CSI: Nebraska

Friday, December 5th, 2008

In 2006, rural Nebraska couple Wayne and Sharmon Stock were killed with shotgun blasts to the head.  Early on, the police honed in on Matt Livers and Nick Sampson, cousins of the slain couple.  During a heated interrogation, Cass County Sheriff’s Investigator Earl Schenk told the mentally-handicapped Livers that unless he confessed, Schenk would do everything in his power to be sure Livers was executed, threatening to "do my level best to hang your ass from the highest tree." 

Livers eventually confessed, implicating himself and Samspon in a crime they didn’t commit.  According to a lawsuit since filed by Livers, investigators then spoon-fed him details about the crime scene, eliciting from him a narrative that fit the one police had in mind.

Cass County investigators then called in David Kofoed, commander of the Crime Scene Investigation unit for Nebraska’s Douglas County.  According to the Omaha World-Herald, Kofoed is an active self-promoter, making his CSI unit available to other police agencies in Nebraska around the clock.  His unit has contracts with 45 police agencies in Nebraska and Iowa. 

The problem is, an initial search of the alleged getaway car conducted by Kofoed’s staff turned up no incriminating biological evidence against Livers or Sampson. Some time later, on his own initiative, Kafoed went back to the alleged getaway car and conducted a second search.  His report at the time says he did the second search alone.  He has since insisted that he made a mistake in the report, and that one of his subordinates was with him.  Miraculously, on this second search, Kofoed found a tiny speck of victim Wayne Stock’s blood on the car’s steering column.

That and Matt Livers’ confession could well have resulted in a death sentence for Livers and Sampson.  Except that days after Kofoed found the incriminating speck of blood, two Wisconsin teenagers were arrested for the Stocks’ murders.  They had no tie to Livers and Sampson.  And their car was crawling with the Stocks’ DNA.

An internal investigation cleared Kofoed and his unit of any wrongdoing.  But the FBI is now conducting its own investigation, and according to Kofoed himself, they’re more skeptical.  Kofoed told the World-Herald that FBI agents told him his explanations for how one victim’s blood ended up in the ultimately vindicated suspects’ car "didn’t pass the smell test."

Kofoed and his unit are back on the job, and will continue to work new cases while the FBI continues its investigation.

Whether Kofoed is corrupt or he or Cass County police are merely incompetent, the case is a good lesson in skepticism.  A confession that include details about the crime scene coupled with the victim’s blood in the suspects’ car sounds like a pretty solid case. That is, until you start to understand how police can coerce false confessions and then, even unintentionally, impart to suspects details about the crime—as well as how easily crime scenes can be either accidentally contaminated, or manipulated by people on the inside eager to secure a conviction.

But for the good fortune of police finding the Wisconsin teens, Sampson and Livers would likely have been convicted, and probably sentenced to death.

(Hat tip to David Tarrell and Mark Draughn.

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40 Responses to “CSI: Nebraska”

  1. #1 |  z | 

    Det. Mark Furman anybody?

  2. #2 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Yes, but that was 2006. We now have a new professionalism sweeping the police.

  3. #3 |  Marty | 

    ‘An internal investigation cleared Kofoed and his unit of any wrongdoing.’

    these assholes should be arrested for attempted murder! I’m sure this is the first time it’s happened, though…

  4. #4 |  MacGregory | 

    Surely not! My grandma told me to always trust the police.

  5. #5 |  Mike T | 

    In all seriousness, if you aren’t retarded, why would you fall for this unless you are already convinced that your situations looks so suspicious that execution is inevitable? I’ve never understood why people of normal intelligence fall for this sort of tactic because it’s like playing right along with a predator who is out to hurt you. You fight for your life against predators, not hope that they’re gentle when they hurt you.

  6. #6 |  MacK | 

    This could be proper, and instill some modicum of respect in the FBI if they do the right thing.

    If they instead find that yes the real crooks here (cops, CSI, internal investigators) did lie, plant false evidence, coerce a false confession, obstruct justice, perjure themselves, but then clear Kofoed and his unit of any wrongdoing again, at that point we are back to where we started.

  7. #7 |  MacK | 

    #1 Z: I’m of the mindset that Furman was a scape goat for OJ defense team.

    #5 Mike T: Mentally challenged, or not, get a lawyer, and do not say crap to the cops from the moment a cop say’s hello. Looking above is a good model to follow. I know, you know, everybody knows OJ was guilty, but because he kept his mouth shut until his lawyers could create a racist out of Mark Furman he walked away.

  8. #8 |  Lee | 

    Unless and until each of you undergoes tremendous stress, sleep deprivation, etc. and are being “interrogated”, I submit that you don’t know how you will react. Under these ideal conditions of sitting in a controlled environment at a keyboard, it’s easy to say you would never confess to something you know you clearly did not do. When was the last time you had surges of adrenaline due to fight or flight reaction? How well did you control that almost uncontrollable shaking in your limbs? Remember, cops are trained to be thugs/interrogators/meters of their brand of justice. They don’t give a SHIT about your rights, they just want a notch on their belt, to hell with justice. It’s all about SOMEONE paying with blood, not the GUILTY person paying with blood. Prosecutors play by the same rules.

    For another “cop was threatened, had to shoot family dog”:
    http://bothwell.typepad.com/whos_your_nanny/2008/12/another-cop-feels-threatened-and-kills-family-dog.html

  9. #9 |  Lee | 

    I know, you know, everybody knows OJ was guilty, but because he kept his mouth shut until his lawyers could create a racist out of Mark Furman he walked away.

    OJ had his day in court, innocent until proven guilty, he was found innocent, he should be free to live his life without people saying he was guilty. Wouldn’t you like to be extended the same courtesy?

  10. #10 |  Edintally | 

    He wasn’t found Innocent. The verdict was Not Guilty. Huge difference.

    Lee, spot on.

  11. #11 |  Edintally | 

    on #8 :)

  12. #12 |  Dave Krueger | 

    What they need is a federal agency whose only job is to investigate complaints like this. Police for the police.

    No cop is going to feel compelled to follow ethical police practices when the only down side he faces is an inquiry by a bunch of his buddies who think just like him and stand on his side of the thin blue line.

    It’s police department internal investigations that don’t pass the “smell test”. They’re a joke.

  13. #13 |  Dave Krueger | 

    As for OJ, I believe that once the government tries it’s case and the jury comes back with a not guilty verdict, the state should shut the fuck up. The cards are stacked so much in favor of the state that I don’t think much of a prosecutor that blames his loss on the jury.

  14. #14 |  Andrew | 

    I guess this time, the cop…. was a criminal.

    YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

    (in all seriousness, I do wish that I had any faith that this would even go to a grand jury, let alone result in a prosecution. Alas, I have none.)

  15. #15 |  Michael Chaney | 

    What they need is a federal agency whose only job is to investigate complaints like this. Police for the police.

    The federal government has no such constitutional authority. What we need is to determine how to appropriately police our entire criminal justice system, from the police to the prosecutors to the judges. It has to be as local as possible, and it needs to have teeth to actually do something. And it has to have safeguards against the sort of abuse that it’s fighting.

    This isn’t easy, and we’ve never come very close to doing it right. Citizen oversight boards for police can be good, but usually they have little power. Internal investigations by all of these differing divisions are a complete joke and shouldn’t even be considered.

  16. #16 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #14 Andrew

    I guess this time, the cop…. was a criminal.

    We’ll see. Usually it’s not called a crime when cops do it. It’s an error in judgment punishable by weeks of time off with pay.

  17. #17 |  MikeL | 

    Yet another example of the fact that, if the police ask you for the time of day, think twice before giving it to them.

  18. #18 |  Sam | 

    speaking of asinine, not sure where else to post this (yes, I’m blog dumb)
    http://www.khsltv.com/content/topstories/story/Officers-Use-a-Taser-and-Its-Caught-On-Tape/vwDSnOeg10izfFzlhrcdaA.cspx
    Kind of interesting that they were arrested for “interfering with rescue operations” when what they were doing was yelling at people NOT attempting a rescue. Dad dying in the water? Take a ride on the taser!

  19. #19 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #15 Michael Chaney

    It has to be as local as possible, and it needs to have teeth to actually do something.

    I agree about the teeth. The problem with local is that people are intimidated when they live within range of powerful people whose lives and careers they might destroy. The reason I say it should be federal is because that’s the only entity that seems powerful enough to get the attention of a city government and police force. Closer to home and it’s all politics.

    Nonetheless, I agree that there’s no Constitutional authority for it. Wait. Is there still such a thing as Constitutional authority? I thought the Supreme Court did away with that.

  20. #20 |  Zeb | 

    “The federal government has no such constitutional authority.”

    I don’t know. I (non-lawyer) could see a good 14th amendment case for such authority under due process. Certainly less of a stretch than a lot of 14th amendment justifications for things.

  21. #21 |  MacK | 

    Some are missing my point in that if OJ had admitted guilt he would have been convicted of 2 murders. He however shut his trap and let his lawyers do his talking. Lawyers can keep you from being interrogated in unseemly manners, and from admitting anything that can be used against you.

    The thing here is that he was not found guilty, so I do not, and have never wanted to send him to prison, or worse execute him. As far as OJ being innocent….. Using my 1st amendment rights: I will till the day I die believe he got away with murder.

  22. #22 |  Andrew | 

    We’ll see. Usually it’s not called a crime when cops do it. It’s an error in judgment punishable by weeks of time off with pay.

    I was just trying to figure out a funny quip to imitate the beginning of CSI: Miami

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sarYH0z948

    And I’m unfortunately fully aware of the truth of your statement.

  23. #23 |  Lee | 

    The thing here is that he was not found guilty, so I do not, and have never wanted to send him to prison, or worse execute him. As far as OJ being innocent….. Using my 1st amendment rights: I will till the day I die believe he got away with murder.

    You’re all right, he was found NOT GUILTY as opposed to INNOCENT. They are different in meaning, but not in legality. I believe you can be found either GUILTY or NOT GUILTY of charges against you, that there is no 3rd choice of INNOCENT. Could be wrong …

    Bottom line is that when someone is not found GUILTY of charges, that everyone, especially The State ™ (R) (C), should let it go. I submit, again, that everyone would like the same behavior extended to them when you’re found NOT GUILTY of charges. Anything else is called The Scarlet Letter — you’re not guilty of the charges in court, but society will still destroy you. That is fucked up, and just plain wrong.

  24. #24 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    >#1 Z: I’m of the mindset that Furman was a scape goat for OJ
    >defense team.

    Furman was asked on the stand if he had ever manufactured evidence or filed a false report. He responded by taking invoking his fifth ammendment right again self-incrimination. He was then asked if he had manufactured evidence or filed a flase report in the specific case under consideration. He again invoked the fifth.

    Expecting a cop to respond to ‘Did you falsify evidence in this case?’ with ‘No’ is NOT scapegoating them.

  25. #25 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I don’t have to believe the jury, but the state does.

    The state should not contradict the Not Guilty verdict because the state is subservient to it. The verdict is the voice of the people and, in the case of a jury, the people have the final say (supposedly).

    I, on the other hand, given my constitutional right to free speech, have no such obligation to respect the verdict and may say anything I wish short of libel and slander (which are also a matter for a jury). To me, the jury has rendered not a verdict, but an opinion. If I choose to differ, I will.

  26. #26 |  Stephen | 

    “An internal investigation cleared Kofoed and his unit of any wrongdoing. But the FBI is now conducting its own investigation,”

    I bet the FBI will just come up with the same answer after a longer investigation. This one is so nasty that it will take more than one investigation to make it go away and it will take a longer investigation so that we have time to forget.

  27. #27 |  Lee | 

    I, on the other hand, given my constitutional right to free speech, have no such obligation to respect the verdict and may say anything I wish short of libel and slander (which are also a matter for a jury). To me, the jury has rendered not a verdict, but an opinion. If I choose to differ, I will.

    I agree with your right, but just be careful with it, because if you ever find yourself in a situation where The Angry Mob is screaming for YOUR head and, whether it be a court matter or not, you are found Not Guilty, you had better not wonder why The Angry Mob won’t just leave you alone.

  28. #28 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Furman wasn’t created by the defense. I can only imagine the jubilation they felt when they found this guy. They had him on tape using the N word with about as much thought as most of us would give to the word “the”, then he invoked the 5th when asked (effectively) if he had perjured himself. From a defense lawyer standpoint, this is Ed McMahon showing up at your door, and declaring that $10,000,000 didn’t feel like enough so they were giving you more.

    Put another way, Furman was “reasonable doubt” by himself. I watched a large part of the trial, and the fact is that the verdict was proper if, for no other reason, Furman.

    Like the other poster, I still think OJ’s guilty as hell.

  29. #29 |  Michael Chaney | 

    #18 – try this link:

    http://www.infowars.com/?p=6366

  30. #30 |  Michael Chaney | 

    The video, by the way, seems to be off their site. Go to http://www.knvn.com/ and search for taser, and you’ll find the story of the cops tasering a paul bearer. Seems like these guys have some fetish thing going on with the taser.

  31. #31 |  Judi | 

    Smell test? (Sounds like a class taught by Steven Hayne)

    Yep, O.J. got away with murder but he got ‘owned’ today! 33 years in the slammer! Hmmm? If it gets cold in Nevada, the Juice will need to but some NEW gloves that FIT!

    Getting back to the subject, how about this:

    “If the car fails the SMELL,

    You go to JAIL.”

    Well, hell, it’s better that ‘if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit!’

    Wonder how much fluid O. J. consumed that morning…plus splaying his fingers while putting the glove on…lol…I am still laughing about that one!

    Okay, so I wandered a bit off the path again…sue me!

  32. #32 |  Judi | 

    Correction: The Juice got 15 yrs…my bad!

  33. #33 |  David Chesler | 

    I always wondered about that logic – “Only the actual criminal could know these details. This suspect knew the details. He must be the criminal. And how do we know that he knew the details? Because the details he gave were the same as the details we knew. So we must be the actual criminals.”

  34. #34 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    RE: OJ
    I believe OJ was involved in the murders, but the LAPD’s inept and potentially corrupt handling of the case provided plenty of reasonable doubt.

    The famed forensic scientist Henry Lee was called in by the defense (the description of these events was in one of his books called “Cracking Cases, I think). and was shocked when he found traces of the perservative EDTA in some of the blood evidence linked to Simpson by LAPD. How could this be. It is very possible that an overzealous officer or criminalist used some of the blood sample taken DIRECTLY from OJ to try to “enhance” the case. EDTA, after all, is not a substance contained in a fresh blood sample. To my knowledge it is an anti-coagulant that you find only in vials used to collect blood samples. In addition to this, there were some problems with scene photography, and some missed blood stain clues, including a drop that appeared to have fallen from a 90 degree angle that almost certainly came from the suspect, but was not collected.

  35. #35 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “Cross contamination can occur,” said George Schiro, a forensics scientist from Louisiana, “but it’s usually something that happens through poor evidence handling and collecting.”

    True, but this looks really bad. That’s why you change gloves, booties, and/or Tyvex suits when you go from a primary to secondary scene, and why you never, ever allow a suspect to enter the crime scene. I hope this was just sloppiness, but I’m not so sure. Were photographs taken prior to swabbing the sample. Any video tape available? Would Kofoed’s team have had access to blood samples submitted by Stock? Did the sample found by Kofoed have traces of any known perservatives (see my earler post #34).

    CSI is an area I have some training/education in and may try to specialize in (it’s one area of law enforcement that I feel reasonably enthusiastic about) but some systemic change may be needed. Perhaps, at least at the state level, CSI’s shold work for a separate Department of Forensic Services, rather than a police agency. There is an incredible amount of training involved, and, as a veteran CSI from the Illinois State Police once told me, the job requires you to “divorce yourself” from many aspects of traditional police work. Forget the TV portrayals of CSI’s interrogating suspects. That’s not their job. In fact, forensic investigators are supposed to distance themselves from this aspect of the case and focus primarily on WHAT happened, not necessarily WHO did it. Mr. Koefed, you know you only get one chance to investigate the scene in a semi-pristine condition. What really led you to go back?

  36. #36 |  C (The Forgotten Man) | 

    Everyone should hear what this lawyer has to say about your rights and talking to the police:

    “Don’t Talk to Cops, part 1″

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8z7NC5sgik

  37. #37 |  Arch Kearney | 

    The Omaha World Herald story was way way way behind the curve. Kofoed has, for all practical purposes, been cleared. The FBI, always eager for headlines, has yet to acknowledge this. They may never. Remember Richard Jewel, the accused Olympic bomber? Or the guy falsely accused of the anthrax attack before the (alleged) real perpetrator killed himself? The FBI has a REAL bad habit of using the front page of newspapers as a jury box.

  38. #38 |  The Agitator » Blog Archive » Saturday Links | 

    [...] investigation unit has been charged with felony evidence tampering. I first wrote about this case last December. It includes a false confession from a mentally handicapped man after a police interrogator said [...]

  39. #39 |  ArchStanton | 

    Guess the World-Herald wasn’t behind the curve on this one, were they? An internal affairs clears him and you believe it?

  40. #40 |  Bonnie | 

    The five-day trial of a Douglas County CSI is over. Tuesday morning, Cass County Judge Randall Rehmeier returned with a guilty verdict.

    David Kofoed was charged with evidence tampering in connection to a 2006 double murder in Murdock. Prosecutors say he planted the evidence on purpose.

    The defense argued Kofoed unintentionally made a mistake and cross-contaminated a car with blood evidence. That evidence was used to charge two innocent men with murder.

    Kofoed was acquitted of similar charges in federal court in 2009.

    Sentencing is set for May 10, 2010 at 3 pm

    Douglas County Chief Crime Scene Investigator David Kofoed was convicted today March 23, 2010 in Cass County, NE court house of planting evidence (a swab he took from under the steering column at the bottom edge of the driver’s compartment dashboard tested positive for blood. Which he found in a matter of moments after entering the drivers compartment of Will Sampsons automobile). Laboratory examination of the swab later determined that the blood from the swab was consistent with that of Wayne Stock. Prior to the Douglas County Chief Crime Scene Investigator David Kofoed assuming control of the Will Sampson automobile, Wayne Stock’s blood was not present in the car. Will Sampson, Nicholas Sampson and Matthew Livers had no involvement in the Stock murders and the Will Sampson automobile was not used in any way in the course of the commission of those murders.Kofoed’s attorney, Steve Lefler, has argued that accidental cross-contamination best explains how Wayne Stock’s blood ended up in the car. He said Kofoed had no sinister motives, but simply made a mistake and is unfairly being made an example of.

    Kaye Shepard, an analyst at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s human DNA lab, testified that the filter paper Kofoed said he used to swab an interior area of the car had at least seven times the amount of DNA she needed to conduct her tests. She had to dilute it to test it, she said.

    “If it was a real minimum amount of DNA, the inference would be that it wasn’t planted,” special prosecutor Clarence Mock stated.

    Shepard, also tested a ring and a marijuana pipe that were taken from the crime scene. She said those tests excluded Sampson and Livers, but could not rule out Gregory Fester and Jessica Reid, a pair from Horicon, Wis., who were later convicted in the slayings and are now serving life sentences in prison.

    The tests on the ring and pipe were completed before Kofoed searched William Sampson’s car, but Shepard couldn’t recall when investigators were made aware of the results. Documentation showed she talked to one investigator about them on May 4, 2006.

    A jury acquitted Kofoed in September of federal charges of falsifying records, mail fraud and depriving Sampson and Livers of their civil rights. Kofoed remains on administrative leave. He faces up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both if convicted on the felony evidence-tampering charge.

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