Denise Davidson: A Jamaican Queen Falls

The Murder of Louis Davidson, M.D.
(“House Call,” Forensic Files)

True crime stories involving good-looking people sell well and, when it comes to women, some fanciful spin often enters into the assessments.

Denise Davidson

Specifically, it seems as though anyone who competed in the Miss Southern Delaware Bartlett Pear Pageant in 1991 is forever categorized as a “beauty queen” by Forensic Files, Dateline, and the rest.

The beauty queen factor bestows an undeniable fairy tale element upon a story. The Forensic Files episode “House Calls” is especially hard to resist because it centers on a genuine heavy hitter — a former Miss Jamaica pageant finalist.

Pretty face, awful crime. Denise Davidson probably thought police would never implicate someone like her after her estranged husband turned up dead.

But her poise and fluffy hair didn’t help when it really counted, and she ended up in prison. So for this week, I poked around to find out whether she’s still incarcerated — and if so, whether she’s enjoying madcap Orange Is the New Black-like adventures or whether it’s just plain dismal living behind razor wire.

But first, here’s a recap of “House Call” with additional information from internet research:

Louis Davidson, M.D., fell in love with swimsuit model Denise Davis and they moved into a spacious house in St. Petersburg, Florida. Both of them originally came from Jamaica.

Messy divorce. The doctor was described as kind and generous and “so smart he was almost scary” by Kathy Molino, R.N., a former colleague who appeared on Forensic Files.

But it turned out that the Bayfront Medical Center’s head of emergency pediatric medicine hadn’t made a wise choice for a wife.

The marriage soured, and Denise filed for divorce in 1989. She alleged there was violence in the relationship, according to a Jamaican Gleaner story.

The couple reconciled, but at some point Denise acquired a boyfriend, Miami night club owner Leo Cisneros. He had suspected ties to Jamaican drug trafficking and may have had related charges pending in the U.S., according to Forensic Files.

By 1994, Denise and Louis Davidson were headed for divorce court again and a custody fight over their 8-year-old daughter.

The doctor had found a girlfriend, Patricia Deninno, and the two were engaged. Denise and Cisneros were expecting a baby together and also planned to get married.

Outsourced killers. But Denise and her new man wanted to avoid a custody fight and collect a $500,000 life insurance payout by taking the doctor out of the picture permanently.

Leo Cisneros

They arranged for two hitmen from Jamaica, Robert Gordon, 32, and Meryl Stanley “Tony” McDonald, 47, to kill the pediatrician.

Pretending to be prospective tenants, the contract killers visited the rental office of Thunderbay Apartments in St. Petersburg, where the doctor lived, and obtained layouts of the entire complex and a two-bedroom unit.

On January 25, 1994, the doctor, 38, answered his door to find at least one of the killers on the other side. Some sources report that one of the men had somehow chatted up the doctor in the parking lot, and they walked into the apartment together. Whatever the case, once inside his home, they roughed up Louis Davidson and drowned him in his bathtub, then left town pronto.

‘The Wire.’ For some reason — perhaps that they found the doctor gagged and with his knees tied with a vacuum cleaner cord — the police didn’t think he just slipped on the tile floor.

The victim’s watch, a camera, and a money clip were missing, according to court papers. But thousands of dollars in cash and other valuables were left undisturbed, leading police to believe that the murder was the real motivation.

By this time, Cisneros had returned to Jamaica. Denise Davidson stayed in Florida, and authorities put her under surveillance.

She made the investigation easy.

Detectives discreetly followed her into a Western Union office, where they witnessed her wiring $1,200 to Robert Gordon and noticed that she signed the paperwork with an alias, Pauline White.

Dr. Louis Davidson

They eventually gathered enough evidence to prove that she had given Gordon and McDonald a total of about $15,000 via a series of transfers.

Phone records revealed that she made numerous calls to Gordon the day of the murder.

Idle threat. Detectives found the Days Inn room where Gordon had stayed and discovered a pair of Voit sneakers and a man’s sweatshirt that had Louis’s blood on them. And the sneaker tread matched a footprint at the crime scene.

Once Denise realized the police considered her a serious suspect, she disguised her voice and left a threatening message (“You’ll be sorry, Denise…”) on her own answering machine in hopes of throwing off investigators.

No luck with that ploy, because detectives traced the call to the clothing store where Denise worked. They had witnessed her entering the business just before the time of the phone call and exiting soon after.

The ultimate penalty. Police arrested Denise, then 34, at the Tampa airport as she was waiting to board a flight to Kingston, Jamaica. She was held without bail.

Florida investigators tracked down the assassins and prosecuted them as well as Denise in 1995.

She got a life sentence for solicitation for murder.

Denise Davidson at the time of her arrest

Circuit Court Judge Susan F. Schaeffer, known as “Ms. Death” for her harsh sentencing, upheld the jury’s recommendation that Robert Gordon and Meryl McDonald receive death sentences for first degree murder.

Susan Carole Shore, an accomplice who served as a driver for the hired killers, testified for the prosecution and received probation.

Slippery boyfriend. Journalist Craig Pittman, who appeared on Forensic Files, remarked that Leo Cisneros was too cowardly to kill the doctor himself. That seemed a little strange. Reluctance to slaughter an innocent man with one’s own hands sounds more like evidence of a bit of humanity than wimpiness.

Whatever the case, no one ever got to hear Cisneros’ side of the story.

He was still missing when Forensic Files first aired “House Call” in 2002. In 2008, America’s Most Wanted sought help in finding him, without success.

Cisneros is still at large.

Filing away. It should be mentioned that “Leo Cisneros” is a relatively common name, and the internet has stories about at least two felons by that name, but neither of them is Denise Davidson’s former boyfriend, whose full name is Leonardo Anselmo Cisneros.

Robert Gordon

The two hitman clearly had no idea where Cisneros was hiding out. Otherwise, they would have used the information to get themselves better deals.

They both made efforts to get new trials, however.

Gordon filed an unsuccessful 1997 appeal claiming that having an all-white jury didn’t count as a jury of his peers. In the same document, Gordon said that the court had neglected to hold Denise Davidson accountable for the same standards that had factored into his punishment.

Meryl McDonald

He didn’t get anywhere with a writ of habeas corpus with the U.S. District Court Middle District in 2004, either.

Meryl McDonald filed a motion for rehearing , which was denied in 2007. (The Murderpedia page for each of the men provides links to the court papers.)

As of today, neither man has been executed. They’re prisoners in the maximum-security section of Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, Florida.

No deprivation camp. As for Denise Davidson, she is prisoner #153691 at the Homestead Correctional Institution in Dade County, Florida.

It’s a prison with a minimun-security area that sounds a lot like the fictional Litchfield Penitentiary of Orange Is the New Black fame.

Davidson’s current custody status is “close,” which means limitations on off-premises activities. In other words, for OITNB fans, no van-driving gig like the one Lorna Morello and Tiffany Doggett scored.

But Homestead offers plenty of other diversions, including four softball teams and classes in art, creative writing, music, aerobics, yoga, and anger management.

Inmates also have the opportunity to study PC support services and automotive service technology.

Denise Davidson in 2017

On the down side, Davidson looks somber in recent photographs. She no doubt regrets ending her marriage by soliciting two hitmen instead of one divorce lawyer.

That’s all for this week. Until next time, cheers. RR

Forensic Files Via Netflix

Hike Over to the Stream

Just a quick post this week with a link to a side project that involves Forensic Files.

True Crime Truant posts always provide links to the related Forensic Files episodes on YouTube so you can watch them for free.

If you’re already paying for Netflix streaming, however, you might want to switch.

Netflix has 360 episodes 100 percent free of ads. But its library is time-consuming to navigate.

The Decider.com article “10 Great ‘Forensic Files’ Episodes and How to Find Them on Netflix” tries to make the job easier.

Decider is a website devoted to entertainment available via streaming.

Full disclosure: Decider belongs to the same company that owns the publication where I work by day.

But True Crime Truant is funded, operated, and written by me at home with my dog on my lap, no connection to my employer (except that my colleagues and I like to read one another’s blogs. You can check out Running for Your Life by marathon runner Larry O’Connor or Total Game Plan by girls volleyball coach Mike Tully).

But getting back to Netflix, you’ll find one disadvantage to watching Forensic Files there: The only reader comments are reviews that pertain to the series as a whole, not specific episodes.

You might miss the “I hope the mother’s supervisor rots in hell” and “I knew he was a lying weasel from the 911 call” comments. I rather enjoy them. You can always go back and forth from Netflix to YouTube.

Valentina

Next week, True Crime Truant will resume recaps of Forensic Files episodes, with “House Calls,” which tells the story of how pediatrician Louis Davidson met his end at the hands of his wife and some hired assassins.

Until then, cheers. RR

Richard Alexander: Wrongly Convicted of Rape

Making a Sex Criminal
(“Within a Hair,” Forensic Files)

Richard Alexander’s story on Forensic Files is something of a precursor to Making a Murderer — the Netflix docuseries about Steven Avery.

Richard Alexander

Avery, an undereducated auto-salvage dealer, spent 18 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit. DNA evidence exonerated him and he won a $400,000 judgment from Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.

No spending spree. The rape victim in that case identified Avery because he looked like the real attacker, Gregory Allen. Both men were blond with similar complexions and facial features and were around the same age.

Avery hardly got a chance to enjoy his windfall before Manitowoc County police arrested him for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005. He was convicted and thrown back in prison.

Making a Murderer was a ratings juggernaut for Neflix, attracting 19 million viewers within the first five weeks of its release, Adweek reported.

Compact story-telling. The series won a lot of public sympathy for Avery. Circa 2016, when Making a Murderer caught fire, the internet was brimming with reader comments and opinion pieces condemning Avery’s conviction as a sham perpetrated by crooked law enforcement.

Steven Avery circa 1985

Whereas Steven Avery’s saga merited a 10-hour bingefest on Netflix, Richard Alexander’s got one measly 30-minute Forensic Files episode.

But Within a Hair gets the job done. It’s absorbing and and ends on a happier note, with Alexander’s exoneration for rapes he didn’t commit.

Cagey assailant. For this week, I looked around to see whether Richard Alexander won a financial award and whether he rebuilt his life successfully or ended up behind razor wire again, like Steven Avery.

But first here’s a recap of the Forensic Files episode along with additional information from internet research:

A series of rapes and robberies were taking place in the River Park section of South Bend, Indiana, in 1996.

The attacker took pains to leave the crime scenes free of evidence. He wore gloves and wiped off surfaces. In at least one instance, he covered a victim’s eyes so she couldn’t identify him later.

Bicyclist implicated. In another case, he came across a young engaged couple who were arguing by the side of the road. He struck the man and raped the woman.

A police dog traced the rapist’s scent from the scene of that crime to some bicycle track marks in the grass. Investigators theorized the attacker got away on a bike.

Not long after, police spotted a young black man riding a mountain bike in the area and took him into custody.

It was Richard Alexander, age 29, and his bad luck was only just beginning.

Lone juror holds out. He denied having anything to do with the River Park rapes and thefts, but three victims picked him or his photograph out of lineups.

Richard Alexander in court after his arrest

A semen sample from one of the rapes in which he was implicated didn’t match Alexander’s DNA. Police dropped charges stemming from that assault, but persisted with other ones.

At his first trial, a racially mixed jury couldn’t reach a decision because one member, a social worker named Barbara Griffin, held out for Alexander’s innocence.

In 1998, after a second trial, an all-white jury convicted him on two of three assaults, and he got 70 years in prison.

Anguish and sadness. Rapists tend to get the roughest treament from other inmates in the prison population, and Alexander’s experience was no different.

In an on-camera interview, Alexander’s psychic pain comes through the TV screen. He witnessed inmates raped in the shower.

Inconvenient truth. Still, as heartbreaking as it is to see someone like him wrongly imprisoned, it’s worth mentioning that, like Avery, Alexander had some rough stuff on his record from the years preceding the rapes.

Alexander’s rap sheet, which Forensic Files showed on camera briefly, included burglary, robbery, receiving stolen property, car theft, and something called “crime deviate cond.”

Steven Avery’s past misdeeds included cruelty to animals.

It’s not outrageous for law enforcement to believe that either of those men could have committed a rape.

Hair does damage. But other parts of the investigation seemed like a witch hunt. Police deemed it suspicious that Alexander’s apartment contained “a knife, some hoods, and bandannas.”

Also, the prosecution used a pubic hair found at one of the rape scenes as evidence against Alexander simply because under a microscope, it looked similar to his hair. At the time, there was no mitochondrial DNA testing.

And with Alexander locked away, the rapes continued, this time in the nearby city of Mishawaka, Indiana. One woman identified Alexander as her attacker despite that he was in jail when the assault happened.

Finally, in 2001, Alexander caught a break when police nabbed Michael Murphy fleeing from a residential robbery scene. They found a trove of stolen items in his apartment, including things taken during rapes that were pinned on Alexander.

Sgt. Cynthia Eastman

Yet another attacker. Murphy ended up confessing to rape and 250 thefts. By this time, scientists had developed mitochondrial DNA testing and concluded the pubic hair came from Murphy, not Alexander.

The semen matched DNA from a third man, Mark Williams.

Sergeant Cynthia Eastman noted during her Forensic Files interview that all three of the men looked alike in stature and musculature and were around the same age.

Free at last. They also had completely different facial features, but the crimes happened in the dark and the victims were traumatized.

Murphy got 30 years in jail. Williams, who was already incarcerated for other crimes, received 40 years for one count of rape.

Richard Alexander was liberated on December 12, 2001 after five and a half years behind bars.

He was 35 years old.

“Richard has proclaimed his innocence from day one to anyone who would listen to him. He is extremely happy to be vindicated. He is excited about rebuilding his life,” said deputy public defender Brian Eisenman, as reported in an AP story.

It’s not over. Eastman, who said she always had a feeling Alexander was innocent, described a jubilant hug shared between her and Alexander, and Forensic Files shows joyful scenes of his reunion with family members.

In his final on-cameral interview, Alexander said he had received no apology for the wrongful conviction and that “it still hurts because really nothing’s been done since I’ve been out.” The episode ended there.

Sadly, Alexander’s life has improved very little since then, according to information available on the internet.

He found a sympathetic lawyer, Roseann P. Ivanovich, who filed a multimillion lawsuit against the city of South Bend and its police department in 2002.

New woe develops. The suit named Cynthia Eastman as one of the wrongdoers. “Even though she had doubts, she testified against him twice. I have a big problem with that,” Ivanovich said, as reported in a 2002 AP story.

A US district court dismissed Alexander’s lawsuit. A court of appeals upheld the dismissal in 2006.

Things got worse for Alexander.

In 2007, he pleaded guilty to a count of battery for assaulting a former girlfriend with a lead pipe. He got six years.

Today, the Indiana Department of Corrections lists Richard L. Alexander as having been eligible for parole in 2008 and gives his status as “Returned to court authority on release.”

I believe that means he’s out of prison by now, but no information turned up about his doings for the last few years.

Let’s hope that no news is good news.

Cause célèbre flattened. As for the rest of the players, it’s unclear whether Michael Murphy  — who in addition to the rapes and robberies, had an attempted sexual assault of a 9-year-old girl on his record — is still in jail.  The Indiana offender database lists his earliest possible release date as December 15, 2015.

Steven Avery in 2015

The database gives a 2016 earliest-possible release date for Mark Williams, but doesn’t state whether or not he won parole.

Steven Avery is definitely still in prison and will probably stay there. On November 29, 2017, a Wisconsin judge denied him a new trial.

That’s all for this post. Until next week, cheers. RR

5 True-Crime Movies to Watch on YouTube Thanksgiving Weekend

A Free Banquet Awaits Online

Whether you need a diversion while dicing potatoes, want a break from a pompous in-law, or are home alone and bored, you’ll enjoy feasting on at least one of these.

Brandon Teena and Lana Tisdel

1. The Brandon Teena Story (1998)
Genre: Documentary
Watch If: You want proof the U.S. has made progress on LGBT acceptance over the past 20 years.
Length: 1 hour 28 minutes.
Beautiful and devastating true story of Brandon Teena, a transgender 21-year-old Nebraskan who was raped and murdered by former friends. Hillary Swank won an Academy Award for playing Brandon in the subsequent Hollywood dramatization, Boys Don’t Cry. The documentary version is equally good and features Lorrie Morgan on its soundtrack.
Warning: Could make you afraid to even fly over the Bible Belt.

Eric Roberts and Anne Heche star in the movie

2. Fatal Desire (2006)
Genre: Made-for-TV Lifetime movie
Watch if: You feel like some absorbing lightweight drama.
Length: 1 hour 53 minutes.
Anne Heche portrays a character based on Sharee Miller — a real-life seductress who wielded her flaxen hair and lingerie effectively enough to ruin at least two men’s lives. Eric Roberts plays one of them in the dramatization. Heche and Roberts both do a good job in their roles.
Warning: When you Google “Sharee Miller” afterward, you’re going to be disappointed.

Damien Echols on trial

3. Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996)
Genre: Documentary
Watch If: You want to understand why Johnny Depp adopted this cause.
Length: 2 hours 30 minutes.
Disturbing tale of how a rural Arkansas community persecutes a trio of misfits after three small boys turn up dead. One of the accused has to take flak just for liking black clothes.
Warning: The witch hunt is so upsetting that the tragedy of the homicides kind of slips away.

Farrah Fawcett at peak

4. Small Sacrifices (1989)
Genre: Made for TV movie
Watch if: You like Ann Rule books.
Length: 2 hours 39 minutes.
Dramatization of the story of Diane Downs, a mail carrier who shot her three children when they got in the way of her obsessive love life. Farrah Fawcett had evolved into a good actress by the time she took on the role of Downs. Ryan O’Neal and John Shea co-star. Based on the Ann Rule best seller of the same name.
Warning: Might compel you to check out Charlie’s Angels, the 1970s TV series that made Fawcett and her hair a sensation.

The MacDonalds wed when they were both 20

5. Fatal Vision (1984)
Genre: NBC Made for TV Movie
Watch If: You’re a fan of actor Gary Cole.
Length: 3 hours 1 minute (plus commercials).
A time capsule within a time capsule because the movie portrays events from the late 1960s and 1970s — and the version on YouTube features commercials from the original 1984 broadcast. The drama, based on Joe McGinniss’ blockbuster book, tells of how Dr. Jeff MacDonald’s status shifts from best and brightest to psychopathic killer of his family in a bloodbath he still blames on hippies.
Warning: A number of respected journalists, including The New Yorker writer Janet Malcolm, believe Fatal Vision is a sham and MacDonald is innocent.

That’s all for this week. Until next time, cheers. RR

Richard Lyon: An Epilogue

Update on Nancy Dillard Lyon’s Killer
(“Writer’s Block,” Forensic Files)

The last post told the story of the poisoning death of Lyon’s wife, 37-year-old architect Nancy Dillard Lyon.

Richard and Nancy Lyon had two daughters

Richard Lyon pleaded not guilty at his 1991 murder trial. But a Texas court rejected his blame-the-victim strategy — which included a contention that Nancy had brought about her own slow demise by intentionally consuming arsenic and barium carbonate over a long period of time.

A jury convicted him of first-degree murder, and Lyon began a life sentence at the W.F. Ramsey Unit prison farm at the tender age of 34.

Sorry, sir. He became eligible for parole 15 years later in 2006. That bid was rejected, although the Texas Department of Justice website gives no explanation.

On his most recent review date, February 3, 2016, a parole board denied him again, and this time specified the reasons. It cited his crime as involving “elements of brutality, violence” and “conscious selection of victim’s vulnerability.”

He posed “a continued threat to public safetly,” according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

His next chance will come in 2021, when he’s 64.

In the meantime, Richard Lyon denies that he murdered his wife.

Richard Lyon, right, in a photo from from his website, which advocates for his innocence

No rescue. A website created by Richard Lyon and his supporters (whoever they are) solicits donations and pro bono legal help. He maintains that he had nothing to do with Nancy’s death:

“His supposed crime was that he poisoned his wife, Nancy, so he could inherit her money and status in the community and then, begin his new life with his mistress. This narrative has been spewed for decades and portrayed in film in addition to being plastered all over the Internet.”

Lyon has applied to the Innocence Project of Texas and New York, the Thurgood Marshall School of Law Innocence Project, and the House of Renewed Hope.

So far, those organizations have declined to take on his case.

Dillard parents. If he ever does get out, he won’t find Tami Ayn Gaisford — the co-worker with whom he began an affair while married to Nancy — waiting for him. She still lives in Texas but married someone else.

As for updates on family members of the Lyons, I wasn’t able to find out who took custody of the couple’s little daughters after Richard went to prison. But Allison and Anna are adults now.

Nancy’s father, William “Big Daddy” Dillard,  died in 2006 after a 59-year marriage to Sue Stubbs Dillard that produced four children. She passed away in 2009. (They are not the same Dillards who founded the Dillard’s department store chain. Nancy’s family made its fortune in commercial real estate.)

Nancy and Richard Lyon during their marriage

Another tragedy. Incidentally, William and Sue Dillard had already lost one of their adult children, Thomas, in 1986. He died of a brain tumor.

In murdering Nancy five years later, Richard Lyon took away yet another child from the Dillard family.

Let’s hope someone brings that up at the 2021 parole hearing.

That’s all for this post. Until next week, cheers. RR

Nancy Dillard Lyon: Writing’s on the Wall

A Husband Tries to Mess with Texas
“Writer’s Block,” (Forensic Files)

When Richard Lyon first began sneaking poison into his wife’s beverages, he probably hoped she would die quickly and doctors would attribute the tragedy to natural causes, end of story.

Nancy Dillard Lyon

But he was ready for a criminal investigation into Nancy Dillard Lyon’s death just the same.

Dallas drama. He prepared documents designed to make it look as though a) Nancy committed suicide, b) her brother murdered her to hide family secrets, or c) an ex-colleague had her killed to stop her from testifying in an embezzlement case.

He thought he had all the angles covered.

Fortunately, the state of Texas and Nancy’s family weren’t so easily fooled. They succeeded in getting  Richard Lyon removed from the Dallas Country Club and deposited into the W. F. Ramsey Unit on a prison farm in Rosharon.

Here’s a recap of “Writer’s Block,” the Forensic Files episode about the case, plus additional information from internet research.

Richard Lyon was born on April 22, 1957 to a middle class family of five children in Connecticut. His father sold insurance. He attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, then headed to the Harvard School of Design for a graduate degree in landscaping and architecture.

Ivy League sweethearts. There, he met Nancy Dillard, whose parents were wealthy and influential enough for her father’s nickname to be Big Daddy. He had made a fortune in commercial real estate in Texas. But the money hadn’t spoiled Nancy. She was hard-working and practical.

In a Texas Monthly story, Gayle Golden wrote about Nancy and Richard’s early years:

“At Harvard, they had teamed up on all their projects, working through the night until collapsing together in the single bed they shared. According to friends, Nancy had the ideas, Richard the speedy execution.”

The two purposely tweaked their handwriting so it looked similar enough that he could get away with handing in papers she’d written for him.

Richard Lyon at the trial

They married in 1982 and moved into a duplex in University Park, an affluent section of Dallas.

Folks, it’s Camelot. Forensic Files portrayed Nancy as a sweet and generous soul, an assessment corroborated by Golden, a newspaper reporter who lived in the other half of the duplex owned by the Lyons.

Nancy worked her way up to a partnership at Trammell Crow, a real estate development firm. Richard did well for himself as a project manager at a landscape architectural firm.

By 1990, they had two small daughters and lots of friends, swam at the country club, and joined in vacations underwritten by Nancy’s parents, William W. Dillard Sr. and Sue Stubbs Dillard.

Nancy and Richard continued to enjoy working together, Gayle Golden recounted:

“On their own they transformed the once-scrawny back yard into a little paradise, planting trees and wisteria, driving bricks into sand to make a patio, hanging chimes and a hammock.”

They constructed a dollhouse “shingle by shingle” for their daughter Allison.

Neighbor Gayle Golden’s Texas Monthly story

Homewrecker. But, as every Forensic Files watcher knows, idyllic-looking existences tend to give way. Richard began an affair with a coworker named  Tami Ayn Gaisford around 1989. Nancy found out, but instead of getting mad, she got depressed.

She hoped the affair would blow over. Richard left her on at least one occasion but returned and put on the loving husband act, all the while intending to escape from the marriage.

But the mild-mannered 5-foot-7-inch Richard needed a way that wouldn’t mean losing custody of his kids or the affluence and prestige that Nancy Dillard Lyon’s family brought to his life.

And there was something to gain from Nancy’s death: a $500,000 life insurance payout.

Toxic husband. Richard first sprang into action by sprinkling a powdered poison into a soda he bought for Nancy at the movies. The drink tasted terrible and made her sick later that evening. She survived that attempt.

It wasn’t clear what type of poison he used on that occasion.

On a subsequent try, he gave her vitamin capsules laced with the poison barium carbonate. Still, she lived.

At some point, he switched to arsenic, which he probably put in her food and a bottle of wine left anonymously on their porch.

It worked.

Nice playacting. A grim-looking Richard showed up on Golden’s doorstep in January 1991 to ask if she and her husband would look after his daughters while he took Nancy to the emergency room. She had nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

“Do you think you can make it downstairs?” Gayle Golden overheard Richard say to Nancy in a sweet voice. “I’ll carry you.”

Nancy Dillard Lyon, seen here with First Lady Barbara Bush, came from an influential family

During her six-day stay at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, Nancy’s violent illness continued and she begged the medical staff to save her life.

Doctors frantically did tests to find the cause of her illness. She died before they had a chance, on January 14, 1991, at the age of 37.

Forensic tests. Nancy’s father was none-too-pleased that his son-in-law made the decision to terminate her life support without consulting him or his wife. It would come up in court later.

Meanwhile, a laboratory found lethal amounts of arsenic in Nancy’s hair, liver, and kidneys. The strands of hair served as a map of doses of arsenic that coincided with Richard’s interactions with his wife.

Aware that the No. 1 suspect is always the husband, Richard was armed and ready with the aforementioned forged documents designed to look as though Nancy wrote them.

He produced diary entries detailing childhood sexual abuse Nancy’s brother had allegedly perpetrated against her. Perhaps that would prove that either her brother killed her or that Nancy was so distraught over the bad memories she took her own life.

Find a Patsy. The grieving husband also showed authorities an anonymous letter Nancy had received; it threatened violence if she went ahead and testified against a former colleague named David Bagwell who allegedly embezzled $720,000 from Trammell Crow.

Nancy had told doctors about the mystery wine; maybe it was from Bagwell and contained arsenic.

Testifying on his own behalf at the trial, Richard Lyon tried to implicate Bagwell. Nancy had called him a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” he alleged.

And in case that didn’t work, Richard could rely on a receipt for arsenic trioxide, barium carbonate, and two other deadly substances — signed by Nancy — as evidence that she deliberately poisoned herself.

Jerri Sims led the prosecution for the state

Paper Lyon. At the trial, prosecutor Jerri Sims called on a handwriting expert who could see the small differences between Richard’s and Nancy’s handwriting. He determined the diary entries about Nancy’s brother were forgeries created by Richard.

Chemical Engineering Co., where Richard claimed the arsenic came from, said that the receipts it issued to customers looked nothing like the one Richard presented; it was fabricated evidence.

And the anonymous threatening letter on behalf of her former coworker was a big nothing. No one could trace it to anyone involved in the embezzlement case.

Tami Ayn Gaisford, Richard’s girlfriend, testified that Richard had told her that Nancy died from a rare fatal blood disease — more proof that he was a liar.

Facing reality. While Golden described Nancy as “infuriatingly optimistic” about saving her marriage when Richard first left her, it came out at the trial that her hopefulness had finally receded: At some point, she had quietly removed her husband as beneficiary of her life insurance policy.

She also shut him off from their joint bank accounts. She didn’t appreciate his using $5,900 of their money to buy a ring for Gaisford.

In 1990, Nancy had hired a divorce attorney, Mary Henrich, in whom she confided her suspicion that Richard was poisoning her — something she felt too embarrassed to tell police, according to court records from Richard Lyon’s unsuccessful 1994 appeal.

Nancy planned to move to Washington, D.C., with her daughters after the divorce, a 1991 AP story reported.

Ants implicated. At the trial, internist Dr. Ali Bagheri noted that Richard was “smiling, joking, and laughing” with hospital staff members during his wife’s emergency room visit.

A detective noted that upon being informed that Nancy had passed away from poisoning, Richard Lyon didn’t ask any questions.

Lyon later admitted to buying some poisons, for killing fire ants in his yard, he said.

But members of the jury brought their healthy skepticism with them for the two-week trial.

Bar exam. They took three hours to find Richard Lyon guilty of first-degree murder.

Judge John Creuzot didn’t buy Lyon’s story

During sentencing, Judge John C. Creuzot said that Lyon used “various and sundry chemicals to kill Nancy. The first two didn’t work, and you finally finished her off with arsenic, a tried-and-true method of producing death.”

Creuzot gave him life in jail and a $10,000 fine.

His sentence began on December 19, 1991 — less than a year after Nancy Dillard Lyon died. I guess Texas courts don’t mess around.

Today, Richard Alan Abood Lyon is prisoner No. 00612188 in the capable hands of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

An upcoming post will look into developments in his case since the conviction.

Until then, cheers. RR


Update: Read Part 3

Nancy Dillard Lyon’s Murder

Her Husband Fooled Everyone at First
(“Writer’s Block,” Forensic Files)

If the story of Nancy Dillard Lyon’s death sounds a little familiar, it’s because her husband chose to kill her via poisoning, the same method used by Dr. Anthony Pignataro, the subject of a recent blog post.

A young Nancy Dillard

Pignataro, an egomaniacal underqualified plastic surgeon, failed in his efforts. Debbie Pignataro survived the doses of arsenic the doctor slipped into her food and lived to see him imprisoned.

No showboat. Nancy Dillard Lyon wasn’t so lucky. The architect died on January 14, 1991 after her husband, Richard, sneaked harmful chemicals — one of them arsenic — into her comestibles over a long stretch of time.

He almost got away with it.

Unlike the narcissistic Pignatoro, Lyon was an outwardly modest man respected in his profession and in his community in Dallas, Texas.

The 34-year-old father of two managed to evade suspicion until after his wife died.

And even then, he supplied his defense attorneys with an armory’s worth of hard-to-refute evidence.

Nancy and Richard Lyon wed after grad school

Media binge. But the criminal justice system nailed Lyon, who had an Ivy League degree, just the same. It’s always refreshing to see investigators untangle a plot concocted by someone sure he can outsmart them.

The story became the subject of not only the Forensic Files episode “Writer’s Block” but also an hour-long Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege, and Justice entitled “Traces of Evil” and a made-for-TV movie called Death in Small Doses starring Tess Harper, Richard Thomas, and Glynnis O’Connor.

Upcoming posts will offer a recap of “Writer’s Block” along with some other research about the case as well as an epilogue for Richard Lyon, who is 60 years old and still among the living.

Until then, cheers. RR  

Update: Read Part 2

Rodger Broadway: Magazine Crew Murderer

A Door-to-Door Salesman Has Little Regard for Life
(“Death by a Salesman,” Forensic Files)

Rodger Broadway’s decision to burglarize a house with an unlocked front door and then kill the surprised homeowner was spontaneous.

Eskalene DeBorde

But the explanation for how the Bronx, New York, native ended up in Eskalene DeBorde’s Tennessee neighborhood in the first place offers a glimpse into a little-known industry rife with malice of forethought.

Paging help. DeBorde, a 66-year-old typist for the University of Kentucky, had no reason to suspect a van would drive into her corner of Knox County and drop off a group of ex-cons and other former offenders tasked with selling magazine subscriptions door to door.

It was 2001, when anyone desiring a subscription could order one online or go low-tech and fill out a card that fell out of any issue of Good Housekeeping or Cosmopolitan or Sports Illustrated at a newsstand.

Consumers weren’t exactly longing for Reader’s Digest salespeople to show up the way kids hope for Good Humor trucks.

The magazine publishers, however, did have a need. The decline of Publisher’s Clearinghouse and the rise of the Do Not Call List were taking a toll on subscription sales, according to a New York Times investigative report.

Shadow industry. While respectable media organizations like Hearst, Time Inc., and Condé Nast had no hand in creating magazine crews like the one that recruited Broadway, they would use a chain of middlemen to acquire subscriptions that the crew members sold to people door to door.

Rodger Broadway

The salespeople tend to benefit the least from the crews, according to organizations that track and study them. Magazine crew businesses seem to function at best as multilevel marketing schemes and at worst as vehicles for fraud, indentured servitude, and physical abuse against the salespeople.

Not that this in any way mitigates the cruelty of Broadway’s actions. But it sheds light on one of many types of businesses that prey upon undereducated people looking for opportunities.

The New York Times exposé of magazine crews dates back to 2007, but The Atlantic  wrote about them as recently as 2015. Currently, at least three humanitarian organizations — Polaris, Parent Watch, and the National Consumers League’s Child Labor Coalition — advocate for young people ensnared by magazine crews.

Neighborhood suddenly risky. More information about that will follow, but first, here’s a recap of Death by a Salesman, the Forensic Files episode about the Rodger Broadway murder case:

Eskalene DeBorde lived just a few blocks away from Lynn Noffsinger, her grown daughter who had small children.

DeBorde left her doors unlocked to make it easier for her daughter to drop by with her kids. Crime hadn’t been a problem in the area until August 20, 2001.

That day, one of the salesman who descended upon her Knoxville neighborhood to sell subscriptions was 21-year-old Broadway. He had once served time for aggravated robbery, meaning that he either committed the theft with a deadly weapon or caused bodily harm to the victim.

Lynn Noffsinger

Worst fear comes true. He probably rang or knocked on DeBorde’s door and entered after getting no answer, because she was typing upstairs. Accounts vary as to whether he broke into her home office on the second floor or she emerged and confronted him.

Whichever the scenario, Broadway beat and raped the grandmother, stabbed her through the neck, stole her credit cards and keys, poured himself a soda in her kitchen, and fled in her car.

His explanation for the incident was reported in a Knoxville News-Sentinel article:

“She was not scared. She was feisty… I didn’t come to her house to even do none of that. I went blank because she just … made me beyond mad, she made me (expletive) angry.”

Speedy police-work. DeBorde’s daughter discovered the crime scene around dinner time and called 911. Fortunately, she didn’t have to suffer an agonizing wait for justice.

The authorities solved the crime in less than a day.

Neighbors told investigators about the magazine salesmen they’d seen walking around in white shirts and black ties.

Authorities tracked down their supervisor at a Super 8 motel and spotted DeBorde’s 1997 Mazda Protege parked nearby.

He told police that Broadway was on a Greyhound bus back to New York to tend to a family emergency.

Nailed by the evidence. The supervisor admitted that members of his team had criminal records but said they were rehabilitated.

Sheriff’s deputies in Virginia stopped the bus on Interstate 81 and arrested Broadway.

Once in custody, Broadway couldn’t refute video footage showing him using DeBorde’s card at a gas station on the night of the murder or his fingerprints on her car window and a drinking glass in her kitchen.

There was also the matter of the bloody clothes and flower-shaped diamond engagement ring discovered in his travel bag.

Later, a lab matched samples taken from the victim’s rape test kit to Broadway’s DNA.

Door-to-door danger. To avoid the death penalty, the 6-foot-3-inch 202-pound killer accepted a life sentence without parole plus 50 years.

Broadway’s story pretty much ends there, but the scourge of the magazine crews continued.

Shortly after the DeBorde attack, door-to-door magazine sellers committed two more sexual assaults in Tennessee.

At this point, it’s understandable if you can’t imagine having any sympathy for the plight of the people who sell house to house on magazine crews.

Neither could I until I found all the research showing that they’re often victims, too.

Police interview workers at a gas station where Broadway asked for directions after the murder

Grim rewards. The NY Times story tells of jobseekers in their teens and early 20s enticed to join “mag crews” with the promise of seeing the country, having fun, earning $500 or more a week, and accruing points toward tropical vacations.

But in reality, the better part of the commissions are kicked upstairs. Sellers can end up receiving only $10 to $15 a day, sleeping several to a room in cheap motels, being pressured to meet high sales quotas, and receiving drugs instead of wages.

According to Parent Watch founder Earlene Williams as quoted in The Atlantic story:

“Research shows these people mostly come from very low-income situations, may have had trouble with the law, and are earnestly trying to dig themselves out of a hole. They’re vulnerable because they don’t feel like they’re worth anything and the crew managers instill a culture of fear and manipulation.”

John Simpson, a former mag crew member interviewed for a video accompanying the NY Times article, said his supervisors turned him into an enforcer who would beat up team members for not producing enough sales.

(A lawyer for the National Field Selling Association said on camera that abuse claims are exaggerated.)

One former crew member named Isaac James interviewed for the NY Times video said he would filch jewelry and electronics from homeowners while their backs were turned, then use the proceeds to buy magazine subscriptions himself so he would make his quota.

Modern-day Joads. The crew leaders reportedly have abandoned underperforming members at bus stations without enough money for a ticket home. Polaris reports that 25 percent of the calls it receives about sales crews involve “workers left behind in unfamiliar areas.”

Like Okies in debt to the company store, crew members who wish to return to their faraway homes sometimes can’t because they owe the magazine crew owner money for their food and lodging.

Many of the magazine-selling businesses hire crew members as independent contractors, according the NY Times, which means management has no responsibility to give them benefits. (It also relieves the selling businesses’ owners of liability for any wrongs the members may commit.)

Tennessee’s Northeast Correctional Complex

Parent Watch, which Williams created after her own child had a bad experience on a magazine crew, offers resources to crew members and their concerned parents. She advises consumers to turn away door-to-door peddlers.

It’s not just a matter of safety. The Atlantic reported that the subscriptions, hawked with well-practiced sales tactics (“I only need 100 more points for a basketball scholarship”), cost up to $150 apiece and sometimes the magazines never show up.

Lawmakers have looked for ways to better monitor magazine crews. Back in 1999, Wisconsin Senator Herbert Kohn introduced legislation to regulate the industry, but it failed.

Next chapter. In 2014, the Broadway case was cited by a Knox County clerk pressing for better enforcement of a $55-a-month peddler license mandate for anyone not affliated with a religious or nonprofit group, or who doesn’t own a business within Knox County.

Polaris concentrates on regulations that protect the crew members from exploitation. The nonprofit defines abusive magazine crew practices as a form of human trafficking and advocates for the National Fair Labor Standards Act to cover door-to-door sales. It also pushes for magazine publishers to practice transparency regarding their supply chains.

The organization operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which offers help for victims and enables concerned observers to report suspected abuse.

Today, with digital publishing increasingly rendering Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone and other former giants of the print magazine business into shrinking pamphlets, perhaps in the near future, magazine crews will die out.

Rodger Erick Broadway has apparently already resigned himself to fading away quietly. Internet research reveals no evidence of attempts to void his sentence.

Behind razor wire. In his late 30s by now, Broadway is prisoner No. 00360958 at the Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City, along with 1,800 other inmates.

As a resident of NYC, I’m glad to know that Broadway is in a prison cell in Tennessee instead of making appearances in dark alleyways or lonely subway cars in my town.

That’s all for this post. Until next week, cheers. RR

5 Forensic Files Killers Who Can’t Hurt You Now

Relax, These Heartless Souls Are Out of Commission

With so much cruelty portrayed on Forensic Files,  an update that gives a little peace of mind seems in order for this week.

Sharon Zachary

Sharon Zachary
Prison:
Huron Valley Complex, Michigan
DOB: 08/05/1965
FF episode: Prints Among Thieves
Crime: Murder, robbery
Victim: Robert Rogers
Outlook: In prison for life, no parole.
The caretaker of the very crotchety and cash-rich Robert Rogers, Sharon Zachary was already in the will, but she couldn’t wait. The 5-foot-1-inch-tall Battle Creek, Michigan, native started helping herself to his money early, then used a pipe to beat the 80-year-old multimillionaire to death in hopes of gaining total access early.

Shannon Agofsky

Shannon Agofsky
Prison: Terre Haute USP, Indiana
DOB: circa 1971
FF episode: Stick ’em Up
Crime: Robbery, murder
Victims: Dan Short, Luther Plant
Outlook: On death row.
Shannon, 18, and his brother Joseph, 23, abducted bank president Dan Short, forced him to unlock the vault in the State Bank of Noel in Missouri, and stole $71,000 on October 6, 1989. Instead of wearing masks to hide their identities, the thieves bound the 52-year-old banker to a weighted chair and threw it into Oklahoma’s Grand Lake. While serving prison time for Short’s murder, Shannon killed fellow inmate Luther Plant in an exercise cage in 2001 and faces the death penalty. In the meantime, he’s active on Facebook. (Joseph Agofsky was convicted of the robbery but not the murder; he died in jail in 2013.)

Lynn Turner

Lynn Turner
Prison:
Metro State Prison, Atlanta
DOB: 7/13/68
FF episode: Cold Hearted
Crime: Murder
Victims: Glenn Turner, Randy Thompson
Outlook: Deceased.
The rather benign-looking mother of two poisoned her 32-year-old common-law husband by sneaking antifreeze into his food, in a bid to collect the firefighter’s $35,000 life insurance payout. After Randy Thompson’s death, it came to light that her previous husband, police officer Glenn Turner, had met his end in a similar way and she had received $150,000 from his insurer. She was convicted of both murders and given life in jail. The prison routine didn’t suit Lynn Turner, and she took her own life via an overdose of propranolol in her cell on August 30, 2010.

Colvin “Butch” Hinton

Colvin “Butch” Hinton
Prison: Hays State Prison, Georgia
DOB: 09/18/1960
FF episode: Ring Him Up High
Crime: Sexual assult, murder
Victims: Shannon Melendi, Tammy Singleton
Outlook: In prison for life, no parole.
Authorities should have never released Hinton after he attempted to rape 14-year-old Tammy Singleton in 1982. But the sexual predator won freedom after just two years. He got a gig as an umpire at a softball game, where he met 19-year-old Emory University sophomore Shannon Melendi on March 26, 1994. He abducted, raped, and strangled her, then burned her body. Afterward, he took his unsuspecting wife out to dinner at an Olive Garden and gave her as a gift a ring stolen from Melendi. It took a decade for authorities to figure out what happened and convict Hinton.

Stacey Castor

Stacey Ruth Castor
Prison: Bedford Hills, New York
DOB: 7/14/67
FF episode: Freeze Framed
Crime: Murder, attempted murder
Victims: David Castor, Ashley Wallace
Outlook: Deceased.
Stacey murdered husband David Castor in 2005 by feeding him antifreeze via a soft drink and a turkey baster, then staged his death to look like a suicide. She subsequently attempted to frame her own daughter Ashley Wallace for the crime by forging a confession note. Castor then gave Ashley a beverage with a lethal dose of sleeping pills; fortunately, the the college student got medical help and survived. Stacey might have killed her previous husband, Michael Wallace, as well but no charges were filed. She died of a heart attack in a jail cell on June 11, 2016. She would have been eligible for parole at age 87 — but I wouldn’t trust someone like her at any age.

That’s all for this post. Until next week, cheers. RR

Jim Barton: Bad Lieutenant?

Or Maybe a Railroaded Victim
(“Chief Suspect,” Forensic Files)

This week, it’s back to Forensic Files with one of the more perplexing episodes in the series.

Jim and Vickie Barton as a youngish couple

The evidence used to convict Jim Barton for his alleged role in a home invasion that left his wife dead seemed a little shaky. And unlike other accused Forensic Files spouse killers, Barton was something of a sympathetic character.

While his alleged crime was highly inadvisable, it didn’t carry much in the way of malice — if he really did it, that is. A jury thought so, and convicted him in 2005.

Eye on the prize. I checked into an epilogue for the 6-foot-5-inch former lawman, but first here’s a recap of the episode, “Chief Suspect,” along with additional information from internet research and insights from YouTube commenters.

Jim Barton was a well-liked lieutenant with the Springboro, Ohio, police department. His wife, Vickie, worked as a nurse supervisor at Sycamore Hospital.

The couple met through their love of riding and lived on a horse farm called Locust Knoll in Franklin Township, outside of Springboro. By all reports, Jim and Vickie had a happy marriage.

By the time he was around 40, Jim allegedly was aiming to win the top job of police chief, but that position would usually go to someone who resided within the city limits.

Horrific scene. On April 11, 1995, he called 911 to report finding his wife on the floor. She was undressed, not breathing, and had three bullet wounds to the head from a .22 caliber.

Someone had ransacked the household’s gun collection but didn’t steal anything.

Vickie Barton taught at Kettering College of Medical Arts in Ohio

The crime shocked the small community, and police geared up for a thorough investigation. But they found no suspects and no helpful evidence.

The case went cold for a few years, until police arrested a local career criminal named Gary Henson over an unrelated burglary. Henson said he knew something about the Vickie Barton homicide.

Suicide adds intrigue. His half-brother, William Phelps, was paid $3,000 by Jim Barton to rob his home in order to scare Vickie so that she’d agree to move away from their rural property and into the city of Springboro, Henson contended.

But Phelps went off the rails and raped and murdered Vickie, said Henson, who also told police that the original plan was for Henson himself to go along on the robbery but that he was in jail then.

Phelps committed suicide just weeks after the murder. (Henson later changed his story, testifying that Phelps had an accomplice, and the accomplice was the one who assaulted and killed Vickie.)

The revelations were more than enough reason for a cold case squad to reopen the investigation in 2003.

Detectives listened to Jim Barton’s 911 tape for any hints pertaining to a robbery-for-hire, and came up with a lot of what it considered red flags.

Tale of the tape. First, the detectives noted that Barton referred to the killers in the plural, evidence that he knew that two people committed the crime, they theorized. But as a YouTube commenter noted:

Susan Adams7 months ago  “They” could be said because you don’t know if the person who committed the crime was man, woman, one person or several. Saying “they” shouldn’t have [raised] red flags.

Detectives also interpreted noise on the tape as the sounds of Barton moving objects around, possibly tampering with evidence.

Gary Henson

But the offending noise, which the episode broadcast, sounded rather nonspecific. It could have been the house’s HVAC system or a breeze through a window.

In an interview for “Scared to Death,” a 20/20 episode about the Barton case, Jim Barton said that he looked around the house in case an assailant was still on the scene. Perhaps that accounted for some of the noise on the 911 tape.

Jumping to conclusions. Also, the theory about the attack as a scare tactic seemed a little far-fetched.

Before voting for conviction, I’d want to hear something along the lines of a secret recording of Barton admitting to the crime. No evidence like that existed. As another commenter wrote:

Sam Rod1 year ago (edited) “hmm, the evidence was terrible in convicting this guy. this was a long reach for the prosecution.

And on the subject of long reaches, one of the prosecution’s witnesses (presumably Henson) was hypnotized in order to extract information from him, said Barton defense lawyer Jon Paul Rion.

According to the 20/20 episode, in his earliest police interviews, Henson didn’t mention a robbery-for-hire plan; he added that part of the story later.

Henson sounded like a none-too-reliable witness all in all.

A CBS story published on truthinjustice.com reported that Vickie’s friends considered the frighten-into-relocating theory a stretch as well: “It would have challenged her to be more aggressive in protecting their farm,” Vickie’s girlfriend Darlene Bisgaard told CBS.

Here’s the part that really made me lose respect for the methodology of the investigation.

Jim Barton in custody

Hokey experiment. On the 911 tape, Barton said, “I gotta call [unintelligible word that sounded like ‘felp’], man.” Prosecutors asserted the garbled word was “Phelps” — thereby proving that Barton was in cahoots with Henson’s half-brother, William Phelps.

Barton maintained that he said “help” as in “I gotta call for help.”

To prove otherwise, the prosecution brought in Robert Fox, an Ohio State University linguistic and acoustic-phonic expert.

“To eliminate any potential bias,” narrator Peter Thomas explained, the professor was given only two choices: Was the word “help” or “Phelps”?

But why even give him suggestions? They should have simply let him interpret the word in question instead of prejudicing him.

Fox concluded that Barton said “Phelps” despite what seemed like a lack of a final “s” sound on the tape.

Failed second marriage. And there were other weak revelations as well. Barton’s second wife, Mary Ann Lacy, said that he sometimes spent time alone in their darkened basement, which investigators translated into evidence of guilt.

But Barton had married Lacy, who was Vickie’s best friend, only 15 months after the murder, and he may have still had sorrow to process. It didn’t make him guilty of anything. Or as an online commenter put it:

Dan Kirchner1 year ago (edited) “so the 2nd wife dumped him for spending alone time in the basement?? wtf? its called a mancave these days, right?”

Another piece of new evidence the prosecutors seized upon: A waitress named Barb Palmer suddenly remembered that, 10 years earlier, she had seen Jim Barton and William Phelps eating together at a local diner called Mom’s Restaurant.

Unless they left her a $100 tip, how could she possibly recall them after all that time?

DNA taken from the crime scene didn’t match that of Gary Henson or William Phelps (authorities exhumed his body to get a sample).

Credit undeserved. But members of the jury apparently harbored few doubts. They convicted Barton of complicity to commit manslaughter. On April 15, 2005, he received a sentence of 15 to 50 years at the Southeastern Correctional Institution in Lancaster.

“Had it not been for the forensic analysis of Jim’s 911 call, the case might never have been solved,” narrator Peter Thomas concludes. But as another commenter noted:

Babalwa Brook2 years ago  “I love how they are crediting forensics for solving this case when it clearly was the informant who brought up Phelps and the waitress who confirmed that dude knew Phelps smh”

The Forensic Files episode left off in 2006, but more has happened since then.

Barton wins a round. In 2015, the  6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that authorities improperly withheld evidence about a break-in that happened in another rural home in Warren County, where the Bartons lived.

Vickie Barton’s mother, Mary Jane Siebert (right), testified for the defense. She is shown with Elaine Barton, who married Jim in 2003.

The panel of judges also said that the state’s case hinged on  “unsupported, shifting and somewhat fantastical” witness testimony (presumably referring to Henson’s assertions).

In March 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to reinstate Barton’s conviction, meaning Ohio authorities would have to give him a second trial or set him free.

The following month, Jim’s third wife, Elaine Geswein Barton, put up $350,000 in bail, and he exited prison.

In September 2016, Barton avoided a new trial by entering an Alford plea, whereby the accused maintains his innocence while admitting that enough evidence exists to convict him.

Who knows? Of course, maybe Barton really did cause his wife’s death via the Fargo-like plot that Henson related. The time Barton served behind razor wire seems like adequate punishment for a crime of that nature.

From the evidence shown on Forensic Files and detailed in newspaper stories, however, his chance of being guilty seems around 50 percent. As a juror, I’d want to be 99 percent sure before convicting.

That’s all for this post. Until next week, cheers. RR