Sum it up! #36

The first Sum it up! for 2012 and I got a lot to share with you.

First of all, another police department has decided to place all their cold cases online with information for the public. The Syracuse Police Department and the Criminal Investigations Division have established the Cold Case Unit with an email address and a telephone number. Their cold cases are listed in the left margin. The page is easy to navigate, free from clutter and yes, you can remain anonymous! Check them out.

The Dutch police have decided to take another look into 1998 unsolved murder of Nicky Verstappen(11). Please note that this case is not active yet but will become active again if new leads surface. Hat tip to Clouseau!

Kenneth Richey is in trouble with the law again. This time he is charged with leaving a threatening telephone message on the answering machine of the judge who prosecuted his original case. As you know, I (with many others at Amnesty) worked on Richey‘s case to get his evidence reviewed when he was still under sentence of death in Ohio. Forensic arson detection had evolved and what we deemed arson was accidental fire. However, Richey accepted the Alford plea so the evidence was never debated in court.

Kenneth Richey 2010

Ever since his release, it has been one thing after another. I wish that Richey had consented to counselling after release to facilitate easing back into society. I also wished that he had some anger management treatment. Having been on death row for so long, I understand his anger but it cannot dominate the life that you longed for while still incarcerated. “He could face up to six years in prison if convicted of retaliation and violating a civil protection order, said Gary Lammers, Putnam County prosecutor.”

Talking about forensic arson detection, as you know the Texas Fire Marshall Paul Maldonado, who defended the agency’s work in the Cameron Todd Willingham arson investigation, resigned in December, 2011. He handed in a one sentence note dated December 12, 2011, just when the Texas Innocence Project was about to launch an “unprecedented review of arson cases in the wake of the Texas Forensic Science Commission’s protracted examination of the Willingham case.”

If forensic arson detection interests you then you must follow this case in the news: “The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday granted 76-year-old Han Tak Lee’s request for an independent examination of evidence from the July 1989 fire that killed 20-year-old Ji Yun Lee at a religious retreat in the Pocono Mountains.” This case was labelled arson but advances in forensic fire detection shed a different light on many aspects. Those aspects also played a role in the cases of Richey, Willigham, Dougherty, McLeod and now Lee.

In short, what we thought we knew about fire was wrong. We used to think that fire always went up and never down and that fire fueled by accelerants burned faster and hotter than other fires. We also always thought that crazed glass, V-patterns and certain black markings were evidence of pour patterns of accelerants hence arson. We were wrong. Now we know we are dealing with flashover.

On February 10, #cclivechat‘s topic will be fire investigations and Andrew Wade will be explaining and educating us. The schedule for the themed chats is on DCC’s home page.

The Guardian had an excellent piece on Britain’s top forensic lab. It is a fascinating article with explanations, cases, and more.

Another find for history: “The Raab Collection has donated an original audiotape recording to the National Archives that includes taped conversations on President Kennedy’s official airplane, “Air Force One,” during its flight following his assassination on November 22, 1963.”

Last, I think these sculptures made of clothing hangers are great!