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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Anonymous said...

My question is, "What did he officially sign for both?"


tsj said...

You managed to avoid the question of whether you believe the confession to be true or false.

I assure you I will open the discussion to possible motivations soon. First, however, I remain interested in whether readers believe the confession is true or false, and their reasons for so believing.

Anonymous said...

No, because if he signed a statement that says, "I killed shandra with a knife" and the second one is "Hey I killed Shandra and Marcel with a knife" those are his confessions and the legally bound ones. If they said I went to disneyworld then it's different.


tsj said...

You still decline to answer the question; you merely rephrase a portion of each confession.

I concede that Preston said he killed Shandra with a knife. Actually, Preston said he killed Shandra with a specific knife that could be found in a specific location. That knife, however, has a single-edge blade 1" wide. That knife, therefore, could not have inflicted the neck wounds suffered by Shandra and Marcell.

Clearly I believe at least that portion of Preston's confession is false, and I provide my reasoning.

I ask only that you state whether you believe the confession, or any critical portion of the confession, to be true or false, and to support your position.

It's the kind of discussion and clarity that would be helpful during a jury deliberation.

Anonymous said...

If this guy had come off the streets and said "put me in jail for killing them and here is what happened" then yes the confession would be false. But he acted stupidly in signing that confession. If the police wanted to be 100% ertain they should haave beaten him and told him to confess to one stabbing each.


Anonymous said...

From the jury's perspective they wouldn't have had any insight about the knife being the right or wrong weapon. The defense failed to find a qualified person to refute the me. So all the jury would have looked at was, "did Preston have a reason to lie about the exact details" and they could say yes.


Unknown said...

I cannot have faith in any confession that was not video taped or at least audio taped. I know that it is too easy for an expert interrogator to get an innocent man to admit guilt. It happen all the time.

Therefore - False confession.

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