Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Case of Preston Hughes III: Confession #1

Sgt. Gafford's First Version of Events
Once in the homicide division Sgts checked Hughes for a criminal history or any warrants. Sgts located a HPD record under ID#465127, and notes two entries, 1985-Agg.Sexual Assault of a Child, filed in the 176th D.C., and -----------------filed in the 176th D.C. ---------------------- Sept/88, and after checking this and other reports in which Hughes was listed as a suspect, there was still nothing to show that this was the correct "Preston". [Hyphens are in the original.]
Sgts. Gafford and Bloyd entered the small interview room within the homicide office where Hughes was being held. Sgts first entered the room at approximately 0410 hours, and Sgts again introduced ourselves. Sgts began by asking Hughes for his full name, date of birth, social security number, and drivers license number. Sgt then asked him for his address, employment info, and then about the sexual assault case which had been filed against him in 1985. Hughes gave no hesitation in supplying the pertinent identifying info, and then stated that he was on 10 years probation for the sexual assault case. He continued that he was not guilty of the sexual assault, but was framed for that, and that further he had been forced to plead guilty to avoid going to the penitentiary. 
Sgts then asked Hughes if he knew a female by the name of Shawn. Hughes stated that he knew one girl named Shawn who used to be the girlfriend of his cousin, Shawn Graham. Sgt asked when he last saw her and he stated that he last saw her when she came by his apartment about two months ago with a girlfriend named Evelyn, looking for Shawn Graham. Sgt asked him to describe Shawn and he stated that she was 15 years old, a black female, and that she had long hair. Sgt. asked how Shawn wore her hair, and he stated that she wore it in braids. Sgt recognize the name "Evelyn" that Hughes had mentioned because security officer Marshburn had told Sgt a short time earlier, when Cynthia Brown was in the manager's office, that Cynthia had told him that Shawn was coming to the complex to visit a friend named "Evelyn". 
It now became clear to Sgts that, due to: the naming of "Preston" by the #1 compl as the suspect, the close proximity of Preston Hughes [sic] residence to the murder scene, and the fact that Preston Hughes does know both the compl and Evelyn, Sgt. Gafford now arrested Preston Hughes as a suspect in this case. 
Sgt. Gafford immediately read Hughes his legal warnings from the blue card provided by the district attorneys office, and after each individual warning Sgt. Gafford asked Hughes if he under stood [sic] them. Hughes stated, "Yes, sir" each time he was asked about understanding the warnings, and he further stated that he would waive his rights and talk to Sgt because he didn't do anything, and had nothing to hide. Sgt. Gafford left the room and conferred with Sgt. Bloyd about any new info prior to beginning any further questioning. There was nothing to add at that point and Sgt. Gafford reentered the room at approximately 0450 hours, after having made the arrest at 0430 hours. During this interval Hughes had requested a cigarette and Sgt provided one.
For some time Hughes continued to deny any involvement in this incident, and he insisted that he had not seen Shawn in approximately 2 months. After hearing Hughes' denials for a period of time Sgt. Gafford presented him with a "Voluntary Consent for Search and Seizure" form. Sgt had filled in Hughes' name and address, Preston Hughes III, 2310 Crescent Pk #138A, explaining that he was in no way required to sign the form allowing investigators into the apt. He was further admonished that he had an absolute right not to consent to such a search, yet Hughes still signed the form allowing entry to the apt, stating "I told you that I don't have nothing to hide". Hughes signed the form witnesses affixed their signatures at approximately 0530 hours. 
Sgt. Gafford the[n] continued the interrogation, and after a time continuing to deny involvement in the case, Hughes broke down, stating that he was afraid to go to jail, and that he did not want to go to jail. He admitted at this time to committing to [sic] the offense, and stated that he had killed the #1 compl, however would not make direct mention of killing the three year old, except to say that he just kept stabbing didnt [sic] know what he was hitting. Sgt. Gafford was in the process of typing the suspects [sic] written statement when he stated, while pointing to the Voluntary Consent for Search and Seizure form, "I guess you're looking for the knife". Prior to the suspects [sic] saying that he just "kept sticking" the person with the knife, and his statement about Sgts looking for the knife, Sgts hadnt [sic] mentioned to the suspect the method by which the compls were killed. As this was during the very early moring hours, there had been no news reports or articles by which the suspect could have learned that the incident was a stabbing, and therefore it was clear that the suspect had direct knowledge of the incident. The suspect gave a detailed description of the location of the murder weapon, as well as the clothing he was wearing at the time, and Sgts Gafford passed this information along to Sgts D. Ferfuson and E.T. Yanchak, of the dayshift homicide division, and they subsequently drove to the suspects apt and recovered these and other items of evidence.
Sgt. Gafford's Second Version of Events
Later in his report, Sgt Gafford retells the story of how he managed to get Preston to confess.
After the suspect agreed to voluntarily accompany Sgts. Gafford and Bloyd to the homicide office, he was interviewed briefly regarding his knowledge of the #1 compl in this case. As soon as it was determined that Hughes was the correct Preston that had referred to by the compl before her death, Sgt. Gafford arrested the suspect (in the homicide office at 0430 hours) and read him his legal warnings from the blue card supplied by the district attorneys office. Sgt. Gafford read each warning individually, and after each one Sgt would would stop and ask the suspect if he understood the warnings. The suspect stated "Yes, sir" each time he asked about his understanding of the warnings, and he then stated that he would talk to Sgt about the case. The suspect appeared intelligent, and gave every indication of being literate and capable of understanding what was being said, and it [is] Sgts [sic] belief that he suspect fully understood the warnings. 
The suspect requested a cigarette, and Sgt. Gafford obtained one for him from Lt. Neely of the homicide division. The suspect smoked the cigarette while Sgt Gafford conferred briefly with Sgt. Bloyd, and Sgt. Gafford returned to the interview room at 0450 hours. 
It was approximately 0520 hours when Sgt. Gafford presented Hughes with the voluntary consent for search and seizure form. As reported earlier in this supplement the suspect signed the form after being properly instructed on his rights and the use of the form. The form was witnessed by Sgts Bloyd and Ross at approximately 0530 hours. The suspect requested another cigarette and Sgt. Gafford again obtained one for him as Sgt. again started questioning him about the incident. Sgt. Gafford listened to the suspect continue to deny involvement in the deaths of the compls until approximately 0540 hours when Sgt. confronted the suspect with the fact that the compl was given his name as the one who had stabbed she and the #2 compl. The suspect was visibly upset by this fact and Sgt continued that it was Sgts firm belief that he was in fact the one that had stabbed them. The suspect had not been told the condition of the #1 compl, but was aware of the #2 compls death, although he had previously denied knowing who Sgt was talking about in reference to Marcell Taylor. 
The suspect began to tremble and stated, "I just don't want to go to jail." Sgt waited as the suspect continued to think to himself. Sgt then asked the suspect if he wanted to talk about what had happened. The suspect said that he didnt [sic] mean to hurt anyone. The[n] went into a narrative about what seemed to be an unrelated incident, but the suspect later tied that incident together with the killing of the compls. Just a few minutes prior to the suspect breaking down, the suspect requested that Sgt get him a Coke and a pack of cigarettes, which Sgt. did. During the time that the suspect was giving the statement he was drinking the Coke and smoking the cigarettes, and he was seated in a padded chair in a comfortable position. He was not handcuffed, and he had not been at any time prior since he was not arrested until after his arrival at the homicide office.
Confession #1
Preston's first confession follows. The alignment of the confession has not been preserved. The following information appears at the top of each of the three pages of Preston's confession.
Date  September 27, 1988 
Time 0555 hours 
Statement of Preston Hughes III taken in Harris County, Texas. 
Prior to making this statement I have been warned by Sgt. D. J. Gafford, the person to whom this statement is made, that 
1) I have a right to remain silent and not make any statement at all and any statement I make may and probably will be used against me at my trial; 
2. Any statement I make may be used as evidence against me in court; 
3) I have the right to have a lawyer present to advise me prior to and during questioning; 
4) If I am unable to employ a lawyer, I have the right to have a lawyer appointed to advise me prior to and during any questioning and: 
5) I have a right to terminate the interview at any time. 
Prior to and during the making of this statement I knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waive the rights set out above and make the following voluntary statement:
On the first and only the first of those three pages, the initials PH appear to the left of each of the five enumerated rights shown above.

The time near the top of the page apparently indicates the time when the typing began on that page. The time on the first page is 0555 hours. The time on the second page is 0613 hours. The time on the third page is 0633 hours. 

The body of the confessions follows.
My name is Preston Hughes III, and I am 22 years old. I was born on December 24, 1965, in Buffalo, New York. I now live at 2310 Crescent Park, #138A, Houston, Texas. 
I have been having trouble with a girl named Linda for about two weeks. Me and Linda have been talking for about a month. She came over to my house and said that she didnt [sic] want to go home because she was afraid her husband was going to beat her ass. She said that she wanted to get a divorce and that she wanted to be with me. She came over on a Thursday night and we made love when she spent the night. She stayed at my apartment when I went to work. While I was at work a man called me and he was saying that he he was going to call the police because I had kidnapped his wife. He said that he was going to come and kill me after that. I had Sylvia Woods who was a former roommate of mine go to my apartment and check and make sure everything was alright while I was waiting for her at the Fuddruckers on Kirkwood looking around outside. Sylvia was at the apartment and I went on up and everything was okay. Sylvia stayed another thirty minutes or so and then left, but Linda spent the night again. Saturday morning Lindas [sic] husband, brothers, and sisters came to my apartment and knocked on the door, but they were covering the peep hole so I didnt [sic] open up the door. They started calling her name and I looked out the window and saw them there. Linda said that she didnt [sic] want to go but after a few minutes decided to go. She went with them and a little later officer Smith and other officers came over and questioned me about that and they realized that I hadnt [sic] kidnapped her and they let me go after Linda and her brothers left. While the brothers were still there one of them was still saying that I was going to die. 
Ever since that time I have been looking over my shoulder thinking that they were going to come after me. I have been checking to see who was standing around outside the apartment before going out, and when I leave to go to the bus stop I walk the long way around, going along the path from the apartment complex to the Fuddruckers, so that I can check the bus stop and make sure no one is around. When I come home I walk the same way along the path, so that I can see the parking lot. 
Tonight I worked until about 6:30pm and I waited for a buddy when he got off at 7:00pm, and we both went with a few others to a liquor store downtown to get some Crystal Clear. They guys there were Kenny Houton, Jesse Mills, Calvin Williams, and me. We stayed in the parking lot and drank the Crystal Clear, and talked about getting together this weekend to do something. We left there at about 8:10pm, and Jesse and Kenny dropped me off at Fannin and Walker and I walked to the Circle K at Main and Walker to get something to eat. I ate two hot dogs and then went and caught the bus at Travis and Walker, the 82-Westheimer / Dairy Ashford bus. I was feeling good and fell asleep on the bus and then didn't wake up until the end of the route at Westheimer and Hwy. 6. I walked a couple of blocks to a Circle K at 14244 Westheimer and called for a cab. A Yellow Cab took me to my apartment complex, right in the parking lot behind my apartment. I got home about 10:30 or so, and went to my apartment and turned the T.V. on to check the game. Then I walked my dog and we went through the path to the Fuddruckers. Fuddruckers was closed and I started back home. I told my dog to go on home, because I have been training her and I wanted to see if she knew the way. 
As I got into the field walking along the path someone came up behind me. Nobody said anything and I felt someone touch me on the shoulder. I have been carrying a knife ever since these guys have been talking about trying to kill me. The knife is an Army knife with a rusty blade that is about 5 or 6 inches long. I carry it in a grey sheath on the right side of my belt. When I felt someone touch me I turned to my left and threw a block with my left arm and just started sticking with the knife. It was dark and I couldnt [sic] tell who was there. When I swung the first times it hit, but I didnt [sic] know it went in or nothing. After I stuck the first two times I saw that it was Shawn. I was fucked up and I just got scared and kept sticking. I swung the knife 6 .. 8 .. probably 10 times and then I just took off running toward my apartment. I went straight up to my apartment and turned the T.V. back on to see what the score was. I had a pair of red shorts on under my clothes and I took off all my clothes except for the shorts. I walked outside to get the dog and she wanted to play, so I ran back and forth a couple of times with her. I saw the police helicopter fly over then. I went back into the apartment and that's when I took the knife off of my belt and put it in my closet. I put in a box in the bedroom closet on the floor. The box is a brown cardboard box with clothes in it and the knife is stuck down on the side. The closet is in a bedroom to the right as you go toward the back of the apartment, the bedroom with the twin bed in it. The clothes I was wearing, blue jean pants and a maroon short-sleeved shirt, and a blue Dickie brand work shirt. I was wearing the maroon belt that I have on now and the tennis shoes that I have on now. The clothes are laying in the floor of my bedroom. I did not take anything from Shawn at the time that I stabbed her.
The name Preston Hughes III is signed in two locations at the bottom of each page. No one denies that the signatures are his.

The name F. Boyd Smith appears as a witness at the bottom of each page. On each page the time stamp 9-27-88 715 AM appears to the right of the name.

Unknown text between Smith's name and the time stamp is blackened out on each of the three pages.

The name Theresa M. Ross appears as a witness at the bottom of each page. On the first page only, the time stamp 9-27-88 7:15AM appears beneath and to the right of the name.

Sgt. Gafford's Slip
The interview was not preserved by either video or audio recording. During trial, Sgt. Gafford explained that recording equipment was available, but that he elected not to use it.

Because the interview session was not recorded, when it could have been so easily recorded, we cannot know with any confidence what went on in the interview room. The only two people in the room were Sgt. Gafford and Preston Hughes. Sgt. Bloyd had conveniently absented himself from the room. The witnesses would not appear in the room until after all the pages had been signed. They would actually witness nothing. They would merely ask Hughes if the signature was his and if he signed voluntarily. He would answer yes to both questions. They would sign as witnesses, then leave.

Of the two, Gafford and Hughes, the entire judicial system has chosen not to believe Preston Hughes about what went on in the interview room. Anyone that has be careful in their reading of the information provided above will realize that we, as skeptical jurors, cannot take Sgt. Gafford at his word. If you do not yet understand why that is so, consider the following timeline, based exclusively on the police statement prepared by Sgt. Gafford.

0410 -- Interview begins
0430 -- Gafford arrests Hughes
04?? -- Gafford leaves interview room
0450 -- Gafford returns to interview room
0520 -- Gafford presents Preston with Voluntary Consent for Search form
0530 -- Hughes allegedly signs Voluntary Consent for Search form
0540 -- Gafford tells Hughes Shandra him as the person who stabbed them
0540 -- Gafford tells Hughes he believes Hughes stabbed them
054? -- Hughes begins relating the events of that night
0555 -- Time entered at top of first page of the 3 page confession
0613 -- Time entered at top of second page of 3 page confession
0633 -- Time entered at top of third page of 3 page confession
0715 -- Time entered by witness Smith on each page of the 3 page confession
0715 -- Time entered by witness Ross on first page of the 3 page confession

In the first of Gafford's two tellings (both in the same report) he claims that Preston implicated himself by revealing independent guilty knowledge of the crime, knowledge that only the police and the killer would have. I repeat that portion of Sgt. Gafford's report.
Sgt. Gafford was in the process of typing the suspects [sic] written statement when he stated, while pointing to the Voluntary Consent for Search and Seizure form, "I guess you're looking for the knife". Prior to the suspects [sic] saying that he just "kept sticking" the person with the knife, and his statement about Sgts looking for the knife, Sgts hadnt [sic] mentioned to the suspect the method by which the compls were killed.
Sgt. Gafford began typing the statement at 5:55 AM, according to the time on the first page of the three-page confession.

Only after Gafford started typing the statement did Hughes point to the Consent form and say "I guess you're looking for the knife."

Only after Hughes had mentioned BOTH the knife and the "sticking" did Gafford mention to Hughes "the method by which the compls were killed." Sgt. Gafford, therefore, must have mentioned that Shandra and Marcell had been stabbed no earlier than 5:55 AM.

However ...

In the second of his two tellings, Sgt. Gafford relates that he told Hughes at 5:40 AM that Shandra identified him as the person who had stabbed her and her cousin. Gafford followed that "fact" with his assurance that he too believed Hughes was the one who had "stabbed" the two victims. More significantly, it was that information that caused Hughes to break, beginning with "I don't want to go to jail."

According to the first telling, Sgt. Gafford told Hughes that Shandra had been stabbed only after he had started typing Hughes confession. Gafford, however, impeached himself with his second telling, when he conceded that he told Hughes about Shandra being stabbed before Hughes confessed. Indeed, in the second telling, Gafford claims the information about the stabbing caused Hughes to confess.

Sgt. Gafford's Frame
Sgt. Gafford attempted to frame Preston Hughes by attributing to him independent guilty knowledge of the crime. It was not an innocent mistake. Gafford attempted to bolster his the frame by explaining Hughes exhibited his guilty knowledge early in the morning, before he would have had any opportunity to hear it from the press. Gafford then attempted to complete the frame with the following words:
 ... therefore it was clear that the suspect had direct knowledge of the incident.
By refusing to record the interview, Sgt. Gafford gave himself the opportunity to thus frame Hughes. No one would believe Hughes, since he only wanted not to go to jail, and later only wanted not to die with a needle in his arm. On the other hand, everyone would believe Sgt. Gafford. He was an officer of the law.

Gafford's frame would apparently go undetected all these years, until this blog post. Gafford's frame would still be undetected even today had he demonstrated a better economy of words.

Is the Confession True or False?
I now challenge you to decide, as skeptical jurors, whether Preston's confession is True or False in material detail. Feel free to rely on anything and everything I have presented so far.

If you believe the confession is true, how do you know it is true?

If the confession is false, how do you know it is false?

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Friday, August 24, 2012

The Case of Preston Hughes III: 20G40

I have an uneasy feeling that HPD Sgt. D. Hamilton injected himself into this case. I don't think he was actually instructed to go to the crime scene. It's not at all clear to me that the crime scene was actually within his area of supervision.

In other words, I think Sgt. Hamilton may have intentionally crashed a gruesome party to which he was not invited. If so, that would make his story about Shandra's dying declaration even more suspicious, assuming that's possible.

I can't prove that, but the thought gives me an uneasiness. I have a discomfiture, a perplexity, an anxiety. I have a curiosity itch in serious need of scritchin'.

I think I'll scritch it here.

Allow me to begin with the police report of Sgt. D. J. Gafford. He demonstrates how it's done, how one describes one's invitation to a crime scene.
At approximately 23:55 hrs, Sgts Bloyd and Gafford were in the homicide division when Lt. Neely assigned them to make a scene at 2400 S. Kirkwood.
There you go. Short, sweet, and to the point. He told us when it happened and where he was. He actually said that he was assigned to "make a scene", though he might have phrased that better. He told us who told him to make that scene. It was Lt. Neely.

Now let's see how Officers Cook and Becker told us about how they came to be involved.
Officers riding Unit 20G40 were flagged down by a person known as Drew Curtis Hartley regarding his wife missing. The time was approx 2330 hrs and the location was the Stop N Go parking lot at 2303 S. Kirkwood.
Not bad. It doesn't have the Jack Webb quality of Gafford's report, but it's not bad. Let's see how Officer Hale handled the task.
On Tuesday, September 27 1988 at approximately 0005hrs, I, Officer F. L. Hale being assigned to the crime scene section and riding CSU 14 received an assignment from homicide lieutenant.
Not as good, but passable. The "I, Officer F. L. Hale" was a bit pretentious, and he didn't bother to mention of the name of the lieutenant who assigned him to the case. So ... not great, but okay.

Now, finally, let's now see how Sgt. Hamilton described how he came to be involved.
Sgt. D. Hamilton, riding unit 19G02 nights on 9-26-88 while at the command station heard Officers V.L. Cook and C.J. Becker Riding Unit 20G40 nights call out on an assault victim tn [sic] the 2400 blk of S. Kirkwood. Around 2340 hrs Sgt Hamilton checked by with Unit 20G40 and arrived at the scene at approx 2343 hrs.


Very interesting indeed.

It doesn't seem as if anyone actually instructed Officer Hamilton to make his way to the crime scene. It doesn't seem as if anyone actually assigned him to the case. Nor does it seem as if rushed over as he would have if he had been acting in a supervisor status. Instead, he chilled for an unspecified amount of time before he "checked by" with the officers who had recently called in a double homicide.

It wasn't as if Hamilton heard the call, then quickly picked up his radio and said "I'm on my way." It's more as if Hamilton, who was at the command station, searched for something in a database, or looked through some files, saw something interesting, and decided to head on out.

Once Hamilton made up us mind to get up and go, however, he got up and went. He made it there in 3 minutes. That includes the time he spent on the radio with Cook and Becker, and the time needed to mount up.

It wasn't very difficult for me to find an HPD beat mapI wanted one to understand the significance of 20G40 and 19G02. Here you go, from my Google search to your eyes. Click to enlarge.

Beat 20G40 is towards the left, below the centerline. Here, I'll blow it up for you to make it easier to see. If you click on it and enlarge it, you'll more easily see the X I added to show the location of the crime scene.

There are 8 beats that begin with 20G. Those 8 beats form District 20. There are 5 beats that begin with 19G. Those 5 beats form District 19.

District 19 and District 20 together form the Western Division of the Houston Police Department. The Western Division command station is located where you see the red star. That's where Hamilton was when he dawdled after hearing the call by Cook and Becker.

The address of that command station is 3203 South Dairy Ashford Street. Here's a swell picture of the command center, thanks to the fine folks at Google who have yet to send me a cease and desist order for using their street view images without written permission.

Sgt. Hamilton was working somewhere inside there around 11:30 PM on 26 September 1988 when he overheard Officers Cook and Becker call out a double homicide. Hamilton dillied for a bit, then he dallied for a bit, then he "checked by" with Cook and Becker, then he headed on over.

According to the fine folks at Google, the distance between the command center and the Fuddrucker's hamburger joint right there by the crime scene is 1.7 miles. Under normal conditions, the driving time is 5 minutes. It seems as if, once Hamilton decided to go, he lit it up. He got there in less than 3.

Notice that Hamilton said he was riding 19G02. Since there seems to be no beat called 19G02, I suspect the nomenclature has a more subtle meaning that I don't yet understand. It may indicate that he is a patrol supervisor responsible for taking charge of crime scenes anywhere within District 19. I simply don't know. In any case, it is clear from the nomenclature that Hamilton was operating in the same Division but a different District than that patrolled by Unit 20G40.

I suspect there is nothing fundamentally improper with a sergeant from District 19 responding to a call from District 20. I wonder, though, whether it was routine, or common. Again, I simply do not know.

It does seem, however, that if Sgt. Hamilton was not expected to respond and take charge of the crime scene, then another patrol supervisor should have done so. And since there is no police report filed by any local HPD officers other than Cook, Becker, and Hamilton, I guess there was no other patrol supervisor on the scene. Surely, any District 20 patrol sergeant who was on the scene would have taken charge and filed a report.

I guess, therefore, I'm simply making another mountain out of another molehill. So I'll just let it be.


But wait .... 

There's more.

There always is.

I just this very moment [ahem] noticed something a bit unusual in Sgt. Gafford's police report.
When we arrived, there were several patrol supervisors, Sgts D. Hamilton and J.H. Parham, already on the scene.
And then there's this, from Hamilton's report:
Sgt along with Unit 20G40 and 20G51 secured the scene and held it until it was released to homicide sgt's.
Holy Brady violation, Batman! There was indeed another patrol supervisor on the scene, and he was riding Unit 20G51 nights. He didn't write a police report, at least not one that was included in the official compilation of police reports for this case. And he didn't testify at trial. But he was there, somewhere. 

Perhaps patrol supervisor J.H. Parham, night rider of Unit 20G51, was standing right by Shandra Charles as she lay face down in the trail, her life blood spanning the entire width of the trail, soaking into the dirt. Perhaps he heard her give a dying declaration, speaking clearly and in complete sentences.

Then again, perhaps not.

Perhaps that's why we never heard from him.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Case of Preston Hughes III: KPFT Interview

My six minute interview with Marlo Blue of KPFT radio.  The YouTube clip was created by Marlo.

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Michael Ledford's Petition for Absolute Pardon: Chapter 3

(Current as of 23 Aug 2012)


In Apartment 17-A, Michael and Elise Ledford were having trouble with the table lamp plugged into the outlet behind their couch. The lamp would not turn on reliably by use of its own switch. In this sense, the lamp was much like the other electrical items that seemingly malfunctioned in other apartments suffering from overheating outlets.

Michael and Elise therefore came to rely on the wall switch to control the lamp, That wall switch was located right by the front door. That wall switch controlled the outlet that later showed evidence of burning, the outlet in which the insurance investigator found (but did not photograph or preserve) burned wiring.

It was odd that the lamp switch seemed not to work. The lamp had been given to Michael and Elise by Elise's parents just two months earlier. Her parents had owned and used the lamp for many years. The parents had never had a problem with the lamp. Not until the lamp was plugged into the outlet in the Ledford apartment did it seemingly begin to fail.

We learn of that from the trial testimony of Elise's father, who appeared as a witness for the Commonwealth.
Ervin: Let me show you photograph number 1, Reverend Arner. 
Arner: Yes, sir. 
Ervin: And there's a lamp here on a table near the door. Where did -- did that lamp come from? 
Arner: That was a lamp that we gave them about July of '99. 
Ervin: And what was the working condition of that lamp? 
Arner: It was excellent. 
Ervin: Had there ever been any malfunctions? 
Arner: Not -- none. No. 
Ervin: Any sparks or anything caused by the lamp? 
Arner: Never -- never blew a light bulb. We had used it all the time that we had it; which it was brand new until then.
Darlene Keiper also knew about the recent problem with the lamp. She shared the apartment with Michael and Elise. She was the person who actually moved the couch from the wall, plugged the lamp into the outlet, and moved the couch back against the wall. Only then, when the previously trouble-free lamp was plugged into the outlet at Highland Hills Apartments, did the lamp begin to misbehave.

Martha and Ronda Reames both knew about the problem with the lamp. On the very day of the fire, while attending a birthday party for one-year-old Zachary Ledford, they each noticed that the lamp did not turn on and off properly.

Nobody, however, noticed that the outlet was overheating. The outlet was located behind the couch: out of site, out of touch, and out of mind.

Later that night, when Zachary and Elise were both early to bed, Michael left to run errands. He planned to put gas in the car. He planned to stop by the firehouse where he volunteered as a firefighter. As he left his apartment, he decided to leave a light on for Darlene Keiper. She was scheduled to arrive home soon after he left. He flipped the wall switch to the ON position as he left the apartment.

It was a simple courtesy. It was a completely innocent act. It had deadly consequence.

Within minutes, Zachary Ledford would die of smoke inhalation. Elise Ledford would be seriously burned during her unsuccessful effort to escape.

The Commonwealth's fire investigator would make only a cursory examination of the fire scene. In his formal report, he would declare that the electrical system could not be ruled out as a cause of the fire.

In that same report, the Commonwealth's investigator would declare that he could not exclude an accidental or natural cause of the fire. He would declare the cause to be "Undetermined."

Instead of making a thorough and scientific investigation of the fire, the state investigator would relinquish the investigation to agents of the complex's insurance carrier, one of them an investigator and one of them an adjuster.

The insurance investigator discovered, but literally covered up, evidence of an electrical fire. The outlet behind the living sofa showed distinctive smoke patterns emanating from within. When the insurance investigator removed the outlet, he discovered burned wiring inside. The insurance investigator did not photograph the burned wiring, nor did he secure them as evidence. Instead, he replace the outlet and its faceplate as if he had found nothing of interest.

Within weeks, the insurance investigator and/or the insurance adjuster would convince the police that the fire was caused by arson rather than by an electrical problem. Their ultimate client, [Name of Insurance Company Withheld], would be spared a lawsuit for the wrongful death of a one-year-old child, a personal injury lawsuit for the burning of a young mother, and the cost of major electrical repairs to every apartment in the Highland Hills Apartments complex.

Within a month, when subjected to techniques later proven to produce false confessions, Michael Ledford would come to believe that he must have started the fire. He would claim he started the fire by removing one of two candles from one of two candleholders, and by then tossing the candle into the seat of the living room chair. Believing he must be mentally ill for being unable to previously recall the act, he would ask for psychiatric treatment. Believing he must unwittingly be a threat to others, he would ask also to be kept away from other people.

Michael Ledford's confession, however, would be utterly contradicted and absolutely falsified by the evidence from the fire scene. The fire did not start in the chair as Michael claimed in his confession. Nor was any residual candle wax found, though the wax could not have been entirely consumed by the fire. Nor were any candleholders found, though the candleholders certainly could not have been consumed by the fire.

Not only did Michael's confession include candles and candleholders that never were, his confession included precise details of a specific cigarette lighter never found, "a white one with the Dallas Cowboys." Michael confessed that he lit the candles with that specific lighter, the "white one with the Dallas Cowboys", and left the lighter "on the table that had the plants on it." The lighter could not have been consumed by the fire, since even the plants on the table were not consumed, but the lighter was never found

The lighter could not be found for the same reason candle wax and candleholders could not be found. No such items were ever involved in the Ledford fire. Michael's clear recollection of those items was but a confabulation, a false memory resulting from the persistent suggestions of his interrogators.

In addition to taking note of the many false claims central to Michael's confession, the investigators should have also taken note of a burned circuit breaker, and of smoke patterns emanating from the circuit breaker panel. The investigators should have taken note also of the burned wiring inside the living room electrical outlet, and of the smoke discharged from within that outlet.

The investigators should have carefully created a timeline of the events leading up to the fire. Had they done so, they would have realized that ignition occurred well after Michael Ledford left the apartment.

Had the state investigator conducted a thorough and scientific investigation of the Ledford fire, rather than relinquishing the investigation to agents of the insurance company, Michael Ledford would never have been charged. We would not be addressing this issue still today.

Because the state investigator relinquished the investigation to agents of an insurance company having a vested interest in the outcome of the investigation, Michael Ledford would stand trail for capital murder.

During the trial, the jury would hear only a select portion of Michael's confession. The jury would not hear the hours Michael spent denying he started the fire. The jury would not hear his interrogators try to convince him the fire started on the floor, as they knew it had, rather than in the chair, as they knew it had not. The jury would not hear his interrogators suggest dozens of bizarre motives, including sexual failure and a desire to be a fire chief. The jury would not see those portions of the tape where his interrogators told him he had failed a polygraph test when he had not. The jurors would not see those portions of the tape where his interrogators lied to him about the physical evidence.

Instead, the jury would hear only the moment Michael Ledford suddenly and quietly succumbed to the will of his interrogators.

The jury would certainly not hear of experiments yet to take place that would prove the interrogation techniques applied to Michael Ledford frequently lead to false confessions.

Equally troubling, the jury would not see the compelling evidence of an electrical fire. That evidence had been concealed by the insurance investigator, depriving both the Commonwealth and Michael Ledford critical evidence of his innocence.

The jury would find Michael Ledford guilty of arson and first-degree murder. They would spare his life. The judge would sentence him to fifty years in prison.

For the next decade, Michael's mother would attempt to free her son. In 2010, she would join forces with an advocate for the wrongfully convicted. After a two-year investigation, this petition now explains how the Virginia justice system was deceived by an insurance company into pursuing and securing the conviction of Michael Ledford.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Case of Preston Hughes III: 2:58 AM

“Time takes it all, whether you want it to or not.” -- Stephen King, The Green Mile

If you ever investigate a case and hope to learn the truth of it, be sure you make a detailed timeline. It will be much more difficult to do (and do well) than you now suspect. It will be much more valuable than you now  imagine.

Time is rather persistent. It refuses to run backwards. It keeps its own books, with infinite precision, but makes no particular effort to reveal or conceal its journal entries. If you can somehow find the journal entries for the crime you may someday investigate, if you can build a detailed and accurate timeline, you stand an excellent chance of finding truth.

There is a specific time that hovers like the Sword of Damocles over the heads to the Houston Police Department. That time is 2:58 AM, 27 September 1988. That is the time that someone added to Officer F.L. Hale's property invoice.

If that time is accurate, then the arrow of time reveals uncomfortable truths about this case.

The HPD must have recovered the items from Preston's apartment prior to 2:58 AM on 27 September 1988.

The HPD must have searched the apartment without a warrant, for they never obtained one in this case.

The HPD must have searched the apartment without a voluntary consent for search form, manufactured or otherwise. The only such form was (allegedly) witnessed at 5:35 AM.

The HPD must therefore have conducted an illegal search.

More significantly, the HPD must have conducted two searches: one prior to 2:58 AM and one after sunrise. The photos of what must have been the second search show the lights off and daylight coming from behind a sheer curtain.

The police must have removed from the property locker the items they had collected during the first search and returned them to Preston's apartment so that they could photograph them during the second search. The items photographed during the second search would therefore have been staged.

The eyeglasses photographed between the cushions of Preston's sofa were photographed during the second search, along with the other items. The photograph shows the room to be naturally lit and the lamp to be off.

The eyeglass must have therefore been staged for the second search, just as the other items were staged for the second search.

The 2:58 AM time, if it is correct, proves that the police planted Shandra's glasses between the cushions of Preston's couch.

2:58 AM hangs like the Sword of Damocles.

That time must therefore die a death of a thousand cuts if the police are to be not exposed. Those cuts will become an subtle undercurrent flowing almost unnoticed throughout the trial. The time itself will never, however, be uttered.

For now, in the remainder of this post, I will consider whether the police could have searched Preston's apartment early enough to collect the data, prepare a property invoice, and turn the evidence into the property room at 2:58 AM.  I will limit myself, for the time being, to information available before the trial. 

Buckle up. Here we go.

Working backwards.

If the 2:58 AM time is correct, and I give Officer Hale 18 minutes to type the property invoice and perform other miscellaneous tasks, Officer Hale must have arrived back at police headquarters no later than 2:40 AM.

I believe the property locker was located in or near the police headquarters building at 61 Riesner in downtown Houston. According to Google Maps, it is a 27 minute drive from 61 Riesner to the corner of Kirkwood and Westminster. We'll call it 30. Officer Hale would have had to leave the area of Preston's apartment no later than 2:10 AM.

I give Officer Hale 30 minutes to take the photographs of the items inside Preston's apartment, and to secure those items in plastic bags. That means Officer Hale must have entered Preston's apartment no later than 1:40 AM.

Officer Hale, however, could not have entered Preston's apartment until Preston had been placed in the patrol car, and that would not have occurred until Sgt. Gafford (and others) knocked on Preston's door, entered his apartment, questioned him briefly, and allowed him to dress. If I give Gafford and Preston (and others) 20 minutes to do that, then Gafford must have arrived at Preston's door no later than 1:20 AM.

Sgt. Gafford, however, claims he spent some time searching through the tenant list before he knocked on Preston's door. I happen to have a copy of that tenant list. I just searched it, in no big hurry, and I timed myself. I managed to get through it in 3 minutes and a few seconds. Preston's name was the last one on the first page. I'll give Gafford 10 minutes to search the list. He must have therefore begun searching the list no later than 1:10 AM.

According to the ME investigator's report, Marcell was declared dead at 11:38 PM. The ME was notified at 11:45 PM. We can assume homicide was notified around that time as well. Given a 30 minute drive from police headquarters to the crime scene, Sgt. Gafford could have arrived as early as 12:15 AM. That would give him 55 minutes to peruse the crime scene, talk to the other officers there, and find his was to the manager's office, where he would read the tenant list.

In summary, the timing is possible, but tight. If Gafford first knocked on Preston's door at 2:30 PM, as a number of people claim, then the 2:58 AM time on the property invoice cannot be accurate.

This timing issue will, I predict, eventually become a source of heated debate. I suggest, however, that it can be resolved by releasing all the chain of custody documents, including those tracking the items into and out of the property locker, including those tracking the items into and out of the labs.

The issue can be resolved also by providing a contemporaneous log of all pictures taken by Officer Hale, a log he certainly should have maintained. How else would the people who relied on the photos have known when and where they were taken, and what they were intended to capture?

I for one welcome and encourage the release of all such case documents.

I have no fear of 2:58 AM.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Michael Ledford's Petition for Absolute Pardon: Chapter 2

(Current as of 20 Aug 2012)


Residents of Highland Hills Apartments were having problems with their plug-in appliances. The more fortunate among those residents were those who realized their outlets were overheating. They had their outlets replaced.

The Ledfords were not among the fortunate. The overheating outlet in their apartment was located behind the living room sofa. They therefore did not notice that the outlet was becoming dangerously hot. They did not realize that a circuit breaker would fail to protect them. Soon one of them would be dead, one would be seriously burned, and another other would be on trial for his life.

In Apartment 16-C, above and to the left of the Ledford apartment, the resident had a sewing machine motor that dragged and a nightlight that refused to work. She noticed that the outlet was "very warm." She flipped the circuit breaker to the OFF position and notified the management. The management had the outlet replaced.

A second woman in the complex noticed the outlet in her son's room was hot to the touch. She notified the management. The management had the outlet replaced.

In one of the apartments above the Ledford apartment, a kitchen outlet had been replaced, perhaps by the resident. The outlet is brown. No other outlet revealed in more than 100 photos of the building was any color other than white / ivory / almond.

In each case, replacing the outlet resolved the superficial problem initially attributed to the appliances. The more serious problem, however, remained unresolved. The electrical systems at Highland Hills Apartments were deteriorating and becoming unsafe. Given that overheating outlets result in more than 5000 fires per year, the multiple instances of overheating outlets should have prompted an inspection of all outlets in all units. Instead, the underlying problems were simply ignored until residents became so concerned that they either complained or attempted to correct the problem themselves.

The electrical problems at Highland Hills Apartments were not limited to wall outlets. Photographs taken at the Ledford fire scene reveal the hardwired fire alarm had been installed without an electrical box. This is a clear and egregious code violation. Instead of being secured to an electrical box which was in turn secured to rigid structure, the hardwired smoke alarm was carelessly attached using just two plastic anchors loosely embedded in the gypsum ceiling panel.

Of even greater concern than the missing electrical box is what appears to be a severed electrical cable visible in the space above the ceiling. Given the ragged nature of that exposed cable, and given the equally ragged edge of the hole in that area, it seems as if the electrical cable may have been severed when someone carelessly cut a crude hole in the ceiling to install the smoke detector.

The missing electrical box, the crudely cut hole, and the apparently severed cable suggest that the box was installed during a retrofit program, one that focused on minimizing cost rather than insuring safety.

What is not visible in the photograph is the means by which the smoke detector is connected to the apartment's electrical system. If the smoke detector was merely spliced into a circuit already passing through the overhead, and if that splice was made while working through the small cutout, and if that splice was of similar quality to the rest of the smoke detector installation, then that splice posed another serious fire hazard to the apartment.

Of greater concern than even the overheating outlets (and the crudely installed smoke detector and the exposed wiring in the overhead) is an apparently makeshift repair to one of a circuit breakers photographed after the fire inside the electrical service panel that was supposed to protect the Ledford apartment from electrical hazards.

The circuit breaker reveals startling evidence of an egregiously unsafe repair. Rather than replacing the breaker after a presumed earlier problem, maintenance personnel simply glued plastic strips over the top of it, or so it seems.

A sooted spider web connects the plastic strip and its oozing adhesive. The spider web is evidence that the improperly repaired breaker had been deteriorating for some time. The spider web is evidence also that a cheap, improper repair eventually cost an infant child his life, the parents their son, and the father his freedom.

So noticeable were the problems at Highland Hills Apartments that the residents of Apartment 20C expressed their concern to the police that the fire in the Ledford apartment was ignited by the electrical system. As it turns out, they were correct.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Soon to be Impending Execution of Jason Reeves

Jason Reeves sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Louisiana. Though most recently scheduled for execution on 15 August, three days prior to the date of this post, he has been given a stay based on the requests of his new attorneys.

I write of his case now to be done with it. While each case I write of is horrible in its own way, this one is one of the worst. I am not being coy when I suggest you may simply want to let this one be. I much prefer that you spend your time familiarizing yourself with the wrongful impending execution of Preston Hughes III. Links abound on my homescreen.

From State v. Reeves (2009)
On December 13, 2001, a Calcasieu Parish grand jury indicted the defendant, Jason Reeves, for the first degree murder of a four year old girl, identified as M.J.T., which occurred on November 12, 2001, in violation of La. R.S. 14:30. Reeves' first trial began with jury selection on October 27, 2003, and ended in a mistrial on November 9, 2003. 
Reeves' retrial commenced with jury selection on October 12, 2004. On November 5, 2004, the jury returned a unanimous verdict of guilty as charged. After a penalty phase hearing, the same jury unanimously recommended a sentence of death after finding as aggravating circumstances: (1) the defendant was engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of aggravated rape; (2) the victim was under the age of twelve years; and (3) the offense was committed in an especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner. On December 10, 2004, after denying post-verdict motions, the trial court imposed the sentence of death in accordance with the jury's verdict. ... 
On November 12, 2001, at approximately 3:15 p.m., the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office (CPSO) received a complaint of a suspicious vehicle at a school in Moss Bluff, Louisiana. The vehicle was described as a blue four-door, older model vehicle which may have been an Oldsmobile Cutlass. The driver of the vehicle, who was described as wearing a maroon t-shirt and blue jeans, was loitering in the parking lot of the school and conversing with two young female students. The complaint included the license plate number of the suspicious vehicle. A check on the license plate revealed that the defendant, Jason Manuel Reeves, was the owner of a blue Oldsmobile Cutlass, with the same license plate number, and that he had a criminal history of sexual offenses with minors. 
Shortly thereafter, at 5:02 p.m., the CPSO received a 911 call from the mother of a four-year old girl, M.J.T., who had disappeared from McFatter Trailer Park in Moss Bluff. The trailer park is located 3 miles from the school where the suspicious vehicle had been reported. The young girl's mother, C.T., told sheriff's deputies that she had seen a suspicious, older model, blue vehicle circling the trailer park prior to the time she realized her daughter was missing. She also remembered a red sticker in the vehicle's rear window. C.T. later identified Reeves' vehicle as the one she saw in the trailer park on November 12, 2001. 
That evening, CPSO deputies went to Reeves' home and obtained permission from him, and his mother with whom he lived, to search his vehicle and home. After finding no evidence connecting Reeves to the missing girl, the deputies informed Reeves of his constitutional rights and asked him to go to the sheriff's office for further questioning. Reeves agreed and followed the deputies in his own car to the CPSO because he did not know where the sheriff's office was located. 
Reeves arrived at the CPSO at approximately 10:20 p.m., was informed of his constitutional rights, and signed a form waiving them. He was initially questioned from 10:45 p.m. until 12:40 a.m. Thereafter, Reeves was taken to an interview room in the detectives' area, which is a secure area. Reeves was again informed of his constitutional rights and was questioned throughout the night with regard to his whereabouts and activities on November 12, 2001. 
Reeves told the officers that he had finished work at approximately 3 p.m., purchased a drink at a gas station, and driven home, arriving at approximately 4 p.m. Judy Doucet, the defendant's mother, told sheriff's deputies that she specifically remembered her son arriving home around 5:00 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. Throughout questioning, Reeves continually denied any involvement with the missing girl. These statements were not recorded. 
From the time M.J.T. was reported missing until sometime on November 13, 2001, individuals assisting in the search for M.J.T. recovered evidence from a creek located approximately 15 minutes from McFatter Trailer Park, near a wooden bridge on Charles Breaux Road. The victim's mother identified a pair of a child's white tennis shoes and a pair of girl's purple pants as having been worn by M.J.T. at the time of her disappearance. 
On November 13, 2001, at 9:16 a.m., deputies obtained Reeves' permission to obtain his bodily substances for testing, then transported him to a local hospital where the requested samples were obtained. A nurse collected blood samples, oral swabs, pubic hair combings and fingernail scrapings from Reeves. A physical examination of Reeves at this time showed scratches on the inside of his left upper thigh, on his nose, and on his arms. He also had abrasions on both knees. 
Around 11:40 a.m. on November 13, 2001, Reeves was placed under arrest on an outstanding warrant from another parish. At that time, Reeves was again informed of his constitutional rights, interrogated further, and then placed in the jail. During this interview, a detective made the statement that only two people knew what really happened to M.J.T. Reeves replied, "Yeah, me and the good Lord." Despite making this statement, Reeves continued to deny involvement with the disappearance of M.J.T. 
On November 14, 2001, at approximately 11 a.m., deputies took Reeves from his jail cell to the detectives' interview area where he was again Mirandized. Reeves continued to deny involvement with the missing girl but further details which had emerged in questioning were now preserved on videotape. While still maintaining he finished work around 2:30 p.m. or 3:00 p.m., he related that he had driven in the direction of the Chardele Trailer Park to visit his cousin, but turned around when he realized he did not know his cousin's trailer number. Reeves then headed back in the direction of Moss Bluff, stopping at a convenience store to purchase a Mountain Dew soft drink. He claimed he traveled along a highway toward his grandfather's house, but remembered en route that his grandfather would not be home. Reeves then claimed he turned around in the parking lot of a Moss Bluff school, speaking briefly to a woman there. He continued traveling and stopped along the way at McFatter Trailer Park to see an old friend, Kurt Leger, with whom he had worked offshore. He asked a group of children at the trailer park if they knew where his friend Kurt lived. Reeves then claimed his car overheated, so he waited for the vehicle to cool down before driving home, where he claimed to have arrived by 4:00 p.m. This statement concluded when lunch was brought to Reeves at 12:40 p.m. 
At approximately 2:30 p.m. on November 14, 2001, the body of M.J.T. was found in a secluded area in some woods, 10-15 yards off a trail next to LeBleu Cemetery. The cemetery is located approximately 8.2 miles from McFatter Trailer Park. A Mountain Dew soft drink bottle was recovered approximately 25 feet away from where the body was found. The little girl's body, clothed only in a purple shirt pulled up halfway and naked from the waist down, had been stabbed multiple times. M.J.T. was found lying on her back with her legs bent, with signs of sexual abuse evident. Before evidence was gathered or the body was touched, law enforcement officers videotaped the crime scene. 
Interrogation of Reeves began again around 8 p.m. Former FBI Agent Don Dixon confronted Reeves with photographs of M.J.T.'s body taken at the murder scene. As a pre-arranged strategy, Agent Dixon told Reeves that a latent print found on a palmetto leaf tied him to the murder scene. At 9:25 p.m., detectives began videotaping the interview, during which Reeves confessed to having the girl in his car and taking her to the cemetery. He walked with her into the nearby woods, where they sat down and watched a rabbit. Reeves whittled a piece of wood with his pocket knife. Reeves then claimed he blacked out and does not remember doing anything else to the little girl. The next thing Reeves remembers was walking toward his car parked in the cemetery's parking lot, stopping at his sister's grave, saying good-bye and that he was sorry. When he reached his car, he noticed his pants were unzipped and his knife was missing. 
Reeves had requested to speak with his mother. At 10:40 p.m., the videotape was stopped when Reeves' mother arrived at the sheriff's office. One of the detectives monitored Reeves' conversation with his mother and heard Reeves say, "I did this thing. I don't know why, but I did it." 
Thereafter, Reeves indicated that he wanted to finish the interview because his actions had hurt his mother and the victim's family. Reeves was Mirandized again and continued his statement at 11:12 p.m. He expanded his earlier statements and acknowledged that he picked up M.J.T. to "go fool with her." He took her to the cemetery since the cemetery was a secluded place. After visiting his sister's grave and becoming very angry, Reeves took M.J.T. to the woods and started touching her on her bottom. Reeves admitted he told M.J.T. throughout the encounter that he would bring her back home and other things in an attempt to calm her down. M.J.T. became upset and asked him to stop, which further angered Reeves, who was still wielding his knife. Although he claimed he did not remember taking off M.J.T.'s pants or assaulting her, Reeves acknowledged that he was the only person who could have stabbed her. Reeves hurried out of the cemetery, fearing that M.J.T. was not alive when he left her. He does not remember anything about disposing of her pants and shoes. He does remember driving home with dirt and possibly a light smear of blood on his arms. He rinsed off his arms with the outside hose before entering his house and seeing his mother, then took a bath. The statement concluded at 11:48 p.m. Reeves was subsequently arrested for aggravated kidnaping and first degree murder. 
On December 13, 2001, a Calcasieu Parish grand jury indicted Jason Reeves for the first degree murder of M.J.T. Specifically, the indictment states: "JASON MANUEL REEVES committed the offense of first degree murder in that he killed M.J.T., a female juvenile whose date of birth was March 25, 1997, with the specific intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm upon M.J.T. and was engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of aggravated rape and/or M.J.T. was under the age of twelve years." 
At the guilt phase of this first degree murder trial, the state presented Reeves' videotaped statements to the jurors and evidence discovered through investigation. A maroon t-shirt and jeans, which the defendant had worn on November 12, 2001, were seized from his house. Reeves' mother had washed them before the police seized the items. A picture of Reeves' vehicle, admitted into evidence, shows that the vehicle is a blue four-door, older model Oldsmobile Cutlass with a red sticker on the back window. 
Two girls from the Moss Bluff school testified the defendant tried to talk to them on November 12, 2001. One of the girls, and the after-care provider who spoke with Reeves that day, identified him as the person who had been at the school near where M.J.T. disappeared. 
In addition, an off-duty Lake Charles city police officer testified that he saw Reeves at the cemetery at 4:40 p.m. on November 12, 2001. The officer, who was meeting with a confidential informant at the cemetery between 4:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m., saw the defendant walking back to his car and leaving the cemetery parking lot. As Reeves drove right next to the officer in leaving the area, the two men came face-to-face with each other. The officer identified Reeves in court as the man he saw at the cemetery at 4:40 p.m. on November 12, 2001. 
The state presented testimony that a man-trailing dog identified the scent of the victim inside Reeves' vehicle. The man-trailing dog also followed Reeves' scent to a wooden bridge off Charles Breaux Road, under which the pants and shoes of M.J.T. were found in a creek. At the cemetery, the man-trailing dog went toward the water, then toward the woods and over the fence from the cemetery to the area where there were wood shavings on the ground. From there, the dog went to the place where the victim was found. At that point, the dog started whining and crying, and refused to go further. At each location, the dog's handler was given no information. 
The state presented expert testimony that the purple fibers from the victim's clothing matched fibers of vacuumed debris evidence from Reeves' vehicle. Hairs identified as dog hairs were found both in the defendant's vehicle and on the victim's clothing. During the recovery of evidence at the crime scene, maggots and an adult fly were recovered from the victim's body. An entomologist estimated that eggs were laid on the victim's body within one hour of her death and that the last time the eggs could have been laid considering their development was at approximately 5 p.m. on November 12, 2001. 
The coroner testified that the approximate time of M.J.T.'s death was 4:30 p.m. The cause of death was found to be multiple incised stab wounds of the neck and trunk. M.J.T.'s neck had been cut nearly two-thirds of the way around. In total, the victim had sixteen stab wounds, with fourteen on the front of her body and two on her back. Six of the stab wounds were in the area of the heart, while the heart itself was stabbed five times. The wounds to M.J.T.'s heart and back occurred while she was alive, although the stab wounds around her liver and mid-section occurred following death. There were long scrapes along the entire length of the victim's legs, which showed M.J.T. could have been dragged along the ground. Injuries on M.J.T.'s right hand were consistent with defensive wounds, showing that the little girl attempted to protect herself. Although she had been stabbed in the heart, the coroner believed M.J.T. would have survived for some time and would have suffered throughout the attack. 
M.J.T.'s body also showed she had been brutally sodomized while she was alive. Three visible scrapes and blood were visible on her anus. The forcible widening or opening of her anus was approximately three-fourths of an inch in circumference. Her body showed blue bruising around her bottom, which the coroner stated could only occur when blood is pumping and the victim is alive. Semen was found in the victim's anus. An expert forensic analyst matched the semen obtained from a rectal swab of the victim to Reeves' DNA profile. The expert testified the probability of finding the same DNA profile from another Caucasian individual other than Reeves was calculated as 1 in 256 trillion. 
After the state presented its evidence in the guilt phase, the defendant called, as a witness, an expert forensic psychologist, who testified as to his opinions regarding the reliability of the defendant's confession. 
After deliberating, the jury unanimously found that the state had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Reeves committed the first degree murder of M.J.T. After allowing the statutorily-required time period to elapse, the penalty phase of the trial began. 
At the penalty phase, the state introduced Reeves' prior criminal record, which included two juvenile adjudications for simple burglary and two adult convictions for indecent behavior with a juvenile, in 1996 and 1997, respectively. The victim of the 1996 conviction, N.T., testified that when she was 15 years old, the defendant drove her in his truck to a park. He pulled her pants down as she struggled against him. N.T. stopped his assault only when she bit Reeves on the shoulder so hard that he bled. The record of the 1996 conviction shows that Reeves' victim, S.D., was a 7 year old child. 
Further, the state presented testimony from a young girl, W.H., who described her encounter with Reeves on November 8, 2001, four days prior to M.J.T.'s disappearance and murder. W.H. stated that she was 13 years old on that date. She was walking to the office at Moss Bluff Middle School near the end of the school day when Reeves, walking past her in the opposite direction, grabbed her bottom. She ran quickly to the school's office to get help. 
The state also presented the testimony of Detectives Zaunbrecher and Primeaux of the CPSO. Both detectives testified that on December 10, 2001, Reeves had stated, in their presence, that he would not serve life in prison. While making a slitting motion across his neck, Reeves told the detectives that he would make them wish they had given him the death penalty if he did not get it. Reeves stated, "What are they gonna do, give me the—give me life in prison twice?" Further, Deputy Mandy Taggert, a CPSO transportation deputy, testified that Reeves told her that if he got out of jail, he would find another child and would kill again. Deputy Taggert stated that Reeves then began smiling and laughing after making that statement. 
The defense presented testimony from an expert in forensic psychology who asserted that Reeves suffers from major depression and mixed personality disorder, with borderline and anti-social personality traits. The defense expert testified that Reeves exhibits signs of dissociative amnesia stemming from chronic post traumatic stress disorder. The expert claimed that Reeves developed these disorders after witnessing his sister's death and being sexually assaulted as a young boy. Additionally, another defense expert determined that Reeves has an aggressive attitude and is prone to verbal and physical aggression. That defense expert testified, further, that the defendant also exhibits emotional instability, volatile interpersonal relationships, anger, mood swings and impulsivity. The defense expert did not find Reeves to be psychotic, schizophrenic, delusional or prone to hallucinations, or otherwise suffering from a mental illness. 
The state's forensic psychology expert countered that, from a psychiatric or psychological standpoint, he did not see a causative trigger which resulted in Reeves' criminal behavior. He did not feel that Reeves' actions in raping and murdering M.J.T. were a result of a post traumatic stress disorder. Rather, the state expert asserted that Reeves possessed the ability to discern and appreciate right from wrong. The state expert also discounted the defense expert's diagnosis of dissociative amnesia. According to the state expert, dissociative amnesia relates back to the traumatic events occurring previously in a person's life rather than to current memory lapses. 
After deliberation, the jury unanimously recommended that Reeves be sentenced to death, finding the victim was under 12 years old; the murder was committed during the perpetration or attempted perpetration of an aggravated rape; and the offense was committed in an especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner. After denying post-verdict motions, the trial court formally sentenced the defendant to death on December 10, 2004.
LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — A new execution date has yet to be set for a former Ragley man convicted of raping and killing a 4-year-old girl in 2001. 
Convicted in 2004 of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Mary Jean Thigpen, Jason Reeves was scheduled to be put to death on Wednesday. 
Reeves' death warrant was signed on May 31 and any post-conviction relief was to be filed within 30 days. Judge Mike Canaday said there was a change in Reeves' counsel, and the state received a call in June from his attorneys requesting more time to file. ... 
Reeves now has until Sept. 11 to file for post-conviction relief.
I stand mute.