Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Police crime-scene investigator (CSI) found guilty of planting & tampering with evidence

Chief Police CSI crime-scene investigator David Kofoed is guilty of tampering with physical evidence involving the 2006 homicide investigation of Murdock Nebraska residents Wayne and Sharmon Stock.

District Court Judge Randall Rehmeier ruled that there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Kofoed was guilty of the Class IV felony. Rehmeier said how he reached the verdict in front of a courtroom that included family members of both Kofoed and the Stocks.

“Looking at the evidence the court does not believe that this was an accident or a mistake or that there was cross-contamination involving DNA of blood,” Rehmeier said. “The evidence does not support the argument. The state has met the burden of proof.”

In a courtroom interview following the verdict, special prosecutor Clarence Mock told The Journal he felt the ruling was appropriate. Mock argued during the trial that Kofoed had planted DNA of Wayne Stock in a car in order to tie Nicholas Sampson and Matthew Livers to the murders. The blood was the only piece of forensic evidence linking the men to the case. Both were later cleared of all charges. Wisconsin residents Gregory Fester and Jessica Reid were later convicted of the murders and are serving life sentences in prison.

“I certainly believed the evidence justified the verdict,” Mock said. “The court very carefully and appropriately reviewed the evidence and when the evidence was added up he reached the same conclusion. There’s no other explanation that would account for how the DNA evidence got into the car.”

During the trial, defense attorney Steven Lefler had argued Kofoed accidentally used a contaminated blood-testing kit that had been at the crime scene when he looked at the car on April 27, 2006. Lefler also said cross-contamination could have occurred as the result of DNA being carried from investigators’ clothing to the Ford Contour.

Sampson’s older brother William Sampson owns the car. He testified that the car had been in Lincoln when the murders took place and that he did not have a close relationship with either Nicholas Sampson or Livers.

“I still think cross-contamination is the most likely reason that the blood ended up in the car,” Lefler told reporters outside the courtroom. “…I just don’t know how to respond.”

Rehmeier said during his ruling that there could be four possible explanations for how DNA of Wayne Stock was found in the car: 1) Kofoed planted evidence 2) someone else planted evidence 3) Livers and Sampson were connected to the crime and 4) cross-contamination did occur. He began his statement saying that there was insufficient evidence connecting either Livers or Sampson to the crime. He also gave a methodical explanation outlining evidence that ruled out the possibility that someone other than Kofoed tampered with any blood or DNA.

Rehmeier then spent more than 15 minutes reviewing two possible cross-contamination theories: 1) that the DNA was inadvertently contaminated by another officer and 2) that there was contamination of filter paper that Kofoed used to collect blood evidence from the car. Rehmeier said the prosecution showed investigators at the Murdock crime scene followed careful procedures to prevent any contamination. He also said contamination by individuals would likely have left more DNA in the car than the trace amount that Kofoed located on the underside portion of the dashboard under the steering wheel.

Rehmeier also stated that other CSI employees testified that no one else used filter paper from Doje blood-detection kits at the residence during their investigation. He said the crime scene was bloody and that there would have been no need to use Doje kits to collect DNA evidence.

Doje blood and DNA collection kits include sterile swabs, applicators and swab boxes and envelopes. Investigators can use the collection kits in conjunction with blood-testing equipment that includes filter paper and chemicals such as phenolphthalein. These materials can help investigators detect small amounts of blood at crime scenes. Doje’s Forensic Supplies is a Florida-based company that sells these products to law enforcement officials across the country.

Rehmeier finished the ruling by saying the lone possible conclusion for the blood entering the Ford Contour was that Kofoed tampered with the evidence.

Sentencing in the case is set for May 8 in Cass County District Court. Kofoed could face a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both. Rehmeier said Kofoed was not a flight risk and released him on his own recognizance following the verdict.