Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Case of Preston Hughes III: Lakeside

One of the spectacularly well orchestrated fictions in this case is that Shandra Charles, in a dying declaration, identified Preston Hughes as her attacker.

In this post, I will consider two possibilities: either Sgt. Hamilton fabricated Shandra's dying declaration out of whole cloth, or Sgt. Hamilton accurately reported what Shandra managed to tell him that night. In neither case did Shandra Charles identify Preston Hughes as her attacker.

Read on.

I will consider first the possibility that Sgt. Hamilton fabricated Shandra's dying declaration out of whole cloth. All quotes from police reports are from the compiled collection of reports, here.

There are numerous problems with Sgt. Hamilton's claim that Shandra spoke to him that night, the first of which is that the claim is completely uncorroborated. Sgt. Hamilton conveniently places himself alone with Shandra, though other officers (at least three) were on the scene. Officers Becker and Cook, the first two officers to arrive, found Shandra unconscious but alive. They found Marcell with neither breath nor pulse. They elected to tend to the seemingly dead Marcell rather than obviously alive Shandra. According to their report, they never did return to Shandra.

Their behavior seems odd if you accept the HPD story as told. On the other hand, their story is convenient, even necessary, if Sgt. Hamilton is going to claim he heard a dying declaration that never happened.

Sgt Hamilton confirms that Becker and Cook were standing away from Shandra, but he does not confirm they were applying CPR to Marcell. From his report:
Upon arriving on the scene Sgt Hamilton found the crime scene to be an open field. Sgt Hamilton noticed officer Becker and Cook standing near a B/M juvenile in the field. While approaching officer Cook, Sgt. Hamilton noticed a second compl [i.e. complainant, victim, Shandra Charles] a B/F, laying face down on the ground in a small pool of blood.
What were Becker and Cook doing just standing there? I guess they gave up on Marcell as hopeless, and didn't think even then of trying to save Shandra. I guess they just waited for Sgt. Hamilton to arrive so he could interview her in private.

We know also that Patrol Supervisor Sgt. J.H. Parham was on the scene at some point. We don't learn that from Sgt. Hamilton, since he describes himself as being alone with Shandra. Instead we hear of Sgt. Parham elsewhere in the police reports. We hear of him once, and only once, and that from lead investigator Sgt. Gafford:
When we arrived, there were several patrol supervisors, Sgts D. Hamilton and J.H. Parham, already on the scene.
Not only is Sgt. Hamilton mute with respect to Sgt. Parham, Sgt Parham is mute with respect to Sgt. Parham. In the collection of police reports, Sgt. Parham's report is missing. Perhaps Sgt. Parham's report would place him within earshot of anything Shandra might have said. Perhaps that would be inconvenient.

We have reason also to suspect that someone was standing nearby Sgt. Hamilton as he interviewed or sat by Shandra. Recall this photo from Shandra's Trail.

The upright drinking cup in the upper right corner of the image indicates someone was standing there refreshing himself. Perhaps it was the attacker or one of the victims or a witness, in which case the cup should have been secured as evidence. More likely an HPD police officer placed that cup there, right at the edge of the trampled area. Perhaps it was Sgt. Hamilton, who sipped a cool beverage as he walked towards the scene and who then placed the cup there before interviewing Shandra. Perhaps it was the mysterious Sgt. Parham, who failed to write a report of his time at the scene. Perhaps it was any one of "numerous officers" standing right there by Shandra. I obtain the description "numerous officers" from Officer Cook's report:
The boy did not respond to any resusitation [sic] attempts. Officer Becker continued to look in the immediate area for any susp(s) or evidence. Becker then went back to the Stop N Go and picked up Hartley from the store and brought him back to the scene. Cook stayed at the scene and observed numerous officers attending the black female. Paramedics from HFD Unit 69 arrived on the scene, assessed the situation, and pronounced the boy dead.
Numerous officers. Not "an officer" or "two officers" or "a couple" or "a few." Numerous officers, none of whom filed a report, none of whom had anything to say about Sgt. Hamilton's claim that Shandra spoke to him that evening.

Cook and Becker's report presents other mysteries. Didn't either of them brief Patrol Supervisor Sgt. D. Hamilton when he arrived on the scene? Who instructed Officer Becker to return to the Stop N Go to retrieve Drew Hartley? If both were on the scene and standing by Marcell when Sgt. Hamilton arrived, as per Sgt. Hamilton's report, wouldn't Becker have had to walk right past Shandra and Sgt. Hamilton as he returned to his patrol car in the Fuddrucker's parking lot? Did he not brief Sgt. Hamilton even then? Did he simply say "excuse me" as he stepped over Shandra or squeezed around Hamilton?

It's all very mysterious, as I suspect it is designed to be.

So the first problem with Sgt. Hamilton's claim of a dying declaration is that it is uncorroborated, though it seems as if there were others there who could have or should have corroborated such a critical claim. A much more serious problem is that Shandra Charles was almost certainly unconscious by the time Sgt. Hamilton arrived.

In my previous posts (Pools of BloodEleven Twenty Five, and Severed Carotid Arteries) I provided substantial evidence (via video, expert testimony, and even a graph!) that people cannot remain conscious for more than several minutes with a severed carotid in the absence of effective first aid. From the expert testimony in seven cases, I offer, in alphabetical order:
Commonwealth v. Lambert -- Dr. Larson also offered an opinion that the left carotid artery was severed. … He felt she would have had to lose consciousness within three minutes and suffer brain death within two minutes after that. 
Cooper v. Brown -- Jessica suffered a stab wound to her neck. The wound resulted in massive bleeding. Unconsciousness from the wound would have occurred in as little as thirty to sixty seconds, and would have been fatal in a couple of minutes. 
Jefferson v. State -- The victim died from an excessive loss of blood due to the fact that both of the jugular veins and the right carotid artery had been severed ... The extensive loss of blood caused the victim to loose consciousness after several minutes, and to die several minutes thereafter. 
People v. De Sarno -- Another bullet ... severed the left common carotid artery and the jugular vein ... According to these experts, an individual who sustained wounds similar to those caused by the bullet which penetrated Officer Sledge's face ... may be capable of performing voluntary acts for 30 to 60 seconds  ... before losing consciousness. 
State v. Bonds -- The neck wounds severed both the carotid artery and the jugular vein and punctured the victim's right lung. The victim bled to death, but could have remained conscious for a few minutes after she was stabbed. 
People v. Mayfield -- The cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the face, the bullet shattering the left side of the jaw at the angle and completely severing the external carotid artery, causing profuse bleeding, immediate loss of consciousness, and a rapid decline in blood pressure. 
State v. Henretta -- A wound immediately below the right ear, which Doctor Scruggs described as "particularly damaging," severed the carotid artery and the jugular vein ... Doctor Scruggs testified that this most severe wound ... would have rendered the victim unconscious within approximately 30 seconds. 
State v. Penley -- Dr. Harlan determined that the cause of death was "an incised wound, meaning a cut, to the neck transecting the right internal carotid artery." ... Dr. Harlan testified that once the artery was cut, "unconsciousness would have occurred . . . within just a matter of seconds."
Three minutes. Sixty seconds. Several minutes. Sixty seconds. A few minutes. Thirty seconds. A matter of seconds. Seven experts. All the expert testimony I could find about time of consciousness after suffering a severed carotid, and not one of the experts gives any time longer than 3 minutes, or several minutes if one wishes to grasp at straws.

There is no way Sgt. Hamilton was on the scene within three minutes of the attack. How could Shandra have been conscious when he arrived on the scene?

But you need not rely on my analysis. You may choose instead to take the HPD police reports at face value, though that causes an even bigger problem. In their report, Officers Cook and Becker confirm what should now be obvious to you: Shandra Charles was unconscious when they found her.
Officers walked east along the path that hunter eluded to and walked approx 30 yards when observing a black female laying face down in the path. She was positioned face west and feet east. There was blood along the neckline and she was breathing deep but was unconscious. Officers notified the west side dispatcher of the find.
In none of the seven cases I found did anyone happen to mention that a person with a severed carotid could or would recover consciousness after losing consciousness. There is no reason to believe that Shandra would regain consciousness after losing it, particularly since she received no medical attention, particularly since she simply continued to bleed out after Cook and Becker found her unconscious.

That blood you see soaked into the ground was supposed to supply her brain with oxygen. It did not.

Yet Sgt. Hamilton claims not only that she was conscious, but that she was lucid and calm, that she could speak in full sentences and enunciate clearly. I present to you Sgt. Hamilton's description of his interview with Shandra Charles, she of the severed carotid, severed jugular, and stab wound to the chest.
It appeared to Sgt Hamilton that the compl was having a difficult time trying to breathe. At this point, Sgt Hamilton asked the compl if she wanted to roll over on her back, the compl stated she did. Sgt. Hamilton rolled the compl over to her back ... Sgt Hamilton the asked the compl what had happened. The compl stated "He tried to rape me." Sgt Hamilton then asked the compl "Who tried to rape you?" The compl stated "Preston". Sgt Hamiltion again asked the compl to repeat the name of the person that had tried to rape her. Compl again stated "Preston". Sgt. Hamilton asked the compl if she knew Preston's full name, the compl replied something, Sgt Hamilton could not understand. Sgt Hamilton then asked the compl if she knew where Preston lived, the compl replied what sounded like Lakeside to Sgt. Hamilton. While waiting for the amb to arrive, Sgt continued to speak with the compl, during this time, the compl stated her name was Lashandra or Lasanda. It should be noted that at this point, the compl's speech began to become totally slurred and not understandable. Sgt then asked the compl if she was by herself. The compl then became upset and began stating where is (what sounded like Marshell or Marchell). Sgt asked the compl who was Marshell, the compl stated that he was her cousin. Sgt sat by the compl until amb arrived.
This report is nonsensical. Let me count the ways.
1. After initially responding with a complete sentence, Shandra could suddenly answer only with single words. She could say "He tried to rape me," but she could not give her attacker's first and last name in the same response. 
2. She said "Preston" clearly, unlike most of her other answers. Hamilton nonetheless asked her to repeat the word he heard clearly. 
3. She gave her attacker's last name, but it was inaudible. Hamilton did not ask her to repeat what he could not hear clearly. 
4. She said her attacker lived somewhere that "sounded like Lakeside." This is the first and only use of this qualifier. When Hamilton heard Shandra say "Preston", twice as it turns out, he did not say something that "sounded like Preston." 
5. She said her name was Lashandra or Lasanda. She could say Preston's first name clearly, but not his last name, and not her own name. 
6. Shandra did not become upset until Hamilton asked her if she was alone. 
7. She said her cousin's name was Marshell or Marchell. Once again, she could not clearly state Marcell's name, or her own name, or her attacker's last name, but she could clearly state Preston's name.
If we are to believe that his report constitutes a complete and accurate description of his interview with Shandra Charles, we must accept that Sgt. Hamilton has a quirky interview style: if the person being questioned answers clearly, the person is asked to repeat the answer; if the person answers in a fashion that cannot be understood, the person is not asked to repeat the answer.

Nonetheless, I stated at the beginning of this post, long ago, that it made no difference whether or not Sgt. Hamilton fabricated the dying declaration. I stated that even if we took his report at face value, Shandra Charles did not identify Preston Hughes as her attacker.

Read on, just a wee bit farther.

Shandra (allegedly, from here on out allegedly) gave a one-word description of where her attacker lived. She said Lakeside. Sgt. Gafford and company decided (for reasons to be discussed later) that she really meant the Lakehurst Apartment complex. Sgt. Gafford was wrong.

Sgt. Gafford could have just as easily decided that she really meant the Lakewood Village Apartments, but he still would have been wrong. It is nonetheless interesting that he searched the resident list only of the Lakehurst Apartments, and not the resident list of the Lakewood Village Apartments as well.

Sgt. Gafford should have instead searched the resident list of the Lakeside Green Condos, located just 0.3 miles north of Fuddrucker's, straight up South Kirkwood.

According to Google, it is but a 6 minute walk from Fuddrucker's to Lakeside.

So there you have it. It is exceptionally unlikely that Shandra Charles could have been conscious when Sgt. Hamilton arrived at the scene. If one nonetheless accepts his report at face value, then Shandra Charles did not identify Preston Hughes as her attacker. She identified someone who lived at Lakeside. That is Lakeside. Not Lakewood. Not Lakehurst. Lakeside, exactly as Sgt. Hamilton claims he heard.


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Anonymous said...


The discovery of the existence of a 'Lakeside' complex is powerful. When researching the case, I found Hamilton's account very unsettling, considering a man's life is at stake based on what he heard which wasn't much considering his inability to correctly intrepret what Shandra was telling him except Preston of course. I found it very unsettling that the Police assumed she meant 'Lakehurst' and no mention is made of searching the 'Lakewood' apartments which I had found. If the 'Lakeside' condo's/apartment were there in 1988, it just mind boggling the police would not search and even crazier that a decent attorney could not harp on this fact to create reasonable doubt.

I too have wondered if this conversation took place based on her condition, what Hamilton reports, and the lack of witnesses to (though the report does list the paramedic heard her say 'my cousin').

So why would the police fabricate this conversation ?

My first thought is the detectives had Preston Hughes in their sights before arriving on the scene either from search a database (not sure if this was possible in 1988) or a chance encounter/history with him in the past.

Think about how quickly they got Preston's door that night. I found the story about searching the apartment records interested. I called and found out there are 434 units there. In 1988 its a fair assumption that the apartment complex did not have a computer, the lease records were probably on paper. So they searched on paper for a 'Preston' is that a first or last name, is it even 'Preston' considering the physical state of the victim and Hamilton's inability to understand proper nouns that night.

Manufacturing the conversation would not only create strong evidence of his guilt but give them cause to go knock on his door. If their search was completely driven by Preston's record, I believe even his incompetent lawyer could make mince meat of it considering no witnesses could put Hughes on the scene.

It the end though what gives me pause is this - If the police fabricated the Shandra's conversation with Hamilton, why not go the whole way and add in that Shandra responded, 'Preston Hughes' when asked who her killer was that night. By omitting his last name, it creates an incredible opportunity for a defense lawyer to create reasonable doubt, I think the police would have considered this.


tsj said...

Very good points, and ones I've wrestled with myself. I'll give my thoughts on how they homed in so quickly on Hughes in a future post.

I guess I will also post on what the paramedic said about what Shandra said.

And I agree that if they were going to fabricate a story, they could have done a better job, especially with naming the apartment complex.

One possibility I've toyed with is that the Shandra's wound was not as severe as described in the trial testimony. That's why I want to see a copy of the autopsy report. If her carotid and jugular were indeed severed, as per the testimony, it seems impossible she was conscious, much less lucid, when Hamilton arrived.

Neither option feels comfortable, does it?

And that's why I wrote the post as I did. Regardless of which option is true, Shandra Charles did not identify Preston Hughes of the Lakehurst apartments as her attacker. Either she described no one, or she described a Preston who lived at Lakeside, which we now know is just a 6 minute walk from Fuddrucker's.

Anonymous said...

Al beat me to what I was going to say. Why not also fabricate Lakehurst in his report? But as an aside, do we have all the police reports from that night? Could a policer officer have gone to Lakewood and searched and found nothing?

I am also curious if the autopsy was wrong and the cuts weren't as bad, but all the other cases were also estimates.


tsj said...

I checked the compilation of police reports. They were numbered sequentially. No page numbers were missing. The last report was well after the trial, reporting that a court had instructed the evidence be preserved. I can't confirm that all reports that should have been written were written or included. I suspect several / many reports were excluded.

Regarding them searching Lakeside and not mentioning it, that is an evidentiary stretch. Perhaps they searched Lakewood Village as well. Perhaps they searched Douglas Swanson's house and never mentioned it. Perhaps the interviewed Shandra's "friends" at Lakehurst and never mentioned it.

More and more police actions must be presumed to have happened to protect their story. We must presume they applied first aid and forgot to mention it. We must presume they searched Lakeside (and Lakewood) and failed to mention it. We must presume that Shandra's carotid was not actually severed, despite the testimony otherwise, or we must presume that all the other experts were wrong, and the videos we saw of hockey players bleeding out were not indicative.

The list of presumptions needed to support the State's case is going to simply get longer and longer.

Anonymous said...

Except there are some problems with your side that actually worked out in the case. You have a problem with her saying Lakeside though her being almost unconscious might have thought he said where she lived. Also Lake Hurst was the last place she was seen alive. A normal investigation would be to go where she was seen alive last, but in this case they didn't know that, but they would go to the apartment complex that was closest to where she was found, not where she lived. And last, Evelyn said she had known the suspect for a year and a half and Shandra for a year and that Shandra had repeatedly gone to see him. So I would definitely say she knew him. So if they randomly picked Preston out of the hat, how did they find someone that had known the suspect for about a year? And last, if there was another Preston that she knew at her apartment, why hasn't anybody spoken up about it?


tsj said...

They had no more reason to go to Lakehurst than they had to go to Lakewood. And given that she said Lakeside, they had no reason to go to either place. She told them that her attacker lived at Lakeside, if you choose to believe Hamilton. What did he tell the homicide sergeants? "She said Lakeside but she must have meant Lakehurst, but not Lakeside and not Lakehurst. We should check Lakewood, and just Lakewood."

I suspect still that Shandra was unconscious, just as Becker and Cook found her. How in the world would she regain consciousness after losing even more blood?

Something is terribly wrong with the story as the police report it.

Anonymous said...

Lakehurst was a long stone throw away while lakeside was half a mile or more. Where she was walking she was either coming or going from one of the two apartment complexes and they were right, Lakehurst was where she was last seen. One of four things occurred, one is that they happen to look in a database find a sex offender that lived nearby who they could roll and just happened to know the girl. Second that he was on the officer's radar so he was a suspect early on and somehow he knew that she knew the girl. But in that case, he would be a suspect any ways. Third was that he won the reverse lottery. The officer heard some name and when it came out mangled it was his and he knew the girl. Or fourth he was guilty.


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