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Dueling Experts:
The David Camm Case

On September 28, 2000, former Indiana State Trooper David Camm said he pulled into his driveway at 9:22 PM. In the garage he said he saw his wife Kimberly, his five-year-old daughter Jill, and his seven-year-old son Brad dead in his wife’s Ford Bronco. Kimberly and her daughter had been shot in the head. The boy had been shot in the chest. Kimberly’s body revealed abrasions and bruises on her knees, elbows, and feet. According to eleven witnesses, David Camm had been playing basketball at a church gym between 7:15 and 9:17 PM. (The drive from the church to the Camm’s New Albany house is fifteen minutes.) At 9:29PM Camm called 911 and reported the murders.

On the day of the killings, Kimberly and Jill picked up Brad from his swim class at 7:00PM after which they headed home. It was about this time David Camm, an employee of his uncle’s construction company, left the house for the weekly pickup basketball game with friends and relatives.

Donna Hunsaker, the medical examiner, following the autopsies, found that the little girl had been sexually molested “within hours before her death.” However, no semen was recovered from her body. The police immediately suspected David Camm of murdering his family. He had been cheating on his wife, and had perhaps committed the molestation of his daughter. The police had evidence of the cheating, but no evidence that Camm had sexually molested his five-year-old daughter.  Investigators and the Floyd County prosecutor, Stan Faith, believed that Camm had arrived home at 9:22PM, killed his family, disposed of the gun (it has not been recovered), and cleaned up the crime scene before calling 911at 9:29PM.  David Camm denied killing his family. One problem wth the police theory had to do with the time of deaths. The blood on the driveway had coagulated which suggested that the victims had been murdered before 9:22PM. If this were true, Camm’s iron-clad alibi would eliminate him as the hands-on killer. (Prosecutor Faith would later argue that Camm had in fact killed his family much earlier, before he left the house to play basketball that day.) Faith said he had a telephone record that showed Camm making a call from his house at 7:19. Yet all eleven of Camm’s alibi witnesses swore he had started playing basketball at 7:15. As it turned out, the phone call evidence was bogus. Camm’s cell phone company’s computer was in another time zone which meant that the call, while recorded as being made at 7:19, had actually been placed an hour earlier.

At the crime scene, investigators had found a gray sweatshirt in the Bronco underneath Camm’s son Brad. A DNA test did not link the shirt to Camm or the victims. The DNA belonged to another yet unidentified person. There was also unknown DNA evidence on Kimberly’s and Brad’s pants as well as unidentified latent fingerprints on the car. (The unidentified DNA would not be submitted to the FBI’s CODIS file until 2005 when it was linked to an ex-con named Charles Boney.)

David Camm was convicted of triple murder in March, 2002. The prosecution acquired the conviction without a motive or murder weapon. The key physical evidence against Camm involved the testimony of Robert Stites, a blood spatter analyst from Portland, Oregon who testified that eight tiny bloodstains on Camm’s T-shirt represented spray from the bullet striking his daughter’s head. The defense explained the stains as being made when Camm had embraced his murdered daughter. Notwithstanding the defense’s attempt to establish that Robert Stites was not a qualified blood spatter analyst, the jury accepted his testimony. The judge sentenced Camm to 195 years.

In 2004, an Indiana appeals court set aside Camm’s conviction on grounds of insufficient evidence. The prosecution promised a retrial.

In 2005, thanks to the DNA CODIS hit, Charles Boney had been placed at the Camm family murder scene. Boney had previous convictions for armed robbery and assaults on women. After denying he knew David Camm, Boney told the police that Camm had paid him $250 for the unregistered gun Camm used to kill his family. To explain the presence of his sweatshirt at the crime scene, Boney said he had given Camm the gun wrapped in that shirt.

Charles Boney went on trial in Floyd County in January 2006. At the same time in Warrick County, David Camm was being tried, for the second time, for the same murders. Camm’s trial had been moved due to the pretrial publicity surrounding his first trial. Boney was being charged as a co-conspirator in the triple murder. In addition to providing Camm with the murder weapon, prosecutors contended that Boney was present when the killings took place.

On January 26, 2006, the jury found 36-year-old Charles Boney guilty of three counts of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. A few months later the judge sentenced him to 225 years in prison. Several of the jurors told reporters that they believed David Camm was the actual shooter. Following Boney’s trial, at a time when Camm’s trial was still in progress, a fellow former inmate of Boney’s alleged that Boney, four months before the killings, said he intended to kill a policeman’s family and frame the cop for the murders. The judge in Camm’s trial refused to allow this man to testify on behalf of the defense. Camm had denied even knowing Charles Boney.

The Camm trial got underway on January 9, 2006 with Keith Henderson prosecuting the case. On the third day of the trial, the Indiana State Police Sergeant in charge of the crime scene investigation testified under cross-examination that within days of the murders the prosecutor hired two outside blood spatter analysts to analyze to serological evidence. The witness said he had never seen outside experts brought into a case so quickly, and he had resented it. The experts were Rod Englert and his protégé, Robert Stites from Portland, Oregon. Camm’s attorney, Stacy Vliana, asked the Indiana officer if he was aware that Stites wasn’t qualified to process crime scenes. Did the officer know that Stites had never processed a homicide scene before, or that he had not even taken the forty-hour standard blood-stain analysis training course? The officer said he wasn’t aware of Stites’s background as a crime scene expert.

The next day, on cross-examination, Stacy Vliana grilled Robert Stites on his lack of experience as a blood spatter expert. Stites acknowledged that he had not taken the introductory course in blood spatter analysis. He said he had read one book on the subject in 1994. Stites said he had traveled to New Albany two days after the killings. His mentor, Robert Englert, was busy and had asked him to go to the scene to make notes and take photographs. This was the first murder scene Stites had processed on his own. The first crime scene item he had examined was the T-shirt David Camm was wearing on the night of the shootings. Stites noted eight bloodstains on the garment, each about a millimeter in diameter which he believed were characteristic of blood sprayed from the impact of a bullet. It was his opinion that gun shot wound blood can fly up to four feet. The defense attorney got Stites to admit that prior to his examination of the T-shirt, he didn’t know that the defendant had carried his son’s body out of the Bronco. Stites also acknowledged that as far as gun shot blood staining was concerned, eight spots was less than the hundreds of spots one would expect to find.

Forensic scientist Lynn Scamahorn took the stand on January 30 and testified that in Camm’s first trial in 2002, prosecutor Stan Faith had tried to get her to change her testimony about the DNA evidence on Charles Boney’s sweatshirt found at the crime scene. According to Scamahorn, the prosecutor wanted her to say that David Camm’s DNA was also on the garment. When she refused, Faith threatened to charge her with obstruction of justice. He also yelled and swore at her. In recalling the ordeal, the witness broke into tears. (Faith later denied these allegations to reporters covering the trial. “I’m flabbergasted at what I heard and astounded, and I have no idea why such testimony was given,” he said.)

On February 1, blood spatter expert Tom Bevel testified for the prosecution. According to his analysis, based on twenty-five years in the field, the blood on the defendant’s T-shirt had been spayed there by a bullet wound. Bevel also told the jury that David Camm had to be at the crime scene when his wife was shot because her blood had dropped onto one of his sneakers. Bevel said he believed that Camm was within four feet of his daughter when she was shot.

The next day prosecution blood spatter expert Rod Englert testified that the defendant must have been standing next to his wife and just a few feet away from his daughter when the two were shot. Englert added that the bloodstain on Camm’s shoe appeared to have been diluted with water.

On February 7, microscopist William Chapin, an employee of McCrone Laboratories, confirmed the prosecutor’s theory that the defendant was within a few feet of his daughter and right next to his wife when they were shot. According to Chapin, he saw traces of the victims’ tissue on the defendant’s T-shirt.

A week later, the defense put on two of their own blood spatter experts. Paul Kish and Bart Epstein testified that the blood on the defendant’s T-shirt had gotten there by transfer when Camm, a grieving father, hugged the victims. Paul Kish said he couldn’t render an opinion on how the blood stain had gotten on the defendant’s shoe.

On March 3, 2006, following forty-five hours of deliberation, the Camm jury found the defendant guilty of murdering his family. The judge later sentenced David Camm to life. His attorneys said they’d appeal the verdict and request a third trial. Following the verdict, F. Thomas Schomhorst, a law professor emeritus at Indiana University, questioned the prosecutor’s claim, without supporting evidence, that the defendant had sexually molested his daughter. Camm had not been charged with this offense. Perhaps that would become the basis for a third trial.

This page was last updated on: Wednesday, January 16, 2008

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A. James Fisher
Dept. of Political Science & Criminal Justice, 146 Hendricks Hall
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Edinboro, PA 16444
e-mail: jfisher@edinboro.edu blog: http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com

								

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