A Detective’s Most Interesting Case – The Conclusion

If you’ve missed part I and II of this series, you can find them here and here.

Carl Lamberth is rejoining us for the exciting conclusion to his most interesting homicide case. When we left off, Carl had a suspect who failed a polygraph, specifically the following three questions:

  • Were you present during the murder of this woman?
  • Did you participate in the murder of this woman?
  • Did you kill this woman?

What happened next? Let’s find out.

polygraph

The polygraph examiner felt comfortable in his assessment that this inmate had direct involvement in the crime.

If you know anything about criminal polygraph tests, you know the actual test is only half the procedure when a person is caught lying. Next comes the interrogation and hopefully, the confession.

The polygraph examiner and I went back into the room. For the next hour we interrogated the inmate. This interrogation still ranks as one of the most intense grilling of a suspect I’ve ever been involved in as a police officer.

The inmate finally broke and confessed he was, in fact, the one who went into the house that night and killed the elderly woman. He said he had concocted the idea to pin the murder on someone else–a known acquaintance of his who he was feuding with–to get his pending charges dropped and not have to face more prison time. He planned to use the reward money for him and his wife, who was waiting in anticipation for his release.

Since it was Easter weekend, he assumed no one was home that night. There was no car in the driveway.

Note: the week before Easter, the city street department was re-curbing and adding sidewalks along this woman’s street. Fresh cement was poured in front of her house on Thursday and the driveway to her house was barricaded off for the weekend to allow the cement to dry. Therefore, she could not park in her driveway. She parked in her neighbor’s driveway.

THE CONFESSION:

Sometime after midnight early Easter morning he arrived at the house. The house was completely dark – no lights and no cars in the driveway or carport. He found the back door unlocked and entered the residence. He wore dishwashing gloves so he wouldn’t leave any fingerprints.

Searching through the kitchen and den, he heard a noise, a woman’s voice coming from the hallway. He quietly went back to the kitchen and found a large kitchen knife in the dish drainer rack, then made his way to the hallway and confronted the elderly woman, who was now halfway up the hall.

She screamed, spun, and bolted. He pursued her, catching up with her in her bedroom.

He stabbed her once in the back. She fell to her knees. However, she regained her footing and fled past him, back up the hallway.

He gave chase.

As she hung a right toward the front door she fell again. She rose to her feet and sprinted toward the front door.

He caught up, stabbing her two more times in the back as she clawed at the interior side of the front door, trying to unlock the deadbolt.

She collapsed on her stomach directly in front of the front door.

Grabbing the woman by her ankles, he pulled her away from the door and flipped her onto her back. She was gasping, reaching for him.

He knelt beside her and stabbed several more times–he could not remember the number, but it was 5 times according to the autopsy report–until she quit gasping and moving. Even though she was dead, her eyes remained open, which “freaked him out”.

Knife in hand, he escaped out the back door. He said he never meant to kill her, but that he panicked when she screamed.

He drove out to the local lake and threw the knife in the water. Later, he showed us where. But when a police dive team searched the lake, they were unsuccessful. Either he was wrong about where he threw it, or he lied about what he did with it.

The inmate was charged with First Degree Murder. A trial date was set.

He pled not guilty and recanted his confession.

During the trial, all our evidence, including his signed confession, was entered into evidence. I was on the witness stand one full day, primarily being drilled by his defense team, who said I and the polygraph examiner had coerced the confession.

The trial lasted a little over a week before being handed over to the jury. At the end of two days, the jury advised the judge they were hopelessly deadlocked 8 to 4. Eight guilty votes to four innocent votes.

Due to a hung jury, the judge declared a mistrial. The District Attorney’s office stated they would re-try the case.

Meanwhile, my SBI partner and I were contacted by an assistant prosecutor. Some of the seated jurors were willing to discuss the case.

I remember speaking with one of the jurors who voted innocent. He said, “I felt like the suspect was guilty from the beginning, but I wanted to see some physical evidence that connected him to the crime scene – like fingerprints.”

I asked, “Do you recall my testimony when I stated the suspect said he wore dishwashing gloves?”

“Yes, but I still wish you could have found some anyway.”

Go figure!

One day I received a phone call from the DA’s office to come by their office.

Upon arrival, I was advised the suspect, through his attorney, was willing to accept a plea bargain to Second Degree Murder, with the possibility of parole. Second Degree Murder carries up to 40 years in North Carolina.

I was advised they were going to make the deal.

I wasn’t happy with their decision, but what could I do? I learned long ago once a criminal case goes to the Judicial System my job is done, other than testifying in court, if necessary.

The suspect pled guilty in Superior Court to Second Degree Murder and received a sentence of 25 years with parole possibilities. In my mind, not nearly enough prison time for the crime he committed. But my job was done; it was time to move on to the next investigation.

He ended up serving 23 years. He was released in 2010 – 3 years after I retired from law enforcement.

http://www.suecoletta.comTheDevil'sSin [514130]

I investigated many homicide cases during my 12 years or so in our Criminal Investigation Unit. Later, I was promoted to Sergeant and supervised the Major Crimes Unit for 6 years or so.

Remember the earlier case I mentioned with the scissors in the chest?

I supervised that case and worked with another investigator to help solve the murder. The case was tried as a Capital murder case. The suspect was convicted and given the death penalty. In 2001, the suspect was executed by lethal injection.

Sometimes justice is served.

I was also fortunate enough to be involved with another investigator on a rape investigation where DNA evidence was used to convict a repeat rapist. It was the first case in North Carolina to actually go to trial and DNA evidence was used in the defendant’s conviction.

All these cases were interesting, but none topped the Easter weekend murder investigation I worked for so many months. All together we put over 9 months of “pounding the pavement” into this investigation before the case was finally “cracked.” The time spent was well worth it and although I wasn’t completely satisfied with the ending – I’ll take it!

I saw a lot of horrible crimes in my career. But in the same context I found these crimes interesting and exciting to investigate, and I was glad to be involved in the process.

I guess my mentor sums it up best:

“I know, my dear Watson, that you share my love of all that is bizarre and outside the conventions and humdrum routine of everyday life.” ~ Sherlock Holmes “The Reigate Puzzle”

 

http://www.suecoletta.comConnect with Carl on Twitter @CarltonLamberth

BUY LINKS:

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http://clublighthousepublishing.com/productpage.asp?bNumb=370

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http://www.amazon.com/Carlton-Lamberth/e/B00NP0M6T0/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1439351560&sr=1-2-ent

Thank you, Carl!

Looking for a way to commit (fictional) murder? Go here for a taste of my “50 60 Ways To Murder Your Fictional Characters” and receive your FREE copy.

A Look Into A Detective’s Most Interesting “On Call” Homicide Case

I have a special guest for you today. Carl Lamberth spent 30 years of his life writing….not novels – police reports!

During his time as a police officer he wrote every kind of police report there is. From simple traffic crash reports as a young uniform officer in the Patrol Division to the more complex and detailed homicide and other major crime investigative reports during his almost 12 years as a plain clothes investigator in the Criminal Investigations Division.

Over to you, Carl…

http://www.suecoletta.com

My career in law enforcement began in 1977.  Right out of college I was hired by my hometown police department. I retired in 2007 with 30 years of work experience in many areas within this police department. When I started writing novels I decided to incorporate my experiences in police work into my stories. Each novel has a crime drama element to it. My second novel in particular has a detective element to it as the story evolves.

Like all new cops, I started as a rookie officer in the Uniform Patrol Division of the department…a street cop. By the mid 1980’s I was promoted and transferred to the plain clothes Criminal Investigation Division assigned to the Major Crimes Unit.

As a detective (or Criminal Investigator – which was the department’s title for officers in this unit), I was assigned to work major crimes, which included burglaries, robberies, rapes, serious assaults, and murders.

Although the normal assigned working hours for Criminal Investigators was between 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday; as would be expected assigned criminal cases for investigation would require at times unusual and long hours in order to track down and locate victims, witnesses, or suspects.  Also, as part of our work assignment, investigators were each placed on an “on-call” schedule for a week at a time, subject to being called out after hours to investigate any major crimes occurring in the city during non-office hours.

TheDevil'sSin [514130]

I will never forget my first call out. 

On a wintry night, the second day of my on-call week around 3:00 AM, I was awakened by the phone ringing. Dispatch advised me to respond to a crime scene where a garbage dumpster behind a store was on fire.

The body of an unknown male was found inside the dumpster burned beyond identification. This discovery was made after the fire was extinguished by the fire department.

Not having a lot of arson experience, I contacted the State Bureau of Investigation for assistance and one of their arson investigators responded to assist in the crime scene.  That night, I heard the term “crispy critter” for the first time; SBI agent’s slang name for this unknown victim.

One thing I learned as a cop is that all police officers develop a warped sense of humor. This twisted wit serves as a kind of emotional defense mechanism to help deal with the constant tragedy and violence most cops see on a routine basis. This humor may pop up at any time to help cope with a horrific situation or scene.

The only time you will not see this joking around is when children are involved.

To make a long story short, there was no foul play involved in the burning body found in the dumpster. The victim was a homeless person who accidentally set himself on fire while smoking in the dumpster he used for shelter. More than likely he was smoking a cigarette and fell asleep, or passed out from alcohol use. The cigarette set him and the trash he was using for warmth ablaze.

As the SBI agent put it, “Smoking in bed can be dangerous!”

However, my most interesting “on-call” response came on an Easter Sunday afternoon.  I was called out to a homicide scene of an elderly woman found murdered in her house. When the victim didn’t show for sunrise church service, her best friend who lived one street over checked on her.

She found the back door unlocked. Upon entering the house, she discovered her friend lying dead in the living room–stabbed numerous times.

I arrived to a scene of numerous uniform officers who had secured the residence. When my supervisor and our unit’s crime scene technician arrived, an initial check and survey of the residence was made.

I observed a complete–and I do mean complete–and total ransacking of the house. All cabinet drawers were standing open, furniture turned over and moved, closet doors were opened, etc.

The unknown suspect or suspects were obviously looking for something.

The victim was lying supine in a rather large pool of blood near the front door, in the foyer/front entrance way. The front door was locked. There was blood spattering along the walls of the long L-shaped hallway, which led from the living room area to the bedrooms. Small amounts of blood were also noted in the victim’s master bedroom, on the carpet and one wall.

We decided to request the assistance of the State Bureau of Investigation mobile crime lab to assist in the crime scene investigation. Upon arrival, the SBI crime scene technician made the decision to ask for additional crime scene help from the main crime lab in Raleigh, NC.

A major crime scene analysis was undertaken in hopes of finding any and all physical evidence. The crime scene investigation would take several days on site to complete.

Keep in mind, this was back before DNA evidence had become a tool for law enforcement. Our biggest hope was to find latent fingerprint evidence or other trace evidence left by the suspect or suspects.

As it turned out, most latent print evidence would be accounted for as belonging to the victim, or people who had legitimate access to the residence. All blood evidence was typed as the victim’s. Physical evidence would not lead to the identity of the murderer or murderers.

The autopsy report revealed the woman had been stabbed 8 times with a large knife, estimated to be 7 to 8 inches long and at least 1 inch in width.

http://www.suecoletta.com

Similar knife used in the homicide.

She was stabbed 3 times in the back and 5 times in the front chest area, several stab wounds penetrating the heart.

Based on the on-scene Luminol testing for blood, a scenario was developed as to what probably happened that night.

The first stab wound occurred in the victim’s bedroom, probably as the victim attempted to exit the room, escape her assailant.

She ran up the hallway and hung a right toward the front door, where she apparently fell to the floor, transferring a small amount of blood onto the carpet and receiving a carpet burn on her left knee. She got up and made her way to the front door when her assailant caught up to her, stabbing her two more times in the back.

She fell to the floor, on her back. Her attacker then stabbed her 5 times in the chest; a very gruesome end to a sweet lady on Easter Sunday.

Note: During our search of the residence we did observe a dress the victim planned to wear to church on Easter morning. Neatly laid out on the bed in the guest bedroom, she would instead be buried in the dress.

Our investigation would reveal street rumor beliefs that this woman kept a large amount of money in a home safe; money she obtained through the previous sale of a local community grocery store after her husband died.

In truth, however, although the woman was somewhat wealthy and lived in one of the nicer homes in the neighborhood (which had slowly deteriorated through time into a lower economic community), she did not have a safe, nor keep large amounts of cash at home.

A motive of possible robbery was established.

The victim had a grown son who still lived at home. He had a criminal record for various drug related offenses and was rumored to be hooked on cocaine (powder cocaine was prevalent back in those days as the drug of choice). Obviously, he became our first suspect. However, it would be determined he had an ironclad alibi for the time of his mother’s murder.

Our attention then turned to known drug associates of the son. Nothing concrete could be developed on any of them. We were back to square one.

One thing I learned about murders is there are basically two types: the “smoking gun” type, which means a known suspect is developed if not immediately at least within the first 48 hours due to witnesses or other facts. The second is the “who-done-it” type in which no immediate suspect is known or developed within the first 48 hour period.

This case definitely fell into the “who-done-it” category.

Two months into the investigation we still had no suspect or suspects. However, we would soon believe our luck had changed with a development in another murder case…

Would this be the break we were looking for?

Stay tuned for part II.

http://www.suecoletta.comI’ve always been a dreamer. Retirement life has given me a lot more time on my hands….more time to dream.

To quote someone who knows a thing or two:  “Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.” – Napoleon Hill.

I didn’t give up and here I am – a published writer!

And I’m writing again…but not police reports – novels!

Connect with Carl on Twitter @CarltonLamberth

BUY LINKS:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-devils-sin-carlton-lamberth/1122413864?ean=2940150998582

http://clublighthousepublishing.com/productpage.asp?bNumb=370

http://clublighthousepublishing.com/productpage.asp?bNumb=390

http://www.amazon.com/Carlton-Lamberth/e/B00NP0M6T0/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1439351560&sr=1-2-ent