DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Who Killed Theresa?: 10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

No DNA? No fingerprints? No problem.

Finally, some forensic technology that I’m really excited about. It’s called Brain Fingerprinting. And all you need is a suspect and details of the crime not known by the general public.

Brain fingerprinting was developed by Dr. Lawrence Farwell and a team of innovators at Brain Laboratories in Seattle, Washington. The CIA funded Farwell’s research with more than $1 million and his staff now includes a former FBI agent.

How accurate is the test?

According to Dr. Farwell, in over 170 tests, the Brain Fingerprinting system was extremely accurate. In cases where a determination of "information present" or "information absent" was made, 100% of the determinations were correct…. More than 80 cases were real-life situations, and the rest were laboratory studies. Brain Fingerprinting testing did not make a single error in all of these cases.

Here’s how it works (info taken from Farwell’s website

“The fundamental difference between the perpetrator of a crime and an innocent person is that the perpetrator, having committed the crime, has the details of the crime stored in his memory, and the innocent suspect does not. This is what Brainfingerprinting testing detects scientifically, the presence or absence of specific information.

In a Brainfingerprinting test, relevant words, pictures or sounds are presented to a subject by a computer in a series with irrelevant and control stimuli. The brainwave responses to these stimuli are measured using a patented headband equipped with EEG sensors. The data is then analyzed to determine if the relevant information is present in the subject’s memory. A specific, measurable brain response known as a P300, is emitted by the brain of a subject who has the relevant information stored in his brain, but not by a subject who does not have this record in his brain.

In November 2000, an Iowa District Court held a hearing on Terry Harrington’s petition for post conviction relief. This hearing included an eight-hour session on the admissibility of the Brainfingerprinting test report. In March 2001, District Judge Timothy O’Grady ruled that Brainfingerprinting testing met the legal Daubert Standard for admissibility in court as scientific evidence. In their ruling on Harrington, the Iowa Supreme Court left undisturbed the law of the case establishing the admissibility of the Brainfingerprinting evidence."

And here’s a news story that put the technology to work:

'Brain fingerprint' fights crime
Mon, Oct 29, 2007
Brunswick News (Brunswick, Georgia)

It sounds like something out of a novel of famed fictional writer Isaac Asimov.

But get with the times. The latest in forensic technology, called brain fingerprinting,
is already a smash hit among some law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

Now, Georgia is thinking about its application in the pursuit of the truth.

Before that can happen, it must pass the scrutiny of the law enforcement community and of Georgia legislators like Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick.

Chapman is a member of the Senate subcommittee that is looking into whether or not to recommend that the state adopt the technique as an admissible form of evidence in future court proceedings.

Chapman and others met recently with the inventor of the technique, Lawrence Farwell, chief scientist of Brain Fingerprinting Laboratories, Inc.

Unlike fingerprinting, there is no ink involved. Instead, words, pictures or sounds are presented to a subject by a computer. The subject's brain wave responses to the stimuli are measured using a unique headband equipped with special sensors that pick up and measure brain waves. A specific brain response that can be measured and graphed is emitted by the brain of a subject who recognizes what is shown.

"It measures the 'Aha!' response," Farwell says. "Your brain says, 'Aha! I recognize this'."

Brain fingerprinting was used to prove the guilt of J.B. Grinder, a serial killer in Missouri, said Farwell.

"We showed Grinder pictures from the crime scene that only he would remember, like things taken from one of his victims," he says. "By reading his brain waves, it was clear that his brain recognized the details."

Farwell says the federal government hopes to utilize brain fingerprinting as an anti-terrorism tool.

"We showed in a recent study that (brain fingerprinting) can detect people who know how to make bomb and those who don't," he says.

Chapman says he hopes that brain fingerprinting will one day help the judicial system expedite a person's guilt or innocence.

"Any logical tool that we can discover to help law enforcement convict the criminal or exonerate the innocent is something we should give some serious consideration," he says.

"Not long ago, DNA was a strange technology to many and look how many cases it helps solve today."

Maritime Missy


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Leo Hamel sent me this some time ago:

As proof that he did all he could to find Theresa. The writing says, "Photo Police, 2 Dec, 78"... "2:15 h: call back SQ in Quebec Re: Dogs"

If that's Leo in the photo he sure aged b/w November and the following Spring. The caption under the other photo reads, "Theresa Allore se trouve-t-elle dans un bois de la region de Austin?" Which seems to suggest Photo Police had something on the ball even back then.

I have many questions about this photo, but I'll let you discuss it first.

But FYI: I recently heard from a source I deem reliable that everyone in the region knew Theresa's death would be covered up - too much conflict of interest b/w police-criminals-bikers-and the local establishment.


This is Theresa's Missing Person poster (which I hate):


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Evidence lost--Seattle detectives still solved case

Even though the police had thrown out the victim's clothes and the suspect's murder weapon, the detectives were still able to solve the crime with a letter and some biological evidence the medical examiner still had in storage.

Again...DNA comes to the rescue. Unfortunately, unless evidence from Theresa's case turns up, it's unlikely that her case will be solved with the assistance of DNA. But MAYBE someone will remember the night when the suspect came home...or remember an odd snippet of conversation....It doesn't take much to point an enterprising police detective in the right direction.

Police win award over cold case
Suspect faces
first-degree murder charge
By Casey McNerthney
Seattle reporter
Oct. 26, 2007

There were days Seattle Police Detective Kevin Grossman daydreamed of telling Darrell Lowe he was arrested for a 1981 homicide. There were even more days when he thought he might not ever have enough evidence.

But Grossman said he never thought when he started investigating the cold case in 2003 that he and Detective Chris Young would take home Detective of the Year honors. Friday night, they did, for work that their colleagues still rave about.

At the Seattle Police Foundation's sixth annual awards banquet, Officer Chuck Allers received the Medal of Valor for saving a crew of police and firefighters during a pier fire July 4, 2006. Officer Patrick Chang received the Community Ambassador Award for what colleagues described as an amazing ability to connect with Seattle youths. John Schweiger, the Officer of the Year, was called a natural leader by his watch commander.

There were hollers and applause for the 83 award recipients Friday.

Among the favorites were the pair of detectives who Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said solved a case so cold, it's doubtful anyone else would have investigated it.

Grossman first learned about the case in 2003 when investigating an attempted rape at Garfield High School. A police artist working with the victim sketched an image that looked like a man, now a registered sex offender, who had previously been arrested for the 1981 killing.

Grossman found a letter from the girlfriend of that man, describing the killing with details only the killer could know. But in 1981, there wasn't enough evidence to charge him.

The investigation file was meager compared with today's standards, Grossman said. And sometime in the two decades since 22-year-old Wilma Williams was stalked and stabbed to death, police purged the evidence -- including the victim's clothing and the murder weapon.

"That was devastating," Grossman said, adding that that kept the department's cold-case detectives from reopening the case in 2001.

Watching the TV show "Forensic Files" in his Lake City home, Grossman learned Southern California police solved a murder case with DNA kept by the Medical Examiner's Office. He called the King County Medical Examiner's Office about Williams' case hoping for a break -- and got one.

They had saved slides from their investigation, which police used to find a suspect's partial DNA. Grossman and Young interviewed five men they suspected.

But none of their DNA samples matched the DNA found on Williams' mutilated body.
After months of negotiating, with help from a King County prosecutor, Washington State Crime Lab officials agreed to accept the full DNA profile extracted by a private lab from only six sperm. The crime lab then ran it through its database and on Feb. 2 matched it to Lowe's.

Lowe's girlfriend also recalled him coming home the July night Williams was killed with blood on his body and telling her to get his clothes out of their Rainier Valley apartment.

"That was the last piece we needed," Grossman said of the investigation that accumulated thousands of documents.

On Feb. 15, they went to the Yakima County Jail where Lowe, now 53, was held on an unrelated theft charge.

Grossman jokes that he's a little jealous his partner got to tell Lowe, "You're under arrest for the murder of Wilma Williams."

"He didn't act surprised at all," Young said. "He only asked if lunch would be served."
As Young and Grossman accepted their award, Lowe sat in King County Jail facing a first-degree murder charge.

His trial is scheduled to begin in March, but the detectives haven't stopped their investigation.

"There could be other witnesses we don't know about," Young said.

"And if people know more about this, we'd like to hear from them."


Maritime Missy


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Questions in need of answers

If you're like me, the more you read about Theresa's case, the more questions you have.

I've already explored some questions in previous blog entries (e.g., Why wasn't Theresa found sooner?) but there are still plenty more that need to be resolved.

Unfortunately, since we don't have much in the way of hard evidence, I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that unequivocal answers are unlikely at this stage. I'll have to settle for probabilities and hypotheses.

Here are some of my top questions...

1. Ruling out a spouse or family member, 47% of homicides in Canada are committed by people the victim knew (other than family members). Only 17% are committed by strangers. If Theresa's case matches the national statistics, she was likely killed by someone she knew--maybe a friend or someone she encountered casually. So who did Theresa come in contact with that could have been her assailant? A student? A friend of student?

2. Why were Theresa's clothes not found at the crime scene? (There is reason to believe that the clothes the hunters found were Theresa's. If so, why were they located so far from where her body was found?)

3. If Theresa didn't die from strangulation, how did she die? (Personally, I believe she was strangled for reasons mentioned in another blog entry...e.g., vomit found in her throat.)

4. When did Theresa die? The night she went missing or later? (I don't think a time of death was ever determined with certainty.)

5. Was she killed where her body was found? (There's a strong possibility that she was killed at another location and deposited in the bog next to the Gagnon farm.)

6. Did she meet her fate after she left Lennoxville and before she got to Compton? Or did she die after she was reported seen in King's Hall by Sharon Buzzee and Tamara Westall?

7. Was her murderer someone local or transient? (This one is a tough one. Right now, I think her murderer was somebody who lived in the area. If it was a "transient", and by transient, I mean someone who was passing through--not a vagabond, then it could have been a hunter or someone who visited the Compton area on a regular basis.)

8. Is her murderer sitting in jail serving time for another offense? (According to statistics, this is highly likely.)

If you have theories or questions of your own, I'd like to hear them. Leave a comment or send me an email ( I promise to keep your information confidential.

Maritime Missy


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

This Just In…

The Good News

According to Statistics Canada’s, The Daily (October 17, 2007), the national homicide rate dropped 10% in 2006, following increases in each of the previous two years. The number of homicides committed with a firearm fell for the first time in four years in 2006, according to a detailed analysis of homicide data.

Canada's police services reported 605 homicides in 2006, 58 fewer than the previous year. As a result, the national homicide rate fell to 1.85 homicides per 100,000 population.

The homicide rate has been on a general decline since it peaked in the mid-1970s at just over 3 homicides per 100,000 population. It had reached a 35-year low of 1.73 in 2003.

The Bad News
However, increases were seen in other serious violent crimes, such as attempted murder, serious assaults and robberies, in both 2005 and 2006.

The large majority of homicide victims were killed by someone they knew. About one-third of victims were killed by an acquaintance, 17% by a spouse, 19% by a family member other than a spouse and 12% by someone known through criminal activities. Strangers accounted for the remaining 17%, similar to previous years.

In total, police reported 104 gang-related homicides in 2006, including both youths and adults. Gang-related homicides accounted for about 1 in every 6 homicides, similar to the previous year.

Half of these homicides occurred in the census metropolitan areas (CMAs) of Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver. The province of Quebec reported the highest proportion of homicides involving gangs, at just over 1 in 4.

Three-quarters of gang-related homicides in 2006 were committed with a firearm, usually a handgun, compared with less than one-quarter of non-gang-related homicides.


Maritime Missy


Monday, October 22, 2007

7 of Clubs = Arrest

It looks like a deck of playing cards featuring unsolved homicides and missing persons has paid off in Florida. The cards prompted a tip which led to the arrest of a suspect in the case of James Foote.

Let's hope that efforts to get the playing cards introduced to Quebec's prison population will meet with a similar success.

From: The Tampa Tribune
Published: October 22, 2007

FORT MYERS - A prison card game dealt police the tip they needed to arrest a man in a killing that occurred nearly three years ago, authorities said Saturday.

In July, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement gave nearly 93,000 state inmates playing cards that highlight 104 of the state's unsolved homicide and missing-person cases.

On Friday, police arrested Derrick L. Hamilton after an inmate tipped them off about the November 2004 killing of James Foote, who was found dead with a gunshot wound to his chest in a Fort Myers parking lot. Foote's picture and the details of his death were featured on a card.

An inmate at a Lake City prison told authorities Hamilton had bragged about killing Foote, WINK-TV in Fort Myers reported.

Hamilton was charged with murder, Fort Myers police Sgt. Abdul Salaam said. He was being held without bail at Lee County Jail.

Police have received other tips since the cards were handed out, but this is the first to lead to an arrest, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said.

'If one case is solved because of these playing cards, it makes the entire initiative worthwhile,' she said. 'But we hope this is the first of many.'

A second deck is planned, and authorities hope to make enough for each new inmate to receive one.

Maritime Missy


Thursday, October 18, 2007

If only…

In every cold case, a series of “if only’s” are always mentioned.

If only…the victim hadn’t accepted that drink from a stranger.

If only…the police responded sooner.

If only…I had paid more attention to whom she was dating.

In Theresa’s case, my biggest “if only” relates to evidence.

If only Theresa’s clothing had been found. If only a skilled detective was on the job who ensured better care was taken in processing the crime scene. If only the evidence retained by the police hadn’t been trashed.

If we had some evidence left from the crime scene, a $1500 DNA test could have been performed on skin cells left on her clothing, saliva, or under her fingernails. (You can get DNA from a stain of body fluid even 30 years after the crime was committed if the evidence was kept at room temperature.)

But that can’t happen now UNLESS the evidence really didn’t get tossed out. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, just because it isn’t in the police file doesn't mean it's gone forever. It may have just been misplaced—perhaps tucked away in some forgotten corner of a storage room in Montreal.

Part of the problem with Theresa’s missing evidence stems from the time her crime occurred—in the late 1970s—before the dawn of DNA identification, new forensic technology and computer databases. Crime solving back then was mostly legwork, hunches and lots of interviews. Today, as anyone who has watched a crime show like CSI or Law & Order knows, identifying the culprit could hinge on a microscopic piece of genetic material examined under a microscope in a sterile lab.

What can be done to ensure that cases like Theresa are the rarity rather than the norm?

Here are my suggestions:

1. Adopt a national code for the preservation of evidence.

2. Get a facility large enough to store the evidence.

3. Make sure the facility has 21st century environmental controls to prevent damage to evidence from leaks, flooding and equipment malfunctions (e.g., freezers on the fritz).

4. Staff that facility with experienced and trained evidence technicians (and not the guy who pissed off the police chief).

5. Give them cutting-edge technology—like bar code scanners and the latest cataloguing software so police and prosecutors don’t have to wade through aisles of junk just to find a hair sample.

6. Store at least a portion of biological evidence on tiny lab slides like the Dallas Police Department does. It saves space and is easier to catalogue.

7. Store violent-crime evidence in sturdy plastic (not cardboard) boxes (so the bottoms don’t fall out after years of storage)

8. Purge properly. (Don’t keep the entire mattress when all you need is the blood stain.)

9. Hold the police accountable for destruction or loss of evidence.

"To give the public the impression that the bad guy will be caught and the good guy will be exonerated based on DNA evidence is a fraud. ... Because more likely than not, the evidence is in the trash can, and that trash was taken out years ago."

-- Gigi Gordon of the Post Conviction Assistance Center in Southern California


Maritime Missy


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Greeting cards for offenders??!

In case you haven't heard, an attorney in Southern California has created a line of greeting cards for inmates and their families. She called it "Three Squares Greetings". (

Terrye Cheathem, a lawyer from a middle-class family, says she started the company after she couldn't find the right card to send to her brother-in-law who was incarcerated. Now, after investing $30,000 worth of research, design and promotion, her greeting card company was officially launched on October 2, 2007.

According to a newspaper article, "the cards were a big hit at a national convention of prison officials last summer. Wardens appreciated their simplicity. No glitter or glue, no folding flaps or cutesy pop-ups that could hide contraband."

Other companies have also tapped into this "niche" market (Bid Greetings and Prison Expressions).

Now I know you're probably laughing, cracking jokes or shaking your head in disbelief's a crazy idea...

What if one of these cards could actually break the ice and establish a common ground for communicating with an offender who you think has information relevant to a family member's case? What if there's an inmate sitting in prison who you think may even be responsible for the death of your loved one?

How do you begin to establish a correspondence or start a dialogue with him? Maybe sending them a "I haven't forgotten about you" card might do the trick.

Don't get me wrong. I am certainly not advocating starting friendships with inmates.

I'm merely suggesting that opening a door to facilitate communication might prove more valuable than we realize. Maybe the suspect/offender is at a place in his life where he really would like to make amends, unburden his conscience or even confess.

Maybe finding justice for a loved one starts with reaching out to an inmate.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Maritime Missy


Friday, October 12, 2007

48 years ago today…

Theresa Allore would have been 48 years old today had she not been abducted and murdered on November 3, 1978. She would have just turned 19 three weeks before her disappearance.

Her younger brother, John, says that Theresa celebrated her birthday early that year when she was home in Saint John, New Brunswick, with the rest of the Allore family. John gave her the gold vinyl edition of Styx’s album, “Pieces of Eight”. (Incidentally, he also bought her Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town” for Christmas 1978. It was wrapped and sitting under the tree because he thought she was coming home.)

John remembers that Theresa loved everything about birthdays. The presents. The attention. The gathering of friends and family.

I wonder how many more of Theresa’s birthdays will pass before someone comes forward and makes sure her killer is brought to justice.

In the long run, there are no secrets.
The universe will not cooperate in a cover-up.
--Sci-fi author, Arthur C. Clarke, from the book, "The Trigger"


Maritime Missy


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Does this photo look familiar?

It's not the creek where Theresa Allore was found on April 13, 1979. Instead, it's the Little Blue River near Kansas City where the remains of 54-year-0ld Summer Shipp were found.

She had been missing for three years before fishermen retrieved a skull on October 7 and reported it to authorities.

For more information, visit the following link (sent to me by Anon)


Maritime Missy


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Royal Commissions, Boards of Inquiry... all that stuff

Missy recently asked me if I was still considering doing a PhD on the Poitras Commission. Well, it's been in the back of my mind, but I'm still too focused on finishing my Masters in the Spring. Then I'll think about what comes next.

I must admit, though I do have an interest in the Poitras Report, but only as an element of broader research into the effectiveness of all public inquiries - this is the only topic I have come up with that I feel compelled enough to dedicate another 4 - 5 years of scholarship (plus my mom would like to call me Dr. Allore).

Last night, in my Organizational Behavior class, we had to do sort of mock presentations on the NASA Challenger disaster. The setup was that we were sort of a board of inquiry, and we had to make recommendations to Congress of what should be done to prevent another "Challenger" (suspend disbelief for a second and forget that there was a board of inquiry - the Rogers Commission - and NASA ignored most of their recommendations which lead to Columbia.

What surprised me were the recommendations; almost everyone thought that a separate oversight entity should be but in place to watchdog NASA - kinda what Poitras recommended for the SQ, but the government ignored that too.

My question was - and is - why have these oversight units become the solution-de-jour for practically every government screw-up in the past 20 years? Have they ever accomplished anything except to throw money at a problem? What ever happened to entities being responsible and exercising good judgement? And those aren't rhetorical questions, I'm genuinely intriqued by the answers.

I received in the mail today the English summary and recommendations of the Poitras Commission (I have read thru the French version, and contrary to myth it can be purchased through Publications Quebec). I think the sub-title of the summary speaks for itself:

Toward A Police At The Service Of Integrity And Justice

Toward? You mean we're not there yet? We need remedial action for the Police in order to get there? And if you don't implement the recommendations - take a close look at the SQ's Stratigic Plans for the past 10 years and it's clear that they never paid anything but lip service to the Commission's recommendations - then where does that leave public safety in the Province of Quebec?

You reap what you sow.


On a side note: As I have told Missy, I think she is doing a wonderful job; far more focused and coherent than I was able to manage. I have no regrets giving this up, and love how the blog has developed.

But I reserve the right to come back and comment on any subject of my choosing. :-D



Having finished the Poitras summary, I have to make a correction. Originally I had only read the SQ's first strategic plan after Poitras: it was a piece of crap, but not authored by current SQ head Normand Proulx. The 2005 - 2007 S.P. is a vast improvement. For one thing it's a readable document (ie: shorter). It's clear that Proulx has an understanding of the importance of results based management; everything that was missing from the 1st S.P. is there in the 05 - 07 plan - Mission and Vision tied to objectives that produce goal alignment, goals tied to strategies and outcomes, a strong message from the head that the agency is all about Professionalism, Respect, Transparency. And many of the Poitras recommendations are incorporated. And it's clear from reviewing the S.P. that the SQ borrowed from other forces (Google the OPP's Business Plan and you'll see what I mean). That they borrowed it? Whatever, that's how these things get done, and the amount of reporting the SQ has been doing over the last 7 years is a great improvement to past practices.

I could write about this forever, suffice it to say, I am a little surprised, encouraged and enlightened by what I have seen thus far. On first blush Proulx appears to be a manager who understands the foundation of achieving results.

What's missing are the outcomes, I haven't had a chance to review the SQ's annual reports, but if they tie to the planning in the way this is supposed to work, the Provincial force is on its way to correcting many of the mistakes of the past.



Monday, October 08, 2007

Got a Tip?

Anon sent me an email this weekend on the subject of leaving an anonymous tip. To be honest, I hadn't really thought about the logistics of reporting information if someone wished to keep their identity secret.

If you have information that might be helpful in Theresa Allore's case but don't want to leave your name, you can always talk to a lawyer or religous leader (e.g., clergy) can contact one of these organizations listed below. They promise to protect your anonymity.

Crime Stoppers International
Corporate Office
P.O. Box 1219 Keewatin, ON
Tel: 1.800.850.7574 (U.S. and Canada)
Tel: 905 951 4806 (Outside U.S. and Canada)

InfoCrime Quebec

Surete du Quebec

If anyone else has ideas on how to submit an anonymous tip, let me know! If you have a tip, try one of these options. We'll be glad you did...and so will your conscience!

Maritime Missy


No longer forward nor behind

I look in hope or fear;

But, grateful, take the good I find,

The best of now and here.

- John Greenleaf Whittier

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. It may surprise you to know that Canada's first Thanksgiving dates back to 1578 when Martin Frobisher gave thanks (in what is now Newfoundland and Labrador) for surviving the long journey to discover a northern passage to the Orient.

I hope this Thanksgiving finds you in the comfort of family and friends. They make a long journey easier to make.


Maritime Missy


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Similar crime, different investigation...

Even though the woman in the following story was killed in England five years ago, the police in this investigation thought it important to locate her missing clothes. (Like Theresa, Ms. Olivais was found partially nude from the waist down in a river.)

I bet if the detectives in Norfolk received a tip of women's clothing being found in the vicinity, they wouldn't have waited a week or two to follow up on it.

Monday, 29 April, 2002, 17:44 GMT 18:44 UK
Strangled woman was asylum seeker

A female asylum seeker whose body was found in a river had been strangled, according to police.

Domingas Silva Olivais's body was discovered in the River Bure, at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, (England) on Sunday.

The 30-year-old, who worked as a cleaner at an Asda store in the town, arrived in Britain from West Africa two years ago.

A holidaymaker found her partially-clothed body in the river near the Stracey Arms.

Police said the woman had an eight-year-old daughter.

She was last seen alive outside the Asda supermarket in the town on Saturday at about 2200 BST.

A post-mortem examination revealed that she had been strangled.

Detective Inspector Steve Strong, who is leading the murder investigation, said his officers were looking for the woman's clothes which were missing from the waist downwards when the body was discovered.

However, police say there is no evidence that she had been sexually assaulted.

Police divers are carrying out a search of the area where she was found.

Maritime Missy


Monday, October 01, 2007

The Impact of Lost Evidence...

"No one will ever be punished for losing all the evidence in my husband's murder?" asks Judith Rosenfeld. "How can that be?"

These excerpts are from an article in the Denver Post:

...Aside from hurting post-conviction innocence claims, lost evidence has crippled investigations long before they can reach trials, in instances that include unsolved murders, vehicular homicides and missing- person cases where slayings are suspected.

"It's painful because losing evidence can all but erase the ability to prosecute," said Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden. "Anymore, it's hard enough to get a conviction with evidence."

...Twenty-eight years after the slaying of filmmaker Morton Rosenfeld, the key suspect is effectively untouchable because of a paperwork mistake that prompted the destruction of evidence. And the victim's surviving family remains suspended in emotional limbo, haunted by the knowledge that his killer still walks free.

...It wasn't until 2002 that Rosenfeld's family, curious about the status of the case, was told that the evidence had been thrown out during a 1983 storage-room cleanup. The destruction log notes that it was authorized by the Larimer district attorney's office. The former district attorney calls it a paperwork mistake because his staff never condoned scrapping evidence in homicide cases.

"Nobody had told us a thing," said Judith Rosenfeld, adding that she felt her family should have been notified.

..."Without physical evidence, we couldn't bring a case," Alderden said. "Besides, we've got hot cases we need to work. We have to ask ourselves, what is the solvability factor of a case?"

...Another case handled by the Larimer County sheriff's office, the 1973 shooting death of Carmina Anderson near Bellvue, posed similar complications.

By that time, however, Larimer investigators discovered that the physical evidence - including the weapon, a blood-stained rug and other pieces - had disappeared, apparently disposed of following the initial inquest.

They agreed to reopen it, and were actually successful in coaxing Anderson to admit guilt, they said.

But the evidence loss forced them to settle for a plea deal. His attorneys argued that the evidence destruction created an "insurmountable" prejudice against him. The result: he got just a year behind bars for manslaughter.

"Justice just wasn't served," Cappeli said. "Even the judge knew that and apologized to me for the way the case was handled."

If her case helps magnify the need for a strong evidence-preservation law, some good can come out of her own investigation, Capelli said.

...While state statutes and regulations do not create a duty to preserve evidence, leaving such decisions to the courts, authorities also aren't required to report what they lose or destroy. A similar trend exists nationwide, where The Denver Post found 110 homicide cases, largely through attorneys' tips, affected by lost biological evidence.

...While some losses go unexplained, evidence problems often can be traced to overcrowded evidence rooms and poor tracking. A national survey by Washington State University showed that more than 70 percent of police departments face critical storage problems.

Alderden, the Larimer sheriff, says he's currently leasing extra storage lockers to capture the overflow of evidence and case documents. From his decades-long experience in law enforcement, "space is a problem everywhere" in the state.

Lawmakers such as state Rep. Cheri Jahn of Wheat Ridge want to explore possibly building centralized storage facilities to alleviate crowded conditions in local jurisdictions - a suggestion brought to her by some officers during a recent gathering of the Northeast Colorado Peace Officers Association.

Canada also doesn't have a national mandated policy for retention of evidence. The RCMP has its own policy--they don't destroy evidence in murder investigations--ever. But it's up to the provincial police forces to create and enforce their own policies. (See John's August 8, 2007, blog entry for more details.)

Maybe Canada's ombudsman can put Rules of Evidence Retention on the agenda of any policing association conferences?? Maybe we can get our own lawmakers to introduce a bill in the Parliament?

Maritime Missy