Thursday, March 03, 2011

Crime stories that bother me.

I like to watch crime shows. I don't mean shows like CSI or Law & Order, though I do like both of those! What I mean is the documentary shows detailing certain crimes like 48 Hours or Forensic Files and so forth.

As a young reader, Agatha Christie books were my favorites. I've always been drawn to mysteries, which is kind of funny if you knew me. I don't strike you as a mystery kind of girl, but I am. Columbo is my favorite TV character just about ever. I know I digress, but I was just trying to illustrate how this has always been an interest for me.

So there are a couple of cases that bother me and both for various reasons. Since I cannot sleep tonight (a neighbor's dog woke me and now I'm up for good, I guess) I thought I'd write about them.

The first one is, in my opinion, tragic. I always have trouble remembering the names here, which is strange. I think it must be a mental block because it is just so upsetting to me. It is the story of Ryan Ferguson and Chuck Erickson. 48 Hours did a story on them titled "Dream Killer" which was originally aired in 2006 and last updated April 2008.

For the present, if you follow the link, you can view the story yourself. I highly recommend it. Because of this I won't get into the nitty gritty details, but I will say that I believe poor Ryan Ferguson has been wrongly convicted and I sincerely hope that one day the truth will set him free.

Before I go on, let me first say how we should be respectful of the victim's family. The victim, Kent Heitholt, was a highly respected sports writer, animal lover and supporter, husband and father. It is a tragic and conflicting situation for all, but never let us lose sight of the fact that there is a murder victim here and this is not only about Ryan's tragedy. 

That is not to say that I do not have some skepticism too. Like most documentaries and news shows, they tend to slant content and are most of the time untrustworthy. One obvious clue that this was done in this show is that they did not pursue the reason behind why some of Ryan's previous supporters suddenly changed their minds. For example a local newspaper reporter (the victim's associate also) said he didn't believe Ryan killed the man, but then toward the end did a total flip-flop and there was no reason as to why. Was there some evidence or testimony that was "artistically" edited out of the show? Something is not right with that show. Either way, IF we have heard the major evidence and IF all is on the up and up, then Ryan should not be in prison today. It is very, VERY sad.

The second one is distressing for a different reason and I will outline the major problems here. Like the other one though, I believe that something is missing in the show. This one is another 48 Hours episode titled "A Case for Murder" (also viewable online). Police clearly botched the case from the moment they arrived. The victim is Hugues De La Plaza and his name is pronounced "Oog" (French); the letter "o" being pronounced as in moo. He had dual citizenship with both France and the US, and was murdered in San Francisco.

I'm not going to keep you in suspense for the remainder of the post as they do when you watch it (like I can't just jump up and go Google his name in seconds) but for now, the murder is unsolved. In a matter of a few short hours the police zeroed in on it being a suicide, then continued with that type of tunnel vision throughout the remainder of the investigation, which is simply laughable as well as a waste of time, money and resources.

Furthermore, the medical examiner needs to step down. She clearly spends more time defending herself than actually explaining how she concluded that the death was "undetermined." It seems pretty clear that it is definitely murder (two other police agencies agree, more on that later) and you don't need a medical degree (I'm a nurse though if that helps) to come to that conclusion.

Let's outline the facts here, so that you can understand my problem with it. Remember, these are facts and not opinions:
  • There was blood located on the steps and blood spatter on the wall leading to the entrance of Hugues' apartment building.
  • There was blood smeared all over the building's inside hallway which lead to Hugues' apartment.
  • There was blood literally all over Hugues' apartment from the living room to the kitchen.
  • The watch Hugues was known to wear had been torn off his arm and was laying on the floor.
  • Two knives were in the kitchen and there was absolutely zero blood evidence found on them.
How could this possibly be a suicide? Why would (or more importantly how could) a man stab himself multiple times, then clean the weapon so well that there would be no blood evidence whatsoever on the knife? Why would he clean the knife and leave blood everywhere else? Why would he walk around from inside the house to outside or vice versa? How could his watch be torn off during a suicide attempt? The whole thing is just so incredibly preposterous that I can scarcely believe, for even a second, that anyone thought for a fleeting moment that it was suicide!

There are a couple of other known facts too, and one is definitely puzzling:
  • Hugues footprints are the only shoe prints found in the massive amounts of blood.
  • There were no drugs found in Hugues' system at all.
The puzzling issue is the first one. This is the primary reason, I believe, that the police went with the suicide theory. Though puzzling indeed, it seems pretty clear that it was not suicide. The fact that there were no drugs also discredits the opinion that it was a drug deal gone bad, which the police also believed.

The distressed family managed to get French authorities in on the investigation (again, watch the show to find out how). They found unknown DNA on his watch (as in his defending himself) and ruled it a homicide. The SFPD even asked LA police to do an independent investigation (which is probably the only thing they did right) and guess what? They also ruled it a homicide. Now ask me if his death is still ruled "undetermined". It is! I will remind you to re-read my comments above on the medical examiner.

I believe that the police officer who investigated the murder is not telling the full truth. When I hear the words, "I cannot recall" or "I don't recall" when describing incidents that he was accused of, then I immediately see red flags. When someone accuses you of saying something or doing something, which you never did, you say, "absolutely not" never "I don't recall doing/saying that."

Here are the actual sequence of events and this is important because it contradicts what he is telling everyone:
  1. He questions neighbors, asking if they believe Hugues was capable of suicide; they all emphatically say no.
  2. He "leads" Hugues' girlfriend into stating that suicide was possible, even if she didn't believe it to be true.
  3. He tells the medical examiner that the first person who brought up suicide was the girlfriend.
  4. He tells 48 Hours that he doesn't recall leading the girlfriend into stating that it may be suicide.
You see the problem there, right? He lied to the medical examiner because he questioned neighbors before he questioned the girlfriend and there were several neighbors who state this, not just one or two. So why would we believe #4 when he lied during #3?

In any case, I can only hope that this becomes a clear message on investigative techniques and what not to do. It is a shame that Hugues' family and friends are left in limbo, not knowing who the killer actually was since leads were ignored.

Which now brings me to my final thought on this case. Earlier I brought up my suspicion on how 48 Hours handled this story. The DNA evidence that the French authorities found was never mentioned again. Why? What happened with that DNA sample? Did it not match any known person(s)? Were they unable to get a good sample and were only able to rule out Hugues' blood? I don't know because 48 Hours never said, which makes me wonder if it matched someone Hugues knows so was useless, meaning that they slanted the story.

Keep an eye on this post because if I come across any more stories that bother me as these do, I'll post updates here. Also if any new evidence, that I'm aware of, pops up, I'll update here as well.

1 comment:

Lynn Swayze said...

I love you. Haha. More comments to come shortly.