Tag Archives: Steve Plesser

Guilty Verdict in the Wiederrich/Gregor Murder Trial

An anonymous source informed me that Kenneth Vanderford and Kevin Etherton were found guilty on all charges for the killing of Dorothy Wiederrich and Alan Karl Gregor.  The likelihood of that result was apparent when the San Joaquin County Superior Court web site showed the next hearing would be for Sentencing on 6/1/20.

If more details are forthcoming, they will be posted.

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Wiederrich/Gregor Trial Appears to be on a Corona Virus Hiatus.

I checked the San Joaquin County Superior Court case index today and this case was set to continue this morning.  However, an article in local paper reported that the court is closed to all but emergency services effective today.  I interpret that to mean that the jury has not come back with a verdict after at least a day and half of deliberating.

I will continue to monitor the case as best I can, but the Lodi newspaper announced it is closing it’s office and that may hamper things.

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Wiederrich/Gregor Murder Trial Flash Update.

A source close to the case has let me know that it went to the jury earlier this afternoon.

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Wiederrich/Gregor Murder Case Continues

Nothing of a substantive nature to report on this case.  All that is known to those of us not in the courtroom is that the trial is scheduled to continue on Wednesday 3/11/20.

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Mulligan and Wiederrich/Gregor Case updates.

As of a couple of hours ago, the Wiederrich/ Gregor murder case continues apace in San Joaquin county Superior Court.

As for the Mulligan child molestation case in Calaveras County, last week the defendant, George Mulligan, moved to fire his attorney.  On 2/20/20 and new public defender was appointed and a new trial setting conference is set for 4/3/20.

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New Twist in the George Mulligan Child Molestation Case in Calaveras County.

The Calaveras County Superior Court trial of George Edwin Mulligan for numerous counts of child molestation took severe turn this week.  The trial was set to begin on 2/19/20, until Mulligan filed a Marsden Motion.

A Marsden Motion is filed by a defendant who wishes to fire his or her attorney on the basis of inadequate representation.  Mulligan was/is represented by court appointed attorney David Keith Singer.  The specific reasons for Mulligan’s motion are not known at this time and the trial is put on hold until the issue is resolved.

If new counsel is appointed, it should cause a considerable delay, just because that person will have so much material to come up to speed on.

One likely scenario is that Mulligan and Singer disagree on whether Mulligan should take the stand as part of his defense.  However, that is a purely speculative theory.

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Hair Analysis Usefulness was consistently overstated by F. B. I. analysts and those they trained for state and local agencies.

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2015/04/fbis-flawed-forensics-expert-testimony-hair-analysis-bite-marks-fingerprints-arson.html?fbclid=IwAR2R1ato9fmthQ-Ga-C03Rp4gW21L6njSVJ0-qp7C9Iywth6JgAyiwRoivc

The above link is the re-post of a Washington Post article regarding an audit of the Department of Justice and the F. B. I. that shows that hair analysis results were constantly overstated in favor of the prosecution.
“What went wrong? The Post continues“Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far.”
This audit now calls into question bite mark analysis and other forensic evidence.  The article  cites examples in which a dog hair was falsely represented at trial as a hair from the defendant to achieve a conviction and another in which a bite mark expert used the plaster mold taken of the accused’s  teeth to plant a bite on a corpse.
In the Leila Fowler case, the F. B. I. sought to condemn the 12 year old defendant based on the their analysis of the 911 call.  This was done without an prior outside review of the method and despite the fact that none of the phone calls reviewed to develop the method involved anyone younger than 19.
Stay tuned for more revelations in this area.

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Access to information is power and sometimes that power is abused.

11/12/19

Today the Sacramento Bee ran an interesting article on documented instances in which members of various California police departments, sheriffs’ departments and the California Highway Patrol have engaged in accessing various data bases for personal reasons.  The databases include Department of Motor Vehicle records and state and federal criminal records.  This data is supposed to be limited to access on a need to know or right to know basis.

Most of the penalties were relatively light and rarely more than a misdemeanor.  In some cases the officers in question were dismissed from one law enforcement agency and hired by another.

The information was used among other things to check on estranged spouses and exes and to run background checks on perspective tenants.

If local law enforcement falls prey to this temptation, one can only imagine how often those folks working with FBI, CIA and Homeland Security must abuse the level of information they have access to.

Here is the link to the Bee’s story https://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/article237091029.html.  If you are every involved in litigation involving a peace officer or someone with a connection to a peace officer and they come up with information that seems suspicious, I suggest making them prove that it was obtained by legal means.

 

 

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Is the window closing?

Just over a year ago, the world of investigations generally and criminal investigations more dramatically, was radically altered by the use of DNA testing combined with genealogical research to locate likely perpetrators of notorious crimes. The dam broke open with the arrest of Joseph DeAngelo, the alleged Golden State Killer.

Prior to this breakthrough, DNA samples from certain crimes were entered into the CODIS database. (Combined DNA Index System, maintained by FBI) One of the flaws of CODIS was that it’s data was limited to a relatively small portion of the population.

In the meantime, the growth of DNA testing for the purpose of genealogical searches was rapidly growing and producing a wealth of DNA data that was probably exclusiveof  CODIS contributors.  If a criminal avoided apprehension, his or her DNA might never go into the CODIS database with an identity attached to it.

What combining DNA testing with Genealogical research hopes to do  is take the DNA information found at a crime scene and compare it to the commercial data beyond realm of CODIS.  If close matches can be found, genealogy is used to find likely exact matches through relatives of the sample source.  Then law enforcement looks for and locates those likely matches and procures DNA samples for contemporary testing.  In the case of the Golden State Killer, law enforcement went into old evidence that had unidentified DNA in a quantity suitable for test, ran it through SNP tests, sent the data to the open source GEDMatch and eventually went into DeAngelo’s garbage to find what proved to be matching samples.

You need either a preliminary source for DNA testing, for example blood found on the victim at the scene or the wash/extract produced for the original testing.  The process of testing for DNA includes extracting  a purified sample in a water solution.  This is sometimes referred to as the “wash.”  Even if a previously untested source for testing doesn’t exist, the remaining wash may be usable for testing by newer methods.

Further hampering the possibility of an overlap between the CODIS data and commercial data is the fact that they use different testing methods.  What follows may be a gross oversimplification of the science, so I apologize to the likes of Blaine T. Bettinger for that error. Law Enforcement uses a STP method and the commercial world uses the SNP method.  To my knowledge, the test data for one cannot be converted to the other.  As a result, if the DNA sample that was in evidence was consumed in full and there is no remaining wash, you may be unable to take advantage of the the new options.

While this new approach has closed approximately 55 cases since 2018, including the recent case in which the first person convicted of committing a crime was freed using this technique the window for maximum use of this technique may be closing.  (The ISHI Report, What Does the Future Hold for Investigative Genealogy?, See the link below.)

The Golden State Killer case had a DNA sample or samples tested and created a false identity for the results. The results were then submitted to GEDMatch.  GEDMatch is an organization that is a sort of open platform for DNA results.  You can submit a swab for testing or you can submit your data from companies like 23andMe or Ancestry and  GEDMatch would lump everyone into one huge data base for doing genealogical research.  Suddenly everyone who joined GEDMatch had unknowingly given law enforcement their private data for evidence.

“On November 17, 2018, a 71 year-old woman was attacked while she was practicing the organ in a church meetinghouse. CeCe Moore, an investigative genealogist, was asked to assist with the case. Knowing that using the GEDMatch database to solve an assault case would violate their terms of service, she initially declined. With express permission from Curtis Rogers, founder of GEDMatch, investigators were allowed to use the database to identify the attacker.” (The ISHI Report, What Does the Future Hold for Investigative Genealogy?, See the link below.)

That same article goes on to explain why the window of opportunity on this type of investigation may have at least narrowed.  According to the ISHI article, the backlash to the the above referenced cases and others caused GEDMatch to require users to opt-in to having their DNA test results available for such investigations.  The result is that where GEDMatch once had 2,000,00 searchable profiles, it now has only 20,000.  That means the pool of searchable profiles has dried up significantly.

It will now be much more challenging to find matches that can help to solve cases.

The ISHI article I  cited was authored by Carol Bingham, Tara Luther and Promega and can be found at https://promega.foleon.com/theishireport/july-2019/what-does-the-future-hold-for-investigative-genealogy/.

 

 

 

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The Use of DNA Just Gets More Interesting

Learning more about the use of DNA as a forensic tool.
 
Today I learned that DNA samples can be extracted from fingerprints/fingermarks. It makes perfect sense that “touch DNA” would be deposited at a crime scene through finger prints.
 
The results seem to vary depending on the surface where the print/mark was left and the duration of time the finger was pressed against the surface. Just the same, even if a fingerprint/fingermark is smudged, DNA might be extracted to help place a person at a crime scene.
 
I am waiting to hear back from a major DNA research firm to learn if DNA can be extracted from the material used to lift prints from a crime scene.

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