Deputy dogs help solve hundreds of murders

“The average person loses 50 to 70 million skin cells a day. Wherever you go, you're leaving cells. They're microscopic. We can't see them or smell them, but the dog can,” said Keith Pikett, a Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Deputy.

Pikett has trained his dogs since they were pups. The former teacher was so overwhelmed by volunteer work that he finally surrendered and became a Fort Bend County Sheriff's Deputy.

The team assists in high profile cases across the country. The dogs got evidence that helped indict serial killer Rafael Resendiz Ramirez, who was known as the Texas Railway killer, and Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph.

One of the dogs, Quincy, has helped solve 92 homicides. According to Pikett, the bloodhound’s sense of smell is approximately 3 million times better than a person’s, but the real key to success is the relationship between the handler and the dog.


Quincy is one of the superstars on the bloodhound team.

“My wife says if the dogs thought they were working, they would quit. They just think they're playing. It’s important that they are having fun,” said Pikett.

In fact, the canines don't just work with Pikett and his wife -- they live with them.

Deputy Pikett has estimated that his pack of bloodhounds has indicted over 1,000 suspects including burglars, rapists and killers. And the deputy dogs have yet to lose a court case.

Dog evidence permitted into murder suspect’s trial

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A decision made by a judge Thursday afternoon concludes that evidence tracked down by FBI bloodhounds can be used in the case against Joshua Wade, who's accused of murdering Anchorage nurse Mindy Schloss.

An FBI bloodhound named Tinkerbell worked the case, and prosecutors say three times she led investigators from related crime scenes back to Wade's house.

The FBI said the scent later associated with Wade led them from Schloss's abandoned car and from two ATM locations where her bank card was used, right to his home on Cutty Sark Drive.

They also say the dogs picked up Wade's and Schloss' scents in multiple locations in Kincaid Park, and where Schloss's body was found in Wasilla.

Wade's defense team challenged the accuracy of the dog trails, and the methods used by agents.

But on Thursday federal Judge Ralph Beistline rejected the attempt by the defense to have the dog trail evidence kept out of Wade's trial.

Judge clears bloodhound evidence

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A federal judge has cleared the way for evidence to be introduced in the trial of Joshua Wade, accused of murdering a woman who lived next door to him in Anchorage.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline ruled Thursday that evidence gathered by scent-tracking bloodhounds can be used at trial.

Wade is charged with killing Mindy Schloss, a nurse practitioner whose body was found in a wooded area outside Wasilla in 2007. She'd been shot to death and her body was partially burned.

Wade has pleaded not guilty to murder.

Wade's lawyers tried to prevent the bloodhound evidence from being introduced at trial. But prosecutors said the dogs linked Wade to ATMs where Schloss' bank card was used after she disappeared, and to the woman's abandoned car and other locations.

Beistline found that the bloodhound evidence was based on scientifically valid principles.

The ruling was important because what the dogs found was used to support a search warrant of Wade's home. Police found key evidence in the home, including Schloss' watch, according to prosecutors.

If Beistline had ruled that the dog evidence was no good, prosecutors faced losing all the evidence they found in Wade's home. However, Beistline said that even without the dog trail evidence there was enough corroborating evidence to issue the search warrant.

Previously Wade was acquitted of raping and beating a woman to death. Della Brown's body was found in September 2000 in a shed in Anchorage. She died from multiple blows to the head from a hard object.

Link between convicted felon and Friday home invasions investigated

SEBRING -- A home invasion call to the Highlands County Sheriffs Office Friday evening is still under investigation, with one possible suspect in custody.

Adam Wallace, 18, Sebring, was arrested for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and fleeing from law enforcement.

He was seen by K-9 Deputy Luis Pratts riding a bicycle with a rifle over the handlebars, said Lt. Kenny Johnson of the HCSO.

The chase ended at 8:30 p.m., nearly two hours after the home invasion was reported.

"Three black males wearing all black attempted to make entry to 208 Montego (Dr.) when two victims were in the back porch area and fled on foot," Johnson said, reading from the incident report. "One of the suspects was witnessed as carrying a long rifle."

Minutes later a call from 216 Montego Dr. reported the same suspects, dressed in all black, demanding money.

Pratts took his K-9 on a track all they way to Kenilworth Boulevard and Industrial Way when he lost the scent. No suspects were seen although shoe impressions were taken for evidence.

After clearing the scene at Montego Drive, Pratts was heading west on EO Douglas Avenue and spotted the man on the bike, later identified as Wallace.

Wallace was wearing dark clothing and during the course of a chase officials recovered a rifle.

Due to the similarities in the reported suspects and Wallace, the Criminal Investigations Unit was called out to the scene and has taken over the case.

Anyone with additional information can contact Lt. Tim Lethbridge of the Highlands County Sheriffs Office at 402-7200 or Crimestoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS.


Canine Cop

SALAMANCA - A K-9 dog employed by the Salamanca Police Department and Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Department has successfully searched for illegal activity, promoted drug awareness and found missing persons and cadavers; in his spare time, he has headed up Salamanca parades, but on Feb. 2, he will become a television star.

The dog is Robin, and his owner and trainer, Mary MacQueen, were recently nominated by the Buffalo Kennel Club for the 2008 American Kennel Club Award for Canine Excellence in Law Enforcement, where Robin received honorable mention out of about 1,000 dogs nominated for the law enforcement category. The Buffalo Kennel Club then paid for Robin and Mary to fly to Los Angeles to be honored. There, they were asked to do demonstrations. If that wasn't enough of an honor, they learned Animal Planet was invited to watch.

The two and their demonstrations will air at 8 p.m. Feb. 2 during AKC/Eukenuba's National Championship Dog Show when human interest stories about dogs are also aired.

''He does work usually done by more powerful breeds,'' said Mrs. MacQueen about the fact that Robin is a golden retriever capable of doing law enforcement work, in addition to being an American Canadian show dog champion, and is in the show dog hall of fame.

Mrs. MacQueen is a national dog trainer and breeder, who has worked for numerous police agencies including the Southern Tier Drug Task Force. She began training her first dog about 30 years ago, putting together her love for animals, outdoors, emergency medical knowledge and public service. She has trained Robin's family members, including his grandmother and mother and has other search dogs with whom she also works.

A Salamanca native, Mrs. MacQueen talked about her dog when the two were hired by the Salamanca Police Department. She said he has a passive alert and is not bite-trained so he is less of a liability to the department. In addition to doing successful law enforcement work, they also do ski patrol for Holimont and Mrs. MacQueen is an instructor for the Training Academy in Illinois.

When they are not on television, the two have been involved in combatting criminal activities and following the trail of people from their scents. Robin can follow a scent presented by Mrs. MacQueen, rather than just following the most recent scent he has sniffed. Mrs. MacQueen compared his training to an adult being able to find a color, not just any color, but the one a person is told to find. to colors. Her dog is also trained in article search.

Once, Mrs. MacQueen said, Robin took off in a field after it was thought all evidence was found in a case. But, the dog's tail kept wagging at a certain location: Mrs. MacQueen went to see what the dog found: a $600 global positioning system an officer dropped during the police work being conducted.

''They amaze you every day,'' she said about the dog.

If achievements such as that find didn't make Robin's head big, just wait until Feb. 2 when his television debut is aired.

By Sharon Turano

Bloodhound puppy trains to sniff out arson cases

The Alabama Forestry Commission has a new member on its team of investigators.

This investigator’s skill lies primarily in his nose.

Blaze, a 6-month-old bloodhound puppy, was purchased in November to track down arsonists. The only arson dog in Alabama, Blaze is still in training, but in about six to eight months he will begin to assist investigators in arson cases, said Steve Lamkin, forest investigator.

Over the last three years, about 42 percent of wildfires in Alabama were arson-related, Lamkin said. He said he hopes the addition of Blaze will prove to be deterrent enough for most would-be arsonists. If more people know that a dog can track down their scents, they might be less likely to commit the crime in the first place, he said.

Blaze was purchased for about $1,000 through donations to the Forestry Commission from the Tuscaloosa County Fire Protection Association, District Three Volunteer Fire Fighters’ Association, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers’ Association. The remainder of the total $6,000 in donated funds will take care of his training, food and veterinary care.

Bloodhounds have been used as arson dogs in other states, including Virginia and West Virginia,said Craig Hill, the Alabama Forestry Commission’s law enforcement chief.

“He is going to be a big help,” Hill said. “People always think about evidence as being a footprint or something like that, but what they forget is that they leave their scent, and that’s something that is very unique to them.”

After Blaze completes his training, he’ll be put to work, helping solve arson cases by following the scent left on evidence.

Once investigators determine the point of origin of a fire, they will bring Blaze to the site. Blaze will pick up a scent from a piece of physical evidence, such as a footprint, a tire track, clothing or a piece of trash.

The scent might be days old and covered over with several other scents, but Blaze should be able to track the scent for a few miles. Already, he can already track scents for about 500 yards while still in training.

Lamkin said even if an arsonist is driving on a highway, as long as a window is open or his scent is released through a vent in the car, Blaze should be able to pick up the scent.

“What he can trail off of is dead skin cells,” Lamkin said.

Blaze began his training at a weeklong event in early December at the National Police Bloodhound Association in South Carolina.

He was introduced to the District Three Volunteer Fire Fighters’ Association at a meeting Thursday by the Forestry Commission.

Hill said the Forestry Commission opted for a puppy because acquiring full-grown dog who was already trained can cost up to $16,000.

Not only will Blaze help in investigations, but he will also be used as a fire prevention symbol for the state of Alabama. He may make appearances at different schools and events to encourage fire prevention, Hill said.

Blaze will also assist in searches for missing persons, such as children or older persons suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, Lamkin said.

Lamkin said the Forestry Commission’s goal is to purchase another arson dog within the next two years.

By Brett Bralley Special to The Tuscaloosa News

Nissalke's lawyer busted for cocaine in Courthouse

The assault trial for accused murderer Jack Nissalke came to an abrupt and unexpected end Thursday when his Twin Cities-based attorney was arrested for alleged possession of 5 grams of cocaine.

Police believe that the attorney, Charles Alan Ramsay, 41, of New Brighton, Minn., was using the cocaine inside a conference room at the courthouse during breaks in the jury trial. Investigator Jay Rasmussen noticed Ramsay behaving strangely outside the courthouse bathrooms, said Police Chief Frank Pomeroy. He said that Ramsay was touching his face as if he’d just ingested something through his nose.

Then, evidence technician Angela Evans went into a conference room that Ramsay had been using and noticed trace amounts of a white powder on the table. That powder field-tested positive for a controlled substance, which police used as probable cause to arrest and search Ramsay’s belongings.

Because Ramsay is Nissalke’s defense attorney and currently represents him, the city’s police department quickly handed over the investigation to the county sheriff's department to avoid a conflict of interest. The Winona County Attorney’s Office has also forwarded the case to the Dakota County Attorney’s Office for prosecution to avoid the same conflict.

While city and county law enforcement were working quickly behind the scenes to investigate the alleged drug activity, the jury trial was coming close to resolution as Nissalke was working on a plea agreement for the assault case. Nissalke, who’s been accused of murdering Ada Frances Senenfelder almost 25 years ago, was facing assault and terroristic threat charges that allege he threatened police with a metal bar while they executed a search warrant at his home to gather evidence in the murder case.

Ramsay’s behavior during the jury trial was questioned by Judge Mary Leahy, who said that his opening statement attempted to “freak out” the jury. She called for an end to Ramsay’s “dramatics,” and warned him not to mention Nissalke’s willingness to submit to a polygraph test about the assault case. She said that polygraphs are not scientific or admissible and that Ramsay should never have mentioned his client’s willingness to submit to one to the jury. “Had these things been said by the state instead of the defense, we’d have a mistrial on our hands,” said Leahy. “We’d have a mess.”

When Investigator Jay Rasmussen was called to the stand on Tuesday, many of Ramsay’s questions were objected to by prosecutor Tom Gort, who said they were irrelevant or called for speculation.

Ramsay became heated several times during the trial this week, and he took a moment at least once when talking to Leahy when he said he would “calm [him]self down.”

As court was wrapping up on Thursday, Winona Sheriff Dave Brand and two officers entered the courtroom to arrest Ramsay. Brand said that Ramsay cooperated with the arrest and merely said he needed to contact a lawyer.

From there, Brand said that Ramsay’s belongings, including briefcases, were taken directly to the department’s narcotics investigator office, where a K-9 unit was brought in. Brand said that the K-9 picked up on the scent of a controlled substance and police found cocaine in Ramsay’s belongings.

Brand said that Nissalke had not been alone in the particular conference room with Ramsay where the trace amounts of cocaine were found.

Ramsay was charged Friday morning with two counts of felony possession of cocaine and third degree possession of three grams or more. His bail was set at $10,000. He had been held overnight in Olmsted County Jail.

Winona Police Chief Frank Pomeroy said that Nissalke’s trial on the assault charges may be thrown out, even as a plea agreement was in the works. “That might certainly be thrown out and we may have to start all over again,” said Pomeroy of the assault case.

And, as far as the murder charges go, Pomeroy said that Ramsay was the chief attorney for that case as well. With the next hearing on the murder charges expected in February, Pomeroy said that that may be postponed as a result of the accusations. He said Thursday’s situation had “the potential to delay everything.”

By Sarah Elmquist

Judge OKs evidence in case of accused killer

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline rejected a motion by accused killer Joshua Wade's lawyers to suppress evidence against him in the death of nurse practitioner Mindy Schloss. Beistline ruled Thursday to allow evidence gathered by scent-tracking bloodhounds. Prosecutors say the dogs linked Wade to ATMs where Schloss' card was used after her disappearance, her car abandoned near the airport and to several locations in Kincaid Park.

The defense, in days of hearings on the issue in December, had challenged the use of the bloodhounds, saying the dogs could have been following a scent other than Wade's. Beistline disagreed and said the dog trail evidence was "based on scientifically valid principles" that it was Wade's scent.

What the dogs found was used to support a search warrant of Wade's home. Police found key evidence in the home, including Schloss' watch, according to prosecutors. If Beistline had ruled that the dog evidence was no good, prosecutors faced losing all the evidence they found in Wade's home.

Beistline, though, in his court order, wrote, "there was so much corroborating evidence in support of the warrant that there would have been probable cause to issue the warrant and search (Wade's) home even without the dog trail."

Wade is awaiting trial in federal court on murder charges related to the 2007 killing of Schloss, his next-door neighbor. Her body was found in September 2007 in a wooded area outside Wasilla. She'd been shot to death and partially burned.

FBI Says Murder Victim Likely Visited Park

Brian Malone

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - An FBI witness says murdered nurse
Mindy Schloss was taken to a wooded area of Anchorage's Kincaid
Park before her body was found later in the Matanuska-Susitna
Testimony continued Wednesday in an evidence hearing preceding
the trial of Joshua Wade, who is charged with killing Schloss in
The FBI says trained dogs picked up the scent of both Wade and
Schloss in the park.
Wade's attorneys are challenging evidence collected with help
from dogs.
They say a device used to gather scent for dogs is unreliable
and that the dogs could be influenced by handlers.
The dog scent evidence was used to support a search warrant for
Wade's house that turned up other important evidence. Wade's
attorneys say it should be excluded.

Information from: Anchorage Daily News,

Wade defense argues reliability of scent evidence

Monday, December 8, 2008

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Joshua Wade is in what may be a life-or-death fight: Accused in the torture and killing of his neighbor, Mindy Schloss, he could face the death penalty under a federal carjacking statute.

The trial is scheduled for May, but before the case gets that far Wade's defense is trying to make sure jurors never hear a lot of the evidence investigators collected using dogs tracking scent.

Both sides agree that dogs have keen senses of smell, that humans have unique scents, and that specialized vacuums can suck up that scent and capture it.

But the defense has big problems with the reliability of methods used in this case.

Specialized FBI dog teams were used to connect Wade to the crimes. Trails led from ATMs where Schloss's bank cards were used to both of their homes.

Those hits were used to obtain search warrants, which yielded important pieces of evidence.

Rex Stockholm, a supervisor from the FBI's Human Scent Evidence Team in Quantico, Va., testified Monday about how the dogs work and the methods used, including something called a Scent Transfer Unit.

It's known as the STU-100, a little vacuum that sucks scent from objects into a gauze pad.

Those scents are then used to perform a variety of investigative techniques -- like following scent trails and identifying scents in a lineup. It allows investigators to connect crime scenes to locations and people.

Stockholm spoke about the scent "highways" people leave behind in their travels and the survivability of human scents over time.

While prosecutors are expected to argue the science is solid, the defense believes the FBI makes exaggerated and unproven claims about scent durability and the dogs' abilities to differentiate in the event of mixed samples -- enough so that if used, it will unfairly prejudice a jury using unreliable evidence.

Wade's defense team is also concerned with the possible introduction of Wade's criminal history.

In 2000, Wade was tried and acquitted of killing Della Brown, but he was convicted of disturbing the body. The defense is worried there will be a suggestion Wade killed Brown if the prosecution is allowed to discuss that case.

If that happens, the defense says they would be obligated to mount two murder defenses -- working to prove he's innocent of both women's murders -- complicating the case, and making it costlier and more time intensive.

They're arguing they need to know now to adequately prepare. The defense should also hear in early January whether or not the federal government will seek the death penalty.

Contact Jill Burke at