Audio version available here: https://fbwat.ch/1E51JI7BHAUpojlN
This blog post is a detour from the series we have been covering about the “Letters from Christopher” book by Cheryln Cadle. We absolutely will be finishing that series despite the confirmed plagiarism. We made it to part 15 in that series already, so may as well finish it. If you are new to the blog you can see that series starting here: https://truecrimecaseanalysis.home.blog/2019/10/12/letters-from-true-crime-case-analysis-part-1/
If you want access to other blog posts not connected to the book series you can view those here: https://truecrimecaseanalysis.home.blog/2019/12/29/all-in-one-place/
I assume that most of my readers are of legal adult age. I will also assume that most of you have experienced the trials & tribulations associated with life, some more, some less, and to varying degrees than others, naturally. Have you ever had a preconceived view about something? Then experienced that something and you turned out to be not only wrong but also a bit dumbfounded when you experienced it? Then the whole processing of your thoughts versus the reality type of scenario? Let me give you some examples:
I think most of us remember going for a job interview or an orientation for a job? Afterwards, maybe you were given a tour of the job-site and listened to all the perks you would receive working for the company? You left feeling excited for what you believed would be a great place to work? Only to start working there, and within the first few weeks realize it’s nothing as you imagined.
Have you ever considered a career path thinking “Wow being a _____ sounds amazing”. Maybe you had a hobby you wanted to turn into a career. Only to start that career and quickly realizing you made a mistake, and it’s nothing as you expected?
Do you have children? Can you think back to the thoughts you had about what it would be like to have a child one day? How you would raise your child? Only to have a child/children later, and realize it’s a whole other ballgame to have an actual child to care for. I can relate to this one! I ate just about every word said about how my future children would be.
What about going in for a minor surgery thinking you will be home the next day and everything would go smoothly? Except, every surgery runs a risk, and something went terribly wrong?
How about you met someone, fell in love, and started to plan a life together? The plan included four children, but then you found out you could not even have one biological child together?
If you are woman who was able to carry your own child, do you remember envisioning what labor would be like? Only to realize while in labor, “Whoa, this is nothing like I had imagined”. Maybe, you had envisioned a natural vaginal birth, but there was an emergency which resulted in a C-section?
Those are just a few examples, and there’s plenty more! I think you get the idea, life happens. Maybe you’re even thinking of your own scenario now too. Let me give a few examples of some things that maybe you have never experienced:
A –Loss of a parent
B –Loss of a child
C–Been in an abusive relationship
D-Been in the military
F–Death (a no for everyone since you are here reading)
Without experiencing these examples ones’ reactive thought can easily go to:
A–It’s been five years I would have moved on already, or gotten grief counseling.
B–I would be focused on my living children, and not forgetting them.
C–I would never stay in an abusive relationship, just leave.
D–Why are they complaining about deploying? He/she voluntarily signed up for military they knew what they were getting themselves into.
E–It’s not that hard to get a job and find a room to rent. Go apply at McDonald’s that’s what I would do.
There are people who think like this, and even some who would not hesitate to say it to someone. Their thoughts and/or comments come across as callous, but they’ve never experienced the situation. So, how do they really know how they would handle any of those things happening to them? They actually don’t, even if they convince themselves that they do. We are so quick to assume we know exactly how we would handle any given situation. We can only have an idea of what we may, or may not, do based off of who we think we are, and what we think that situation is like. Imagine if we were able to predict our every single word, movement, and action in every situation we have never experienced! Life would be a breeze, right? We would not make any mistakes (or learn) because we predicted how we would handle a situation. I would say it would be a bore as well.
In the age of social media, it seems nothing is off limits to sharing with our friends, family, and even the public. Most of us have scrolled our social media feeds and seen a post by someone enduring an experience, something, we personally never have. The comments on these posts are usually to the effect of, “I am so sorry for _______. I can not imagine what you are going through”. It has become almost automatic to say it without much real thought and empathy behind it. The reality is that little snippet of the statement, “I cannot imagine” is the absolute truth! We need to experience something firsthand in order to fully understand it. Sometimes even when we do have firsthand experience, it can be hard to relate to another. Why? We are all individuals, and each of us handle, react, process, and deal with matters in different ways. Have you ever heard someone say, “I was in that same situation and I didn’t handle it like that?”. The person is usually judging how someone else handled the same situation. Just because that person didn’t handle it in the same way doesn’t mean the other person is wrong. Ever heard someone say “I do that too?” referencing another person, as if just because they do it too, it suddenly makes it right? Well, there are people who go around kidnapping children. If you do it too, guess what? It doesn’t make it right. Clearly, there are certain things in our lives that we all know are wrong, committing crimes for example. From the time we are little kids most of us are taught what’s right, and what’s wrong. What seems to be overlooked is what one parent deemed wrong another parent maybe, deemed right.
As individuals so many factors come into play for how and why we think, act, react, process, handle, and view situations. Our upbringing, parent(s), education, experiences, adulthood, etc. all contribute to how and why we become who we are. None of us will handle an event or experience in the exact same way. We need to let go of expecting other people to be, and behave, just like us. Let go of thinking you know the answers to a situation you have never dealt with before. It’s presumptuous, and dare I say insensitive, to think we know how we would behave differently than another when you have never been in their shoes. Which leads me to another saying, “Before you judge someone, walk a mile in their shoes”.
I think you get where I am going with this. I am not here to lecture you all like a professor, pastor, or parent. I am not an expert, nor a professional, and I certainly do not have all the answers. I do however have experience discussing true crime cases. I have learned how to view information with a less presumptuous, emotional, and closed mindset. Even with my experience discussing and following cases, I too sometimes resort to an emotional reactive opinion. Matter of fact, I briefly did it with the Watts case! Boy, have I learned so much from the Watts case. I took the opportunity to learn, which helped me grow. Just stay out of my search history.
I enjoy sitting back in true crime groups and observing the discussions. It’s almost like watching a human experiment take place at my finger tips. To see the way people engage, express opinions, different perspectives, how they view and process the information. I value different opinions and views, if we all shared the same opinion life would be pretty boring. Right? There are certain statements though, that catch my attention. Those are the ones made in a matter of fact way, definitively written, &/or very broad blanket type statements.
Since this blog was started while discussing the Watts case, I want to list some commonly said things all over the discussion groups.
-A person would never hide a deceased body if they weren’t the one who killed them. Chris would have called 911 if first confession was true.
-Chris is guilty, because a parent would never confess to killing their child/children if they didn’t.
-I would never take a plea deal if I wasn’t guilty.
-He is not covering for Shanann, a person would never go to prison for life for someone else.
Never say never.
These types of statements are the kind that catch my attention. I set out to research these types of statements to see what the information & data shows. In the year 2020, when information is so easily accessible, incognizance becomes a choice. Sure we can go around spewing our opinions, but if there’s information that contradicts that opinion, the opinion loses credibility. While there may be information that contradicts one’s opinion they may still say, “Well, I know I still would never.” That’s where I would refer someone back to the beginning of this post. Again, never say never without experiencing it.
One more thing before we begin!
Princeton University psychologist, Erin Pronin, conducted several experiments about self-perception. The overall conclusion was that:
“Contemporary psychology has fundamentally questioned the notion that we can know ourselves objectively and with finality. It has made it clear that the self is not a “thing” but rather a process of continual adaptation to changing circumstances. And the fact that we so often see ourselves as more competent, moral and stable than we actually are serves our ability to adapt.”
This next part fits everything we have discussed so far in this post, it’s an example from the Watts case.
During Chris’s interrogation, Tammy (FBI agent) told Chris that if she ever loses her son in a store for ten seconds she goes into a panic. She even went so far as saying Chris’s reaction to his missing children was “weird”. Yes, we all know Chris knew where the girls were in hindsight. However, it was, and still is, troubling to me to hear that anything other than panic means someone is wrong in a similar situation. I wrote a post a few months back titled, “911” you can read that here: https://truecrimecaseanalysis.home.blog/2019/08/22/911/
In a quick summary, at some point in that post I discussed my own husband’s reaction to our children getting hurt. I disclosed how I am the calmer one trying to manage the crisis, and he’s a deer in headlights. That’s only when our children get hurt, or are in distress. On the flip side if we are out, and our child is out of my eyesight for 3 seconds I immediately panic. Our roles reverse, and my husband is the calm one carefully looking around, springing into action, and reminding me its gonna be okay. Thankfully, this has not happened very often. With three kids however, you can imagine each have given me a scare at some point. In this situation, I can relate to Tammy’s statement, but my husband wouldn’t be able to relate with her. Does it make it wrong that he doesn’t panic? Absolutely not! Would he be distraught after few hours, or days? Sure! Although, based on what I know about him as a person I can only guess his behavior wouldn’t be to the likes of many. I’m sure the other half wouldn’t like how I panic, instead of calmly looking for my child. You cannot win!
Let’s go back to common statements that have been said all over social media since the tragedy that unfolded on August 13, 2018. Keep in mind, we can only locate stories that people have written about on the internet. There are some stories that catch the media and public’s attention more than others, and very few become as widely known like the Watts case has.
When you research about people hiding the bodies of people they didn’t kill there’s a common theme, fear. Here are some of the reasons I found for hiding a body:
-Threatened by the person who committed the murder.
-Fear of the person who committed the murder, but absent of a threat from that person.
-Witnessing a murder, and did not call the police.
-Helped hide a body to protect/help someone you love, because you fear them going to prison.
-Witnessed the murder, and feared being blamed for it.
-Fear of getting in trouble with authorities. This can go for someone who maybe has a warrant, or was doing drugs at the time of finding a body as examples.
-Reporting a death means loss of money or living arraignment.
If the first confession in the Watts case were true, then fear could definitely explain the hiding/disposal of the bodies. That’s not the first time I have mentioned Chris’s aftermath decisions would have been a product of fear. Fear leads to panic which leads to fight or flight. It’s sounds completely irrational to hide a body because you fear getting in trouble with authorities. Someone is definitely not rational in a moment of true fear. In the first confession, Chris did take on responsibility of not only murdering his wife, but also the hiding/disposal of three bodies. At minimum, we know Chris is guilty of hiding/disposing of the bodies, that’s really not debatable. They were exactly where he said they were, and he even got which tanks the girls were in correct. In a trial, they would have needed to prove he hid/disposed of them, but that would not have been hard to do. Anyways, Chris was GUILTY. Therefore, in that first confession scenario he would fit:
A) Fear of getting in trouble.
B) Witnessing the murders, and worried about being blamed.
C) Witnessing murders, but didn’t call the police.
For the second & third confession scenario it would be because he was guilty of all the crimes. Chris knew the hiding/disposing of the bodies would be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Chris told, Ronnie, his father that when he brought up crime of passion. Later, Chris had nine charges stacked against him, but with the first confession he already had taken on 5 out of 9 of those charges already.
Let me share some stories of people hiding the body of someone that was murdered, by someone who didn’t commit the murder. Also, a few stories of those who found dead bodies and hid/disposed of them.
-Wesley Murphy killed his 7 year old relative with a rough wrestling move. Wesley’s mother (Sherry Murphy) discovered the 7 year old (her second cousin) on her living room floor upon arriving home. Sherry left the boy’s body there for a few days, before putting his body in a bin in her basement to protect her son.
-Tolayo-Flores found his friend dead in his mother’s garage where he had been living. Tolayo and his friends had used drugs in the garage the night before he found him deceased. At first he thought his friends was just sleeping, but then saw his friend in the same position later. Once he realized his friend was deceased from an overdose, Tolayo-Flores wrapped the body in two plastic bags, and hid him under a mattress & insulation in the garage.
-Brandon Glenn and his wife Melina Moore got into a heated argument in the wee hours of New Year’s Eve 2014. As Melina walked away from the argument, Brandon open fired killing her. Brandon’s mother, Bettye Adams, loaded Melina into her car with intent to transport her to the nearest hospital. According to Adams, sometime during the drive she changed her mind out of fear of murder being pinned on her. Instead of seeking medical help for Melina, Adams drove back to her home, and put Melina’s lifeless body behind the wheel of her car. Hours later, Adams called the police saying her daughter-in-law was found shot to death in their driveway.
-Omar Lopez testified against Mayra Chavez, the mother of his daughter, Kimberly. There was a history of abuse inflicted on Kimberly for years. Twice the mother lost custody of her daughter in prior years. Lopez tried intervening once, but it only made it worse for his daughter. Fearing losing his daughter to the system permanently, he never reported the abuse. One day, Chavez swept Kimberly’s feet from underneath her causing her to fall backwards onto her head. The fall resulted in Kimberly suffering seizures, and no medical attention was sought. Kimberly succumbed to her injuries without medical care. Out of fear of going to prison, Lopez drove his daughter to Mexico where he dug her a shallow hole with his hands.
-Reuben Hamilton initially told police he didn’t know the whereabouts of friend, Garland Spence. Hamilton later admitted that Spence had overdosed on heroin. He placed Spence on the floor of his basement, and pushed bed frames up against him to conceal him. Hamilton also admitted to throwing Spence’s cellphone in a sewer, and threw his wallet away. Hamilton said he didn’t want to leave his friend out on a street somewhere, and didn’t call authorities due to having an active warrant.
-Angela Shock hid the death of her boyfriend for weeks. She needed a place to stay, and money. He had been her only support which led to concealing his death. The autopsy revealed he died from medical issues, and no foul play was found. The article I found on this case had a quote from her lawyer which read, “Some things probably could’ve been avoided but you know in the eyes of love or in an emotional state you probably don’t know what to do in a state of shock.” I wholeheartedly agree with this statement, and with this story we can add desperation, and survival to it too.
-Elizabeth Quate was sentenced this year to prison for hiding her 6 year old daughter Alysha’s death that occurred in 2014. While staying at a woman’s shelter in 2019, Elizabeth told the shelter that her husband Jason had been prostituting her. When police were contacted, the cops were also told about Alysha’s death, and the whereabouts of her daughter’s body. Alysha’s body was found in a plastic container in her father’s garage. Quate told her parents and police that Alysha died after being struck by her father (Jason) while she was eating, which caused her to choke on her food. Alysha was on the floor shaking and convulsing before dying. Later, her father Jason admitted to exactly what Elizabeth had said he done.
-In 2010, a young mom hid not only her pregnancy but, that she had given birth in her bedroom. Believing the baby girl to be a stillborn, Amanda Hunt panicked, wrapped a towel around the baby, and hid her under the bed. For four months, she moved the baby’s body to several places throughout the home. At one point, the baby’s body was even behind a garden shed. Hunt’s mom was the one to make the grim discovery after noticing a smell coming from her daughter’s closet. Her parents were the ones to contact police. Hunt thought the baby was deceased as she did not cry or move when born. Hunt’s mother was just in the next room the evening she gave birth in her bedroom. Hunt’s lawyers said she panicked, and felt there was no other option. The judge was quoted as saying, “There’s been no evidence to show this was anything other than a reaction to the circumstances to which you found yourself.”
-In 2008, Heather Wardle’s son, James, had an epileptic fit and died. Wardle panicked, and hid his body in a suitcase in her garden. James’s father was growing suspicious because he tried to speak and visit with his son for roughly four months. Wardle, knowing the walls were caving in and that she had no more excuses left, ended up hanging herself in a woodland area near the home. The autopsy report was inconclusive, but the body did not show any foul play. A family friend said Wardle was an independent woman, and was proud of being James’s main caregiver. It’s believed she blamed herself for his death and had a mental breakdown without him.
-John Clifford Torney helped hide the body of his month long girlfriend, Peta-Ann Francis’s daughter, Nikki. Nikki was just two years old at the time of her death. Autopsy concluded she had repeated hard blows to her abdomen. Torney said that Francis said she had gone too far with Nikki, and she wasn’t breathing after throwing her on the bed. Having only been dating Francis for a month, and fear of being implicated for the crime, Torney helped hide Nikki’s body. Her body was found in a roof cavity of the home. Francis at the time was being monitored by child protection officers, and was not handling motherhood well. Torney did get charged with the murder as he feared, but was acquitted as evidence pointed to Francis.
-Ashley Meadows, on January 16, 2011 called her mother, Tila Meadows, into her bathroom. Ashley, pale and shaking, showed her mother a baby wrapped in a t-shirt placed in a bag inside a garbage can. The mother looked for bruising, and saw none. Tila helped her daughter clean up the blood from her feet, and then wrapped her granddaughter in a cloth to place her in a box. The box was left in a storage building on the family’s property. The next day, the baby inside the box was moved to a cave. Tila said she helped her daughter cover it up to protect her daughter, and keep her husband from finding out.
How many people call 911 that are indeed guilty? I can think of quite a few well known cases where the convicted guilty individual was the one who prompted that 911 call. Oftentimes, 911 calls are played during a trial. Not calling 911 does not equate to guilt and calling 911 does not equate innocence.
Do you see how many of these have fear as the underlining cause for their actions? There’s plenty more stories I have saved, and remember these are only a small sampling of ones that have been reported on, and easily found. Let’s move on to the next blanket “never” statement often seen in discussion groups.
Next on the list is, “Chris is guilty, because a parent would never confess to killing their children if they didn’t.” This one is a little harder to find, due to the fact we can’t possibly know how many in prison have lied. They could be sitting in a prison cell right now, and no one knows they are innocent, except themselves of course. There could also be some who are innocent, but trapped in the appeals process that we don’t know about. False confession exonerations account for over 30% of exoneration cases. It’s far more common, than one would realize. With organizations such as the Innocence Project, and with advances in DNA the numbers are rising even more. There are also a lot more people bringing awareness to false confessions, like the new series all about it on Netflix, and rumors of a book in the works. There’s a plethora of reasons for false confessions. Sadly, many have been on death row, and later executed, before their innocence would ever be known. If people falsely confess to killing their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, spouse, best friends, etc., it’s likely many confess to killing their children too. Let’s review some cases involving confessions of one’s child.
– The death of Victoria Marten was a brutal murder, sadly her whole life was horrific. Her mother, Michelle, was addicted to drugs. Michelle claimed she allowed men to rape Victoria before her murder. Michelle, her boyfriend Fabian, and Fabian’s cousin Jessica Kelley were all initially arrested for her murder. Michelle once in custody told detectives that Fabian, Jessica, and herself had participated in the abuse, drugging, rape, and murder of her own child. Much later during trial, evidence came to light that proved Michelle and Fabian were not even present when Victoria was murdered. While they were out buying drugs, Jessica & an unknown male, raped then murdered her before removing her body from the apartment. Michelle arrived back home and her daughter wasn’t there. Hours later Jessica brought Victoria’s body back to the apartment. Jessica then attacked Fabian, and Michelle as they slept. A psychologist said, “Michelle’s low level of cognitive functioning, and an eagerness to please investigators made her vulnerable to a false confession.” The District Attorney was asked about Michelle, claiming she allowed the rape of her daughter prior to her murder, “It was from prior assaults, and Michelle had actually reported those to police.” Why did it take so long to get the truth? “Key evidence had been mishandled, or went untested which was uncovered upon review that I ordered after I took office four months after her murder.” Seems the guilt of choosing drugs over her daughter before her murder, maybe led Michelle to falsely confess her guilt. That visceral feeling of guilt could easily have produced her false confession.
-In 2008, Adrian Thomas confessed that he threw his infant son on the bed three times. Thomas’s son, Matthew, was pronounced brain dead at the hospital earlier that day from a head injury. The hospital told the police, and that’s when they began to interrogate Thomas. Not only did he confess to throwing his infant on the bed three times, but said he did so during an argument with his wife. Thomas went to trial, and was convicted. His case was appealed on grounds of a false confession, and he was granted a new trial. In the second trial, the medical examiner told the jury that Matthew had subdural hematoma[s] which is usually caused from being violently shaken. A Chicago specialist, Dr. Jan Leestma said, “Matthew died of septic shock, because of bacterial infection.” An expert in child abuse, Dr. Patrick Barnes said on the stand that, “The scans that he examined of brain swelling and blood on the brain of the infant were old.” He even said it could have occurred during child birth. Barnes told the jury that the infant was born premature, which placed Thomas at greater risk for bleeding on the brain as had been found. Thomas was found not guilty in his second trial.
-Kevin Fox admitted to killing his daughter, Riley, and spent 8 months in jail. Kevin had picked up his children around 1:30 a.m. on June 6, 2004 from their grandparent’s house. He was too tired to carry them up to their beds, so he laid Riley on the couch, and Tyler was laid on living room chair. The next morning, Tyler, woke his father to tell him Riley was missing. After checking with neighbors to see if they had seen her, Kevin called the non emergency line to the police. Riley was found in a creek a mile from the home. After the police were alerted about her body, they pulled the parents down for questioning. It was hours before the parents even knew Riley had been found deceased. As time went on, the detectives would come by to visit with the family. They seemed friendly, and even played catch with their son. Months later, they again brought both in for questioning, after an eyewitness had video footage of a car similar to Kevin’s headed towards the creek area. Kevin couldn’t explain the footage, and even his wife started to wonder if he was lying. He took a lie detector test in the middle of the night, and the detectives told him he failed.
At this point, Kevin had started to question himself, and ultimately confessed to the murder. His story was exactly the information that had been released about the crime, and didn’t contain any details that only the murderer would know. They arrested Kevin without testing the DNA found on Riley. Kevin’s brother worked across the hall from prominent lawyer, Katherine Zellner, and asked her to look the case over as he believed in his brother’s innocence. Turned out the DNA did not match Kevin, and charges were dropped. It was not until over five years after Kevin’s release when they zeroed in on a, Scott Eby. In May 2010, while serving time for a sexual assault on a relative, an FBI agent asked Eby to submit a sample of DNA. Days later Eby tried taking the easy way out and wrote a confession letter about killing Riley before attempting suicide. He failed the suicide attempt and later took a plea deal in November 2010 for the rape and murder of, Riley Fox.
Why would Kevin admit, in detail, to his daughter’s murder when he was innocent? When reviewing false confession cases many have said they had started to question themselves, and thought maybe they had blocked out the crime. Kevin was urged by his family to hire a lawyer but Kevin said, “I felt I had nothing to hide and thought a lawyer would make me look guilty. I was raised with the idea that authorities were good people, and should be respected. I trusted the detectives.”
-Ashleigh Watterson took the stand at her trial and told the courts she confessed to killing her infant daughter, because she wanted to be locked up. She wanted to spare her family more trauma of criminal proceedings. The charge against Watterson was for attempted murder of her daughter Sarah when she was deprived of oxygen in 2010. Sarah died in 2012 from unknown causes, not part of the charges against Ashleigh. Prior to giving birth to Sarah she had had another daughter who died from SIDS. There are some articles that speak of her never seeking help after that loss. Ashleigh was quoted as saying, “I felt tiny compared to the investigation against me. Because, I did not want to commit suicide, I thought of a way of ending the whole turmoil for my family by falsely confessing.”
Mark Watterson testified at her trial five years later saying, “Ashleigh spent an enormous amount of time and energy devoted to Sarah’s care.” Lawyers attacked the doctors who were overseeing Sarah’s care accusing them of dismissing Ashleigh’s concerns about her daughters health. Dr. Callaghan, who examined Sarah at a hospital in 2010, declared the baby healthy, admitted on stand, “Ashleigh had previously lost a baby to SIDS, so we thought it was more related to her mental health.” The following month Sarah was back in the hospital after the infant suffered cardiac arrest. At that time, the family requested a new doctor since they had been previously dismissed. In Ashleigh’s confession, it included blaming the devil and being possessed, as well as saying she tried three times to kill her daughter. She was found not guilty.
-Sabrina Butler falsely confessed, then was falsely convicted, and sent to death row for the murder of her son. Sabrina was just 17 at the time, and was released from prison when she was 25. Her mother fought for her innocence, and hired new lawyers, who took the case pro bono. It all began in 1989, when she found her nine month old son, Walter, not breathing. Butler scooped her son up and ran to a neighbor’s apartment looking for someone to do CPR. One neighbor started CPR on Walter, and showed Butler how to do it. Butler continued to give him CPR all the way to the hospital which resulted in bruises on his chest. The bruises are what prompted police to question Butler about her son’s death. Just 24 hours after losing her son she confessed to detectives.
Once the new lawyers took a look at the case, they collected the witnesses’ who saw Butler giving her son CPR. The autopsy also concluded the child died from a hereditary kidney condition, there was not even a murder. Butler has since been quoted as saying, “There will always be people who want to advance their careers by putting people to death. Some of those people will be innocent, like me, and most of them will be poor, isolated and African American or Latino.” She also shared that she had a lot of bitterness and anger at the people who railroaded her onto death row. She quickly realized that was only hurting her, and exchanged it for love & happiness.”
Psychiatrist Robert Galatzer on why parents falsely confess to killing their children, ‘The parent is likely overwrought and enormously distressed, and in some sense feels guilty even though they’re not guilty.” Lets discuss one more story which is the case of, “Monster Hobbs” which was his coined name after he falsely confessed. His real name is Jerry Hobbs, despite confessing to killing his daughter and her friend he was actually innocent.
-Nancy Grace told viewers that she was sure Jerry Hobbs was guilty of murdering his daughter, Laura and her friend Krystle, on Mother’s Day of 2005. The two young girls, ages 7 & 8, were last seen riding a single bike around some woods in their area. When nightfall came and the girls were not home, it was clear something was wrong. A frantic search ensued throughout the entire night, and by morning it was Jerry who found the girls deceased. 48 hours later Hobbs was arrested for the two girl’s murders after falsely confessing. Jerry was an easy scapegoat, because he fit three common suspect criteria: he found the bodies, previous criminal record for assault & drugs, and was a family member to the other murdered girl.
Our initial reaction, and notion is that no parent would confess to murdering their child. Cases are stacking up here and it illustrates levels of psychological breakdown, defeat, and manipulation.
Jerry’s confession was incoherent, and very vague. The police even typed it up for him, here’s what the document he signed disclosed: “He was angry, the document said, because his daughter Laura was supposed to be home – having been grounded for stealing $40 from her mom – but she was out on her bike with Krystal. When Jerry found them in the forest preserve at Beulah Park, he supposedly flew into a rage, punching Laura to the ground. Nine-year-old Krystal supposedly pulled out a knife and tried to defend Laura. Jerry supposedly took the knife and then stabbed Laura 20 times and Krystal 11 times.” Can we all say wow?
Evidentiary swabs from the girls were submitted to a crime lab and they did find partial male DNA under the two girl’s fingernails. Since Jerry had already confessed the District Attorney deemed the DNA to be unrelated to the case. It seems if a case has a confession any conflicting evidence is dismissed, explained away, or brushed to the side. Once a case gains momentum on a certain path it increases the difficulty to take a different route. Initially, the girls’ bodies had not show any sexual assault and the autopsy reflected that. However, later Jerry’s lawyers submitted the swabs to their own independent expert. To their surprise the swabs came back with spermatozoa which got overlooked, because of Jerry’s confession. To sum up the rest of the story, they ran the DNA and got a match. A man by name of Jorge Torrez who was in a Virginia prison for other rape and abductions.
The kicker is they would not have linked Torrez to the Hobbs case if the DNA had been initially tested. If they had, it would have come up blank, because Torrez was only arrested in February 2010, and that’s when his DNA was retrieved for another case. Virginia takes DNA samples when you’re arrested, but Illinois does after conviction. Jerry went home after five years in prison.
I am gonna make this a series, as there is so much to cover about false confessions, plea deals, and our justice system. I want to end this part with information about false confessions. One day I took a long thorough personality test, and one of my results was being a loyalist. The description of a loyalist explained me perfectly. In the middle of the description it mentioned being perturbed by injustice. That’s spot on! There’s something about a situation that is incredibly unfair and not right that hurts innocent people that makes me both angry, and sad. We’ve talked a lot about the Bible on this blog as of recently due to Chris Watts’ letters in the book series we have been analyzing. There’s a Proverbs verse, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.” I believe in TRUE justice, and not just when someone, anyone is in prison for a particular crime. So, when it comes to false confessions you can only imagine I become passionately loyal to the spreading of awareness.
From Psychology Today, “Most guilty people never confess to a crime, so why would an innocent person? Some take the rap to protect someone they love. A few do it to get attention, or convince themselves that they really are guilty. The majority happen during the perfect storm of vulnerable defendants and coercive interrogations.”
Some scientists say voluntary false confessions can be given to gain notoriety. Other reasons are, because of feeling guilty for past transgressions. Inability to distinguish fact from fiction, or to help protect the real criminal.
From Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law:
Three psychologically distinct types of false confessions are:
Voluntary – absence of coercion
Compliant – professes guilt in response to extreme interrogation
Persuaded- occurs when a suspect comes to believe they did commit the crime.
Voluntary- a desire for fame, need to expiate guilt over imagined or real acts, inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality, pathological need for acceptance, or self punishment, desire to aid and protect the real criminal, to provide an alibi for a different crime, to get revenge on someone else.
Compliant- response to police coercion, stress, pressure to terminate or escape from interrogation. These are knowingly admitting guilt when you know you are innocent.
Persuaded- when an interrogation causes an innocent suspect to doubt himself, his or her memory, becomes persuaded or convinced he/she did the crime. At some point, the suspect will experience cognitive dissonance due to not being able to reconcile between knowing he is innocent and if the police are being truthful.
These false confessions, as previously discussed, lead people to presumption of guilt. Which is exactly what can be seen and demonstrated in true crime groups with statements such as: “I would never confess to a crime I didn’t do” or “He admitted it, so he is guilty.” This presumption of guilt taints everyone’s opinion: officials, media, public, jurors, even family. Each part of the system builds up against the individual making the investigative trial process much harder, and even grow cold. A false confession suspect is more likely to stay in jail waiting for a trial, charged with the crime, pressured to plead guilty, and often also convicted.
Despite the research, and analyzing many cases over the years in regard to false confessions it is still unknown how frequently they occur.
From Crime Report, “Innocent people are particularly unlikely to invoke their Miranda rights naively believing the truth will set them free. False confessions are so powerful that they convict innocent people even in the face of exculpating evidence.”
From Pjmedia.com it states, “That investigating officer’s performance is not based on the amount of crimes, but on arrests. There’s a misconception that a wrongful arrest will correct itself through the trial system, but most jury members hold a prevailing belief that innocent people don’t confess to a crime they did not commit.”
Now that is extremely important, read it again. Awareness can break this prevailing belief that innocent people don’t confess to crimes they didn’t commit. Many of you, myself included may one day be called to jury duty. Someone else’s life will be in our hands. Information gives us education, and knowledge which helps spread awareness. The more awareness the more a long held belief can be broken.
Defense attorney, Jane Fischer-Byrialsen explained, “Any time you do an exoneration case where there’s been a false confession, its like trying to ride a tricycle uphill. Everybody’s already against you, the persons already been convicted by a jury, the judge thinks he’s guilty, the jury thinks he’s guilty. Now you have to convince everybody that they’re wrong.”
Saul Kassin, PHD, said, “It defies intuition to think innocent people would confess to a crime they did not commit. But, research has shown that everyone has a breaking point.”
From Research Gate, “False confessions are often involved in wrongful convictions and are sometimes made to protect someone else perhaps as a way to reciprocating past favors. Experimental research has neglected to investigate false confessions made to protect someone else, including among adolescents who can be particularly vulnerable.”
Confessions are extremely damaging it can be difficult for a defendant to recant, or explain why to a jury. This goes back to it being hard for people to understand why someone would falsely confess. Problem is there is psychological research showing otherwise. One study by Kassin and Keichel showed 69% of participants falsely confessed to crashing a computer program after being accused of doing such.
Another reason jurors favor confessors over recanters according to the American Philosophical Association, “It affects the perception of others. This would include eyewitnesses, alibi witnesses, and forensic experts.” This actually caught my attention, and I will relate it to the Watts case. For starters, when Chris confessed on 8/15/2018 the media circulated that he confessed to killing them all. We all know that was entirely false, but as members of the public we didn’t know that was false until FIVE whole days later. The affidavit had been sealed, and it wasn’t until after he was formally charged that they unsealed it. That was when it was disclosed that he did not confess to killing them all, and the public was left that long with the presumption of a full confession, guilty. This would have definitely tainted potential jurors. If it is already hard for people to break the thought that a confession means guilt, what happens when they think a suspect fully confessed only to see that it was a partial confession? Food for thought, and something we will never know thanks to Chris’s plea deal. While discussing the affidavit, the summary of the confession on the affidavit had false information. It was typed that Chris said he had seen Bella blue on the baby monitor. That was later proven inaccurate when the Discoveries were released, and we were able to watch the entire interrogation. It also said that Chris claimed the girls were strangled, but when you watch the confession he didn’t really seem sure how they died.
Continuing on with false confessions here are a few more facts from The Innocence Project and FalseConfessions.org:
-False confessions are the leading cause of false convictions of homicide.
-In 30% of DNA exoneration cases the defendant made incriminating statements, delivered a confession, or pled guilty.
– 92% of false confessors are men.
-Multiple false confessions to the same crime were obtained in 30% of the cases, wherein one false confession was used to prompt others.
-According to the Innocence Project, 25% of wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence involve a false confession, and many of those false confessions actually contained details that match the crime, details that were not made to the public.
-If approximately 27% of the total number of exonerated cases involved a false confession, and if 10% of the two million men and women imprisoned in the United States are innocent, as estimated by the Department of Justice, than we can gather that as many as 50,000 of their convictions involved false confessions. That could very well be someone you know.
A murder takes a life, and death ends a life. False confessions often take a life, and false conviction can end a life. We will pick this up where we left off. We are gonna finish off the common statements from the Watts’ case, discuss plea deals, solitary confinement, and more. I wont keep you waiting long…
Part 2 now available here: https://truecrimecaseanalysis.home.blog/2020/01/08/never-say-never-part-2/