[Retired Federal agent: ATF, Organized Crime & Racketeering Strike Force, INTERPOL. Note: As an old cop, I entered this case to prove to the defendant’s supporters that he was guilty and the law had done its job.]
EXAMINE THE EVIDENCE, BE A JURY, REACH YOUR VERDICT BASED ON EVIDENCE, BUT YOU’LL HAVE FACTS JURORS IN THIS CASE NEVER HEARD.
Between noon and 3:00p.m. on Wednesday, July 6, 1988, twelve-year-old Sarah Cherry was abducted from the Henkel house in Bowdoin, Maine where she was babysitting. On Friday, July 8th, her vandalized body was found in a woods, three miles away.
In 1989, prosecutors presented “a mountain of evidence” to convict a farmer named Dennis Dechaine for the brutal slaying of that little girl. That evidence:
1- Dechaine’s papers laying outside the Henkel house.
2- Dechaine’s rope bound Sarah; his scarf strangled her.
3- Dechaine was in the woods where her body would be found.
4- Dechaine had no alibi.
5- A Medical Examiner’s testimony, indicating that the murder was committed at a time when Dechaine could not account for his whereabouts or actions.
6- Dechaine’s statements to detectives indicating guilt.
7- An announcement of guilt to two jail guards.
Dechaine was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The trial transcript shows that prosecutor Eric Wright chose not to establish time of death with the usual, “What time in your medical opinion did the victim die?” Instead, his questions to Medical Examiner Roy inquired about how long Sarah was dead when Roy performed the autopsy.
Dr. Roy said rigor was passing off and, “The parameters of rigor mortis suggest probably a minimum of 30 to 36 hours and it could well be longer.”
Jurors were left to do the math.
Textbooks confirmed my understanding: rigor normally begins twelve hours after death, remains twelve hours, and passes off in another twelve hours. If Roy was correct when he added, “it could be longer,” i.e. counting further back, more than 36 hours before the autopsy, that would mean death occurred earlier.
Textbooks on forensic pathology say that was not possible.
Sarah was twelve and temperatures were near ninety that week. Textbooks tell us that rigor progresses more quickly in the old and the young, more rapidly in warm environments. That would mean the span of rigor would be shorter in this case and, by Roy‘s calculation, death came in even less than Roy‘s estimate of 30-36 hours before the autopsy i.e. later in time.
Sarah’s neck was constricted to a diameter of 2½-3 inches; life couldn’t have lingered after she was strangled.
Even Roy’s thirty to thirty-six hours before his autopsy at 4:20PM that Friday places the time of death between 4:20AM and 10:40AM Thursday.
Police reports show Dechaine undergoing interrogation from about 9:30PM Wednesday until, keeping his truck for examination (with his permission), they drove him home at 4:00AM, Thursday. Others account for his actions the rest of that day.
Roy’s “it could have been longer” and his un-informative “Found 7/8/88” warranted a closer look at him.
The only known facts regarding the condition of the body are those reported by Dr. Roy. According to his report (if it is complete), he discarded fly larvae found on the body; he did not record body temperature or ambient temperature (near 90 degrees all that week, according to the weather bureau); and he did not perform the vitreous potassium test on the victim’s eye fluid. The only details he reported indicative of time of death are the rigor mortis (which he says was “still present but passing off”) and the fact that he observed no signs of decomposition; nor is any sign of decomposition evident in autopsy photographs.
Roy also stated, based on stomach contents, that Sarah died
“within a few hours” of eating lunch at noon, Wednesday.
However, according to Investigation of Sudden Death -— A Manual For Medical Examiners: “Great excitement, marked fear, severe injury, and death all delay or stop gastric activity.” The fear Sarah must have experienced the moment she was abducted before 3PM on Wednesday means her gastric activity had stopped.
Roy’s testimony claimed training in general pathology and anatomic pathology. He made no mention of any training in forensic pathology –
the specialty of determining time and cause of death.
When I obtained his personnel file, it contained no curriculum vitae. Not even an application for his job.
I asked to see the trial exhibits.
Prosecutor Wright’s reply: “No.”
We all get suspicious when people want to hide something.
I filed suit in Superior Court. Wright caved.
Reviewing the trial exhibits reminded me that police lab technicians searched, swabbed and vacuumed Dechaine’s pickup. They found Dechaine’s fingerprints, none from Sarah.
Microscopic examination of the vacuumed contents found no hair, blood, fingerprint or fabric. No trace of her whatsoever. A local constable, present at the time, told me something prosecutors never mentioned: the state police tracking dog couldn’t detect Sarah’s scent in Dechaine’s vehicle.
The lab and the dog found no sign that Sarah was ever in Dechaine’s truck. How did she get three miles from the Henkel house?
There was no trace of Dechaine on Sarah, no trace of her on him or in his truck. Fingerprints, not Dechaine’s, were on the Henkel house door. I asked to see them. They were “missing.”
Dechaine had claimed all along that someone must have taken items from his truck to frame him. Prosecutor Wright dismissed that possibility. When found, Dechaine’s pickup was locked; Dechaine had the key; nobody, the State said, could have taken Dechaine’s things, then locked his Toyota without that key.
Jurors were never shown the police report stating that Dechaine’s truck could be locked without a key. [Final report by Detective Hendsbee, page 3, dated 3/3/89, 1530 hours.]
In his summation ending Dechaine’s trial, prosecutor Wright said, “There is no evidence, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, in this case of an alternative perpetrator.”
According to the state’s Register of Sex Offenders, there were more than fifty such persons living within ten miles of where Sarah vanished. A relative of Sarah’s, Doug Senecal was already under indictment for sexually molesting a stepdaughter. His alibi: buying a saw blade when Sarah disappeared.
A clerk who hadn’t made the sale guessed that Senecal made the purchase and the sale probably occurred around that time.
Senecal was cleared.
His sister reported her belief in his guilt to State Police Det. Drake [Det Drake report 6/29/92 1711 hrs.] His report states that his
account of that interview is attached. It is not in the official file.
Senecal later told a private investigator, “I will never trust you. The only man on the face of the earth I will ever trust is Eric Wright.”
In 2000, a prison inmate sent a letter saying Sarah Cherry was murdered by “Jason Fickett, a scum, in for child molesting.”
Discovery material turned over to Connolly included a report by
State Police Detective Hendsbee. The evening after Sarah disappeared,
the day before her body was found, Hendsbee reported “a small sized barefooted footprint as well as larger sized barefooted footprint
I had other leads. I’d lost sight of this one.
Sarah was barefoot when she vanished. Now I learned that Fickett Road was only half-a-mile from the Henkel house. My request for Fickett’s criminal record came back with this stamp:
NO RECORD AGAINST ABOVE
NAME & DESCRIPTION IN
FILES OF STATE BUREAU
APR 10 p 12:36
MAINE STATE POLICE
The jury never heard anything about Jason Fickett. I wondered, how could he be “a scum in for child molesting,” yet have no criminal record?
A prison clerk told me: “Fickett? He’s been released.”
Now the state police clerk said, “Oh yes, here it is.”
Fickett had several arrests for sex crimes.
I requested the transcript of his latest trial.
Court clerk: “That’s an old file. It’s stored up in the attic. I’ll dig it out for you tonight after work.”
After a week, “Your request is not high on my list of priorities.”
After three weeks: the court administrator ordered I be given the transcript. Fickett’s victim in that case was twelve. He’d had
intercourse with her eight times, most recently on June 10, 1988. His victim told how Fickett committed coitus, fellatio, and “penetration
by a foreign object” on her. Twenty-four days before Sarah Cherry’s abduction, Fickett was questioned about that case by the officer who’d heard that account by his victim. That officer was Detective Hendsbee.
Fickett was free when Sarah was murdered.
Detective Hendsbee saw those bare footprints leading into a known pedophile’s trailer. He didn’t inquire whether the missing child was there. He didn’t even knock on Fickett’s door. [Exhibit D]
He and his partner, Detective Drake, walked away.
Hendsbee’s personnel file shows no noteworthy commendations. He once investigated a homicide, but it was solved later by another detective. This time, however, Detective Hendsbee’s summons from his home around 11:00pm one night, assigned simply to assist in the search for a missing child, turned into the state’s most highly publicized homicide.
I phoned him in 2001, told him I was writing a book and, “There’s something in one of your reports that’s going to confuse the readers.”
I quoted his report about footprints and the Fickett trailer. “You say these footprints were ‘believed not to be involved,’ but how could you be sure since the girl was barefoot?”
“Oh. We didn’t know she was barefoot.” (His assignment to search
for a missing child contained her description, including that fact.)
“I was just wondering why you thought they weren’t involved.”
“I don’t know, at the time.”
“Yeah, I don’t know. There’s a reason for it, uh, I don’t know at
“Okay, ‘cause it says it was to the Fickett trailer.”
“Coulda been. Yep, yep.”
“Well, do you know Fickett?”
“You don’t know Fickett?”
“It’s Jason Fickett.”
“Don’t know him. Am I supposed to know him?”
“Well, yeah. You investigated him a couple weeks before Sarah Cherry was killed.”
“For having sex with a twelve-year-old girl.”
“I convict him?”
“I read the court transcript on his trial. You interviewed the
victim two weeks before Sarah was killed.”
“It wasn’t on that road.”
“No, but it was Jason Fickett.”
“It could have been. I have no idea.”
Later in our conversation Hendsbee said, “My job was to find her alive, hopefully. And I was hoping she would be alive, but Dennis sorta confirmed that she wasn’t. But that’s, well, from then on it was, we had to find the body.”
“Dennis confirmed she wasn’t?”
“Uh, he indicated that through his actions.”
I asked about his report that he and Trooper Thomas Bureau were in the woods at exactly 2:00 A.M. Thursday morning with the dog, hearing noises coming from the spot where Sarah’s body lay.
“Uh yeah,” Hendsbee replied, “yep, that area, yeah.”
“I’m just wondering if the guy was over there killing her.”
“How do you know?”
“Didn’t happen that way.”
“All I can go on is what’s in the reports.”
“No. Didn’t happen that way. Did not happen that way. It didn’t. There’s too many other things leading up, and Dennis Dechaine being at
the [Henkel] house (because his papers were found there), being there, and her being with him. I really don’t know. I’m gonna tell you something. Let me explain something. I was opposed to this Dennis Dechaine [being guilty] during this whole thing when everybody else was. I really liked this guy. . . . My thing was, disprove Dennis Dechaine ‘cause I didn’t really want to arrest the guy to be perfectly honest with you.”
Finally he asked, “Are you taping this?”
“Yes. I don’t want to be misquoted. I’ve already been misquoted by certain people in this case and I don’t want to misquote anyone else.”
“I thought you were. You’ve heard everything I’ve got to say. And don’t ever call me again.”
Who can explain Detective Hendsbee’s failure to appreciate the clue of small bare footprints beside large footprints leading to a known pedophile’s trailer only half-a-mile from where a barefoot young girl
went missing? Who can account for prosecutor Wright’s evasions, and his “no alternative perpetrator” which prove to be false? Or the police clerk’s claim that Fickett had no record? Or the court clerk’s change
from her cheerful, “I’ll dig it out for you tonight after work” to her cold, “Your request is not high on my list of priorities”? All these incomprehensible events combined to give me the distinct feeling that an unseen something was motivating all of these officials’ bizarre behavior.
The Carlton Conversations
That unseen something surfaced when defense lawyer Gene Libby filed
a habeas action in Federal court. The AG’s response revealed information they’d kept secret for more than eight years — conversations with Dechaine’s first lawyer, George Carlton.
Deputy Attorney General Fern LaRochelle’s affidavit said that the
day after Sarah disappeared, he’d phoned Carlton to say, “if Sarah was still alive, it was important that we find her soon. So I have just two questions: is she alive? And, are we searching the right area? Attorney Carlton replied that Sarah was not alive and added something to the
effect that we were looking in the right area. . . I reported this information to Assistant Attorney General Eric Wright.”
Lawyer Joseph Field‘s affidavit: “I asked George what it was like
for him trying a big case like this one in the second seat, especially with Tom Connolly in the lead seat.”
Carlton’s reply: Dechaine was guilty.
Fields’ affidavit made reference to Carlton’s “return from Australia.” That turned out to be Carlton’s surrender following years as a fugitive from a federal indictment for evading eleven years’ income taxes. In 1983, he settled his tax debt for $38,495.54. His former partner, William Leonard, told me Carlton “served thirty days in jail and was suspended from the practice of law for six or nine months.”
Ex-prosecutor Edmund Folsom‘s affidavit: “When George first took the case, he spoke to me on the phone, and I jokingly told him he was too
old to be dealing with a case of that nature. At the time, George seemed to be considering getting co-counsel, and he asked me about [Tom Connolly]. . . Also in that discussion, George made it clear to me that he knew Dennis Dechaine had committed the murder from having discussed it with Dechaine.”
Carlton’s apparent violations of client confidentiality suggested questions regarding his overall credibility.
Carlton implied he was still involved, still trusted, still
important but perhaps “too good“ to defend a despicable child killer. Fact: Connolly was hired by Dechaine on advice of a friend’s father,
a law school professor. Connolly kept Carlton on in the second chair
for any benefit Carlton’s friendship with the judge might yield. Dechaine’s family had told Carlton they couldn’t afford two lawyers.
Carlton was born in Philadelphia on December 5th, 1924, drafted for World War II, attached to the 327th Glider Regiment and awarded the usual decorations given most soldiers in Europe. Discharged as a private, the heroic war exploits he bragged about are absent from official records.
Carlton charged Dechaine’s family $3,000 for the two first-day half-hour consultations in his office. He’d asked $50,000 to defend Dechaine
at trial. The highly successful Connolly saw his own $30,000 fee as “more than I’d ever received for any case before.”
Lawyers who knew Carlton characterized him as a “braggart,” “vain,” “reckless,” “egotistical,” “adulterer,“ and “cynicism preserved by frequent doses of alcohol.”
A kinder assessment from a knowledgeable observer of Maine’s legal scene: “A decent, garden-variety do-your-will, do-your-mortgage lawyer with no particular expertise in criminal matters beyond the occasional
OUI (operating under the influence) case.”
In the year Dechaine consulted him, Carlton represented thirty-eight criminal defendants. The one who rejected Carlton’s advice to plead
guilty was acquitted. Others had lesser charges dismissed when Carlton pleaded them guilty to more serious offenses. The rest ended up with the same penalty given defendants who come to court without a lawyer.
During 1987-1988, Carlton handled two civil cases. Both were dismissed for his “failure to file docket entries.”
Ironically, Dechaine recalls Carlton fondly as, “always smiling, always encouraging, constantly telling me that everything will come out fine.”
When I questioned medical examiner Roy about his peculiar testimony regarding time of death, he exclaimed, “Well for God’s sake, his own lawyer said he did it!”
Here’s an attorney, Carlton, if you believe him, betraying client confidentiality. Lawyers are required to report such violations of Bar rules. None did.
Deputy Attorney General LaRochelle told me, “Um, my purpose was, as I’ve indicated, uh, to hopefully — if she was still alive — uh, have him tell us that if he knew so we could save her.”
I said, “Since he was thinking she wasn’t alive, why do you think
he said anything? We think about lawyers and they never tell anything.”
“Yeah, well I don’t remember what, to be honest with you, I don’t recall his answer. I think he basically, he may have said that, uh, uhhh, I don’t know. Uh, what does my affidavit say?”
“I think it said he said she’s dead and you’re looking in the right place.”
“Okay, okay, uh, and your question to me is what again?”
“I guess it seems like betraying a client.”
“Uh, well he was probably answering my, probably, I mean I can’t speak for him obviously but he is, uh, I mean my question was ‘Is she still alive?’ Uh, I guess you can’t dance on the fence on that too long. Either she is or she isn’t.”
I asked whether LaRochelle would have answered such a question
if he were the defense lawyer.
“I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it. There are probably pros and cons, uh, to that, and, uh, so, uh, it’s a difficult question. Don’t know.”
“It just surprises me,” I said, “and I think it would surprise readers that a lawyer did that.”
I asked about his order to the medical examiner’s clerk to, “Show [me] what we gave Connolly [regarding the autopsy] “and nothing else.”
“No no, there shouldn’t have been, and so I’m not sure what she means. . . Connolly got everything that we had.” He assured me they
always pass everything along, and “we don’t sit there editorializing.” He denied ever seeing the autopsy reports or being present at the autopsy.
Dr. Roy’s autopsy report lists LaRochelle as present.
I asked Joseph Field, now a judge, about lawyers revealing clients’ secrets.
“Particularly when you’re practicing law,” he said, “but even if you’re practicing alone, um, it is not uncommon for people to have, uh, seek legal advice, and I did this all the time when I was practicing law. . . . “
“Did I miss something? Was he asking you for advice?”
“Well, uh, you know I, uh, it wasn’t exact — I don’t, uh, was he asking for advice? No, he wasn’t asking, specifically asking for advice. Was he asking for, uh (clears throat) uh, I suppose you could, it’s hard to answer.”
Carlton, hospitalized following a stroke, was never questioned
about these claims. He has passed away. The Federal court accepted the State’s presentation of other evidence and rejected the habeas motion.
It’s natural to wonder why intelligent, experienced officials would instantly and eagerly trust anything said by a character like Carlton — drunkard, braggart, incompetent attorney and convicted tax cheat, teased by lawyers Field and Folsom when they asked him about the case, resentful at being rejected and replaced by Connolly.
We all have a tendency to believe what we want to believe. For the authorities, accepting Carlton’s words let them believe that they’d
It’s said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
When I tracked Medical Examiner Roy down in Canada and asked him about the Dechaine case, he made two comments: “That case is the reason
I left Maine,” and “For God’s sake, his own lawyer said he did it.”
The Carlton conversations, added to the temptingly obvious clues,
may account for our initial acceptance of Dechaine’s guilt. But after people become aware of Carlton’s character, the concealed information and the scientific evidence – what convinces anybody of Dechaine’s guilt?
Exhibits B and Exhibits C]
My book, Human Sacrifice, was published in 2002. Its story was spread by Trial & Error, the support organization founded by Dechaine’s childhood friend, Carol Waltman whose tireless efforts instigated action by many. Within months, six-thousand people signed a petition demanding a new trial for Dechaine. A public opinion poll showed most Mainers favoring a new trial. In 2003, Maine’s Legislature ordered the Attorney General to open his “confidential file” on the case.
With the lid off, facts never seen by jurors became public. At trial, county detective Westrum testified he was reading this Dechaine quote from his notes: “Why did I kill her?”
And, when police brought Dechaine home that morning after Sarah’s disappearance, Westrum — again claiming to read from his notes — quoted Dechaine as saying, “I told my wife I did something bad.”
Westrum’s notes don’t record Dechaine saying, “I did something bad.” His notes say, “I told my wife something bad had happened.” [Exhibit K]
That’s hardly an incriminating statement from a man who’d just endured seven hours of interrogation.
Exhibit L] In fact, Hendsbee’s notes regarding Dechaine — recorded in the same notebook where this detective kept copious notes concerning Fickett’s sexual abuse of that other 12-year-old girl — do not include, “It must be somebody else inside me doing this.” [Exhibit M]
Despite discrepancies between those detectives’ testimony and the true text of their notes, however, there was testimony by two jail guards. Daryl Maxcy and Brenda Dermody quoted Dechaine saying, “You people need to know that I’m the one who murdered that girl and you may want to put me in isolation.”
Dechaine says he stated: “I’m the one accused of . . .”
I wasn’t at the trial, hadn’t heard their testimony, never knew anything about either of these jail guards. Yet their words, even in the cold print of the transcript, came across to me as credible. Both said they were together when Dechaine uttered that sentence; both said they’d separately and independently gone aside to write down what he said.
It’s known to law enforcement personnel, even to some civilians who read a lot about crime, that men incarcerated for crimes against children often experience violence from other inmates. But nothing I’d heard about farmer Dechaine suggested that he was the sort attracted to crime stories. And the use of that term, “in isolation,” bothered me. The average citizen knows that prisoners are sometimes placed in quarters where they have no contact with other inmates but the ordinary person calls this “in solitary.” I’d never heard a civilian use the term, “in isolation.” In my experience, that term is used solely by law enforcement personnel.
The record showed that after his arrest and processing, Dechaine was driven to that jail by Sheriff David Haggett and Detective Westrum. Could they have warned Dechaine about the risk of violence from other prisoners? Might they have suggested the wisdom of informing jailers of the charge against him and requesting he be held “in isolation”?
With no reason to trust Westrum about anything any more, I spoke with former Sheriff Haggett. At the time of this case, Haggett himself had a 12-year-old daughter. “It was a hard, hard case,” he said. Nevertheless, even believing Dechaine guilty of this hideous crime, he showed the kindness and took the trouble to give Dechane a bit of advice. He said, “I remember we had a conversation and I knew he was going to have a hard time. . .”
I said, “So before he arrived at jail, at least he knew to tell them -”
“Yeah. And he did.”
“I don’t think he would have if you hadn’t advised him.”
“Mmmm, probably not.”
“Probably wouldn’t have known to.”
“Yeah, yeah that’s right.”
“Well I knew it was one of two people that took him to jail. You and Westrum.”
“And he used the term ’in isolation’ and that isn’t a term he would have used.”
“It must have been a term that somebody advised him, right?”
“Yeah, I get it. And he let them know when he got there.”
Recalling that constable’s information that the police tracking dog couldn’t detect Sarah’s scent in Dechaine’s truck, I asked Deputy Attorney General Stokes for the dog officer’s report — missing from the discovery material and from the supposedly complete “confidential file.”
Stokes denied the dog officer wrote a report.
Back to court. Lost. Filed an appeal. Another $200.00.
Stokes found the dog report.
At a meeting in the AG‘s office in Augusta, Prosecutor Wright told Dechaine’s brothers, two legislators and Carol Waltman, that Dechaine confessed to the state psychologist “and we have it on videotape.” [Exhibit E]
Hearing that, the brothers were so disconsolate, they drove the whole 293 miles back home that day without speaking a word.
Now, anyone can view the “confidential file,“ including that video. Nothing there or in the psychologist’s written report bears any remote resemblance to a confession.
Ironically, four months before Dechaine’s trial, Wright told another jury,
“Concealment of evidence . . . is always taken in the law as evidence of consciousness of guilt, and so of guilt. So, too, is lying. (State v. Saunders, 11/3/88)
The AG handpicked three private attorneys to investigate my accusations of official misconduct. The panel’s report: none of those allegations “have any substantial merit.”
I requested documents supporting their conclusion.
Back to court. Lost. Appealed.
Maine’s Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court in a 3-2 decision. Those reports weren’t accessible via Maine’s Freedom of Access Act because, the court said, that panel wasn’t a state agency. http://www.leagle.com/decision/20081932952ca2d980_11930
The value of direct evidence such as eyewitness testimony is generally strong. Circumstantial evidence, proven facts from which one may infer some other fact (such as a defendant’s papers found at a crime scene) is usually convincing too. Both, however, depend upon the credibility, motivations and interpretation of the witness providing such testimony.
The best evidence is scientific evidence. Science has no axe to grind; science doesn’t care who wins.
Thus far, the best scientific interpretations of Medical Examiner Roy’s observations concerning Sarah Cherry’s body rendered the possibility of Dechaine’s access to her at the time of her death impossible. Then there was DNA.
This aspect of the story began months before Dechaine’s trial when his attorney, Tom Connolly, requested DNA tests for which Dechaine offered to pay the costs.
By letter dated 7/14/88, only six days after Sarah’s body was found, the State had sought DNA testing in the Judy Flagg murder case. But now, prosecutor Wright knew the mystery blood under Sarah’s nails was Type A, and Dechaine’s blood Type is O. More definitive results offered by DNA testing couldn’t help the State’s case against Dechaine. Using “expert” testimony by a state chemist, Wright persuaded the judge to deny DNA testing.
After the trial, however, something happened which can only be called a fortunate fluke. The court clerk, ordered to dispose of all exhibits, “returned” Sarah’s bloody thumbnail to defense lawyer Connolly. It was labeled as a defense exhibit because Connolly had wanted it tested.
Carol Waltman’s urging caused Connolly to send that thumbnail to CBR Labs in Boston. DNA expert Dr. David Bing’s report following his examination of the trial transcript and testing the bloody nail stated:
“The State and the State’s expert proffered misleading and factually incorrect testimony upon which the Court relied [to deny testing].“ . . . DNA tests were in fact successfully performed. . . There are definitely at least two DNA sources contained in the nail clipping tested. Dennis Dechaine is definitely not one of the DNA sources found in the nail clipping.”
Further testing showed that the two DNA donors were Sarah Cherry, herself, and an unknown male person. It’s unfortunate that tests of that small sample produced only a partial profile — sufficient to eliminate Dechaine and many other individuals, but insufficient to positively identify the donor.
When prosecutor Wright was informed of these results, he promptly petitioned the court for the return of what he called Sarah‘s “body parts.”
The court ordered the return of the thumbnail.
Connolly wanted every potential DNA source tested.
Five years passed. Maine’s Supreme Court aped the lower court: “Testing the [other] nail clippings would not be useful due to the clear sufficiency of the trial evidence supporting Petitioner’s conviction.”
Maine’s Supreme Court had chastised LaRochelle before, in another case, for concealing evidence. (State v Ledger, 1982.)
In future years, pursuant to a motion under Maine’s newly enacted DNA statute, additional tests were performed on every remaining bit of evidence. A hearing was held in November, 2013. DNA expert Dr. Greg Hampikian staunchly and repeatedly corrected Deputy AG Stokes’ mischaracterizing and misstating of Hampikian’s testimony but Stokes persisted until, finally, Judge Bradford rebuked him: “We’re getting a little argumentative here. Let’s confine ourselves to questions and answers.”
Bradford ordered both sides to submit final written
arguments by February, 2014.
As recently as 11/8/13, following testimony regarding Dechaine’s latest bid for a new trial based on DNA evidence, Deputy AG Stokes said, “When you go back to evidence that was presented at trial, the evidence of Dennis Dechaine’s guilt remains overwhelming. It was then and it still is.”
Other times and just as often, he has assured us that the State’s case is built upon a “mountain of evidence.”
Sometimes, people cling to beliefs because it’s in their interest to ignore conflicting facts. [Exhibit G]
The State’s “mountain of evidence,” those seven facts shown at the beginning of this essay, has faded to a mirage.
“ [Gentlemen of the jury,] this is a big lie at work. If you tell a story grandly enough, often enough to enough people, in a way and at a time when it cannot be demonstrated to be untrue, then you come to hope and maybe believe that people will believe you.”
Eric Wright, State v. Alfred Saunders, 11/3/88
An official said, “If Sarah’s murderer is still out there, why hasn’t he killed again? I’ll tell you why. Because Dechaine’s the killer, and he’s in prison.”
How do we know Sarah’s murderer hasn’t killed again?
On May 17, 2013, the Bangor Daily News reported Maine Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland saying, “Dozens of children are reported missing every month in the state, but almost all are found or return on their own within a couple of days or even hours.”
How many is “almost all”?
Police routinely dismiss missing teen reports with answers like, “She probably just ran away,” and “we have no evidence of a crime.” Usually, they’re right. Not always.
The scary truth is, nobody knows how many “missing” children lay dead in Maine’s forests.
As of January 1, 2014, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports only four girls missing in Maine, one for as long as forty-three years. The Maine State Police reports only two missing girls. No official record is available showing how many teens, reported missing, have yet to be found.
How many more remain undiscovered in Maine forests?
How can anyone say Sarah’s killer hasn’t killed again?
PROSECUTORS IN MAINE
Assistant Attorneys General, like corporate lawyers, are charged solely with representing their employer and fellow employees. The U.S. Supreme Court has even made prosecutors immune from civil liability. So, regardless of any misconduct — using perjured testimony, concealing evidence, making false statements — they have little fear of consequences.
Only one Maine prosecutor has ever been suspended for misconduct. (She concealed evidence in a rape case.) But her suspension was suspended on condition she receive training in professional ethics. [Exhibit J]
THREE INESCAPABLE FACTS:
1- The State’s theory of this case is disputed by science and much of the evidence previously concealed in the Attorney General’s confidential file.
2- The case for Dechaine’s innocence is supported by all the evidence.
3- Six years ago, I offered $1,000.00 to anyone pointing to a single lie by me in my book, “Human Sacrifice.” Nobody, including those who accused me of lying, has ever tried to collect.
*Man defends his books, calls out critics DOUG HARLOW. Kennebec Journal. Augusta, Me.: Jul 22, 2006. pg. 5B Copyright Kennebec Journal Jul 22, 2006
NOTE: A more detailed account of this case, including exhibits from the Attorney General’s “confidential file,” may be found in the 2nd Edition of Human Sacrifice, published in 2006.
NOTICE: Inevitably, some will claim that this story is untrue. As with my book Human Sacrifice, I offer $1,000.00 to the person who shows that any statement by me in this account is untrue.
The Maine State Police web page lists ten unsolved murders of teen girls. http://www.maine.gov/dps/msp/criminal_investigation/unsolved_homicides.shtml
Theresa Duran, 1984. Duran was reported missing by her parents from her residence in Gorham, Maine. She was located several months later on 08/01/84 off a logging road by two individuals looking for deer.
Judith Hand, 1971. Left her home on 09/10/71 at 1450 hours to go to a residence to collect owed baby-sitting money. Her body was discovered on 09/23/71 under a sawdust pile located off High Street in Farmington.
Mary C. Olenchuk, was last seen alive on Sunday, August 9, 1970, 200 yards from her home at approximately 1700 hours. She was standing beside a maroon car, possibly a 1967 Chevy. The driver of the car was described as a white male, mid-thirties, wearing dark clothes. On August 22, 1970 at 1300 holurs, Olenchuk’s body was found in a barn under two feet of loose hay, 10.2 miles from the point of abduction.
Ashley Ouellette a fifteen-year-old female from Saco, was found lying in the middle of the Pine Point Road in Scarborough by passing motorists on 02/10/99 at 0357 hours. Ouellette was last seen alive at approximately 0200 hours at a residence in Saco. She was allowed to spend the night there; however, by morning, Ashley had disappeared from the residence. She was not seen again until found in the road.
Mary Ellen Tanner. on the evening of July 7, 1978, Tanner attended parties in a wooded section of Route 9 in Kennebunk and at the Kennebunk Beach. Tanner left the Kennebunk Beach gathering in the company of friends and was dropped off at the intersection of Routes 9 and 35 in Kennebunk at approximately 2330 hours. Tanner indicated she was going to hitchhike home from that location. On July 9, 1978, Tanner’s body was discovered in Gracie Evans Airfield in Lyman.
Janet Brochu was last seen leaving T-Woody’s Restaurant/Bar in Waterville on 12-24-87 at approximately 0100 hours in the company of an adult male. The nude body of Brochu was found in the Sebasticook River in Pittsfield, Maine on 03-18-88.
Florence E. Lauze On 08-16-75 a female body was found in a culvert in Sherman Lake in the town of Newcastle, Maine. The victim was identified as that of Florence Lauze. She may have been hitchhiking from Massachusetts to Damariscotta where her father lived. She was unidentified for several days after being found.
Joyce McLain was 16 years old when she left her home and went jogging in East MIllinocket on the evening of August 8, 1980. Her body was found two days later, partially naked, on a powerline behind the Schenck High School soccer field.
Pamela M. Campbell age 19, disappeared from Bangor, Maine on 8-15-81. She was reported missing by her father to Bangor PD on 8-16-81. On 11-20-82, her skeletal remains were found in a shallow grave in the woods in Holden by a hunter.
Amy Drake, 19, was reported missing to the Skowhegan Police Department in late September 2006. On November 24, 2006 Amy’s remains were located by hunters in a wooded area off the River Road in Norridgewock.
Three of these bodies were found in the woods. Who knows how many more lay undiscovered in Maine forests?
Mount Mirage Exhibit I
In Maine, Assistant Attorneys General, like corporate lawyers, are charged solely with representing their employer and fellow employees of the state:
According to the website for Maine’s Attorney General:
Assistant Attorney General
AAGs are responsible, on behalf of the Attorney General,
for representing the State of Maine and officers and agencies
of the State in most civil and many criminal proceedings in
which the State is a party or has an interest. AAGs, on behalf
of the Attorney General, also provide regular counsel to
agencies of State government.
This mission statement makes no mention of representing “the people,” nor even to promote justice.
It’s also worth noting that, regardless of any misconduct by a prosecutor — using perjured testimony, concealing evidence, making false statements — the U.S. Supreme Court has made them immune from civil liability:
U.S. Supreme Court, Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409 (1976)
No. 74-5435 Argued November 3, 1975, Decided March , 1976, 424 U.S. 409
Syllabus: Petitioner, convicted of murder, unsuccessfully petitioned for state habeas corpus on the basis of respondent prosecuting attorney’s revelation of newly discovered evidence, and charged that respondent had knowingly used false testimony and suppressed material evidence at petitioner’s trial. Petitioner thereafter filed a federal habeas corpus petition based on the same allegations, and ultimately obtained his release. He then brought an action against respondent and others under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking damages for loss of liberty allegedly caused by unlawful prosecution, but the District Court held that respondent [the prosecutor] was immune from liability under § 1983, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Held: A state prosecuting attorney who, as here, acted within the scope of his duties in initiating and pursuing a criminal prosecution and in presenting the State’s case, is absolutely immune from a civil suit for damages under § 1983 for alleged deprivations of the accused’s constitutional rights. Pp. 424 U. S. 417-431. . .
(b) . . . Although such immunity leaves the genuinely wronged criminal defendant without civil redress against a prosecutor whose malicious or dishonest action deprives him of liberty, the alternative of qualifying a prosecutor’s immunity would disserve the broader public interest in that it would prevent the vigorous and fearless performance of the prosecutor’s duty that is essential to the proper functioning of the criminal justice system and would often prejudice criminal defendants by skewing post-conviction judicial decisions that should be made with the sole purpose of insuring justice. Pp. 424 U. S. 420-428.
When police are accused of crimes, the matter is investigated by the Office of the Attorney General.
No independent entity is charged with the responsibility to oversee the Attorney General’s staff.
Some prosecutors call the idea of oversight insulting and unnecessary. They voice no such reservations regarding their probes of accused cops.
Deputy AG William Stokes, when informed that hundreds of falsely convicted persons across the country have been exonerated, replied, “That doesn’t happen in Maine.”
Portland Press Herald July 19, 2013
Prosecutor suspended from practice for 30 days
A state prosecutor has been suspended from practicing law for 30 days, but her suspension won’t happen if she completes additional legal training.
The Maine Board of Overseers announced the suspension Thursday against Hancock County Assistant District Attorney Mary Kellett in the first disciplinary proceeding ever filed against a Maine prosecutor.
At a hearing Monday, Kellett admitted making improper statements in her closing argument, withholding evidence and interfering with defense subpoenas while prosecuting a former Gouldsboro man in 2008 and 2009 on a charge of raping his wife.
Under an agreement with the Board of Overseers, Kellett’s suspension has been suspended on condition she complete additional legal education on prosecutorial ethical and professional responsibility issues.
Mount Mirage Exhibit J
Among the items found in the AG’s confidential file:
A report from Dr. Harold Deadman, a DNA expert retired from the FBI lab.
Dr. Bing’s records and reports regarding the DNA under Sarah Cherry’s nails were sent to Dr. Deadman by Deputy AG William Stokes with a request for Deadman’s analysis. The Deadman report, which cost Maine’s taxpayers $350, was buried — never seen outside the AG’s office until the legislature opened that file.
Dr. Deadman attested to Dr. Bing’s character, reliability, and integrity, and to the correctness of Dr. Bing’s procedures in analyzing the DNA under Sarah Cherry’s nails.
In a memo to Ronald Kaufman, Forensic Chemist, Maine Crime Lab, from William Stokes, Assistant Attorney General. Mr. Stokes wrote: “I have spoken with Hal Deadman, who does know Dr. Bing personally and Dr. Deadman indicates that Dr. Bing is a reputable scientist and does not for a second believe that Dr. Bing would do anything improper in his testing.”