Saturday, March 7, 2009

The tragedy of unsolved crimes

Unsolved crimes are a disease in all communities, and there are so many in Idaho! The victim’s loved ones live day to day with a cloud of darkness in their hearts that can never go away — unless the crime is solved.

That darkness is also part of our communities. Every unsolved crime reflects flaws in the law enforcement community. It compels us to wonder if all procedures were followed, if all possible resources were used to search for the criminal or criminal. In Angie’s case, there were many failures, and there continue to be failures.

Ask yourself — what if your loved one was murdered and the case never solved?

As a journalist who has covered this case and a friend of Carol Dodge’s, I ask all who read this to never forget Angie, and to pray that her killer or killers are found.

Letter from retired detective to Carol Dodge

I am a retired Detective Supervisor who has worked in Southeast Idaho for an extended period of time. I have not worked in the Idaho Falls area, but have assisted on many cases in the past with these agencies.

When I read the contents of your website I became concerned that as a family victim of a serious crime that not more has been done to communicate with you properly. I hope not to offend you or any of the persons involved in the investigation, but want to give you some background of why these type of things occur. Idaho does not have a high crime rate and as a result does not investigate these type of crimes on a frequent basis. Even if a person works 20 or 30 years as a detective, you probably would only be assigned 10-15 investigations of this type of magnitute over your career.

In Idaho Falls, Bonneville County and all of Southeast Idaho you do not have investigators who are assigned as Homicide Detectives. As a result those officers are frequently under trained and lack experience in what to look for on these type of crime scenes. Additionally some of the supervisors, especially those at the IFPD do not have the experience to oversee the detectives who are investigating the crime. As a result you frequently have things that should have been done, but where missed. As a result the case is not brought to a sucessful conclusion. You will also find that frequently there are what is term as "Turf Wars" Many agencies do not have the funding or equipment that is necessary to process such a crime scene. As a result the stiff necked supervisors fail to call in or ask for assistance from those who have the equipment. In our area the IFPD could have asked at least two bigger agencies that have the equipment and expertise to assist.

The first would be the Crime Lab in Pocatello (CSI). Don Wykoff is the supervisor of that unit. He and his staff who have received extensive training in processing these type of crime scenes could have been summoned to assist the IFPD. The State Police also in Pocatello have crime scene trailers and detectives who could have responded at no cost to the IFPD.

I would have also called out the Pathologist and the Coroner to the scene. The coroner is frequently an elected official, say someone from the Fire Department and really doesn't aid in the investigation. However the Pathologist who will be examining the victim later, will be allowed to see everything as it was before anything was moved. This could prove to be beneficial when he locates evidence during the autopsy. In this particular case if he has been trained on Blood Spatter he can evaluate the evidence and directon of the spatter, drops, transfers and many other items. This is another piece of evidence that would show the positioning, location and direction of attack. If detectives have done their job correctly they should have photographed and documented this very important evidence.

Frequently when detectives document this type of evidence, they place evidence markers on the wall, floor and other locations to give a pattern analysis. Frequently hundreds of photographs showing the droplets, transfers and contacts should be taken to document this evidence. Video tape and camera stills should be taken of the entire crime scene by one person, slowly entering the scene to document exactly how the scene was before anyone entered.

At this point assignments are given to each officer who is involved in the investigation as to what they are going to do. What freqently happens in these type of cases is the Administration of the Department, the Chief of Police, Captains, Mayor etc..hear about the crime and then utilize their power to go into the scene and examine what has occurred. If the Officers on the scene are doing their job correctly, they will refuse to allow any of the non involved parties into the scene until the scene is released. As a result of allowing extra persons into the scene, evidence is moved, destroyed or obliterated. Freqeuntly supervisors are worried that someone else might get the credit and make their department look bad. As a result they do not call for the additional assistance that is needed in these type of cases. Knowing what I know about equipment expenditures during this time frame, it would not surpise me to see that IF did not have all of the necessary equipment to process the scene.

As you stated in the web site I have never heard of a crime scene being released in such a quick time to the apartment owner. Usually what you see is a uniformed officer standing guard on the apartment for days until all of the investigators and crime scene techs are sure that they have not left anything untouched.

The other problem that you have is the fact that there are suggestions of drug users being associated with your daughter. I would have to ask the IFPD if they are not allowing you full access to the case file, why. You want justice in the case and if there are multiple suspects involved, then you would not do anything that would endanger this. The police need to see you as part of their team. Is the police department protecting someone within its own group. Are they protecting someone that they are using for information on drug cases because he/she has provided good information on other cases. Does it involve someone who has a family member in a high position. We do not have to look far in the past to see other problems like this. How much does politics play into the outcome of this investigation. In recent years a large number of victims have complained about the lack of communication from detectives handling cases. It appears that this is similar to what you have been experiencing. As I read over your experiences there appears to be many faults and investigative techniques that were not used.

As a victim I would be demanding a weekly contact from the lead investigator in the case. If he or she does not call weekly, then I would be talking to the Chief of Police and if he did not respond then the Police Commissioner who oversees the Police Department on the City Council. Additionally I would be contacting the various media outlets such as Americas Most Wanted, Court Television, Nancy Grace, Fox News and some of the others who could bring this to a new light in the media.

Be forewarned that for every 20-25 contacts you might get turned down, but all it takes is one sucessful contact. Locally I would contact Brenda Baumgarten with channel 6. She has experienced some of the same issues with the IFPD in the past. If she does not take it then maybe Aaron Kunz. Both of these parties have been around and have some experience with interviewing people. I also believe that they would give it an honest effort. In reference to the print media, I would have some reluctance of having anyone at the Post Register handle the case. The reason I say this, is due to the fact they have to rely upon the Police Department for news. They have to keep it friendly and will frequently look the other way to avoid conflict.

I would try Debbie Bryce at the Idaho State Journal. I have found that she digs into a case and will report what she finds no matter what the outcome is. You might ask why I would take the time to give you this information. I have seen too many times in the past where investigators are put into these positions not because of their ability, but because of their friendships with Leadership, with the positions they hold in their church or civic groups and so forth.

As a result frequently you have people in these positions that do not do their job. And when the public complains it goes upon deaf ears. You and your family are victims as much as your daughter was. You deserve the very best in treatment and investigative techniques. You pay the wages of those who are supposed to be handling the case and you and the media should demand answers and results.

I would question if the Post Register was allowed access to the file, then why doesn't the police department under the freedom of information act provide you with a copy. If they claim it is an open investigation, the insurance company covering your daughter would need a full and complete copy to provide a settlement. I would then have known and experiened investigtors who do not work at IFPD or Bonneville Sheriff look at the case and give you a full and descriptive indication of what went right and what went wrong. The reason I say someone else who would not be swayed by friendships in the Department. You need someone who knows what to look for and be honest if there are mistakes that were made. You also need someone who has the contacts such as Dr. Henry Lee the renouned pathologist that can look at crime scene photographs and give you valuable information. You also need someone that can send the information to the Behavioral Science Unit at Quantico FBI Academy to review the contents of the report and see if there are possibilities in the profile of this having multiple offenders with the case or a single person. You also need someone at the FBI crime lab to review the evidence that was collected to see if there are other avenues that need to be explored. As you can see there are many other things that could have,and should have been done. Without reviewing the case file, I can only make suggestions and hope that you get some positive feedback from others who have information concerning this horrible crime. Also remember as a general rule suspects do not keep quiet. They frequently will talk about something like this and if there is another suspect in prison in Nevada, I would hope that the Nevada authorities have placed someone either in the cell or near the cell of the other suspect to see if he might be talking. You and your family will be in our prayers. I hope that this helps a little bit to understand some of the complexity of these type of cases.