On February 19, 1985, after a trial that lasted five months, Kevin Cooper was convicted of the June 4, 1983 murders of Doug and Peggy Ryen, their daughter Jessica and family friend, Christopher Hughes. Cooper was also convicted of the attempted murder of the Ryen’s 8-year old son, Josh, who was the sole survivor of the brutal attack. On March 1, 1985, the jury recommended that Cooper be sentenced to death and, on May 15, 1985, after denying post-trial motions filed by Cooper, the judge sentenced Cooper to death. Through his direct appeal and numerous post-conviction claims made in state and federal courts, Cooper has alleged that authorities manipulated and tampered with evidence and that exculpatory evidence was withheld or destroyed. In May, 2001, the parties agreed to limited DNA testing of evidence Cooper’s expert identified as crucial to the question of guilt, or innocence. When the DNA results did not exonerate him, Cooper and his attorneys claimed that authorities in San Bernardino County planted evidence to frame him. On the eve of his scheduled execution on February 10, 2004, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Cooper’s execution to permit him to return to federal district court to develop his tampering claims and to perform additional testing. Join Lisa O’Brien and Michael Carnahan on July 17, 2018, at 8:00 p.m. Central, for a discussion of Cooper’s post-conviction claims, the results of testing and the status of his case.
On June 2, 1983, Kevin Cooper escaped from the Chino Institution for Men (CIM) in Chino, California. Cooper, who had a long history of escape from prison facilities and mental hospitals, was using the alias “David Trautman” and prison officials were unaware of his true identity. While hiding in a vacant house in the Chino Hills area, Cooper tried and failed to get money from two girlfriends so that he could leave the area. During the night of June 4, or early on the morning of June 5, Cooper entered the home of Doug and Peggy Ryen through a sliding door leading into the master bedroom. By the time Cooper left the Ryen house, Doug, Peggy, their daughter Jessica and family friend Christopher Hughes were dead. Josh Ryen, the Ryens’ 8-year old son, was the only survivor. Cooper stole the Ryen family’s station wagon and made his way to Long Beach, California, where he abandoned the car and headed to Tijuana, Mexico. Cooper, using the alias “Angel Jackson,” got a job on a boat and returned to California. On July 30, 1983, while in Santa Barbara, California, Cooper raped a 26-year old woman at knifepoint and attempted yet another escape when authorities tried to arrest him. Authorities in Santa Barbara soon discovered his true identity and he was returned to San Bernardino County, California to face charges related to the Ryen murders and his escape from CIM. Join Lisa O’Brien and Michael Carnahan for a discussion of the evidence against Cooper and his claims of evidence manipulation and tampering.
In 1999, Alstory Simon pled guilty to a crime he didn’t commit. His plea came about after a private investigator and a Northwestern journalism professor and his students investigating a 1983 double murder case in Chicago decided that Simon was the “real killer” and fabricated evidence that led Simon’s coerced and false confession. The killer, Anthony Porter, was released from prison as a result of their investigation. Not satisfied with freeing Porter, the investigator, professor and students gave false testimony to two grand juries convened in the case. Simon was indicted by the second grand jury, based on the false testimony offered by Porter’s advocates. Simon spent the next 15 years challenging his plea. He was released in 2014. Join Lisa O’Brien and Michael Carnahan on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, at 8:00 p.m. CDT, for an interview with Martin Preib, a Chicago police officer and the author of Crooked City, whose work on the documentary Murder in the Park helped free Simon from prison and William Crawford, a former reporter, writer and legal affairs columnist for the Chicago Tribune and the author of Justice Perverted: How The Innocence Project at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism Sent an Innocent Man to Prison.
About Martin Preib:
Mr. Preib was born in Chicago and lived much of his life outside Detroit. He worked as a small town journalist, a union reformer in Chicago, and spent ten years as a doorman–all before becoming a cop. The Wagon And Other Stories From the City, published by the University of Chicago Press, was his first nationally published work. His second book, Crooked City, about the wrongful conviction movement and the Anthony Porter case, which played a pivotal role in the release of Alstory Simon from prison in 2014. His third book, Burn Patterns, argues that a man convicted of a 1987 arson that killed seven people should not have been released from prison.
Mr. Preib was elected Second Vice President of the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago in 2017, largely because of his work exposing misconduct in the movement to exonerate convicted criminals.
About William B. Crawford:
Mr. Crawford graduated from the University of Chicago, with a B.A. in Ancient History in 1963. He was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune for 24 years, winning virtually all major awards including a Pulitzer. During his time there, he held three positions: investigative reporting, covering the federal courts and covering global futures markets, with each assignment lasting about eight years in duration.
Justice Perverted: How The Innocence Project at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism Sent an Innocent Man to Prison, published by Amika Press, a small but classy publishing house in Chicago, was released in June of 2015 and led directly to the freedom of Alstory Simon from state prison after he had served 15 of an original 37-year prison sentence for a double homicide that he did not commit. In turn, the true triggerman, Anthony Porter, who had been arrested, tried and convicted of the 1982 crime, was freed from death row in 1999.
Mr. Crawford lives with his wife and son in a western Chicago suburb. Since retiring, he spends time freelancing, creating content for web sites, and other writing projects.
On July 31, 2009, Mohammed Shihadeh contacted Florida police to report a murder-for-hire plot. During an interview with the Boynton Beach Police Department, Shihadeh advised detectives that a woman he knew only as “Delilah” was trying to find a hitman to kill her husband of six months. On August 1, 2009, Shihadeh, while wearing a wire and with a video camera hidden in his car, met with Dalia Dippolito in the parking lot of a Mobil gas station in Boynton Beach, Florida. After a 6-day investigation, on August 5, 2009, Dalia Dippolito was arrested and charged with solicitation to commit first degree murder. In spite of the audio and video evidence collected during the investigation, Dippolito’s legal team claimed that she was acting and had no intent to murder her husband. Join us Michael Carnahan and Lisa O’Brien for a discussion of the evidence against Dippolito, her improbable defense to the charges and the twists and turns the case took, while she spent 8 years on house arrest.
On June 9, 2008, friends discovered the body of Travis Alexander in his shower at his home in Mesa, Arizona. They immediately suspected Jodi Arias, an ex-girlfriend. Initially, Arias seemed to have an ironclad alibi based on her trip to Utah from her home in Yreka, California on the day of the murder. Once evidence at the crime scene linked her to the murder, Arias told admitting to being present, but blamed the murder on masked intruders, who mysteriously let her leave unscathed. While in jail awaiting extradition and later while she awaited trial, she scheduled interviews with the media, appearing on Inside Edition and 48 Hours. She was convicted of first-degree, premeditated murder in May, 2013 and eventually sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in April, 2015. Join Michael Carnahan and Lisa O’Brien on June 12, 2018, at 8:00 p.m. CDT, for a discussion of the case against Arias, including her changing stories, her unsuccessful attempts to create an alibi and the protracted saga of her trials.
On December 8, 1998, Melissa Trotter disappeared from the campus of Montgomery College in Conroe, Texas. Several witnesses saw her with Swearingen prior to her disappearance and a professor saw her leaving the campus with a man at 1:30 p.m. Melissa’s car was found in the parking lot early on the morning of December 9, 1998, indicating that she hadn’t returned to campus. On January 2, 1999, her body was found in the forest of Sam Houston National Park. After Swearingen was charged with the murder, he did little to help himself by having a cellmate copy a letter written in poorly worded Spanish that gave details of the crime. Join Michael Carnahan and Lisa O’Brien on Tuesday, May 8, 2018, at 8:00 p.m. CDT, for a discussion of the evidence against Swearingen, information not included in the media reports about the case and the strange twist taken in his case days before he was scheduled to be executed in 2017.
On May 6, 1993, the bodies of Michael Moore, Steve Branch and Christopher Byers were found in a ditch located in a wooded area in their subdivision known as Robin Hood Hills. All three boys had been reported missing by their parents on the evening of May 5, 1993. During the weeks that followed, the West Memphis Police Department received tips about several suspects, including multiple tips implicating Damien Echols, a local teenager who was known to brag about his occult practices, including blood drinking and graduation to human sacrifice. On June 3, 1993, detectives decided to question Jessie Miskelley, a 17-year old who was associated with Echols. After less than five hours of questioning, Miskelley gave a statement that implicated himself, Echols and another teenager, Jason Baldwin in the murders. Four months before a hearing to determine whether the three would be granted new trials based on claims of exculpatory evidence, attorneys for Echols came up with a novel legal maneuver to secure their clients’ release from prison. On August 19, 2011, the three entered Alford pleas, which acknowledged that the state possessed sufficient evidence to convict them if new trials were granted. Join Michael Carnahan and Lisa O’Brien on Tuesday, May 1, 2018, at 8:00 p.m. CDT, for an interview with Gary Meece, the author of Blood on Black: The Case Against the West Memphis 3, Volume I.
About Gary Meece:
Gary Meece grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi. He worked as a reporter, photographer, columnist and editor at newspapers in Central Florida, and Biloxi and Jackson, Mississippi, before joining the newsroom staff of the Memphis Commercial Appeal in 1980. He largely worked there as a desk editor. Among his special assignments was editing a much-heralded multipart expose on Satanic Panic in the late 1980s that marshaled evidence that such cases were largely the result of hysteria fueled by rumor. Meece retired from the Commercial Appeal to help with a family business in 2008. In 2010, he joined the West Memphis Evening Times newspaper, where he served as managing editor until 2014. He has been retired since. He published companion books on the West Memphis 3 case in 2017 after five years of research and writing, “Blood on Black” and “Where the Monsters Go.” In April 2018, “The Case Against the West Memphis 3 Killers, Condensed and Revised from ‘Blood on Black’ and ‘Where the Monsters Go.’ (He recently moved from Memphis to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
On February 17, 1970, at around 3:00 a.m., Military Police at Ft. Bragg, NC responded to a call for help from to the on-base residence of Captain Jeffrey R. MacDonald. MacDonald claimed that a group of drug-crazed hippies attacked the family, killing Colette MacDonald, who was pregnant with the couple’s third child and daughters, Kimberly and Kristen. The only survivor was MacDonald, who sustained non-life threatening injuries. From the beginning, CID investigators doubted MacDonald’s story, due to the absence of evidence in the room where MacDonald claimed to have engaged in a life-and-death struggle with attackers and the inconsistent evidence found with the bodies of his wife and daughters. Since MacDonald’s conviction in 1979, he has filed multiple claims in federal courts, seeking reversal of his conviction, including twice seeking relief at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Jeffrey MacDonald Information Site:
Jeffrey MacDonald Discussion Board: http://thejeffreymacdonaldcase.com/discuss/viewforum.php?f=2
Chief Deputy (Retired) Rod Englert, a 53-year veteran of law enforcement, retired as Commander of the Operations Division, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in Portland, Oregon, in 1995. He started his career with the Downey Police Department after graduating from the Los Angeles Police Academy. In 1969, Chief Deputy Englert moved to Portland, Oregon and joined the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. Chief Deputy Englert has a Bachelor’s degree in Police Administration and has done post-graduate work in psychology. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and served as President of the 159th Session.
Chief Deputy Englert spent the majority of his career working major crimes, narcotics and homicides. His expertise is in the area of crime scene reconstruction and blood spatter interpretation. In addition to his case work on over 500 criminal and civil death cases in the United States, he has conducted over 600 lectures and training seminars on managing criminal investigations, solving unresolved homicides, blood spatter interpretation and crime scene reconstruction to law enforcement personnel and district attorneys in 35 states as well as in Canada, Russia, England, France, and South America. He also works as a member on a volunteer team examining cold cases in Multonomah County.
Chief Deputy Englert is a member of the International Homicide Investigator’s Association; several states’ Homicide Investigator’s Associations; a Fellow, Distinguished Member, President (2001/2002), and Chairman of the Board (2002-2003) of the Association of Crime Scene Reconstructionists; a Fellow in the American Academy of Forensic Sciences; and is Past-President of the International Association of Blood Pattern Analysts. He has received the Lecturer of Merit and Distinguished Faculty Awards from the National College of District Attorneys.
Chief Deputy Englert is the author of Blood Secrets: Chronicles of a Crime Scene Reconstructionist (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martins Press, 2010).
On April 23, 1996, Stacey Stites was raped, strangled and her body was dumped on the side of a country road in Bastrop, Texas. Police theorized that Ms. Stites was abducted between 3:00 and 3:30 a.m. while on her way to the H.E.B. store, where she worked an early morning shift in the produce department. The truck she was driving was found abandoned at Bastrop High School, which was 35 miles from the apartment in Giddings that she shared with her future husband, Jimmy Fennell. In March, 1997, DNA results from Ms. Stites’ body linked Rodney Reed to the murder. In spite of his claims of a secret relationship with the victim, Reed was convicted and sentenced to death in May, 1998. Reed’s direct appeal and numerous state and federal writs have been unsuccessful. Join Lisa O’Brien and Michael Carnahan on Tuesday, March 27, at 8:00 p.m. Central for a discussion of the evidence against Rodney Reed, the claims and evidence that have been presented to the courts and reveal information that has been left out of media reports about the case.