10 Unlikely Pieces of Evidence That Convicted Murderers
If you think you can get away with murder, think again. Forensic science has rapidly evolved, with early cases like Colin Pitchfork's setting a precedent in 1988 by being the first murder case to be solved with the help of sophisticated DNA-reading technology.
Most killers go to extreme lengths to cover their tracks and feel they have silenced their victims forever. However, most of the time, victims continue to speak to investigators through evidence. Below are some cold-blooded killers who thought they were in the clear, but were ultimately convicted by the most unlikely pieces of evidence.
10. Carlos Robinson was Convicted With the Help of Hamburger Buns
Hamburger buns are very tasty. But did you know they helped convict the cold-hearted killer Carlos Robinson?
Robinson sexually assaulted and murdered Christina Sanoubane, who was his neighbour and had just moved away from her abusive boyfriend, in the presence of her two-year-old son. He then left the innocent child at the bloody crime scene, where he waited by his dead mother until another neighbour arrived.
Interestingly, Robinson was the one who made the 911 call after the neighbour found the body and, not knowing what to do, alerted him. Police found bloody footprints left by a barefooted suspect, which allowed them to determine that the killer must have lived nearby, since people don't generally run around barefoot.
Robinson had left hamburger buns on the floor of the crime scene, using the bag to conceal his murder weapon. He was convicted when prosecutors matched the bloody footprints to a footprint left on a hamburger bun next to Christina's body.
9. Jeremie Overstreet was Convicted With the Help of a Button
Julie Braun was stabbed more than 30 times by her neighbour, Jeremie Overstreet. At the time, he lived with an exotic dancer named Holly Doyle, whom he had met at a strip club. Doyle brought him home because she said she found him attractive and articulate.
Overstreet had violated the terms of his parole by moving to a new city after being incarcerated for a previous rape. He was initially arrested for a parole violation. Authorities found Braun's business card in his wallet.
Braun worked as a consumer loan officer and Overstreet was able to con his way into her apartment with a story about financing a car. Once in her apartment, he ordered her to undress. She refused and a fight ensued. During the fight, she ripped a button from his shirt. This button would later serve as the key piece of evidence for his conviction.
8. Stella Nickell was Convicted With the Help of an Algaecide Used in Aquariums
Excedrin bottles were investigated by police after a woman named Susan Snow died from taking pills poisoned with cyanide.
When a news report of Susan Snow's death was broadcast across the United States, one Seattle viewer, Stella Nickell, took more than a passing interest. Stella Nickell told the police her husband had taken some Excedrin capsules shortly before he died.
A police officer visited Stella Nickell's home to pick up the bottle of Excedrin capsules her husband had been using. The capsules were later found to be laced with cyanide, and her husband's blood tests confirmed he died of cyanide poisoning. When the FBI analyzed the capsule they also found an algaecide, which is used to kill algae in fish aquariums, mixed with the cyanide.
One of the detectives recalled an interesting coincidence: when he visited Stella Nickell's home to pick up the Excedrin capsules, he remembered seeing an aquarium prominently displayed in her living room.
She then became the main focus of the investigation. It was discovered that she had increased her husband's life insurance shortly before she poisoned him.
7. Christopher Green and His Two Friends Were Convicted With the Help of Mud
Christopher Green and his two accomplices, Brian Davis and an unnamed juvenile, savagely beat two young boys, tied them up, duct taped their mouths, threw them into a body of water, and left them for dead. Luckily, one of the boys was able to free himself and pull his unconscious friend to safety. The friend came very close to drowning and would have died if not for the quick action of his friend.
When police made their way to the crime scene to collect evidence, they ran into a major obstacle. The crime scene was a body of water and all the vital evidence had been washed away.
Luckily, a witness came forward saying she saw some boys with a baseball bat and what looked like rolls of duct tape. She gave a detailed description of Davis, who had approached her for a glass of orange juice before committing the crime.
Based on the description provided, Davis was apprehended, leading to the apprehension of Green and the unnamed minor. In Green's basement, they found a pair of wet, muddy sneakers.
A scientist discovered that the concentration of diatoms found on the sneakers were the same as those found in the pond where the boys were left to drown, linking Green to the crime scene. This evidence convicted Green and Davis, who were both 16-years-old and tried as adults. Their accomplice was sent to a juvenile detention center.
6. Dominique Moss was Convicted With the Help of Grass
In 1999, the partially nude body of 19-year-old Samantha Forbes was found on a golf course in the Bahamas. Her throat had been slit and a one dollar bill had been carefully placed on her body. She also appeared to have been sexually assaulted, with the police finding a used condom a few yards away.
Unfortunately, there was a storm on the night Forbes was murdered, which complicated the investigation. Potential fingerprints, hair, and clothing fibers were all washed away from the body in the storm. The rain and wind also removed any biological evidence.
Several eyewitnesses said, on the night of her murder, Forbes left a bar with two sailors. The three went to another bar, where she got into an argument with one of the sailors. Her friend Keith Lotmore stepped in to break up the fight. The sailors left and Lotmore and his friend Dominique Moss joined Forbes for another drink. She later left the bar with both Lotmore and Moss. Since these two men were the last to see her alive, they became the prime suspects.
When investigators analyzed Lotmore's shoes and socks, they found the same botanical evidence that was found on Forbes's body. The grass on his shoes was examined by a Forensic Botanist and found to be identical to the grass at the crime scene, tying him to the murder scene.
Lotmore would eventually give a full confession to detectives and further evidence would eventually prove Moss was the actual perpetrator of the crime.
5. Lorenzo Sanchez was Convicted With the Help of a Music Case
Cally Jo Larson, a 12-year-old girl who adored gymnastics, was stabbed to death in her own home. When police arrived at the crime scene, they saw what appeared to be evidence of a burglary. Cally's school books were near the front door, an indication that she might have surprised the intruder. Some cash, silver certificates and CDs from Cally's music collection had been taken from the house.
Her death set a sad precedent for the small town of Waseca, Minnesota, which until then had never had a homicide. Even though the crime scene appeared to contain a lot of evidence, most of what investigators were interested in could be linked back to family members and friends.
But shortly after Cally's murder, there was a spike in home burglaries in Waseca not far from her home. On a routine patrol near where the burglaries were taking place, a police officer spotted a man walking along the sidewalk. The man was acting suspicious. When he was searched, the police officer found a large screwdriver and a flashlight in his pocket: typical burglary tools.
The man was identified as Lorenzo Sanchez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico. In his home, police found stolen property from several burglaries. In the bottom of his closet, police found two CD cases identical to those stolen from Cally's home.
4. Ron Gillette was Convicted With the Help of a Laundry Bag
Ron Gillette, an Air Force officer, said he found his wife, Vicki, unconscious in bed with her three-year-old son. A plastic laundry bag was close to her face and he proposed that his wife might have accidentally suffocated after rolling onto it.
When police delved deeper into the case, they found many inconsistencies. Gillette told police that Vicki had some problems sleeping, so the night before, at her request, he put four sleeping pills into her mixed drink. However, toxicology tests performed during her autopsy estimated she had consumed about sixteen tablets.
Days after Vicky's death, Gillette married another woman and, after their honeymoon, brought his new wife back to the house were his ex-wife had died only two weeks earlier. Gillette's behavior prompted local law enforcement to reexamine the case.
They devised a test using plastic bags identical to that which killed Vicky. Volunteers were asked to allow officers to push their faces against the bags, leaving an impression. Six different bags were used and with each phase officers increased pressure on the subjects' faces. After the sixth test, volunteers said the pressure was so great they no longer wanted to participate.
Only one test set matched the facial impression left on the plastic bag that killed Vicki laundry bag: the sixth, or that in which the most pressure had been applied.
This test proved that the impression on the plastic laundry bag was a human face, and was created by extreme force, not by accidentally rolling onto it.
3. Oba Chandler was Convicted With the Help of a Handwritten Note
Joan Roger and her two daughters, who were in Florida for vacation, were murdered in the most brutal way possible: they were tied to concrete bricks, dropped in water, and left to drown. They also had their mouths taped shut and were naked from the waist down.
Although each victim was tied to a 30-pound concrete block, gases created during the decomposition of the bodies lifted them and concrete blocks to the surface. After conducting an autopsy, the medical examiner discovered that the seawater had eliminated crucial forensic evidence. Because the bodies had been submerged in water for a great length of time, hairs, fibers, and fingerprints had been essentially washed away.
When they found Joan Roger's car, they discovered two handwritten notes inside. The writing samples were sent to a forensic document examiner for analysis. One of the handwritten notes was discovered to be written by Joan. The other was found to have been written by neither Joan nor her two daughters. The police knew finding the person who had written the other note could potentially lead them to the killer.
After most leads turned out to be dead ends, the police tested an unusual tactic. They used five billboards to display the sample of what they believed was the killer's handwriting.
A woman saw the billboard on the side of a Tampa highway, and she recognized the handwriting. It looked like the handwriting of a contractor she knew, whose name was Oba Chandler. She found the handwritten receipt for some work Chandler had done for her and gave it to the police.
Chandler's handwritten receipt was compared to the handwritten note found in Joan Rogers' car. It was a perfect match.
2. Josiah Ward was Convicted With the Help of Gold
Josiah Ward called 911 to report that his 20-year-old girlfriend, Sheila Williams, had shot herself after they had had an argument about her pregnancy.
When Ward was asked to reenact how Williams used the weapon, the police immediately noticed some inconsistencies. He said Williams had held the gun with her left hand, but investigators found that she was right handed and not familiar with weapons. For her to shoot herself with her left hand was odd.
Ward denied that there had been any physical altercation, but investigators found that Williams wore a weave that was forcibly pulled out of her hair.
As a matter of routine, crime scene technicians swabbed the hands of both Ward and Williams after the shooting. Ward had denied handling the gun, but the gunshot residue found on his hands was greater than that found on hers.
Surprisingly, investigators also found gold particles on Williams hands. When they took a second look at the photos of Ward taken on the night of the murder, they realized the shirt he was wearing had gold threading. They compared the gold particles from the shirt to that on Williams's hands, and found that they were identical. This proved that Ward had physical contact with her at the time of the murder, an allegation he had flatly denied. In the end, he was convicted in the murder of Williams.
1. Paul Taylor was Convicted With the Help of Pantyhose
40-year-old Kathy Woodhouse was raped and killed in the back of a dry cleaning store. Outside the store, police found a pair of pantyhose which the killer may have used as a disguise.
The police received an anonymous telephone call that they should investigate a man by name Paul Taylor as a possible suspect. Taylor had recently been released from a Louisiana prison for aggravated sexual assault, and it was discovered that he lived just two blocks from where the murder took place.
When police brought him in for questioning, he denied having anything to do with the murder. On a hunch, police asked Taylor if they could search his home. He agreed and under his mattress, police found a pair of pantyhose with one leg missing lying on top of a stack of pornographic magazines.
Police wondered if the piece of pantyhose they found outside the dry cleaning store was cut from the pair found in Taylor's home. The police sent both pieces to a forensic microscopist to examine. The forensic microscopist found the two pieces to be identical, linking Taylor directly to the crime scene and ultimately contributing to his conviction.