- Politics and Social Issues»
- Crime & Law Enforcement
10 Unlikely Evidence That Helped in Convictions
If you really think you can get away with murder, then think again. Forensic science has rapidly evolved from early cases like that of Colin Pitchfork, where they only relied on DNA fingerprinting evidence and mass DNA screening, to the use of very sophisticated technologies in solving murders.
Most killers go to extreme lengths to cover their tracks and feel they have silenced their victims forever. However, most of the time, their victims continue to speak to investigators even after death. They do this using evidence. Below are some cold-blooded killers who thought they had covered their tracks to the best of their abilities but were ultimately convicted with the most unlikely of evidence
10) Carlos Robinson was Convicted With the Help of Hamburger Buns
Hamburger buns are very tasty and most people enjoy eating them. However, do you know hamburger buns actually helped in the conviction of a cold-hearted killer, Carlos Robinson.
Carlos Robinson was so heartless that he sexually assaulted and murdered Christina Sanoubane (his new neighbour who had just moved away from her abusive boyfriend) in the presence of her two-year-old son and then left the innocent child to sit in the bloody crime scene.
Interestingly, Carlos Robinson was the one who made the 911 call after another neighbour happened to find the body of Christina Sanoubane and went ahead to alert him. Bare footprints in blood left at the scene made detectives suspect the killer probably lived close by because people generally don't run around barefoot as a matter of course.
Carlos Robinson left hamburger buns on the floor of the crime scene after he had used the bag that the hamburger buns were in to conceal his murder weapon. After he had willingly provided a routine statement to police, he surprisingly went on his knees and began praying after the police had left the room.
He was however convicted when his footprint matched the footprint in a hamburger bun next to Christina's body. In his haste to collect the physical evidence which he thought might be damning, he left his footprint in one of the hamburger buns.
9) Jeremie Overstreet was Convicted With the Help of a Button
Julie Braun was stabbed more than thirty times by her neighbour, Jeremie Overstreet. After killing Julie, Overstreet pushed Julie aside with his shoe as if she was just a piece of meat. That just goes to show how cold-hearted he was.
At the time, he lived with an exotic dancer named Holly Doyle, whom he had met at the strip club. Doyle brought him home because she said she found him attractive and articulate. Overstreet would later go on to brutally murder his neighbour. In a haunting irony, Julie Braun chose her apartment because of its safety features.
Overstreet had violated the terms of his parole by moving to a new city after he had been incarcerated for a previous rape and was initially arrested for parole violation. When he was initially arrested, he had Julie Braun's business card in his wallet as a trophy.
Julie Braun worked as a consumer loan officer and Overstreet was able to con his way into her apartment with a story about financing a car. Once in her apartment, he ordered her to undress but she refused and there was a fight. During the fight, she ripped a button from his shirt. This button would later serve as key evidence for his conviction.
8) Stella Nickell was Convicted With the Help of an Algaecide Used in Aquariums
Excedrin bottles were investigated by police after Susan Snow died from taking pills poisoned with cyanide.
When news report of Susan Snow's death was broadcast across the United States, one Seattle viewer, Stella Nickell, took more than a passing interest. Stella Nickell told police her husband had taken some Excedrin capsules shortly before he died.
A police officer visited Stella Nickell's home to pick up the bottle of Excedrin capsules her husband had been using. The capsules were later found to be laced with cyanide and her husband's blood tests confirmed he died of cyanide poisoning. When the FBI analyzed the capsule they also found an algaecide (used to kill algae in fish aquariums) mixed in with the cyanide.
One of the detectives recalled an interesting coincidence. When he visited Stella Nickell's home to pick up the Excedrin capsules, he remembered seeing an aquarium prominently displayed in her living room.
She therefore became the main focus of the investigation and it was discovered that she had increased her husband's life insurance shortly before his death. Because the death had to be accidental in order to receive the insurance payout, she poisoned several other bottles, waiting for a second case to occur.
7) Christopher Green and his two Friends Were Convicted With the Help of Mud
Christopher Green and his two accomplices, Brian and Jason, savagely beat two young boys, threw them in a body of water and left them for dead. Luckily, one of the boys was able to free himself out of the water and also pull his unconscious friend to safety. His unconscious friend came very close to not surviving and would have drowned if not for the quick action of his friend.
When the police made their way to the crime scene to collect evidence, they ran into a major obstacle. The crime scene was a body of water and hence all the vital evidence had been washed into the water.
However, a witness came forward saying she saw some boys with a baseball bat and what looked like rolls of duct tapes and gave a detailed description of one of the boys who had approached her for a glass of orange juice.
Based on the description provided, Brian Davis was apprehended which subsequently led to the apprehension of Jason and Christopher Green. In Green's basement, they found a pair of wet muddy sneakers.
A scientist discovered that the species and concentration of diatoms found on the sneakers were the same as that found in the pond where the boys were left to drown thereby linking Green directly to the crime scene. This evidence helped in the conviction Christopher Green and Brian Davis, who were both 16 years old and were tried as adults. Their accomplice, Jason, who was a minor, was sent to a juvenile detention center.
6) Dominique Moss was Convicted With the Help of Grass
The body of a 19-year-old woman, Samantha Forbes, was found on a golf course in the Bahamas. Her throat had been slit and a one dollar bill had been carefully placed on her body. She also appeared to have been sexually assaulted since her clothing, a ring and a used condom were found a few yards away.
Unfortunately, there was a storm on the night Samantha was murdered which complicated the investigation. Potential fingerprints, hair, and clothing fibers were all washed away from Samantha's body in the storm and the rains also removed any biological evidence.
Several eye witnesses said that Samantha had initially left a bar with two sailors and then went to another bar. Once at the other bar, she got into an argument with one of the sailors and her friend Keith Lotmore stepped in to break it up. The sailors left and Lotmore and his friend Dominique Moss joined her for a drink. She later left the bar with both men. Since these two men were the last to see her alive, they became the prime suspects.
When investigators analyzed Lotmore's shoes and socks, they found the same botanical evidence that was found on Samantha's body, which was from the golf course where her body was found. The grass on his shoes was examined by a Forensic Botanist and found to be identical to the grass at the crime scene and hence this tied him to the murder scene.
Lotmore would go ahead to give a full confession of the murder to detectives and further evidence would eventually prove Dominique Moss as the actual perpetrator of the crime.
5) Lorenzo Sanchez was Convicted With the Help of a Music Case
Cally Jo Larson, a 12-year-old girl who adored gymnastics, was stabbed to death in her own home. When police arrived at the crime scene, they saw what appeared to be evidence of a burglary. Cally's school books were near the front door, an indication that she might have surprised the intruder. Some cash, silver certificates and Cally's CD collection of music had been taken from the house.
Her death set a sad precedent for the small town of Waseca-Minnesota, which until then had never had a single homicide. Even though the case appeared to have a lot of evidence initially, all the evidence was linked back to family members and friends. It looked like the case might turn into a cold one.
Soon, there was a rash of home burglaries in Waseca not far from Cally's home. On a routine patrol near the burglaries, a police officer spotted a man walking along the sidewalk. The man was acting suspicious so he stopped him. When he was searched, he had a large screwdriver and a flashlight in his pocket, which were typical burglary tools.
The man was identified as Lorenzo Sanchez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico. In his home, police found stolen properties from several burglaries. In the bottom of his closet, police found two CD cases which were later identified to be identical to those that were stolen from Cally's home during her murder.
4) Ron Gillette was Convicted With the Help of a Laundry Bag
Ron Gillette, an Air Force officer, said he found his wife, Vicki, unconscious in bed with her 3-year-old son. A plastic laundry bag was close to her face and he proposed that his wife might have passed out and the bag might have fallen on her face accidentally thereby suffocating her.
When police delved deeper into the case, they found a lot of inconsistencies. Ron had told police that Vicki had some problems sleeping, so the night before, at her request, he put four sleeping pills into her mixed drink. However, toxicology tests performed during her autopsy estimated she had consumed about sixteen tablets, not the four Ron told them about.
Ron had also shockingly gone ahead to marry another woman just days after he buried Vicky and had brought his new wife after their honeymoon to the same house that Vicki had died two weeks earlier.
They therefore decided to reexamine the laundry bag using super glue fuming test and they saw a facial feature clearly printed on the bag. They devised a test with trash bags which were the same brand as Vicki's laundry bag and made volunteers place their faces on the bags. They pushed from behind their faces into the bags to create face impressions. Six different bags were used and each time they increased the pressure on the subjects' faces. After the sixth test, the volunteers said the pressure was so great they declined to participate further. They took a look at all six bags from the different volunteers, and only one set matched the facial impression on Vicki's laundry bag. It was the last set of bags. The ones where the most pressure had been applied.
This test proved that the image on the laundry bag was a human face, and was created by extreme force, not by accidentally rolling onto it.
3) Oba Chandler was Convicted With the Help of a Handwritten Note
Joan Roger and her two daughters, who were in Florida for vacation, were murdered in the most brutal way possible. They were tied up and had bricks around them and were left to drown. They also had their mouths taped shut and were naked from the waist down.
Although each victim was tied to a 30-pound concrete block, decomposition created gases that lifted both the bodies and concrete blocks to the surface. At the autopsies, the medical examiner discovered the seawater had eliminated crucial forensic evidence. Because the bodies had been submerged in water for a great length of time, hairs, fibers, and fingerprints had been essentially washed away by the water.
When they found Joan Roger's car, they discovered two handwritten notes inside the car. The writing samples were sent to a forensic document examiner for analysis. One of the handwritten notes was discovered to be written by Joan. However, the other was found to have been written by neither Joan nor her two daughters. The police therefore knew finding the person who had written the other note could potentially lead them to the killer.
After most of the leads turned out to be dead ends, the police tried out an unusual tactic. They used five area billboards to display the sample of what they believed was the killer's handwriting.
A woman saw the billboard on the side of a Tampa highway, and she recognized the handwriting. It looked like the handwriting of a contractor she knew, Oba Chandler. She found the handwritten receipt for some work Chandler had done for her and handed it over to police.
Oba Chandler's handwritten receipt was compared to the handwritten note found in Joan Rogers' car and it was a perfect match.
2) Josiah Ward was Convicted With the Help of Gold
Josiah Ward called 911 to report that his 20-year-old girlfriend, Sheila Williams, had shot herself after they had had an argument about her pregnancy.
When Josiah was asked to reenact how Sheila was with the weapon, the police immediately noticed some inconsistencies. He said Sheila had held the gun with her left hand but investigators found out that she was right handed and not familiar with a weapon, so for her to shoot herself with her left hand was quite odd.
Josiah denied there had been any physical altercation. Yet, investigators found that Sheila had a weave that was forcibly pulled out of her hair.
As a matter of routine, crime scene technicians swabbed both Sheila and Josiah's hands after the shooting. Josiah Ward had denied handling the gun. However, when their hands were examined, the gunshot residue on Josiah was found to be greater than Sheila.
Surprisingly, they also found gold particles on Sheila's hands. Investigators were at first puzzled as to where the gold might have come from. However, when they looked again at the photos of Josiah taken on the night of the murder, they realized the shirt he was wearing had gold threading. They compared the gold particles from the shirt to that on Sheila's hands and found that they were identical. It therefore proofed that Josiah had had physical contact with her at the time of the murder which he had flatly denied.
1) Paul Taylor was Convicted With the Help of Pantyhose
40-year-old Kathy Woodhouse was raped and killed at the back of a dry cleaning store. Outside the store, police found a piece of pantyhose which the killer may have used as a disguise.
The police received an anonymous telephone call that they should check out a guy by name Paul Taylor as a possible suspect in the Kathy Woodhouse murder and rape. Taylor had recently been released from Louisiana prison for aggravated sexual assault. It was discovered that he lived just two blocks from where the murder took place.
When police brought him in for questioning, he denied having anything to do with the murder. On a hunch, police asked Taylor if they could search his home. He agreed and under his mattress, police found a pair of pantyhose with one leg missing lying on top of two pornographic magazines.
Police wondered if the piece of pantyhose they found outside the dry cleaning store was cut from the pair found in Taylor's home. The police sent both pieces to a Forensic Microscopist to examine. The Forensic Microscopist found the two pieces to be identical thereby linking Taylor directly to the crime scene.