Man who went to prison for yogurt shop murders wants name cleared
The Crime - The Yogurt Shop Murders - Pictures - CBS News
16 May Jennifer Harbison and Eliza Thomas, both 17, were working part-time at “I Can't Believe It's Yogurt!” a small shop both 17 at the time. Wellborn said he traveled with the teens in a stolen Nissan Pathfinder just days after the murder, but with no evidence to link any them to the crime, the case stalled. 6 Dec Dozens of lives were forever changed and Austin lost much of its innocence. Despite years of investigations, we're still asking the same questions that were asked that night. December 6, , a night that started innocently enough at an I Can't Believe It's Yogurt shop off West Anderson Lane. In a nice part. Calories in I Can't Believe It's Not Yogurt Rasberry Pomegrante Frozen Yogurt. Find nutrition facts for I Can't Believe It's Not Yogurt Rasberry Pomegrante Frozen Yogurt and over other foods in 24dating.me's food database.
She had convened a press conference to deliver big news. Ten years after city and county officials gathered to announce that they'd found the four men responsible for the grisly yogurt shop murders, Lehmberg had decided to dismiss all charges against the only two men ever tried for the crime, Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott.
But it was the only real option. Although she still believed Springsteen I Cant Believe Its Not Yogurt Scott were responsible for the crime, she said — despite a lack of any physical evidence connecting them to it — she had concluded that she must drop the charges because prosecutors had read more explanation for explosive new evidence discovered in It wasn't for a lack of looking that they couldn't identify the male donor; since discovery of the DNA, prosecutors and police had tested more than people without finding a match.
Nonetheless, even as Lehmberg stood before reporters that day, she and her prosecutors were still publicly adamant that the unknown male DNA belonged to someone known to the four men originally charged with the crime — in other words, they were now operating on a "fifth man" theory of the crime.
Perversely, the prosecution's insistence that there is only one possible theory for the crime — and only one set of suspects — may be preventing them from finding the actual murderers. A review of the case material suggests that there are likelier suspects to be considered — and a more likely scenario than an impulse crime by four teenage boys. As testing continued through and intothe fifth-man theory became harder to defend.
Indeed, in subsequent testing by Springsteen's and Scott's defense attorneys, DNA from a second male, also unknown, was found on additional items of evidence. In short, it was becoming more and more difficult to explain away mounting evidence suggesting that prosecutors and Austin police had been wrong all along about their theory of the crime — not that Lehmberg was willing to publicly admit the possibility on that fall afternoon in It would be unfair to the jury hearing the case, to our community, and most of all, unfair to the victims of these devastating crimes and their families, who have patiently endured all of these years," she read from a prepared statement.
Since then, the investigation of the horrifying murders of the four teenage friends — Ayers; Sarah and Jennifer Harbison, 15 and 17, respectively; and Eliza Thomas, 17 — has again gone cold. Springsteen and Scott, under intense questioning by police, had confessed and were convicted, but those convictions were ultimately overturned on appeal on a finding that prosecutors had violated basic constitutional due process.
Pierce — whom prosecutors had dubbed the "mastermind" of the crime — spent more than three years in jail before prosecutors, citing a lack of evidence, dismissed the charges against him in After two grand juries declined to indict Welborn, no case was ever developed against him. In retrospect, lawyers for two of the four men — along with at least one of the crime's original Austin Police Department investigators, retired Sgt.
The crime could still be solved, they say, though they admit that would be very difficult now that so much time has passed. What it would take, they agree, is a commitment to starting over from the beginning and reconsidering evidence found in crime scene photos, in roughlypages of investigative documents, and in the physical elements of the crime — including pieces of evidence still untested for DNA — retained in evidence bags. And, importantly, say several defense lawyers, investigators should return to the statements of the final customers at the neighborhood yogurt shop that evening, whom they believe were among the last to see the actual killers.
You take the original equation, and you do your own work, and you come to your own conclusion. That way you can find out where the errors occurred. Just before midnight I Cant Believe Its Not Yogurt Article source, Dec.
Dozens of firefighters and police responded to the two-alarm blaze, including Jones, then an investigator with the APD's small homicide unit. He was out that night riding with a local news crew working on a feature about homicide in Texas. The cameras were rolling as they pulled into the parking lot of the yogurt shop; the footage, played in court inshowed a chaotic scene of public I Cant Believe Its Not Yogurt officials tramping in and out of what they would soon learn was the scene of a quadruple murder.
After the blaze was suppressed, firefighters made the shocking discovery: When you're able to put a name and face and a circumstance, man. At the time, Jones had been in the department's homicide unit long enough to investigate the murders of people — "that's how you measure time in homicide," he says — but this was something new.
But lazy APD decided they would coerce some confessions and just go with that. They can still be prosecuted and the APD still swears it is them. Scott also indicated that Springsteen hit one of the girls and sexually assaulted her. Nonetheless, it was part of a strategy to bolster the confessions of Springsteen and Scott that, while on first glance read as telling, actually contain no concrete details that could be corroborated by outside evidence, Jones and the lawyers for the two men say.
And because of the fire, it was a mess: Water had puddled in the shop, particularly in the rear where the bodies were found, and the high-powered fire hoses had inevitably shifted elements of the scene — perhaps including the bodies — making it difficult at best to identify and collect what evidence remained. Jones immediately reached out for help — to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Click the following article, and Firearms; to the FBI; and to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which at the time handled the majority of crime scene investigations for the local police department.
Still, Jones says he approached this I Cant Believe Its Not Yogurt scene the same way he had handled every other homicide: He started at the beginning. He and the homicide team initially tasked with investigating the crime interviewed customers who'd been to click shop that day, as well as employees and friends of the girls; they fielded thousands of tips phoned in by I Cant Believe Its Not Yogurt concerned public.
And eight days later, they talked to thenyear-old Maurice Pierce, who had been picked up at Northcross Mall, just blocks from source crime scene, carrying a. During questioning, Pierce said he'd lent the gun to his friend, Forrest Welborn, then 15, and that Welborn had used it to commit the yogurt shop murders. Welborn denied any involvement but told investigators that he and Pierce and a pair of acquaintances, Springsteen and Scott, had taken a joyride to San Antonio in a stolen SUV not long after the crime, an admission that put Springsteen and Scott on the police radar as well.
Nonetheless, after lengthy questioning, Jones and his team dismissed Pierce as a suspect, concluding that he was lying.
But it became clear to Jones that neither Pierce nor Welborn had any connection to the crime. In part, says Jones, his feeling that Pierce was not a viable suspect was based on the work of another homicide investigator, former Detective Hector Polanco. To say that Polanco had a reputation for coercing confessions out of innocent suspects would be an understatement. Polanco was a pit bull interrogator, using techniques that at times were successful, but were also responsible for any number of false confessions during the yogurt shop investigation — including one from a man whom Jones believed to be a good suspect until he learned that many of the crime scene details featured in the man's confession had actually been fed to him by Polanco.
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Despite Polanco's success at securing such confessions, Pierce, whom Polanco also interviewed, never admitted any involvement. In Jones' mind, that went a long way toward clearing Pierce. Moreover, says Jones, Pierce's gun didn't match the ballistics of the crime — though.
Pierce's gun was among dozens that investigators tried unsuccessfully to link to the crime. That array included not only.
Despite police having searched everywhere that various suspects — including Springsteen and Scott — professed to have dumped it, that gun has never been found. Roughly three years after the crime, Jones was promoted to sergeant and transferred to another assignment.
The murder investigation was officially cold. Although it was never entirely abandoned, the case remained on a low simmer untilwhen Detective Paul Johnson picked up the file and set about reworking it into manageable bites.
In so doing, he reorganized the contents of the offense file into various tips — among them the so-called Maurice Pierce tip, which Jones and his I Cant Believe Its Not Yogurt had cleared years before. Exactly why that gun, out of all the others mentioned by various suspects some of whom had confessed to the crimecaught his attention remains unclear.
Indeed, why Pierce was vaulted to the top of the pack of potential tips — there were some 2, of them after his reorganization, according to news reports from — remains a mystery to many involved in the case. Johnson retired in and I Cant Believe Its Not Yogurt not be reached for comment. To Joe James Sawyer, who headed up Springsteen's defense team, the decision to focus on Pierce remains curious.
That is the most imbecilic — and you may say, Joe James Sawyer said that was imbecilic — way to approach an old crime. Because the proper way to reapproach it is to say, 'What might we have missed? What didn't we see? Jones believes that led investigators to Pierce and, ultimately, to arresting the wrong people. For example, the city's fire investigator, Melvin Stahl, concluded from reviewing the crime scene that the fire had started in a corner of the shop where supplies were stored.
Later, after investigators obtained from Scott a confession that he started the fire on the bodies of the girls by using an accelerant, investigators went out and got a second opinion from ATF agent Marshall Littleton that matched Scott's confession; Stahl then recanted his conclusions and reworked his theory to match Littleton's. Nonetheless, it was part of a strategy to bolster the confessions of Springsteen and Scott that, while on first glance read as telling, actually contain no concrete details that could be corroborated by outside evidence, Jones and the lawyers for the two men say.
No physical evidence connected any of the four men to the scene — not the hair or fingerprint evidence collected from the scene nor the DNA more recently discovered. That alone should call into question check this out men's confessions, says Carlos Garcia, lead defense attorney for Scott.
For example, although Springsteen said he raped one of the girls, it wasn't his DNA, but instead that from an unknown male, that was identified through evidence testing — meaning Springsteen's statement was a lie. Indeed, Garcia and other members of the defense team suggest that instead of still relying on false confessions to insist that the four arrested in are responsible for the crime, there is a better way to determine the guilty party: Go back to the crime scene and begin again.
In the end, the only things that convicted Springsteen and Scott were their individual — and tainted — confessions. More specifically, what aided prosecutors tremendously during each man's individual trial — given the dearth of physical evidence to back up those confessions — was a strategy that was also the prosecution's ultimate downfall.
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In order to corroborate the details of each man's confession, prosecutors sought successfully to have entered into evidence portions of the other defendant's confession. Although it worked as a trial strategy, the procedure ultimately led to the convictions being overturned, because by presenting the confessions, the state violated each defendant's rights not only to not incriminate himself but also to cross-examine all witnesses.
There is little doubt that the prosecutors' move to sidestep those protections was effective. Later, with the convictions vacated and returned to Travis County prosecutors who promised the men would be retried, defense lawyers also had an opportunity to review the case. Garcia separated the crime scene photos into sequence — looking for details that might previously have been missed — and the lawyers put the testimony and police statements of every witness into separate binders, to look at how those statements had evolved over time and how the recollections of different witnesses, from firefighters to police click to see more store employees and customers, might create a larger picture of the crime.
As part of that reorganization, Garcia gave Farrelly, then still clerking for the defense teams, a binder full of statements given to police by people who had been customers at the yogurt shop on Dec. Farrelly put the information into a timeline that eventually stretched across five white sheets of poster I Cant Believe Its Not Yogurt, with arrows connecting customers — denoting who remembered seeing whom at the store at what time — offering the lawyers a clear sequence of events for the first time.
Farrelly, Sawyer, and Garcia declined to divulge any specific details about the customers or what they said about the two men they saw, because the customers were never called to testify in court, but other sources with knowledge of the case have confirmed a basic account of what the final visit web page customers, a married couple, told police happened on Friday, Dec. Contacted by the Chroniclethe witnesses declined to comment for this story.
According to police statements, the couple saw two men sitting at a booth and acting strangely; by watching their reflections in the plate glass shop front, the woman could see the men from where she was sitting.
The woman said the pair made her uncomfortable, sources tell the Chronicle. The couple left as the girls began to close up shop, leaving the two men alone with them. Indeed, considered in sequence with the recollections of at least one other witness who did testify, it appears to the defense lawyers that more than one person at the I Cant Believe Its Not Yogurt might have come into contact with at least one of the men the couple had seen. According to Dearl Croft, a former police officer who in ran a security company, when he visited the shop around 10pm that evening to buy yogurt for himself and two friends, he was approached by a man wearing a military fatigue-style jacket.
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The man was loitering in the customer line, ushering other customers to order first; when Croft came in, the man asked if he was a cop and offered to allow Croft to also pass him in line. Croft refused, and when the man finally approached the counter, he ordered only a can of soda. After he paid, he moved around the counter and headed to the back of the store; Croft asked where he'd gone and was told by Eliza Thomas, who as the store's shift supervisor was operating the register, that she'd allowed him to go into the back to use the restroom.
Croft was uneasy and testified that he hung around the counter for a few more minutes to see if the man ever returned; according to Croft, he never did.
WHO KILLED THESE GIRLS?
With his yogurt beginning to melt, Click at this page said, he left the store. Croft did not respond to our request for an interview for this story. Days after the crime, Croft was able to give a fairly detailed description of the man he saw — a white male about 6 feet tall; mid- to late 20s; medium build; dark hair; clean-shaven; a clear, deep voice; and a long, pointed nose — but he was never able to identify a suspect out of numerous lineups given to him by police.
The account given by witnesses comports with crime scene photos, says Garcia — and with the couple's account of the two men in the shop just before closing — including photos that Garcia admits did not capture his attention during Scott's first trial. In two photos of the shop's dining room, one table stands out: That is the table, the defense lawyers believe, where the killers sat.
Although the lawyers note that eyewitness identifications are notoriously unreliable — mistaken ID is responsible for the vast majority of Texas' exoneration cases — they believe that the accounts of the final customers, in combination with other crime scene evidence, are particularly telling, offering a corroborated and broader picture of what happened inside the shop just before closing.
Garcia says that he has offered to share with D. Lehmberg the timeline the defense developed, but to date, he says, she has not accepted that I Cant Believe Its Not Yogurt. When the charges against Springsteen and Scott were initially dismissed, prosecutors and police were adamant in their declarations that the men were actually guilty and remained the I Cant Believe Its Not Yogurt prime focus.