Discussion in 'Cold Cases' started by PastTense, Oct 24, 2014.
wow. I hope this leads to answers in the other similar killing.
I wonder why they had his DNA?? Interesting also with 2 men being connected.
I would like to know how they determined they are NOT linked. DNA? Something else? Also, if he was a criminologist and they find he DID work on the case, the possibility of DNA contamination is there. I'm still a little baffled by the two men committing a crime together, that's pretty rare, and they don't seem likely to have been pals. JMO of course.
1984 mystery murder of 14-year-old Rhode Island girl solved by DNA evidence
BY Corinne Lestch
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Friday, October 24, 2014, 11:15 AM
Police were able to link the 30-year-old crime to two suspects, both of whom are now dead. One suspect was a retired San Diego Police Department criminologist who did not have involvement processing evidence in the murder, and committed suicide on Tuesday.
The first, Ronald Clyde Tatro, 70, had an extensive criminal history of sexual assault, according to cops. He was killed in a boating accident in 2011 in Tennessee.
The other suspect, 62-year-old Kevin Charles Brown, committed suicide Tuesday at Cuyamaca State Park in California after he knew he was being pursued by detectives.[HR][/HR]San Diego police solve 1984 killing of teen at Torrey Pines State Beach
By Tony Perry
October 23, 2014 4:16 PM
Brown had been interviewed and knew he was a suspect in the killing and would soon be arrested, Rorrison said. He had no criminal history and an investigation showed that he had no role in processing evidence from the 1984 crime scene, Rorrison said.
Rorrison declined to discuss any relationship between Tatro and Brown. Brown retired in 2002 after 20 years as a civilian employee with the department.
Police criminalist who was suspect in 1984 murder of teenage girl found with one breast cut off and covered in scratch marks committed suicide after being interviewed over crime
By Kieran Corcoran for MailOnline
Published: 13:44 EST, 24 October 2014 | Updated: 17:43 EST, 24 October 2014
Reports from the time suggest that Claire had slipped out of her grandparents' house nearby so she could smoke and listen to music cassettes.
Her body was discovered by a walker at 5am. Claire's grandparents raised the alarm when she had not returned by morning, and the body was identified as hers.
However, Brown's widow denied that he was anything to do with the murder, and suggested that his DNA could have become mixed with the evidence sampled because he worked in the same lab.
I'm still suspicious. The drifter, yeah, I'll go with guilty. The other guy, I have issues with the whole story.
Very interesting. Thank you!!
Well that's pretty nuts! I also was leaning toward the possibility of an innocent man being hounded into suicide until I read the last two articles.
My guess is that it's likely Brown was familiar with the crime that happened 6 years earlier on the same beach because he was a criminologist and it was a gruesome enough case that I'd think investigators he was around talked about it. He'd have known the details, and what better way to give himself and his fellow rapist/killer an alibi than to link what they did to an earlier crime they couldn't possibly have committed. How Horrible. I wonder if she was their only murder victim?
Tommy Campbell, editor/publisher of the Rogersville (Tenn.) Review, published this story Thursday.
The posted title for this thread is incorrect (Criminologist should be Criminalist):
CA - Claire Hough, 14, 1984 - Suicide of Criminologist Suspect
I will try to correct with this post.
http://www.nbcsandiego.com/ is one of the news sites that got it wrong in the story:
"Dead Men Easy to Convict": Atty. Defends Lab Tech
"Brown was a criminologist working in the police lab that processed that evidence."
http://www.kpbs.org/ also has it wrong in the title of their story, but then uses the term "criminalist" in the text of the story. Couldn't make up their minds.
"Ex-SDPD Criminologist Linked To Teen Girls Killing 30 Years Ago"
A criminalist is often also known as a forensic scientist and the terms can be interchangeable. A famous forensic scientist was Bartholomew Henry "Barry" Allen, who worked for the Central City police department. Speedy Barry was also known as The Flash, and entire comic books have been written about his life. Criminologists study criminal behavior.
This is a sleuthing forum. Some of the posts here include links to news stories with quotes. Many of the posts provide no indication of what opinion the sleuth may have about the case. Web sleuths here are not privy to all of the facts of confidential investigations. Some information on the investigation, such as the crime lab reports and notes, are not available. The search warrant and affidavits have been provided to reporters but only select quotes and selected information has been included in news reports. Sleuths are left to ponder the available reported facts, if the facts are indeed ALL facts, and not misinformation or opinion based on bias or ignorance. Do you believe everything that has been reported (including quotes from police detectives) about this case? In spite of the limitations of incomplete reporting on confidential information about a crime from so long ago, to some sleuths it will be worthwhile to make the attempt to separate fact from fiction, and to formulate an opinion based on the known facts, with facts backed up with references. We all know that one crime happened and it seems virtually certain that one killer (Tatro) has been exposed. But a new question comes up. Was Kevin Brown's name defamed and his reputation smeared with false accusations by the San Diego Police Department?
"He was also defamed after his death, [attorney Gretchen] von Helms said."
"Attorney: Cross-contamination led to claims lab worker murdered teen"
POSTED 3:24 PM, DECEMBER 18, 2014, BY JASON SLOSS, UPDATED AT 06:09PM, DECEMBER 18, 2014
Based on the recent news stories where two suspects were named by the San Diego Police Department, here are some of the possible opinions a sleuth could have.
A) Brown and Tatro are guilty of the murder
B) Brown is guilty of the murder and Tatro is innocent with no connection with the crime
C) Tatro is guilty of the murder and Brown is innocent with no connection with the crime
D) Neither Brown and Tatro are guilty of the murder
E) Brown had involvement with the victim earlier in the day, and Tatro murdered the victim later, with no connection between the two events
This is a case of a heinous crime that took place over 30 years ago. But Yesterday's standards were in force when the crime took place, when the evidence was collected, and when the evidence was processed in the San Diego Police Department Crime Lab. What issues could come up in applying Today's technology to Yesterday's crime?
This thread is in the forum:
Forum: Resolved Cold Cases
If the cold case is resolved and solved, then presumably we know who did it, or at least have an opinion.
I am in Camp C. What Camp are you in?
Tatro is likely the criminal who is responsible. There has been no suggestion that the San Diego Police Department Crime Lab made any mistake or had any issues with contamination in testing the evidence in 2012. There were no reports that Tatro's DNA had ever been in the lab before. Tatro was a known criminal with a record including kidnapping and a conviction for rape. Modern procedures were presumably in place in 2012. 1984 is another matter.
Brown is quite likely innocent. It is plausible that the DNA evidence against him can be explained by contamination. Brown worked at the crime lab at a time when precautions against contamination were not taken. It has been reported in the news that his work table was adjacent to the work area where the evidence from the Claire Hough murder was processed, and Brown was at work at the time, presumable placing him at his work table within spitting distance of the evidence. Coughing, sneezing or even talking near the evidence without a mask could contaminate the evidence. In 1984 masks and gloves were not worn in crime labs or at crime scenes and Kevin Brown would not have known not to talk, cough or sneeze near the evidence.
KEVIN BROWN WORKED RIGHT NEXT TO THE CLAIRE HOUGH EVIDENCE
His lab table was side-by-side with that of the analyst who was working on Claire Houghs case, and the fact is that its highly likely that the result on the single swab of a tiny amount of Kevin Browns DNA was not the result of it having been deposited on the body of Claire Hough at the time of her death, but as a result of cross-contamination, [attorney Eugene] Iredale said.
Attorney: Cross-Contamination Led Police to Suspect Retired Lab Worker in 1984 Murder
Posted by Alexander Nguyen on December 18, 2014 in Crime
Brown worked in the police lab from 1982 until his retirement in 2002. He was not assigned to the Hough investigation, but attorney Eugene Iredale said Brown had been working while samples from the teens body were in the lab.
"Attorney: Cross-contamination led to claims lab worker murdered teen"
POSTED 3:24 PM, DECEMBER 18, 2014, BY JASON SLOSS, UPDATED AT 06:09PM, DECEMBER 18, 2014
If Brown's DNA contaminated the evidence, and if Tatro were being tried for the crime, then contamination would undoubtedly be an issue at his trial, with Tatro's attorneys claiming that the results are invalid. This was a cold hit on Tatro. If his DNA were in the lab at the same time on another case, then that would raise the issue of contamination and cast doubt on the match. There have been cases where this has happended, and the results are usually thrown out (see reference below on cross-contamination between cases). But not always. There was a case in Michigan where the match was not thrown out, and the person was convicted of murder and is still in prison (Gary Leiterman).
The records show, for instance, that between 2003 and 2007, the Santa Clara County district attorneys crime laboratory caught 14 instances in which evidence samples were contaminated with staff members DNA, three in which samples were contaminated by an unknown person and six in which DNA from one case contaminated samples from another.
The peril of DNA: Its not perfect
December 26, 2008|Maura Dolan and Jason Felch
Here is another example where charges were dropped after it was discovered that DNA cross-contamination from one case to another could have happened.
Homicide Squad detectives last month charged 43-year-old Victorian prisoner Russell Gesah over the deaths of Margaret Tapp, 35, and her nine-year-old daughter Seana. Their bodies were discovered in their Ferntree Gully home on August 8, 1984.
Victoria Police said today that forensic officers had identified a possible contamination of the biological evidence after a laboratory review.
The contamination occured in 1999 when clothing containing the DNA of Gesah from an unrelated offence was examined on the same day that clothing from the Tapp murder case was examined.
Police have apologised to Gesah and to the Tapp family.
"Murder charges dropped after DNA blunder"
Date August 6, 2008
by Adrian Lowe
All that was required to invalidate the DNA match was that the DNA from the suspect was in the lab on the same day. Kevin Brown's DNA was in the lab in San Diego because he was in the lab.
Here is a reference with a recommendation to wear masks and avoid talking over evidence.
"Limit access to the crime scene or evidence"
"Do not talk over the evidence"
"PPE, including masks"
"Change gloves frequently after handling evidence"
Touch DNA: From the Crime Scene to the Crime Laboratory
Fri, 04/12/2013 - 6:27am
Well, you might be right to be in camp C but I will be in camp F. If I were innocent I would fight. Surely, as a criminalist, he could present the same arguments that you did along with his attorney. Why suicide, if no consciousness of guilt? Too many suspects do this when they know that the game is up. I feel that they know they are committing horrific crimes and go into it knowing that if they are caught, life is over for them and they will not go to prison or subject their families to the gruesome details of what they did.
Celtsleuth suggests that the presumed suicide is evidence of guilt, but not enough to tilt into the guilty Camp A, B, or E.
Vote count is now 1 C and 1 F.
The presumed suicide is not really evidence of guilt or innocence. Ambiguous behavior and events 30 years after the crime is very weak circumstantial evidence. Until statistical arguments can be marshaled to show what percent of guilty people would kill themselves vs what percent of falsely accused innocents, it should be considered a toss-up. If the chances are 50:50 that the suicide is due to guilt, the chance is still 50% that the person is innocent. This is very weak evidence of guilt. Even this weak evidence is torpedoed if there was no original justification for ever considering him to be a suspect. Examples can be cited of suspects who kill themselves, such as the suspect in the recent killing of two NYPD officers in their parked car. A counter example of a criminal who not only did not kill himself, but did not want to get executed, is Ted Bundy. The fact is that innocent people, who have not murdered someone, commit suicide, and they are not considered suspects in unsolved homicides as a result. Perhaps the two most famous examples this year are Robin Williams, and Alan Turing, who died in 1954 but is in the spotlight this year because of the movie The Imitation Game.
Further, since Kevin Brown and his attorney could have made the same arguments I made, why would he assume that the jig was up if he was guilty. He should get off. In reality innocent people can get convicted, and such may have happened in some similar cases of cold DNA matches. That seems very unlikely in this case as the only evidence connecting him to the victim is the DNA match, and there is no evidence of criminal activity on his part. The evidence does not meet the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. It also does not meet the weaker civil standard of preponderance of the evidence. It is also highly doubtful that the DNA evidence even met the standard of reasonable suspicion for starting an investigation.
The argument can also be made that if he were guilty he could have sabotaged the evidence since it could have been easily accessible right there at work, and the match never would have come up.
If the investigation were to push a guilty suspect to kill himself, why would it take two years? Due to depression, which is common, some will give up where others would fight the good fight. That is a fight I would have liked to see.
There have been other examples of former government scientists named in homicide investigations but never charged. One is Steven Hatfill, who was identified by the US Department of Justice as a "person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax attacks. Hatfill sued the government and won millions. An innocent person is such a situation should elicit sympathy.
The only real evidence, forensic or otherwise, is the DNA match. Considering that it is routine at crime labs to include the employee DNA profiles for the purpose of checking for contamination, the San Diego Police Department have made a weak case for considering Kevin Brown to be a suspect in this case. When DNA contamination by an employee is found, that is usually the end of it. The case is made in news reports that the DNA evidence is more incriminating because it is from sperm. But these are all statements by police and quotes from police in the search warrant. Crime lab reports and notes are not yet available for sleuths here to peruse and analyze. Perhaps that will change if the claim by Kevin Brown's widow is denied and it proceeds on to a lawsuit. A crime lab report will state that a person's DNA profile has been found in a sample. It will not state that so and so's sperm has been found in a sample. The police have taken whatever was in the report and translated it into 'cop speak'. For all we know, there was no sperm found, or if there was, it is not from Kevin Brown. It may be that if male DNA is found on a vaginal swab, the police assume that it must be from sperm. If so, then by rewording the results they have made the evidence appear more incriminating.
The fact is that the San Diego police have been caught red handed drawing conclusions about this case that are not only unsupportable based on the forensic evidence, but also conclusions that have been shown to be incorrect.
Here is an example of an UNSUPPORTABLE CONCLUSION:
An unnamed detective states in a search warrant that he 'believes' that the DNA was deposited "contemporaneous to the murder". No forensic scientist or medical examiner can make such a determination of when DNA was deposited or put such a finding in a report. And yet there it is in the search warrant. The police have taken the facts of the case and molded them to fit certain theories. Was sperm even found? The medical examiner says no. If there was so little sperm or semen at the time of the autopsy that the medical examiner could not find any, then how could a detective draw that conclusion from lab reports based on testing 28 years after the crime? All he can do is state his opinion which is sheer speculation.
“The detective writing the search warrant explained why he thinks Brown’s sperm could not have gotten into Hough through consensual sex. He said an interview with her best friend revealed Hough was faithful to her boyfriend at the time, was not attracted to older men and would not have had sex with someone she just met.”
“’I believe the sexual intercourse Brown had with Claire Hough was not consensual and appears to be contemporaneous to the murder,’ the detective wrote in the warrant.”
"A just-released warrant reveals DNA evidence links a San Diego crime lab technician to a 1984 cold case. The warrant says the technician’s sperm was found inside the victim. The suspect’s wife and attorney still maintain his innocence. NBC 7’s Dave Summers reports. (Published Saturday, Nov 1, 2014)"
Incriminating DNA Found Inside Cold Case Victim: Warrant
By Andie Adams and Dave Summers
Friday, Oct 31, 2014 • Updated at 10:50 PM PST
Below is a reference that states that forensic scientists cannot say when DNA is deposited on an object.
Mr [Fitzgerald’s instructing solicitor Matthew] Selley said forensic scientists cannot date when DNA made its way onto an object.
Questions raised over DNA evidence to secure murder convictions
By Candice Marcus
Updated 13 Aug 2014, 6:12am
Here are the quotes from news stories to the effect that the medical examiner found no sperm or semen.
NO SPERM FOUND AT AUTOPSY:
“However, Rebecca’s claim says ‘the medical examiner’s microscopic examination of a fluid sample from the victim’s vaginal vault was negative for the presence of sperm.’”
Cold Case Suspect’s Wife Files Wrongful Death Claim Against SDPD
Rebecca Brown hopes to clear the name of her husband, Kevin, who is accused of killing a teenager in 1984
By Andie Adams
Thursday, Dec 18, 2014 • Updated at 5:01 PM PST
NO SEMEN FOUND AT AUTOPSY:
“Back in those days, criminalists often used their own blood and semen samples as a ‘standard’ to test evidence against, [Gretchen] von Helms said. Swabs being tested weren’t capped then, she added, increasing chances for contamination. She also questioned why semen wasn’t reported being found in Claire’s body during the autopsy, but was found on swabs at the police lab.”
Warrants reveal evidence in 1984 killing
Retired SDPD criminalist’s sperm found on vaginal swab
By Kristina Davis7:27 P.M.OCT. 31, 2014
NO SEMEN RECOVERED:
“Police have not said whether either teen was raped, although both autopsy reports show the girls suffered injuries consistent with sexual assault of some kind. No semen was recovered from their bodies.”
Were teens mutilated by same killer?
New DNA evidence questions whether 1978, 1984 murders are linked
By Kristina Davis2:15 P.M.OCT. 25, 2014
Here is an example of San Diego police drawing an INCORRECT CONCLUSION:
San Diego police told the media on multiple occasions that Claire Hough's murder was connected to a similar crime in the same area from 6 years before.
“Even though San Diego Police have told [Jim] Alt [the surviving boyfriend of murdered Barbara Nantais] and the media a number of times over the years that the two crimes are connected, Thursday’s announcement did not mention the Nantais case.”
“After some prying the lead investigator on the Hough case tells NBC7 they have no evidence connecting these murders but would not elaborate.”
Cold Case Suspect’s Widow: SDPD “Pushed Him Over the Edge”
“He did not do this. He never would hurt anybody,” Rebecca Brown said.
By Dave Summers
Published Friday, Oct 24, 2014 • Updated at 8:25 AM PST
Note that San Diego police were convinced that the two crimes were related. Now they have named two suspects in the death of Claire Hough who could not have committed the earlier crime. Ronald Tatro, who was a kidnapper and convicted rapist, was in jail in Arkansas and could not have murdered Barbara Nantais 6 years before Claire Hough was murdered. Criminalist Kevin Brown was working at a crime lab in New Mexico. Since it appears very likely that Ronald Tatro is the killer of Claire Hough, San Diego police have had to drop any speculation that the two murders were related.
It had to be pried out of the lead investigator that there is actually “no evidence connecting these murders”. The investigator did not want to admit that the San Diego Police Department was incorrect about there being a link between the two crimes. This is an example of San Diego police speculating when there is no actual evidence to support their theory.
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