Just as the 2:58 AM time hangs like the sword of Damocles over the heads of those who manufactured evidence against Preston Hughes, so does Preston's signature on the first confession threaten his life to this day. Why did Preston sign that confession if he did not kill Shandra just as the confession said?
The HPD acknowledged that the confession was false, at least in detail. They did, after all, prepare a second confession that differed materially from the first, and they did manage to secure Preston's signature on that second confession as well. The HPD thereby conceded that in at least one instance Preston signed a confession known to be false. As far as I know, they offered no explanation why Preston would sign a confession if it was false. They conceded only that he did.
Preston Hughes claims to this day that he signed the first confession, and the second, because the HPD threatened life and limb. He claims that he signed the first confession because Sgt. Gafford brandished his weapon, slapped him, and punched him in the chest.
While I have little doubt that Sgt. Gafford may have presented himself (at least part of the time) as an imposing and intimidating figure, I'm skeptical of the details provided by Preston. Even if Preston was slapped in the face and once punched in the chest, and even if Preston was given a good look at Sgt. Gafford's handgun, I doubt that is why Preston signed the confession.
Basically, I don't believe any of them. There are very few people involved in this case that I will take at their word.
Despite all the lying and obfuscation, I think I know why Preston signed that confession.
I'm pretty sure I know.
Actually, I'm confident I know.
Actually, I'm so confident that I hereby claim I will prove, in this very post, that I am right.
It's a bold claim, so settle in, buckle up, and get ready for The Big Why.
Preston Hughes signed his first confession because Sgt. Dennis Gafford of the Houston Police Department convinced Preston he would soon be free to go if he signed the confession.
I will leave discussion of how Sgt. Dennis Gafford so deceived suspect Preston Hughes for my next post, which I will entitle The Big How. With the remainder of this post, I will simply prove that I am right. It shouldn't take very long.
As proof, I point to Preston's actions immediately after he signed the confession, as told by Sgt. Gafford.
The suspect was left sitting in this interview room and as Sgt. Gafford was leaving the room, the suspect asked if he us [sic] the telephone to call his boss. Sgt. brought a phone into the room and the suspect called his boss.
Preston's biggest concern at that point was not that he would be put away for life, perhaps even executed. We know that because he asked for neither an attorney nor a priest.
Nor was Preston's biggest concern that his mother might be devastated by the news he had confessed to murder. He would attempt to call his mother that day, but not right then, not right after he signed the confession.
The first act Preston Hughes took after signing the first confession was to call his boss. Preston wanted to let his boss know that he would miss work that day, but that he would be in the next.
The astute and persistent among you might point out that I cannot infer such detail from Sgt. Gafford's report. I concede that point. I will therefore cheat a bit by referring to some trial testimony not yet available to you. I'll be discreet. I'll refer to only a single question to, and a single answer from Bill Lillico, Preston's supervisor at Montgomery Wards shipping and receiving. Note that this testimony was unwittingly solicited by the prosecutor. It was not wittingly solicited by the defense, as it should have been.
Q. Did he tell you why he had been picked up?
A. He did not say why, he just said he had been picked up by the police and that he would probably be able to be in to work the next day.