elapsed from the first to the final shot, with the second shot occurring approximately in the middle." Figure 3 is a model of Dealey Plaza the FBI built the strings depict the FBI's sequence and spacing of the shots.
The Warren Commission staff, to its credit, did not rubber-stamp Life's analysis. It came to realize that the president and the governor had been wounded in such a brief time span that Oswald could not have worked the bolt action on his Mannlicher-Carcano rifle to fire two shots so quickly and accurately. Consequently, the staff theorized that there were either two shooters, or one of the bullets hit both men. The latter seemed more plausible, in part because Oswald had used military ammunition designed to pass through people. Besides, there was another insurmountable problem with the Life-FBI scenario: If a bullet, traveling at an entrance velocity of 1,900 feet per second, penetrated the president's upper back, where did it go after exiting his throat at a velocity of 1,800 feet per second? Only one other person or object in the limousine was struck by a bullet, and that was Connally, his 6-foot-plus frame shoehorned into a jump seat just inches in front of JFK. Of course the same bullet hit the Texas governor it had to. Critics would deride the "single-bullet theory," calling it a "magic bullet." But the truly magical bullet would have been one that disappeared after exiting the president's throat&mdashwhich is what one has to believe if one believes it didn't hit the governor.
On May 24, 1964, when the commission restaged the assassination in Dealey Plaza, the main thrust was to show that the "single-bullet" hypothesis was correct. The theory has since been endorsed by every reputable investigation, to the point where it should be called the "single-bullet conclusion." Yet its corollary&mdashif one shot had hit two men, then one of the three shots missed&mdashwas mostly ignored. That unaccounted-for bullet was a pesky problem but one the commission could not explain. No matter how many times it ran the Zapruder film through the projector, the missing shot could not be pinpointed in time.
No one realized that the commission, despite its crucial revision of the FBI's analysis, had also been Zaprudered. Squeezing the shooting sequence so that it fit inside the film made Oswald's feat of marksmanship appear to be much more difficult than it actually was. The commission's scenario, the one that reduced the shooting down to not just six but as little as 4.8 seconds, was all but impossible for expert marksmen to replicate. The commission's riposte was that the report didn't claim it happened that way&mdashjust that it could have. Since this legalistic answer verged on the absurd, the net effect was to cast doubt on the commission's probity.
Ignoring the Evidence
The commission's staff had ample clues that the Zapruder film did not capture the entire assassination, yet none of its leads prompted a reexamination of the fundamentally flawed premise. Reflecting the importance of "how," more lawyers on the staff worked on this question than any other, but communication among them&mdashall the more critical because the task had been divided up&mdashwas poor. Sometimes the staff discounted clues from ear- and eyewitnesses because they didn't fit into the evolving conception of the assassination timeline. The staff also developed critical information only to neglect to follow it up. Finally, the staff also failed to gather some basic information that might have shown that the film was not the time-clock everyone thought it was.
Some of the most important clues were:
&bull Amos Lee Euins, a 15-year-old Dallas high school student, was one of the spectators who immediately directed police away from the grassy knoll and to the School Book Depository, having seen a man with a rifle firing from the sixth-floor window. Euins was also one of the very few witnesses able to pinpoint the first shot in time and space. He told the sheriff's department that when the presidential limousine "got near the black-and-white [highway] sign" he heard the first shot. But when Euins appeared before the commission, assistant counsel Arlen Specter did not ask him about these details.
&bull Dallas Deputy Sheriff Luke Mooney discovered the three spent rifle cartridges on the depository's sixth floor. The hulls had fallen in a distinctive pattern: two were close together, just below the window sill, and the third was several feet away. When Mooney testified, he tried to offer his opinion about what this signified, but assistant counsel Joe Ball was not interested. Six days later, though, assistant counsel Melvin Eisenberg exhibited considerable interest in the matter while questioning FBI agent Robert Frazier. That's because cartridge ejection patterns are predictable and routinely used to determine shooting positions. The pattern found on the sixth floor suggested that one shot was fired with the rifle aimed more or less perpendicular to the face of the building, with the ejected cartridge bouncing away unimpeded, while the other two shots were fired with the rifle pointed in a direction nearly parallel to the building's face, with the spent hulls bouncing back to the sill after hitting the book cartons Oswald had stacked behind him in order to stay hidden. Unfortunately Frazier did not have Mooney's insight.
&bull James Tague, a Dallas car salesman, was the third person injured during the assassination&mdasha deputy sheriff noticed drops of blood on Tague's cheek, and Tague then recalled something stinging his face during the shooting. After he led the deputy to where he had been standing, the officer noticed a bullet smear on a nearby curb. Nine months later the FBI belatedly removed the curb, and a spectrographic analysis revealed metallic residue consistent with that of the lead core in Oswald's ammunition.
This evidence was the only forensic proof of what had happened to that errant shot, yet the commission could not integrate it into the shooting sequence as defined by the Zapruder film. The same was true of subtler evidence about a bullet strike near a manhole cover on the south side of Elm, about three-quarters of the way from the sniper's nest to Tague's concrete curb.
The commission's single most egregious mistake was to disregard a critical finding by FBI agents working with the panel's staff. When they reenacted the assassination with the help of surveyors and FBI agents, in May 1964, commission staffers were stunned by an unexpected development. The president's upper torso had come into Oswald's line of fire at a point on Elm Street before Zapruder had restarted his camera. They labeled this "Position A," the "first point at which a person in the sixth-floor window&hellipcould have gotten a shot at the president['s back] after the car rounded the corner." In Figure 1, the white automobile is essentially at what the Warren Commission labeled "Position A."
But after having made what should have been a huge breakthrough, the commission treated Position A as an awkward, even unwanted, fact. Marines&mdashOswald had served in the Corps&mdashare taught to aim at the main or upper body mass. That instruction alone hinted that, indeed, a shot might have been fired before Zapruder restarted his camera. Yet Position A is never mentioned in the seven pages that discuss the shooting sequence, and the film itself is misrepresented. The report states that "Zapruder filmed the presidential limousine as it came around the corner [emphasis added] and proceeded down Elm."
The Warren Commission wasn't the only investigative body to dismiss and discount these clues. Over the next 43 years, belief that Zapruder had captured the assassination in full became almost canon it was the one presumption that went unexamined by the horde of curious investigators, from major media organizations such as CBS (in 1967), PBS's Nova (1988) and ABC (2003) to arms of the government such as the House Select Committee on Assassinations (1977-1979). The latter, if anything, was even more wedded than the Warren Commission to the belief that everything of consequence had been captured on the Zapruder film.
The only notable advance on the Warren Commission's analysis occurred in 1967, when CBS News found that the first of the three shots fired by Oswald was the one that missed. The network presented this finding as part of an exhaustive reinvestigation of the assassination, to which it committed unprecedented resources and airtime. Walter Cronkite anchored four one-hour prime-time segments broadcast on successive nights in June 1967, just as public doubts about the Warren Report were reaching the first of what would be several crescendos. That the first shot had missed was counterintuitive, since it meant the errant shot had occurred when the president was closest to the sniper's nest. But every reputable analysis that followed agreed, including two books (Gerald Posner's Case Closed and Vincent Bugliosi's Reclaiming History) that have been regarded as nearly definitive. In this new paradigm, Oswald had a leisurely eight seconds in which to get off three shots. The first shot missed because it was deflected by a branch of the oak tree that fleetingly obscured the motorcade from Oswald's vision. There never was precise agreement, however, about which telltale Zapruder frame captured this moment. Sometimes the first shot was said to have occurred as late as Zapruder frame 186 (CBS), other times as early as frame 157 (ABC). But no matter when they thought it had occurred, all investigators agreed that the first shot was on the film.
The logical explanation, however, was that Oswald, in keeping with his Marine training, had fired at the first good opportunity that is, just after a good portion of the president's upper torso came into Oswald's sights at Position A. The only reason this first shot missed was because it hit the only obstacle (apart from the tree) blocking Oswald's line of sight during the entire procession: the traffic mast arm. He could not get off another shot before the limousine became obscured by the oak tree, so he fired his second shot at the first good opportunity: the instant the president's main body mass appeared out from under the oak tree. This bullet pierced Kennedy's upper back and was quickly followed by an utterly devastating third shot.
The Limo Was Too Close
In November 2007, a New York Times op-ed I wrote with the photographer Johann Rush broached for the first time the radical notion that Oswald's first shot came before Zapruder restarted his camera.
Three years later, NatGeoTV decided to explore this theory with the filmmaker Robert Stone. It retained Frank S. DeRonja, a former metallurgy unit chief at the FBI Laboratory, to inspect the steel mast arm for bullet metal damage as part of a documentary about the shooting sequence in Dealey Plaza.JFK: The Lost Bullet, aired in November 2011.
DeRonja studied numerous photographs of the signal assembly taken over the decades in an effort to determine what changes had been made to it and approximately when the maintenance records kept by the Dallas Department of Street Services went back only seven years. Other than signage that had been added to the assembly, only one physical change was noticeable: Sometime after April 1991, when a new signal light with larger lenses was installed, the means of securing the signal to the end of the 16-foot-long steel mast arm changed significantly. In 1963 the light was attached with an L-shaped hanger arm, which had a 6-inch-long sleeve that fit over the end of the mast. The hanger arm had been discarded along with the old signal.
DeRonja inspected the mast arm twice. But looking for discernible metal damage was akin to looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, and in a very limited amount of time. Traffic could be halted for only so long because Elm Street still serves as a major route in the city. The signage and the now much-larger adjacent oak tree were major encumbrances. It was impossible to examine properly the mast arm structure unless it could be taken down, disassembled and inspected under laboratory-type conditions.
Still, NatGeo's efforts helped uncover critical information. In April 2011, licensed surveyors using laser technology established the precise distance and angles between the sixth-floor window and the mast arm, and from there, downstream to clues associated exclusively with the initial shot: first, the concrete skirt on the south side of Elm Street, and second, the concrete curb on the south side of Main Street where Tague had stood.
Another critical piece of information developed for the documentary concerned the exact path of the presidential limousine. Secret Service protocol called for it to be in the center of the street. This, however, had not happened initially in Dealey Plaza.
NatGeo arranged for three eyewitnesses to return to Dealey Plaza: Euins, Patricia Ann Donaldson (née Lawrence) and Tina Pender (née Towner). In November 1963, the then 13-year-old Tina Towner filmed the presidential limousine as it turned onto Elm Street&mdashprecisely the span of time when Zapruder was not filming.
When Towner stood at that spot in 2011, she said that the limousine standing in for the president's car should be farther to the left. Her film was subsequently studied for clues about the exact path of the limo. Several frames revealed that it was indeed much closer to the lane dividers on the driver's (or left) side of the center lane on Elm Street. Moreover, because Elm Street had been reduced from four to three lanes in 1956, the lanes were considerably wider than normal&mdashputting the presidential limousine well to the left of the mast arm's midpoint. Ultimately, the most likely point of impact on the mast arm for Oswald's first shot was estimated to be no more than 30 inches from the end.
One of the better illustrations of the probable area of impact on the mast arm is a still taken during the filming of Oliver Stone's JFK. Stone painstakingly transformed Dealey Plaza to re-create its appearance in 1963 in certain ways his restaging of the motorcade procession was visually more accurate than reenactments by the Secret Service or the Warren Commission. A photo taken during the filming of JFK captures the view from the sniper's nest just as the stand-in for the president is about to reach Position A, as defined by the Warren Commission. Because Stone's reenactment was filmed at the right time of day and under a clear sky, sunlight on the mast arm puts it in strong relief&mdashvery close to how it looked on November 22, 1963.
The Metal Jacket
In late July 2012, eight months after the NatGeo documentary aired, an unknown vehicle struck the signal light assembly, forcing the Street Services Department to replace it. Over the next year DeRonja, with my assistance, made four trips to the shed where the Dallas Park and Recreation Department had secured the extant mast arm on a chest-high fixture. Each trip marked a stage in the forensic examination and processing of the mast. In November 1963, the mast arm had only a red paint primer and an original coat of forest green paint. Over the next 45 years, coats of light gray, olive green and black paint had been applied, often haphazardly on the top surface. Deterioration of the paint coatings had left the mast exposed to the elements and susceptible to extensive corrosion.
DeRonja decided to conduct firearm testing on exact replicas of the mast arm to determine the characteristics of a bullet strike at various points on the circumference of the mast arm. H.P. White, a nationally recognized ballistics-testing laboratory in Maryland, offered its facilities and several technicians. Steel pipe exemplars with the same cross-sectional dimensions as the mast arm were prepared, and a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle&mdashthe same model used by Oswald&mdashwas used to fire comparable ammunition. The only real difference between these tests and Oswald's position was that the rifle had to be fired at point-blank range, some 30 inches away, rather than from 75 feet. This concession was necessary to exert control over the point of impact on the exemplars' circumference, since changes of as little as 1/16 of an inch could produce dramatically different results.
In three of the four tests, bullet strikes close to the top center-line of the mast left deep indentations, and the bullets shattered upon impact. In one test firing, however, a bullet strike far from the top center-line produced a ricochet while removing the paint and leaving a slight indentation barely discernible to the touch.
That firing also caused the metal jacket to be stripped from the bullet after impact. This result was significant because in 1964 the FBI determined that the smear on Tague's concrete curb had no traces of copper, and thus "could not have been made by the first impact" of a copper-jacketed bullet fired from Oswald's rifle. Finally, calculations based on the bullet-deflection measurements revealed that a glancing bullet strike on the mast arm in the right circumferential location could deflect a bullet downstream to the turf adjacent to the concrete skirt on the south side of Elm Street.
The test also yielded the sobering realization that definitive evidence of a bullet impact could not be obtained. Within the 30-inch area deemed critical, DeRonja did find a shallow surface disturbance and rusted area approximately 22 inches from the signal end of the mast, but rust corrosion resulting from the mast's long exposure to the elements obliterated the possibility of a telltale bullet footprint. This forensic metal examination should have occurred 49 years earlier.
Figure 4 is a composite photo, assembled from the Secret Service stills, that shows the flight path of the first shot as substantiated by the test on the exemplar. Oswald fired his rifle within milliseconds of getting a bead on his target. But instead of striking the president's upper body, the bullet glanced off the mast arm. The impact stripped the copper jacket from the bullet and redirected the lead core, which struck the ground in the vicinity of the concrete skirt on the south side of Elm and then ricocheted toward the south side of Main Street. The strike to the concrete curb left a metallic smear and caused the injury to James Tague&mdashthe collateral victim in Dealey Plaza whom history has mostly ignored.
11 Seconds in Dallas
If the Warren Commission had properly examined the traffic mast arm, it could have presented a clear, compelling account of the shooting sequence. Instead of presenting three possible scenarios, the Warren Report would have described a shooting sequence that took slightly more than 11 seconds, with intervals of approximately 6.3 seconds and 4.9 seconds between the three shots. The misleading but sibilant meme first put forward in Life&mdashsix seconds in Dallas&mdashwould have been debunked, an accomplishment nearly as important as proving that one of the three shots hit both Kennedy and Connally. Because the shot by Oswald that missed was his first one, when it occurred defines the time span of the assassination. It also shows that Oswald's allegedly remarkable feat of marksmanship was no feat at all, especially for an ex-Marine who once qualified as a sharpshooter.
Raise this deficiency with the surviving members of the Warren Commission staff today and most of them (being nearly all lawyers) respond by raising the legal doctrine of "harmless error." But was the error harmless? Such a pinched view ignores the wellspring and the arc of criticism of the Warren Report. Critics pounced on its bewildering explanation, singling out one of the alternatives&mdashthree shots in six seconds or less, with two of those shots finding their mark&mdashfor the ridicule it deserved. In tandem, the commission's genuine (if only) contribution to the forensic findings&mdashits single-bullet conclusion&mdashastoundingly became a cause of disrepute (paging Oliver Stone). Moreover, unlike questions about, say, Oswald's relationship with Fidel Castro's regime, which could not be satisfactorily answered without access to secret Cuban records, the shooting sequence was completely within the commission's power to resolve. All the evidence was right there in Dealey Plaza&mdashif only it had been fully examined.
Reacting to Some Unnatural Stimulus
The final twist to this saga is that once Zapruder's film is put in its proper context&mdashhe recorded an assassination that had started, not one in full&mdashthe footage provides some of the most powerful evidence against being Zaprudered. The film is mesmerizing and may deceive, but ultimately it does not lie.
Figure 1 is perhaps the most well-known still photo taken during the assassination. AP photographer James Altgens raced to the grassy infield area of Dealey Plaza just after the president's limousine turned right onto Houston Street. He was standing no more than 60 feet from the front of the limousine when he looked into the viewfinder and clicked the shutter.
Altgens's photo is equivalent to Zapruder frame 255, about two seconds after Oswald fired the second shot. The president can be seen reaching for his neck, where the bullet exited, with first lady Jacqueline Kennedy's white-gloved hand supporting his left arm. Connally's head is turned 90 degrees, the same bullet having just penetrated his torso. Most spectators are still oblivious to what is happening. Only the police motorcyclists and the Secret Servicemen on the "Queen Mary" follow-up car are reacting to the moment. Three of the eight agents riding in the car&mdashJack Ready, Paul Landis and George Hickey&mdashhave turned their heads toward the source of the shot, while Clint Hill and William McIntyre are in the process of doing so, although Hill would never complete the motion. Seeing that the president is in distress, he leaped from the running board in a futile effort to cover the president's body with his own.
Juxtapose Altgens's picture with frame 153 from the Zapruder film, taken an estimated two seconds after the traffic arm mast deflected the first shot. There is no sign of distress in the presidential limousine, and the spectators show no signs of concern. But look again at the Queen Mary. Though not all eight agents can be seen clearly, at least three of them&mdashReady, Hickey and Glen Bennett&mdashare reacting to some unnatural stimulus. Ready's head is turned sharply to his left, although normal protocol called for him, as the president's body man, to keep his eyes on the quadrant to his right. Hickey, seated on the driver's side of the rear bench seat, is already rising and leaning over far to his left in his statement, he said he thought someone had thrown a firecracker at the motorcade.
Most telling, however, is the movement of Bennett. He can barely be glimpsed leaning to his right, straining to see around presidential aide Dave Powers and Secret Service agent Emory Roberts, seated directly in front of him. He was trying to "look at the Boss's car," he wrote in notes he jotted down while en route back to Washington, D.C., after the shooting. He saw Kennedy struck in the back by the second shot, and then in the head by the third bullet.
The assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy happened only one way, and the die had already been cast by the time the Zapruder film begins at frame 133. The Warren Commission never tried to match Bennett's untainted recollection with his movements as seen in Zapruder's footage, and because of that inexplicable lapse, the American people had to wait 50 years for an answer it deserved and sorely needed.
The Eastburn Family Murders
When the police officer arrived at the Eastburn’s home on Summer Hill Road, he could hear the youngest daughter, Jana, screaming inside the house. She was just hours away from death by dehydration and starvation, and she was covered in dirt and faeces.
The toddler would be the only one in the house found alive.
The Eastburns were a military family and were about to move to England for husband Gary’s new role in the Royal Air Force. He held the rank of captain and was at a training facility in Montgomery, Alabama, 500 miles away from his family in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The family spoke on the phone every Saturday, but when Gary called his wife Katie, for the couple’s morning call, she didn’t pick up. But back in May 1985, there was little else Gary could do but wait by the phone for his wife to call him back.
The Eastburn’s neighbour, Bob, had noticed the newspapers piling up and assumed that Katie and her daughters, Kara who was five, Erin who was three and little Jana who was just under two, had gone away, but their car was still in the driveway.
He rang the doorbell and there was no answer, but he could hear the baby crying inside. He told his wife to contact the Sheriff’s office and he waited for them to arrive.
Jana was passed through the window to Bob, while the police officer continued into the house. He found the bodies of Katie, Erin and Kara after smelling a strong odour, and called in the deaths.
Five-year-old Kara had been stabbed in the chest multiple times and was found curled up under a Star Wars blanket. 32-year-old Katie was found without her trousers or underwear on and had been raped. She’d also been stabbed fifteen times. Three-year-old Erin had received blunt force trauma to her chest and back, and all of their throats had been cut.
Later, when survivor Jana was asked what happened that night, she told the child psychologist to hide because the “bad men” were coming. They believed her sisters had told her to stay hidden, which is why she survived the attack, unharmed.
Forensics were taken from the crime scene, including hair, fingerprints and semen samples. A luminol test showed that a lot of blood had been cleaned up recently.
Gary Eastburn was contacted soon after by detective Jack Watts, who told him to come home immediately as there had been a death in the family. He gave the detective and his partner, Robert Bittle, all the information he could, and told them that the family had a dog, but he knew his wife had put an advert in the paper for someone to adopt her, as they didn’t think the old dog could cope with the journey to England or the quarantine. He didn’t have any information about the new owner of their dog.
Gary walked the house, once the bodies of his family had been removed, looking for anything that was missing. Katie’s bank card, an envelope containing around $300, and the password for the bank card appeared to be the only items missing.
Instead of having to appeal for witnesses, one came forward of his own accord. Patrick Cone had been in trouble with the police before, but what he’d seen that night needed to be handed over to the police.
He told them that he’d seen a man in a Members Only jacket at around 3.30 am that morning. The man was white, blond and tall with a wide nose and moustache. He wore a knitted cap and jeans and was walking away from the Eastburn’s house carrying a bin bag.
The man spoke to Patrick, stating, “leaving a little early this morning”, as he walked towards his car, a white Chevette. Patrick sat with a sketch artist from the North Carolina division of the Bureau of Investigation, to create an image of the man he’d seen that morning.
The Eastburn’s babysitter also spoke to the police and told them that Katie thought she had a stalker. The family had received crank calls for months before the murders and sometimes the caller spoke about doing sexual things to Katie.
A few days before the murder, the babysitter picked up the Eastburn’s phone to take a call from a woman named Angela. She was interested in looking at the dog and the babysitter took her details, so Katie could call her back. The note wasn’t found in the house when a search was done.
Six days later, Angela Hennis and her husband, Tim, were watching the news report on the murders. They realised quickly that the newest addition to their home, an old Red Setter, had been picked up from the very same house only days before, and the white Chevette sitting in the driveway was the car the police were looking for.
Tim Hennis drove to the police station, to speak to Watts and Bittle about his encounter with the family. When Watts walked into the interview room, he immediately saw the likeness to the sketch Patrick had helped create.
Tim was a 27-year-old Army sergeant and had recently become a father to Kristina earlier that year. The police interviewed him as if he was a suspect and Tim was rightly wary of them. He asked if he needed representation and the police told him it was just a routine interview.
He told them that he went to pick up the dog on Tuesday, two days before the murders took place. After that, he’d taken his daughter and wife to visit family and they’d stayed behind, which meant he didn’t have an alibi for the night in question.
He let the detectives take fingerprints, saliva, hair and blood samples and while police were collecting what they needed from him, they were also creating a line-up for Patrick. Tim had bounced some cheques in the past, so they had a photo of him from when he was arrested. They placed it between five images of other men and Patrick immediately picked Tim out.
Tim was released after several hours of questioning and he drove home. Police knew they had found their main suspect and began interviewing the people around him.
Tim’s neighbours had seen him burning items in a barrel outside of his home, and he’d stood there for five hours, tending to the fire. They’d never seen him burn anything in a barrel before and found his behaviour odd.
His local dry cleaner also came forward and told police that Tim had come in the day after the murders to have his jacket cleaned. It was a Members Only jacket. When questioned, Tim’s landlord told police that Tim was late with his rent that month. His tenant owed $345 and he’d been able to pay the rent a few days later, just after the murders.
Tim was arrested and charged with rape and the three murders in the first degree. He was offered a plea deal immediately but he refused to take it. Tim didn’t want to plead guilty because he told them he didn’t do it. Instead, he told police to test the samples he’d given them at his first interview.
The blood types, fingerprints and hair were tested, but it was the 1980s so forensics still had a way to go. The blood came back as inconclusive because there was so much of it. The fingerprints and hair weren’t a match or were also inconclusive.
However, other evidence had begun to mount against the sergeant, and then one more witness appeared.
Katie’s bank card had been stolen during the murders, and it had been used to withdraw money after her death. A woman had used an ATM machine a few days after the attacks, and the person before her had used Katie Eastburn’s bank card. She was sure that the blond man, wearing camouflage trousers was Tim Hennis.
Though none of the evidence found in the house could be linked to Tim, the prosecution still wanted to move forward with the trial.
Tim went to court almost a year after the murders. The jury was shown a slideshow of the crime scene and autopsy photographs with the prosecutor’s presentation lasting 90 minutes. None of the physical evidence matched Tim Hennis and the tactics used by the prosecution were questionable.
Nevertheless, when the jury returned from their deliberation, they found Tim Hennis guilty of three first-degree murders and the rape of Katie. He was transferred to Raleigh and three days after the trial, he was sentenced to death.
Despite the verdict, there were still questions surrounding the case. There were fingerprints and hair all over the Eastburn’s house that didn’t match Tim Hennis and there were also footprints found outside of the Eastburn’s home that were three sizes smaller than Tim’s feet. None of these pieces of evidence were ever questioned during the trial.
While his appeal was being prepared, Tim received a strange letter in prison.
Dear Mr. Hennis,
I did the crime, I murdered the Eastburns. Sorry you’re doin [sic] the time. I’ll be safely out of North Carolina when you read this.
Thanks, Mr. X
The sheriff’s office also received a letter from the unknown writer but many thought that the letter was a hoax.
In 1988, Tim Hennis’ appeal was finally ready to go back to court, and their defence was that the photograph slideshow presented to the jury was completely discriminatory against their client. The images of the brutal murders and autopsy scenes, they believed, were too much and that the jury would have convicted anyone for the crimes.
The judge agreed that the jury saw too many images, so Tim was given a new trial and it was moved 90 miles away for a fairer hearing. The same year, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that photographic presentation should be limited to not cause prejudice amongst jurors, named the Hennis test for excess.
Patrick Cone was put on the stand first. The defence had planned to discredit the witness’ inaccurate account of the night he saw the tall, blond man in the white Chevette. They brought in a meteorologist and a helicopter pilot, who told the jury that the night was very overcast and dark and Patrick would have found it difficult to see the man properly.
Patrick had been in trouble with the law between the two trials, even telling an officer that he was too valuable to lock up because he was a witness in the Hennis trial. In the end, enough doubt was thrown upon Patrick’s reliability for the jury to disbelieve his account.
They brought the woman from the ATM machine back to the second trial. By the time the police had found her, Tim Hennis had been on television and in newspapers, and she could have easily picked up his face from seeing these reports. The defence also made the jury sit in silence for three and a half minutes to highlight the amount of time between the man’s transaction at the ATM and her own.
Tim Hennis’ lawyers also stressed that the woman had also told investigators, “I don’t remember anything”, before ensuring that her story was in place before the first trial.
The evidence found at the Eastburn’s home was also brought up. Who did the hair, blood, and footprints belong to? They certainly weren’t Tim’s. The burn barrel remains from Tim’s home were also collected and tested and nothing of significance was found there, either.
The defence spoke to the dry cleaner, and they told the lawyers that they didn’t use any special blood-cleaning chemicals, on the Members Only jacket. To prove their point, the defence poured blood on another jacket and cleaned it with chemicals that remove blood from fabric. Even with the right chemicals, a luminol test showed remnants of blood on the prop jacket and when Tim’s jacket was given the same treatment, the luminol test didn’t show any signs of blood at all.
The final blow from the defence was a new witness, who was a spitting image of Tim Hennis. John Raupaugh lived a few streets away from the Eastburn’s home and liked to walk around at night when he couldn’t sleep. He was doing so on the night of the Eastburn’s murders, wearing a Members Only jacket and a knitted hat.
John told the jury that the police had interviewed him and when they realised how similar he looked to their suspect, they took his jacket and hat to hide from the defence and only gave them back to him when Tim was safely in prison.
Two days later the jury came back with a “not guilty” verdict for the three first-degree murders and the rape.
Tim Hennis left the court with his daughter, who was now four years old, and his wife. He was a free man.
Tim rejoined the Army, receiving back pay for the years he’d spent in prison and in 1990, he was sent to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield. He returned home after a stint in Somalia, where he received medals for his duty and service.
In 2004, Tim retired as master sergeant and settled in a job at a waste facility in Washington. The family had moved there years earlier and Tim was now filling his time as the leader of his son’s scout group.
Tim continued to live a normal life with a loving family for years, but it would soon be turned upside down once more.
In 2006, Gary Eastburn received a call from detective Bittle. Technology had finally caught up, and the rape kit used on Katie had been found at the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department. It was sent to the crime lab and the DNA swabs from Katie were tested.
The semen found in Katie’s body was a match to Tim Hennis.
The problem now facing the prosecution was double jeopardy. Tim had already been tried for the murder of Katie, Erin and Kara, and couldn’t be taken to court again. However, Tim Hennis was military.
The Army called Tim back to active duty and he was charged with the three murders of the Eastburns. On the 17th of March 2010, the trial for Tim Hennis began in the Fort Bragg courthouse, complete with a packed audience.
Now in his fifties, Tim sat through the trial as he had done twice before. The defence pulled out the same evidence as the second trial the shoeprints, the blood, the fingerprints and hair, but the luminol test done at the crime scene showed an extensive clean-up had been done after the murder, and the one piece of evidence that Tim couldn’t get rid of was his semen.
Instead, the defence’s argument was to introduce the idea of extra-marital affairs, stating that a young wife whose husband had been gone for a long time could have impulsively decided to sleep with Tim Hennis when he picked up the dog.
Unfortunately, the jury was made up of officers who were often away from home for long periods of time, and so the argument resonated terribly. What’s more, Tim Hennis had vehemently denied an affair with Katie.
On the 3rd of April 2010, the jury took three hours to decide on their verdict and came back to court to cite Tim Hennis as guilty, once again.
At sentencing, Gary Eastburn was asked to speak. After the murders of his wife and children, he and Jana had eventually moved to England in 1988. There, he’d met a nurse who he married, and after a few years living in the U.K, they’d all moved back to America. When asked what he missed most about his family, Gary replied, “Them. I miss being with them”.
Tim Hennis was eventually sentenced to a dishonourable discharge from the Army and to be put to death. He was transferred to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas where he still resides today. He’s the only person who’s been tried for life three times after not guilty and guilty verdicts. He’s unlikely to be put to death, due to Presidential approval for military execution, which hasn’t happened since the 1960s.
In February 2020, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces rejected his appeal. When interviewed by The Seattle Times in 2010, Gary Eastburn said, “I’m perfectly happy if he spends the rest of his life in jail. However, if they did execute him, it was no more than he deserved.”
The Neverending Nightmare of Amanda Knox
Jailed suspect Amanda Knox attends a murder trial session in Perugia April 18, 2009.
Her killer did a bad job. It was amateur work: There were bloody fingerprints and footprints all over the apartment, and the killer even defecated in the toilet and forgot to flush. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Whoever murdered Meredith Kercher didn’t know how to use a knife.
The first two wounds weren’t deep enough to do fatal damage, the knife catching on bone. On the third try, the killer found a soft spot in the left side of her throat and plunged the blade full to its hilt. The attacker then pulled the weapon from left to right several times in a sawing motion, then up and back, leaving a gash more than three inches long and three inches deep. It was clear, from the purposeful savagery of this final blow, that the intent was to kill. But since the blade missed the carotid artery, Kercher’s agony lasted as long as 10 minutes. An experienced killer would have known better.
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After the stabbing, the killer’s behavior was peculiar, displaying an attitude rarely evident in a crime scene: remorse. Three white towels were used in a frantic effort to staunch the bleeding. When that failed, the killer removed the comforter from Kercher’s bed and, in a perverse gesture of compassion, laid it over the corpse. Investigators would wonder whether the person had even seen a dead body before. Finally, the killer ran out through the front door, leaving a trail of bloody shoe prints.
When an attractive young woman from a privileged British family is murdered in Italy, you’ve got a popular crime story. When the person suspected of killing her is an attractive young woman from a privileged American family, you have tabloid gold. When the prosecutor hypothesizes that the victim was slaughtered during a satanic ritual orgy, you’ve got the crime story of a decade. When a sitting U.S. senator declares that the case “raises serious questions about the Italian justice system” and asks if “anti-Americanism” is to blame, and when 11 Italian lawmakers in Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition request a probe of the prosecutor’s office &mdash well, at that point, you have an international crisis.
One might expect that the lead role in this blockbuster would be assigned to the victim, a placid, pretty girl from London named Meredith Kercher. The daughter of a tabloid writer and his Indian-born wife, Kercher was a serious student who didn’t take herself too seriously she had been drawn to the Italian city of Perugia, in part, for its reputation as the City of Chocolate. She quickly made a group of British girlfriends, joining them for dinner parties, movie nights and dancing at the local discos. Kercher was beautiful, bubbly, devoted to her family, a model daughter.
And yet, less than a day after her murder, Meredith Kercher was all but forgotten. The show was stolen by an accidental ingénue named Amanda Knox, who, until she was convicted of murder and sentenced to spend the next 26 years in prison, was unaware of a number of significant facts about herself. Knox did not understand, for instance, that she was beautiful. It was new to her, her beauty &mdash as a high school student at Seattle Prep she was heavier, had acne and was more devoted to rock climbing and backpacking than to dating. She didn’t have her first boyfriend until she was 19. “She’s a little dork who doesn’t wear matched socks,” says her best friend, Madison Paxton. “I’d never use ‘sexy’ to describe her.” Her beauty is no longer a mystery to her, however, now that she’s received hundreds of letters from male admirers all over the world.
Knox also didn’t realize that she would be judged by her behavior, her looks and her nationality. Nor did she suspect that her faith in human nature was a dangerous fantasy. She would learn other terrible lessons along the way too &mdash the kinds of things most of us don’t like to think about. In July, while she waits for her appeal case to be settled, Knox will turn 24. It will be her fourth consecutive birthday in jail. She’s learned her lessons. Now she just wants to go home.
This is what we know for certain: Shortly after 10:30 a.m. on November 2nd, 2007, Amanda Knox left the apartment of her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito. They had met only one week earlier, when Knox and Kercher had attended a Schubert recital at the university where Knox was studying. Knox had noticed Sollecito, a gawky, pale 23-year-old with delicate, rimless glasses and zero history with women. He struck her as “an Italian Harry Potter.” After Kercher departed at intermission, Sollecito tentatively approached the American girl.
“She seemed to be searching for something in my eyes,” Sollecito would tell his father. “I noticed that her opinions on the music were odd… She didn’t concentrate on the emotions it provoked but only on the rhythm &mdash slow, fast, slow.”
Knox told him that she was working that evening at Le Chic. The bar, popular with students, was owned by a Congo-born Perugian named Patrick Lumumba, who had hired Knox on as a waitress. Sollecito showed up later that night and stayed until closing. Amanda spent that night at his apartment, and the next seven nights as well.
On the evening of November 1st, she was supposed to come over after her shift ended, but Lumumba had texted shortly before Knox was to begin work, telling her not to bother coming in &mdash it was a holiday and nobody was drinking. She returned to Sollecito’s house and, after dinner and a joint, the couple had turned off their cellphones for the evening.
They always stayed at Sollecito’s because, unlike most of Perugia’s 40,000 students, he didn’t have roommates. His father, a wealthy urologist, had set him up with the apartment &mdash along with the black Audi A3 that he parked outside. The only problem with the apartment was the plumbing. Whenever he used the sink, as he did that night when he made dinner for Knox, the pipes leaked and water pooled on the floor. Sollecito was so flummoxed by the puddles that he called his father for advice on how to get rid of them.
This is how, at 10:30 a.m. on November 2nd, Knox found herself returning to the cottage at 7 Via della Pergola that she shared with Kercher and two Italian girls. She planned to take a shower in her own bathroom, change clothes and grab a mop.
When she arrived, she began to notice several things that struck her as “abnormal.” The front door to the cottage had been left ajar. Knox called out, but no one responded. This was unsurprising, as she knew that her Italian roommates would be away for the holiday weekend. Kercher’s door was shut, so Knox assumed she was asleep.
It was only after her shower that Knox noticed the blood. In a flustered e-mail sent to friends and family two days later, she described what had happened:
There were drops of blood in the sink. At first I thought the blood might have come from my ears, which I had pierced extensively not too long ago, but then immediately I knew it wasn’t mine… when I touched the blood in the sink, it was caked on already… I thought it was strange, because my roommates and I… wouldn’t leave blood in the bathroom, but I assumed that perhaps Meredith was having menstrual issues and hadn’t cleaned up yet. Ew, but nothing to worry about.
When Knox used a hair dryer in the second bathroom, she saw the feces in the toilet. Knowing none of her roommates would have forgotten to flush, she started to suspect an intruder. She grabbed the mop and left the house in a panic.
After telephoning her roommates &mdash and reaching one, Filomena Romanelli &mdash she returned with Sollecito to check for signs of a burglary. Knox’s room appeared untouched. In Romanelli’s room, however, the window had been shattered. They tried Kercher’s door. It was locked. Knox knocked gently at first, then loudly &mdash no response. Finally Sollecito threw himself against the door, but he wasn’t strong enough to break it down.
Sollecito called the carabinieri &mdash the Italian military police &mdash and the couple went outside to wait. Two officers soon arrived. They weren’t carabinieri, however &mdash they were postal police, a sleepy, junior-varsity unit of the state police responsible for investigating crimes like Internet fraud and stolen phones. Two cellphones had been discovered in a rosebush half a mile away, one of which was registered to Filomena Romanelli at 7 Via della Pergola. Knox and Sollecito explained to the bewildered officers that there had been a burglary, and invited them into the house.
A butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, and a twister forms over West Texas. A man sneezes, and the stock market crashes. An American girl in Perugia allows the postal police to enter her house, and two years later, she is convicted of murder and sentenced to 26 years in jail.
Had the lovers waited for the carabinieri, a series of catastrophic blunders would likely have been avoided. For starters, the carabinieri would have prevented anyone from tramping through the crime scene. The two postal-police officers, however, allowed themselves to be led through the house in search of clues by a band of child sleuths out of Scooby-Doo. For there were now six of them in all &mdash shortly after the officers showed up, two cars had arrived with Romanelli, her boyfriend and a third couple, friends of Romanelli’s.
The police refused to break into Kercher’s bedroom, claiming respect for the girl’s privacy. But on Romanelli’s insistence they relented, standing by while one of the boyfriends, seizing the moment, kicked down the door.
The children ran from the house screaming.
Henry James described Perugia as the City of the Infinite View, and indeed the view is infinite &mdash if you can find it. Crammed onto the upper third of a steep mountain, the city is contorted, bent: all elbows and knuckles. Unless you are strolling along the broad plateau of Via Corso Vannucci, which runs for five blocks along the crest of the hill, you are always walking up or down. You are also in shadow, even on the brightest days. This is because everything is awkwardly jammed together, the buildings lying on top of one another like piles of discarded toys in a cluttered attic.
The side streets &mdash and all the streets, other than the Corso, are side streets &mdash are uneven and narrow, laid out a millennium ago for people approximately half our size. As you ascend or descend, you pass through dank tunnels and duck beneath arches and bridges, while catching glimpses underfoot of intersecting walkways at lower levels. The casual pedestrian feels that he is navigating one of M.C. Escher’s more deranged drawings. It is common to come to a fork in a road where one way goes up and the other goes down, and for streets to taper into nothing, or to terminate in a blind alley the size of a hall closet.
But then you stumble around a corner and find yourself on the city’s outer ring, where you encounter a stunning panorama of undulating valley, distant mountains, files of cypress trees, sky. The cottage at 7 Via della Pergola stands at such a spot, perched over a steep ravine. It is a location that college students find romantic, and Perugians consider dangerously exposed.
James wrote that the famous view gives Perugians, who sit on Umbria’s highest throne, a sense of “authority and centrality and experience.” This still rings true. An imperious tone could be detected in the proclamations made by Perugian authorities throughout the Kercher investigation. But the city’s other aspect, its warped convolutions and clandestine passageways, was also reflected in the views of the investigators. From the case’s earliest stages, they were quick to propose twisted theories of demonic influence and ritualistic sex games. This unusual combination &mdash of supreme certitude and baroque paranoia &mdash has made the story of the Knox trial as intricate, and as darkly thrilling, as the plot of a gothic novel.
The trial, held in a subterranean chamber of Perugia’s courthouse, would play to a packed gallery for its entire 11-month run. The British and Italian tabloids insisted that “Foxy Knoxy” (a nickname given to an eight-year-old Knox in her soccer league) was a “crazed sex killer.” Headlines read ORGY OF DEATH AMANDA WAS A DRUGGED-UP TART. Knox’s supporters, most of them American, fought back.
Their list of grievances was long: incompetent police work, leading to the mishandling of evidence. The lack of any physical trace of Knox in Kercher’s bedroom. Italy’s carnivalesque judicial process, where there is never order in the court, the lawyers and defendants constantly interrupting the proceedings with groans and catcalls and wild gesticulations, while the press in the gallery yammers away like the kids in the back of the classroom. The prosecution’s failure to establish motive or intent (“We live in an age of violence with no motive,” said one prosecutor). And the fact that prosecutors did not immediately drop the case against Knox and Sollecito after the bloody fingerprints and footprints came back matching a 20-year-old petty thief named Rudy Guede.
These were valid criticisms, but Knox’s supporters missed one crucial point. The prosecution, despite their ineptitude, would never have been able to convict Knox and Sollecito all by themselves. They needed help. And they would get it &mdash from Amanda Knox.
Knox had several disadvantages from the start: She was American and, despite majoring in Italian at the University of Washington, could barely speak the language. Her poor comprehension may have contributed to her second problem: her inability to realize that she was, from the first day of the investigation, suspected of murder. Most damaging, however, was her obstinate faith in the kindness of strangers.
Knox grew up in the middle-class suburban neighborhood of Arbor Heights, in West Seattle, several blocks from the Puget Sound. Her parents like to describe her as “book-smart.” This is true &mdash she made the honor roll at Seattle Prep, a private Jesuit high school, and at UW &mdash but it’s also their way of suggesting that her intelligence was limited to books. As her stepfather, Chris Mellas, tells me, “She’s the smartest person you’d ever know” but “dumb as a rock” when it comes to “street sense.” In conversations with her friends and family, a portrait emerges of a person with a childlike innocence. She was, as her mother, Edda, puts it, “oblivious to the dark side of the world.”
When strange men approached her in city parks, she would chat with them. “What’s going on in your life?” she’d ask. “Let’s talk.” Her friend Madison Paxton recalls an incident when they passed a woman sobbing near the UW campus:
“All of a sudden, Amanda wasn’t next to me. I turned around and she has this shocked look on her face. She says, ‘I cannot believe that you just walked by her.’ Amanda grabbed my hand and pulled me back. This woman couldn’t even speak, she was crying so much. But Amanda took her by the hand into a cafe, ordered her a coffee and started talking to her, trying to get her to calm down.”
By junior year, Knox announced that she felt too “closed off” from the world and wanted to spend a year abroad to “expand her horizons” and live “without a safety net.” (“That,” says her stepfather today, “seriously bit her in the ass. So to speak.”) Her parents, recognizing her determination &mdash she had taken extra jobs to pay for the expense &mdash agreed to support her decision.
“You don’t want to take a dream away,” her father tells me today. Curt Knox, who was a vice president of finance at Macy’s for 25 years, makes sharp eye contact and speaks precisely. It often seems that he is undergoing great exertions to restrain a wild, inchoate rage. “When she said she wanted to study abroad, and we sat down and talked to her, my first question was, ‘What happens if you get sick?’ There was a good response for that &mdash her mother has a cousin that lives in Germany, just two hours away. A lot of questions went through my mind. None of them was, ‘What happens if your roommate gets murdered?'”
In one of Knox’s Facebook posts, she wrote, “I don’t get embarrassed and therefore have very few social inhibitions.” Upon arriving in Perugia, her lack of inhibitions worked in her favor. When she saw a young woman posting a housing flier, Knox struck up a conversation. She wrote about the encounter to her friends at home:
We go immediately to her place, literally two minutes from my university. It’s a cute house… in the middle of Perugia.
I’m in love… The house has a kitchen, two bathrooms and four bedrooms… Not to mention my roommate owns two guitars and wants to play with me… Not to mention she wants me to teach her yoga… Not to mention the view is amazing.
Her Italian roommates were friendly, if somewhat aloof &mdash they were seven years older, with jobs and serious boyfriends. But Knox became closer to Kercher, who claimed the fourth bedroom. They went out together to bookstores and bars and, in mid-October, to Perugia’s chocolate festival. Still, they might not have been friends under other circumstances. Kercher found her extroverted roommate a bit too loopy (she complained to her sister that Knox sang “loudly all the time”) and untidy (Knox, concerned about water conservation, “never seemed to flush the toilet”). As classes began, the roommates saw each other less. Kercher spent more time with her British friends, and Knox worked at Le Chic. But for the five weeks they knew each other, they appeared to get on. In a conversation with her parents in mid-October, Knox described Kercher as fun, beautiful and smart.
On November 2nd, Knox’s callowness caught up to her. As soon as Kercher’s corpse was discovered, the two Italian roommates called their lawyers. Kercher’s British friends were even more cautious: Most of them fled the country, returning to the U.K. Edda asked Knox to fly home, or visit her cousin in Germany, but Knox refused. She wanted to see Kercher’s family when they arrived in Perugia. She also wanted to help investigators find the killer. Today her mother’s greatest regret is that she listened to her daughter. “Had I known that the British girls were out of there, had I known that the first thing her roommates did was lawyer up &mdash had I known all of that? Absolutely, I would’ve made her come home,” says Edda. “I would have had my cousin on the first plane out of Germany to yank her out of there.”
“It’s so Amanda that it hurts me,” says Paxton, who has recently moved to Perugia to help with the case. “People talk about her being a manipulative mastermind. If she is, she’s a fucking idiotic one. If you’re a mastermind and you commit this murder, you leave the country. She walked into the police station. She just basically fucking skipped into the police station.”
It was at the police station that Knox met the man who would become her chief antagonist for the next four years: Giuliano Mignini, the prosecutor who would oversee the murder investigation and eventually Amanda Knox’s trial. A native Perugian, he wears smartly tailored jackets that cling snugly to his inflamed, bullish frame. A pair of spectacles rests low on the wide bridge of nose, beneath his broad forehead and powerful, gleaming eyes. Mignini is seen by Knox’s supporters as a blustering maniac whose bullying reduced Knox to tears on the stand. But in person, he more closely resembles the benevolent caretaker of a rustic pensione: casual, kind, eager to amuse, an intent listener. He presents himself as the model of moderation. When I ask him today whether he thinks Knox is evil, he says that nobody is all good or all bad. He wishes she were innocent he did not enjoy putting a young girl in prison. But it was his duty.
In private conversation, Mignini always seems to want to know, very sincerely, your opinion. And then, when you are done, he will patiently explain to you how things, in fact, are. As it turns out, in his view, things are often touched by Satan. He detected Satan’s influence as early as 2001, when he became a central figure in the Monster of Florence serial-killer case. Mignini proposed that the suicide of a Perugian doctor was actually a murder committed by a satanic cult, practicing since the Middle Ages, that demanded human organs for their Black Masses. He later accused a hostile journalist of satanism and was convicted of abusing his office. In the early stages of the Kercher investigation, Mignini suggested that the victim had been slaughtered during a satanic ritual, but in his closing argument, he only went so far as to refer to Knox as a sex-and-drug-crazed “she-devil.”
Mignini’s official title is “public minister,” a hybrid of detective and district attorney. This makes Mignini less a prosecution lawyer than a Grand Inquisitor. He leads the investigation, giving directions to the police under his care, and serves as lead prosecutor during the trial. This arrangement means that the police often find themselves under professional obligation to look for evidence that supports the prosecutor’s hypotheses. This is especially true in high-profile cases, when there is enormous pressure to explain quickly what exactly happened.
When I ask Mignini whether he regrets any decisions he made during the Kercher case, he will name only one. It was the very first decision that he made. When he arrived at the crime scene he asked the chief forensics expert, Patrizia Stefanoni, whether she had taken Kercher’s body temperature, a reliable indicator of time of death. Stefanoni, Mignini says, was worried that doing so might contaminate the body and advised that they wait until other testing had been done. The temperature was not taken until November 3rd, at which point the death was set between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. The failure to make a more exact estimation proved critical. If Kercher died before 9:30 p.m., Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito would have had an alibi: They were seen at Sollecito’s apartment at 8:45, and Sollecito’s computer showed activity as late as 9:10.
Though Mignini won’t say it straight out, there is another thing he seems to regret. When I ask him whether he wishes that the carabinieri, and not the state police, had handled the investigation, he sighs warily and glances past me. There, on his bureau, stands a small collection of carabinieri action figures: two three-inch plastic figurines in uniform, and a matchbox-size patrol car. It might have made a difference, he says. The carabinieri, he acknowledges, have more resources and a different style, due to the fact that they are a division of the military. Yes, he says finally, he prefers the carabinieri.
From the beginning of the case, he was fascinated by the behavior of Amanda Knox. She was extremely unconvincing in the role of the wrongfully accused. That a 20-year-old woman suspected of her roommate’s murder should not behave the way her accusers expect is hardly surprising, just as it is hardly surprising that a small, provincial police force should botch one of the most intensely observed criminal investigations in their nation’s history. Three and a half years after her arrest, Knox has still not entirely mastered it. But her behavior in those first days doomed her.
Especially disturbing to investigators was a video that appeared on YouTube soon after the body was discovered. Filmed by paparazzi who quickly materialized at the “house of horrors,” the video showed Sollecito consoling a pallid, dazed Knox outside the cottage. Sollecito rubs her arms and gives her three chaste kisses.
Others were bothered by the couple’s displays of affections once they were taken to the police station for questioning.
“Knox and Sollecito would make faces, kiss each other, while there was the body of a friend in those conditions,” said homicide chief Monica Napoleoni.
“I couldn’t help thinking how cool and calm Amanda was,” said Giacomo Silenzi, a neighbor who had been having a fling with Kercher. “Her eyes didn’t seem to show any sadness, and I remember wondering if she could have been involved.”
Officers would later complain that Knox, after sitting for hours in the stiff waiting-room chairs, had started to do cartwheels and even splits. Convinced that she was psychotic, the guards begged her to stop, explaining that such behavior was “inappropriate.” And a detective complained when he saw Knox sitting on her boyfriend’s lap. “Inappropriate,” he said.
When I ask Knox &mdash through Paxton, who visits her twice a week in prison &mdash whether she regrets her behavior in those first days after the murder, she says she absolutely does not she was reacting the only way she knew how. She also disputes the accounts of her behavior. She sat on Sollecito’s lap, for instance, only because she had been pacing, and he had pulled her to him in an attempt to comfort her. And while she may have seemed “cool and calm,” when she went at night to Sollecito’s house she would break down in tears.
More eccentric allegations would be aired during the trial, some of which seemed to reveal more about the police than about Knox. One officer was certain Knox had lied about taking a shower that morning because “she smelled like sex.” And an older male detective claimed that, upon returning with detectives to the murder scene, Knox had spontaneously broken into a seductive, hip-rolling dance, popularized in old Italian sex comedies, called La Mossa. Knox, the detective claimed, had shimmied her hips like Monica Vitti, shouting “Hoopla!”
Over the weekend, Knox was repeatedly called back for additional interviews &mdash first to the station, then to the crime scene. “Do you see any knives missing?” asked the detectives. “What kind of sex did Meredith like?” Though unaware that she was a suspect, Knox had been put under surveillance by the Perugian police. She and Sollecito were followed around the city as they ate and shopped for underwear (Knox wasn’t allowed to retrieve her clothes from the crime scene). When at the station, the lovers were led into a room bugged with hidden microphones, where their conversations were monitored. Their cellphones were tapped as well. And the police confiscated a school notebook in which Knox had started taking notes while waiting to be interviewed. A passage was later leaked to the press:
The strange thing is that all I want to do now is write a song about this. It would be the first song that I’ve written and it would be about someone who died in a horrible way for no reason. How morbid is that? I’m starving. And I’d really like to say that I could kill for a pizza but it just doesn’t seem right… I don’t know what to do or think.
The investigators’ theory was beginning to take shape: Knox was smart enough to avoid saying anything inculpatory, but stupid enough to draw attention to herself. They believed that Sollecito, the spoiled computer geek, was weaker and manipulated by her. They turned their focus onto him, hoping that he would break.
By Monday, November 5th &mdash three days after Kercher’s body had been discovered &mdash Knox was complaining to friends of exhaustion. That night, after 10 o’clock, the police called Sollecito, asking him to return to the station for yet another interview. Knox, as usual, accompanied him, jotting notes in her journal while she sat in the waiting room. “I’m very tired,” she wrote. “I don’t want to stay.”
During Sollecito’s interview, investigators accused him of covering up for Knox. He asked for a lawyer, and to speak with his father, but his requests were denied. “Confused and nervous,” as one of the officers described him, Sollecito finally stated that Knox could have left his apartment for several hours on the night of Kercher’s murder while he was asleep.
That was all the investigators needed to hear. Two female officers, who had been chatting informally with Knox, invited her to an interrogation chamber.
“Let’s go back over what you did that night,” they asked her. “Start with the last time that you saw Meredith.”
But they went slower this time.
“What did you do between 7 and 8 p.m.?” they asked. “What about between 8 and 9?”
“I don’t know the exact times,” said Knox. “But I know the general series of events. I checked my e-mail, I read a book, we watched a film, we ate dinner….”
More officers kept entering the room. An interpreter showed up. The tone sharpened.
“But Raffaele says that you left his house that night.”
“What? That’s not true. I was at his apartment all night.”
The interrogators became angry.
“Are you sure? Raffaele said you left his house.”
“If that’s a lie, we can throw you in jail for 30 years.”
“Who are you trying to protect? Who were you with? Who was it? Who was it?”
This bit went on for hours.
There was now chaos in the room. The Italians were shouting at her, arguing with one another, calling out suggestions.
“Maybe she really can’t remember.”
“You’re either an incredibly stupid liar,” said Knox’s translator, who was sitting right beside her, “or you’re someone who can’t remember what you know and what you did.” The translator, changing tactics, explained that she had once been in a gruesome car accident in which she broke her leg. The event was so traumatic that she suffered amnesia.
“Amanda,” said the translator, “this is what happened to you. You need to try to retrieve those memories. We’ll help you.”
Knox, ever-credulous, started to ask herself what she might have forgotten.
“C’mon,” said the interrogators. “You were going to meet Patrick that night.” “Remember. Remember. Remember.”
Boom &mdash someone slapped her on the back of the head.
Knox closed her eyes. A scene began to play out in her mind. She imagined Patrick Lumumba’s face. At 5:45 a.m., after breaking down in tears and screaming Lumumba’s name (“He’s bad, he’s bad”), Knox signed a confession. Written in Italian, it declared that Knox had accompanied Lumumba to the house on the night of November 1st. She had been standing in the next room while Lumumba stabbed Kercher to death. When Knox signed the confession, the interrogators all started hugging one another.
The most remarkable thing about Knox’s account of the interrogation is that, even as she signed her confession, she didn’t realize that she was a suspect. “I know that sounds utterly moronic,” says Paxton, “because it is utterly moronic. But she actually, genuinely, was that naive.”
On November 6th, the police announced that the killers had been found, and arrested the young couple. Both Knox and Sollecito, whose shoe print the police initially believed matched one found at the scene, have been in jail ever since. A strange twist occurred, however, two weeks after the confession, when the forensics lab reported the results of its examination. The DNA evidence and fingerprints on the crime scene did not match Knox, Sollecito or Lumumba, but instead a fourth person.
Rudy Guede didn’t have a criminal record, but he had been accused of several local burglaries. Only five days before the murder, he had been arrested in Milan after breaking into a nursery school. The Milan police had released Guede without charge &mdash a murky scenario that has given rise to rumors that Guede was a police snitch and being protected.
Guede, who had been friends with the boys who lived downstairs from Knox and Kercher and had met the girls in passing, fled the country after the murder. When the bloody fingerprints in the cottage were identified as his, Guede became the subject of an international manhunt. He was apprehended in Germany the next day and admitted to being at the murder scene, but he claimed Kercher was killed by a mysterious intruder. Guede told the police that Knox and Sollecito were not involved. The young lovers believed that Guede’s arrest and statement would destroy the case against them, but the prosecutors simply slotted Guede in the place of Lumumba, who had a solid alibi &mdash he was seen bartending at Le Chic all night.
Mignini developed a new theory: Knox had made a date with Guede to party back at the house on Via della Pergola, and Sollecito tagged along. The three revelers encountered Kercher, and the girls began fighting the boys, both trying to impress Knox, held Kercher at knife point. Guede molested her. There then follows what Mignini acknowledges to be un missing scene, which ends with Kercher’s murder.
Knox and Sollecito were not formally charged until a year after their arrests. The prosecution’s case leaned heavily on two pieces of evidence. Kercher’s bra clasp &mdash which was not retrieved until 47 days after the murder, by which point it had been moved across the room and lay in a pile of debris &mdash had tested positive for trace amounts of Sollecito’s DNA. (Sollecito’s lawyers allege contamination.) And a knife, selected at random by a detective from Sollecito’s kitchen drawer, tested positive, albeit at extremely low levels, for Kercher’s DNA.
Lumumba sued Knox for damages. “She’s empty &mdash dead inside,” Lumumba would later say. “Everything that comes out of her mouth is a lie.” Today, from prison, Knox says that there is nothing she regrets more than implicating Lumumba. She is still ashamed that she wasn’t stronger during the interrogation, but at the time it never occurred to her that the police might manipulate and lie to her.
The confession, in violation of Italian police policy, was not recorded &mdash an odd lapse given the intense efforts made previously to document everything Knox said or did. Yet in the court of Italian popular opinion &mdash the highest court in the land, since jurors are not sequestered &mdash the confession remains the single most damning piece of evidence. When I asked Perugians why they thought Knox had been involved, they never mentioned physical evidence or a motive. She admitted to it, they said, shaking their heads.
Amanda Knox’s appeal trial is now in its eighth month, and Knox’s family is warily optimistic. So, it seems, is Knox. In a recent letter to Paxton, Knox drafted a list of things she wants to do if she is released: work for the Innocence Project, serve as a translator and be “a mom.”
There was also a second list: what she would do with her life if her appeal failed. This list was more vague. Though Knox received a sentence of 26 years, she calculates that she will be released by the time she’s 40, if you take into account time off for good behavior. This seems a reasonable prediction for an inmate whom prison guards have nicknamed “Bambi.” Knox seems determined to use prison as a comparative-literature graduate program. She continues to study Italian (which she now speaks fluently, with occasional sallies into jailhouse vernacular), reading textbooks from cover to cover three times each. She has also become proficient in German and French, and is studying Japanese, Chinese and Russian. She is devouring the Western canon, and lists in her journals each book she completes. She has become something of a specialist in Existentialism (Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, Sartre’s No Exit and Nausea), Magical Realism (Calvino, Borges, Eco), Absurdism and Despair (Vonnegut, Beckett, Woody Allen, Kafka).
I experienced absurdism and despair firsthand on the morning of Saturday, May 21st, when the Knox/Sollecito appeal resumed in Perugia after a hiatus of eight weeks. It seemed the point of this court session was to determine how long a hiatus should be taken until the next court session. These long breaks have been a hallmark of the Knox/Sollecito trials. Due to Italy’s severe passion for holidays &mdash religious holidays, vacation holidays, lunch holidays &mdash the first trial never met more than three times a week. But during the appeal, the pace has cooled off considerably. Now they only meet on Saturday mornings. This is because the Sollecito family has hired the prominent lawyer Giulia Bongiorno, who is the president of the justice committee in the lower house of Parliament. Italy permits its politicians to pursue outside employment, but Bongiorno can only attend the trial on weekends, when Parliament is not in session. A driver in an armor-plated truck, provided by the Italian government, zips her from Rome to Perugia for each court date.
It is immediately clear that Bongiorno is the best lawyer in the room. It’s not even close. (“Nobody here’s good at their job,” says Frank Sfarzo, a local blogger who has followed the trial more obsessively than anyone. “If they were, they wouldn’t be in Perugia.”) While the provincial lawyers on either side primp and propound, Bongiorno leaps up from the counsel table to deliver concise, forceful laments. She is the only lawyer in the room who seems appalled by what she is witnessing. After the session, she provides the reporters with cogent digests of the day’s trial. Then the door of the armor-plated truck opens, and she is whisked back to Rome.
The Italian system, despite its many celebrated inefficiencies and inanities, is not all bad. The Italian appeal process, for instance, is more lenient than the American model. In Italy, the appeals judge is allowed to retry the entire case. To the enormous relief of the Knox family, Judge Claudio Hellmann began the appeal with an assertion of reasonable doubt. “The only thing we know for certain in this complex case,” he declared, “is that Meredith was murdered.”
Hellmann ordered new analyses of the DNA tests by independent experts &mdash a request that was refused, for no particular reason, during the original trial. There have been indications that the readings on the knife and the bra clasp will be ruled too weak to satisfy international forensics guidelines. If this is what the independent experts conclude, the Knox team anticipates a full acquittal.
Italian observers are skeptical. The Italian judicial system is carefully designed to ensure that no one is penalized or shamed egregiously. As in Italian politics, everyone gets a little something. The initial criminal trial is closer to an inquisition, and favors the prosecution. Sentences tend to be harsher than merited. But that is because the trial is merely a prologue to the mandatory appeal, which often results in a reduced sentence.
The lack of physical evidence is not the only flaw in the prosecution’s scenario. There is also no motive. But the alternative scenario &mdash that Rudy Guede acted alone &mdash is not entirely convincing either. Guede was a petty crook who carried a knife, but he had never committed a violent crime. He was a nuisance around town, hitting on student girls, but an amiable one. He had lots of friends, including the four boys who lived downstairs at Via della Pergola. Why would he sexually assault and murder Meredith Kercher?
There are many theories, but the most persuasive scenario goes as follows:
Guede stakes out the cottage after dark. He breaks into the girls’ apartment and makes himself comfortable. He swigs orange juice from a carton he finds in the refrigerator &mdash he had a spicy kebab for dinner &mdash and then uses the bathroom. While he’s on the can, Kercher enters the apartment, locking the door behind her. Guede is trapped. He can’t exit through the window without alerting Kercher, and he can’t use the front door, because you need a key to open the lock from the inside. (Kercher’s keys would be stolen, along with cash, credit cards and phones.) Guede rises from the toilet without flushing, so as not to make a noise. He walks to Kercher’s bedroom. Perhaps he tries to explain himself &mdash “Sorry, the door was open, I let myself in, I’m a friend of Giacomo’s downstairs” &mdash or perhaps she starts screaming before he can speak. He grabs her by the mouth (there were bruises on Kercher’s face) and threatens her with the knife. He assaults her and, realizing that Kercher can identify him, he panics and kills her. The missing scene.
During his appeal process, Guede, who had been convicted in a separate trial of murdering Kercher and sentenced to 30 years, changed his story multiple times. In a final reversal, he claimed that he was at the murder scene with Knox and Sollecito, and the judge reduced his sentence to 16 years. This hurt Knox and Sollecito’s chances on appeal. If Judge Hellmann decides to acquit, he will not only defy the judge of the first trial, but also the judges who concluded that Guede, Knox and Sollecito acted together. The system is designed to thwart such embarrassments. The pressure on the judge is especially high in a case that has brought international disdain to the entire Italian judicial system. This is why many Italians expect Hellmann to follow the precedent set by Guede’s case, and reduce Knox’s and Sollecito’s sentences each by eight years. Italian honor would be preserved, and with time off for good behavior, Knox would be released in time to be a mom.
There were heated arguments that Saturday at the Perugian court, but not about forensic evidence. As the judge read out dates &mdash all Saturdays, to appease Bongiorno &mdash lawyers on either side objected. “That’s a holiday weekend,” said one. “I have a wedding that day.” Knox, in black slacks and a silk blouse the color of eggshell, sat erect at her desk, occasionally bending over to scribble furiously, like an attentive student in lecture hall. On her entrance, she had appeared uncertain, fragile, scared. The reporters muttered that she had lost weight the blouse hung loosely over her frame. When she sat down she had forced herself to take a deep breath.
Sollecito, who sat 10 feet away, no longer resembles Harry Potter. Men’s prisons in Italy are not so forgiving. He has shaved his head and has added muscle on his shoulders, arms, back. He smiles bitterly at his lawyers and has a cold gaze. He has begun to look like a convict.
The jurors, who wear tricolor sashes, sat impassively beside the judge. They appeared tired, impatient. One distractedly toyed with his iPhone in plain sight, checking messages and typing into the keypad.
But then there is a sudden commotion, and a shock, almost visceral, goes through the room. Knox has stood up. The press rushes forward to the bar. With her back stiff and her hands clasped before her, she begins to speak in tentative, tremulous Italian. At several points she pauses, struggling to compose herself. “For more than three and a half years, I have been in prison as an innocent person,” Knox says. “This has been extremely frustrating for me. It has been draining. I don’t want to remain there, unjustly, for my entire life… I recall the beginning of this whole thing, when I was free… I think of how young I was then, how I didn’t understand anything…”
Here was a striking contrast. On one side, the airy pomposity of the country lawyers, adding delay upon bureaucratic delay, ensuring that the prisoners will stay in their concrete cells all summer (Italian courts don’t meet in August, and often don’t return until mid-September). And on the other side, an expression of raw human suffering. Everyone in court &mdash even the tabloid reporters &mdash seemed shaken.
Everyone except the jurors. They looked completely unmoved. It was as if they couldn’t understand a single word that Amanda Knox was saying.
Staying at The Prescott
Marie had a room at The Prescott Hotel at 15 7th Street near the deLendrecies building, which still stands today. It originally housed The Fargo Daily Argus newspaper in 1886 and became The Prescott Hotel, named for owner William Prescott, in 1901.
An early advertisement declared it “one of the best equipped and strictly modern hotels of the city.”
It boasted of “electric light, steam heat, private and public baths, plus excellent cuisine and service.”
This was no flop house. It was a respectable hotel for a young woman inexperienced in traveling.
When Marie and Arnold walked into the hotel lobby, the night clerk, William Gummer, picked up Marie’s bags and showed her to her room — Room 30 — upstairs, at the end of the hall. According to reports, Marie came down a short time later, and she and her friend Arnold went out to see the sights of Fargo.
Marie’s eyes were reportedly as wide as saucers as she looked at streetcars she had only seen previously in the movies go up and down Broadway.
The friends enjoyed an ice cream soda before calling it a night.
Arnold walked Marie back to The Prescott around 11 p.m. She stopped at the front desk and asked that same night clerk who helped her with her bags earlier, William Gummer, for a 6 a.m. wakeup call the next morning so she could make her 7 a.m. train to Pettibone. He agreed. She walked up the stairs, went into Room 30 and was never seen alive again.
2. The Black Dahlia
When Elizabeth Short arrived in Hollywood she dreamed that one day she’d be famous, but certainly not by being the victim of one of the most notorious murder mysteries in American history. On January 15, 1947, Short’s corpse was discovered by housewife Betty Bersinger in a quiet residential neighborhood. The body had been drained of blood and expertly bisected.
Detectives arrived to investigate the crime scene but found it already compromised by a swarm of reporters and curious bystanders. The horrific facts of the murder were clear — a grin had been carved into her mouth, rope marks on her wrists and ankles indicated she had been tied up and probably tortured, and the corpse had been carefully and elaborately posed.
In spite of evidence that Short was killed due to hemorrhaging caused by massive blows to the head, no actual murder weapons were recovered. A number of Short’s long list of lotharios were considered prime suspects, but investigators were ultimately reduced to investigating the University of Southern California’s medical students because of how expertly the murderer carved up the body.
As the years passed, Short’s death was sent to the cold case files, but the awful manner of her mysterious death continues to mystify. In 1996, James Ellroy published a book on the case, which was later adapted into a movie. And people are still coming forward claiming to be or know her murderer. Recently Steve Hodel, a former LAPD homicide detective, claimed that his father, George, was the killer. George, who was charged with incest and child molestation in 1949, was also a prime suspect for the murder in 1947. But to this day her murder remains unsolved, ironically giving Short the one thing she wanted most in life.
A three-year-old's brutal murder begins an unusual investigation - HISTORY
Excerpts from Newspaper Stories About the Sheppard Murder Cited as
Damaging Sam Sheppard's Right to a Trial by an Impartial Jury
(Articles cited by United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division, inSHEPPARD v. MAXWELL (1964) 231 F.Supp. 37. )
Cover of book by Louis Seltzer, the Cleveland Press editor
who led a crusade to convict Sam Sheppard
"The state is already preparing its case against the killer of Mrs. Marilyn Sheppard.'
'This statement was made today by Assistant County Prosecutor John J. Mahon as he directed a surprise new search of the Bay Village home in which the 30-year-old clubwoman was beaten to death Sunday morning.
'Mahon sharply criticized the refusal of relatives to permit the immediate questioning of the victim's husband, Dr. Samuel Sheppard, also 30.
'While the prosecutor spoke, Dr. Sheppard, his injured neck supported by a brace, was being taken out of Bay View Hospital in a wheelchair to attend his wife's funeral * * *.'
Cleveland Press, July 7, 1954, p. 1.
'A forthwith subpena commanding Dr. Sam Sheppard, husband of the slain Bay Village woman, to appear at the county prosecutor's office for questioning was issued today.
'It was hastily issued by Coroner Samuel R. Gerber following a session at the doctor's bedside in Bay View Hospital.
'Deputy Sheriff Carl Rossbach entered the injured osteopath's room in the hospital which is operated by his family, in an effort to question him about the events leading to his wife's death.
'William J. Corrigan, Cleveland criminal defense attorney retained by Dr. Sheppard's family, went in, too.
'A few minutes later, Rossbach stalked out and reported to Coroner Gerber.
'Dr. Gerber angrily wrote out the subpena and handed it to Rossbach. 'Serve it forthwith,' he commanded.
'Rossbach went back into the room to attempt to resume the interrogation.
'The dramatic development came immediately after Assistant County Prosecutor John J. Mahon took control of the murder investigation and issued an abrupt ultimatum:
'Dr. Sheppard must come downtown to the prosecutor's office 'voluntarily to make a statement concerning the crime.'
'If the osteopath refuses, Mahon said, a coroner's inquest will be convened at the Morgue immediately, and Dr. Sheppard will be subpenaed and compelled to testify.
'* * * These developments came as Dr. Stephen Sheppard brother-in-law of the clain clubwoman, told reporters that his brother was eager and anxious to aid the investigation and was not physically able to withstand questioning.
'He added that William J. Corrigan, prominent Cleveland criminal defense lawyer retained by the family, was 'in complete charge from now on.'
'* * * * "In my twenty-three years of criminal prosecution, I have never seen such flagrant stalling as in this case by the family of Dr. Samuel Sheppard,' Mahon said.
'* * * *
Cleveland Press, July 8, 1954, p. 1.
'Doctor Samuel H. Sheppard declined to submit to a lie detector test for questioning about the slaying of his attractive wife, it was disclosed today * * *.'
Cleveland News, July 9, 1954, p. 1.
'Flanked by two attorneys Dr. Samuel H. Sheppard today re-enacted his version of the murder of his pretty wife, Marilyn-- and repeated it, detail by detail, word for word, over and over again.
'Earlier he had refused for the second time to take a lie detector test in 'my present emotional state.'
'* * * *
Cleveland Press, July 9, 1954, p. 1.
'Within memory no murder case in this part of the country has prompted so much discussion or speculation as that of Mrs. Sheppard.
'A good part of it centers quite naturally around the circumstances of the killing itself-- in a quiet suburban setting-- and its attendant mysterious elements.
'A good part likewise centers around the protecting ring set up by members of the Sheppard family, which in some respects has tended to add to rather than subtract from the speculation that has expanded the case to such vast proportions.
'Also the apparent fumbling of investigative authorities on both the municipal and county levels has added to the intensity of interest-- and has raised many additional questions.
'Any time a factor of special attention, or privilege, or special protection is introduced into any case it is bound to produce increased and critical attention.
'In the Sheppard murder case many of these factors are present against the original background of mystery, and it is therefore not unnatural that it occupies such intense and critical notice around the whole community.
'But the principal problem is the fact, that, for whatever reasons, the investigative authorities were slow in getting started, fumbling when they did, awkward in breaking through the protective barriers of the family, and far less aggressive than they should have been in following out clews, tracks, and evidence.
'There is nothing that helps block a solution to a murder more than a cold trail, and it is this, as much as anything, that causes such wide critical appraisal of the Sheppard case.
'Now that the investigative authorities appear finally to have catalyzed themselves into action and broken through some of the protective barriers, they ought to make up in redoubled effort the time they have already lost.'
Cleveland Press, July 9, 1954, p. 14.
'Deputy Sheriff Carl Rossbach renewed his demand that the 30-year old osteopath submit to a lie detector test.
"He doesn't have to if he doesn't want to,' Rossbach said, 'but I intend to keep on asking until he agrees.'
'* * * *.' Cleveland Press, July 10, 1954, p. 1.
'Dr. Samuel H. Sheppard again late yesterday refused to take a lie detector test in the investigation of the brutal murder of his pretty wife, Marilyn.
'Assistant County Prosecutor Thomas J. Parrino told reporters at the end of a nine-hour questioning of Dr. Sheppard: 'I felt that he was now ruling it out completely.'
Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 11, 1954, p. 1
'Still on the trial of the elusive motive for the murder of Mrs. Marilyn Sheppard 10 days ago, investigators today concentrated on a possible 'other woman' angle.
'AT THE SAME TIME, CORONER SAMUEL R. GERBER AGAIN URGED THE SLAIN WOMAN'S HUSBAND, DR. SAMUEL H. SHEPPARD, BAY VILLAGE OSTEOPATH, TO SUBMIT TO A LIE DETECTOR TEST.
"If Dr. Sheppard has recovered sufficiently to go back to work at the Bay View Hospital he is well enough *47 to take a lie detector test,' Dr. Gerber said.'* * * *.'
Cleveland News, July 13, 1954, p. 1.
'A Painesville woman late today sent police off at a new tangent in their search for the mysterious slayer of Mrs. Marilyn Sheppard.
'Mrs. Dill told reporters she had met a woman she is positive was Marilyn Sheppard on the beach at Fairport Harbor Monday, June 14.
"She seemed to be unhappy and asked me where my husband was,' Mrs. Dill said. 'I told her I was divorced and she said 'that's what I ought to do.' She said she had attempted to divorce her husband in California four years ago but his relatives had talked her out of it.'
'Mrs. Dill gave police and reporters the name of a man mentioned by the woman she identified as Mrs. Sheppard. The man had not previously entered the murder investigation.
'Mrs. Dill said the women she identified as Mrs. Sheppard told her she was to have a baby, and she was afraid if she divorced her husband her 7-year-old son, Chip, would be taken away from her.
'* * * *.' Cleveland News, July 15, 1954, p. 1.
'The worst thing about the tragic mishandling of the Sheppard murder investigation is the resulting suspicion.
'Why was it mishandled, people ask.
'You can't blame them.
'In this community generally, murder investigations are conducted with intelligence, efficiency and impartiality.
'The record is good.
'The detectives on the Homicide Squad in the Cleveland Police Department, for instance, know their job. They have a national reputation.
'Same with the coroner.
'Thanks to his close co-operation with Western Reserve University, and thanks to the voters who authorized the best equipment and facilities, the county has top standing in the relatively new filed of scientific crime investigation.
'And the sheriff's office and the prosecutor's office both have good reputations for integrity and determination in solving crimes.
'What happened, then?
'Two things stood in the way of the usual complete and unfettered investigation that the citizens of Greater Cleveland have come to expect as the natural course of events.
'One was the hostility of Bay Village officials to any 'outsiders' in this case.
'They rebuffed the usual assistance immediately offered by Cleveland police experts in solving murders.
'Second was the unusual protection set up around the husband of the victim, the sole witness, according *48 to later reports, who could start the investigation on the right track.
'The protection was twofold. It came from his family and it came from his lawyer. It was unusual to say the least.
'And then, worst of all, no law enforcement official, Bay or county, took any leadership in the face of these unusual circumstances.
'The result of all this fumbling and delay, of course, was to start gossip, to launch rumors, to spread suspicion thick as glue.
'It was bad for everybody. Everybody, that is, except the murderer.
'What can be done, now?
'It doesn't make much difference who runs the show. The important thing is that justice is done.
'First logical step would be a meeting of all the law enforcement agencies involved.
'Let them select a leader, a single responsible boss for this particular case.
'Let him serve notice that protection, special favors and fancy ultimatums by lawyers are out from here on.
'Maybe it's too late to start again.
'But every further moment of fumbling is helping a murderer escape.'
Cleveland Press, July 16, 1954, p. 12.
'What's the matter with the law enforcement authorities of Cuyahoga County?
'Have they lost their sense of reason?-- or at least inexcusably set aside the realization of what they are hired to do, and for whom they work?
'If ever a murder case was studded with fumbling, halting, stupid, uncooperative bungling-politeness to people whose place in this situation completely justified vigorous searching, prompt and effective police work--the Sheppard case has them all.
'Was the murder of Mrs. Sheppard a polite matter?
'Did the killer make a dutiful bow to the authorities and then proceed brutally to destroy the young childbearing wife?
'Why all of this sham, hypocrisy, politeness, criss-crossing of pomp and protocol in this case?
'Who is trying to deceive whom?
'From the very beginning of this case-- from the first hour that the murder became known to the authorities by a telephone call from the husband to the town mayor-- from that moment on and including this, the case has been one of the worst in local crime history.
'Of course the trail is cold. Of course the clews have been virtually erased by the killer. Of course the whole thing is botched up so badly that head or tail cannot be made of it.
'In the background of this case are friendships, relationships, hired lawyers, a husband who ought to have been subjected instantly to the same third-degree to which any other person under similar circumstances is subjected, and a whole string of special and bewildering extra-privileged courtesies that should never be extended by authorities investigating a murder-- the most serious, and sickening crime of all.
'The spectacle of a whole community watching a batch of law enforcement officials fumbling around, stumbling over one another, bowing and scraping in the presence of people they ought to be dealing with just as firmly as any other persons in any other crime-- that spectacle is not only becoming a stench but a serious threat to the dignity of law enforcement itself.
'Coroner Sam Gerber was never more right than when yesterday he said that the killer must be laughing secretly at the whole spectacle-- the spectacle of the community of a million and a half people brought to indignant frustration by Mrs. Sheppard's killer in that white house out in Bay Village.
'Why shouldn't he chuckle? Why shouldn't he cover up, shut up, conceal himself behind the circle of protecting people?
'What's the matter with us in Cuyahoga County? Who are we afraid of? Why do we have to kowtow to a set of circumstances and people where a murder has been committed?
'It's time that somebody smashed into this situation and tore aside this restraining curtain of sham, politeness and hypocrisy and went at the business of solving a murder-- and quit this nonsense of artificial politeness that has not been extended to any other murder case in generations.'
Cleveland Press, July 20, 1954, p. 1.
'Why hasn't County Coroner Sam Gerber called an inquest into the Sheppard murder case?
'What restrains him?
'Is the Sheppard murder case any different from the countless other murder mysteries where the coroner has turned to this traditional method of investigation?
'An inquest empowers use of the subpena.
'It puts witnesses under oath.
'It makes possible the examination of every possible witness, suspect, relative, records and papers available anywhere.
'It puts the investigation itself into the record.
'And-- what's most important of all- it sometimes solves crimes.
'What good reason is there now for Dr. Gerber to delay any longer the use of the inquest?
'The murder of Marilyn Sheppard is a baffling crime.
'Thus far it appears to have stumped everybody.
'It may never be solved.
'But, this community can never have a clear conscience until every possible method is applied to its solution.
'What, Coroner Gerber, is the answer to the question--
'Why don't you call an inquest into this murder?'
Cleveland Press, July 21, 1954, p. 1.
'Too many days have passed without positive results in the several investigations of the Bay Village hack-slaying. Undoubtedly the suburb's police officials feel they have conducted the best possible inquiry county officials and Coroner Samuel R. Gerber's office also undoubtedly feel that they have acted effectively. But there's been no sign at all of breaking the stalemate over the brutal slaying of Mrs. Marilyn Sheppard.
'We are forced to take note that Dr. Samuel Sheppard, husband of the victim has rejected suggestions of both lie detector and truth serum tests, and has submitted to questioning only when his family and his lawyer have agreed he might.
'Before charges and counter-charges, fights among officials and jealousies smother all efficiency, wouldn't it be wise to bring the whole matter out into the open, with subpenaing and examination of witnesses under oath, for example, at the county's crime laboratory at Western Reserve University? It's time all groups get together as one to find, or attempt to find the solution to this baffling crime.'
Cleveland News, July 21, 1954, p. 1.
'It is high time that strenuous action be taken in the Sheppard murder case.
'This newspaper fails to see how bickering among those who have been investigating the 18-day-old mystery can aid in the final aim-- to find the murderer, whoever he may be.
'County Coroner Samuel R. Gerber, though he has failed to produce the person who brutally murdered Mrs. Marilyn Sheppard in the bedroom of her Bay Village home, has worked long and hard, and deserves the appreciation of the whole community.
'But it is obvious that Dr. Gerber needs help. The Cleveland police department is equipped to give it. Its crime laboratories and investigators are among the best in the business. It has no Bay Village friendships which might prove embarrassing.
'True, the case is cold as ice. There has, in our opinion, been a noticeable lack of cooperation on the part of the dead woman's husband, Dr. Samuel M. Sheppard, who has refused to take a lie detector test, and who yesterday rejected proposals that he submit to a 'truth serum' test.
'He had already been subjected to interrogation, he said he could not face further interrogation because he is still emotionally upset, and he was reluctant to put himself in a position where he might involuntarily incriminate innocent people.
'The last noble sentiment would, we feel, have been far more noble if Dr. Sheppard had said:
"I will be happy to do anything within my power to bring my wife's murderer to justice. It a lie detector test would help, by all means bring it on. If a 'truth serum' test would convince you that I have told police all I know in an honest effort to apprehend the murderer, I am at your service, gentlemen.'
'Just as it is easy to 'second-guess' a ball game, it is easy to second-guess a murder investigation.
'It is clear, now, that, because of the social prominence of the Sheppard family in the community, and friendships between the principals in the case and the law enforcement bodies of Bay Village, kid gloves were used throughout all preliminary examinations.
'Possibly the 'bushy-haired man' would have been apprehended long before this if the crime had been investigated with the vigor it deserved perhaps some other answer might have been found to solve one of the most brutal murders in the history of Greater Cleveland.
'It is gratifying that the Cleveland police department has accepted the Bay Village Council's invitation to step into the mystery, even at this late date, after once dropping out of the case for some unexplained reason. Competent detectives may yet be able to muster enough evidence to produce the killer.
'Finding the killer should be of the greatest satisfaction to Greater Cleveland, to Bay Village, and to Dr. Samuel Sheppard.'
Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 22, 1954, p. 1.
'The audience of more than 200, mostly Bay Village housewives, applauded when William Corrigan, Dr. Sam's attorney, was forcibly ejected from the hearing after insisting vigorously on his right to insert remarks in the record.
'Coroner Samuel R. Gerber, who ordered Corrigan's expulsion, was hugged, kissed and cheered by the spectators after he recessed the three-day hearing to be reconvened later at the County Morgue * * *.'
'* * * *.' Cleveland Press, July 26, 1954, p. 1.
'Spectators cheered wildly yesterday as William J. Corrigan, criminal lawyer representing Dr. Samuel H. Sheppard, was half dragged from the room in the closing moments of the Marilyn Sheppard murder inquest in Bay Village.
'As the tumult subsided in the Normandy School auditorium-gymnasium, Coroner Samuel R. Gerber indefinitely recessed the inquiry into the brutal hack-murder of Dr. Sheppard's 31-year-old wife before dawn July 4.
'* * * *.'
Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 27, 1957, p. 1.
'You can bet your last dollar the Sheppard murder would be cleaned up long ago if it had involved 'average people.'
'They'd have hauled in all the suspects to Police Headquarters.
'They'd have grilled them in the accepted, straight-out way of doing police business.
'They wouldn't have waited so much as one hour to bring the chief suspect in.
'Much less days.
'Much less weeks.
'Why all this fancy, high-level bowing and scraping, and super-cautious monkey business?
'Sure it happened in suburban Bay Village rather than in an 'ordinary' neighborhood.
'What difference should that make?
'When they called the Cleveland police in everybody thought:
"This is it. Now they'll get some place.'
'Now we'd have vigorous, experienced, expert, big-time action.
'They'd get it solved in a hurry.
'They'd have Sam Sheppard brought in, grill him at Police Headquarters, like the chief suspect in any murder case.
'But they didn't.
'And they haven't.
'In fairness, they've made some progress.
'But they haven't called in Sam Sheppard.
'Now proved under oath to be a still free to go about his business, shielded by his family, protected *52 by a smart lawyer who has made monkeys of the police and authorities, carrying a gun part of the time, left free to do whatever he pleases as he pleases, Sam Sheppard still hasn't been taken to Headquarters.
'What's wrong in this whole mess that is making this community a national laughing stock?
'Who's holding back-- and why?
'What's the basic difference between murder in an 'ordinary' neighborhood and one in a Lake Rd. house in suburban Bay Village?
'Who is afraid of whom?
'It's just about time that somebody began producing the answers--
'And producing Sam Sheppard at Police Headquarters.'
Cleveland Press, July 28, 1954, p. 1.
'Maybe somebody in this town can remember a parallel for it. The Press can't.
'And not even the oldest police veterans can, either.
'Everybody's agreed that Sam Sheppard is the most unusual murder suspect ever seen around these parts.
'Except for some superficial questioning during Coroner Sam Gerber's inquest he has been scot-free of any official grilling into the circumstances of his wife's murder.
'From the morning of July 4, when he reported his wife's killing, to this moment, 26 days later, Sam Sheppard has not set foot in a police station.
'He has been surrounded by an iron curtain of protection that makes Malenkov's Russian concealment amateurish.
'His family, his Bay Village friends-- which include its officials-- his lawyers, his hospital staff, have combined to make law enforcement in this county look silly.
'The longer they can stall bringing Sam Sheppard to the police station the surer it is he'll never get there.
'The longer they can string this whole affair out the surer it is that the public's attention sooner or latter will be diverted to something else, and then the heat will be off, the public interest gone, and the goose will hang high.
'This man is a suspect in his wife's murder. Nobody yet has found a solitary trace of the presence of anybody else in his Lake Rd. house the night or morning his wife was brutally beaten to death in her bedroom.
'And yet no murder suspect in the history of this county has been treated so tenderly, with such infinite solicitude for his emotions, with such fear of upsetting the young man.
'Gentlemen of Bay Village, Cuyahoga County, and Cleveland, charged jointly with law enforcement--
'THIS IS MURDER. THIS IS NO PARLOR GAME. THIS IS NO TIME TO PERMIT ANYBODY-- NO MATTER WHO HE IS-- TO OUTWIT, STALL, FAKE, OR IMPROVISE DEVICES TO KEEP AWAY FROM THE POLICE OR FROM THE QUESTIONING ANYBODY IN HIS RIGHT MIND KNOWS A MURDER SUSPECT SHOULD BE SUBJECTED TO-- AT A POLICE STATION.'
'The officials throw up their hands in horror at the thought of bringing Sam Sheppard to a police station for grilling. Why? Why is he any different than anybody else in any other murder case?
'Why should the police officials be afraid of Bill Corrigan? Or anybody else, for that matter, when they are at their sworn business of solving a murder.
'Certainly Corrigan will act to protect Sam Sheppard's rights. He should.
'BUT THE PEOPLE OF CUYOHOGA COUNTY EXPECT YOU, THE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS, TO PROTECT THE PEOPLE'S RIGHTS.
'A murder has been committed. You know who the chief suspect is.
'You have the obligation to question him-- question him thoroughly and searchingly-- from beginning to end, and not at his hospital, not at his home, not in some secluded spot out in the country.
'But at Police Headquarters-- just as you do every-other person suspected in a murder case.
'What the people of Cuyahoga County cannot understand, and The Press cannot understand, is why you are showing Sam Sheppard so much more consideration as a murder suspect than any other person who has ever before been suspected in a murder case.
Cleveland Press, July 30, 1954, p. 1.
'It's perfect, you think at first, as you look over the setting for the Big Trial.
'The courtroom is just the size to give a feeling of coziness and to put the actors close enough to each other so that in moments of stress the antagonists can stand jaw to jaw and in moments of relaxation can exchange soft words of camaraderie.
'Modern enough for this 'See-Hear' age, with the microphone, the loud speakers on the walls, and the blazing lights for the TV cameras before and after court sessions.
'Yet somberly dignified enough to carry the authentic decor of the traditional court of justice.
'Almost inadequate, old-fashioned hanging light fixtures. Dark furnitture. A high bench for his honor, the judge. So high that if he slouches a bit just his head is visible.
'A bit of plaster has fallen from the ceiling over the clerk's desk. The unrepaired spot gives a touch of the dignity of age.
'And on the floor at the end of the trial table-- a cuspidor.
'Ah, you think, only a master arranger would have remembered that.
"The cuspidor. Put it here.'
'Perfect, you think at first, a masterpiece of setting the stage for the dramatic action of the Big Trial.
'Then it hits you. No, there's something missing.
'Can what seems to be missing be found in the cast of characters.
'Ah, the cast. Superb, you think at first.
'And complete. Not a character missing.
'And so real, you think. Just like you would expect to see. Why if you didn't know these were people and this was a real setting you would think you were watching a drama on television or a mystery play at a theater.
'His honor, the judge. A quaint Welsh accent. Quick, mobile features that can pass so rapidly through sternness, annoyance, patience and charming friendliness.
'And the chief counsel for the defense. Granite faced, shaggy haired. Now disdainful, now quizzical, now disbelieving, now coaxing, now threatening, now bored.
'These provide the perfect background for the most perfect character of all-- the accused. Was there ever more perfect typing? Was there ever a more perfect face for the enigma that is the Big Trial?
'Study that face as long as you want. Never will you get from it a hint of what might be the answer when the curtain rings down on this setting and on these characters. Is he the one? Did he do it?
'Plus of course, the other characters. The accused's two brothers. Prosperous, poised. His two sisters-in-law. Smart, chic, well-groomed. His elderly father. Courtly, reserved. A perfect type for the patriarch of a staunch clan.
'Yes, you think. They wouldn't be more true-to-life if this Big Trial were a television drama.
'Then it hits you again. No there's something-- and someone missing.
'What is it? Who is it? Who's still of stage? Waiting perhaps for a cue to come on.
'In the hallway outside the courtroom you stop to talk to Detective Chief James McArthur. He's an old timer at Big Trials. So you ask him. Isn't there someone, something missing?
"Sure,' says the detective chief. 'There always is. I'll tell you.
"It's the other side, the representatives of what in this case will be officially known as the corpus delicti, in other words, the body of the crime, in still other words-- Marilyn Reese Sheppard.
"There is no grieving mother-- she died when Marilyn was very young.
"There's no revenge-seeking brother nor sorrowing sister. Marilyn was an only child.
"Her father is not here. Why he is his own personal business.'
'What then, you wonder, will be the other side.
'It will be there, Inspector McArthur reassures. He opens a thick brief case he carries daily to the court-room.
"Here,' he says, 'are the statements and resumes of testimony that will be given by state's witnesses. Here are the theories and details of the evidence found by dozens of detectives in weeks of work.
"Here is the complete story of Marilyn Reese Sheppard. How she lived, how, we think, she died. Her story will come into this courtroom through our witnesses. Here is how it starts: Marilyn Sheppard, nee Reese, age 30, height 5 feet, 7 inches, weight 125 pounds, brown hair, hazel eyes. On the morning of July 4 she was murdered in her bedroom. * * *'
'Then you realize how what and who is missing from the perfect setting will be supplied.
'How in the Big Case justice will be done.
'Justice to Sam Sheppard.
'And to Marilyn Sheppard.'
Cleveland Press, October 23, 1954, p. 1.