Investigators Use Cadaver Dogs to Search For Missing Woman

Thomas County investigators continue to search for clues in the missing woman's case of Glenda Quisenberry.
Investigators say in 1989 Quisenberry lived in a trailer off Lost Arrow Road with her then boyfriend Jerry Hobbs. Authorities say after a brutal attack with Hobbs, Quisenberry went to a shelter for battered women. And from there she was never seen or heard from again.

Lieutenant Tim Watkins with the Thomas County Sheriff's Department says, "We are searching the area where Mr. Hobbs admitted to investigators that he brought her the night she disappeared."
When the case re-opened in April Hobbs was charged with Quisenberry's murder. Two months later the charges were dropped because of insufficient evidence.
On Saturday morning, cadaver dogs and their trainers searched 125 acres of land off of Lost Arrow Road in Thomas county looking for Quisenberry's remains. "We would like to find Mrs. Quisenberry and give her back to her family and to resolve this case" says Watkins.
Officials say cadaver dogs could be key in finding evidence that could explain what actually happened the night Quisenberry disappeared.
Heidy Drawdy with South Georgia Search Dogs says, "They can find human scent when people can't, their sense of smell is extremely strong they can find bodies that are buried and they can even find bodies in water."
Investigators will continue to search thie area for the next two days and follow new leads. Anyone one with information on Glenda Quisenberry's disappearance is asked to call the Thomas County Sheriff's Department at 229.225.3315.

State worker stabbed, robbed of cell & cash

TRENTON — A 48-year-old state worker was stabbed and robbed in broad daylight on South Broad Street near the Mercer County administration building yesterday, police said.As Chris Niemann of West Berlin was getting out of his state-issued car at 9:55 a.m. in the parking lot on the 600 block of South Broad Street, he was approached by a black or Hispanic male who demanded money.The assailant stabbed Niemann in the back and leg, said Detective Sgt. Pedro Medina, spokesman for the city police.The man made off with the victim’s cash, cell phone and a key to the car while two civilian security officers near the spot didn’t see anything, Medina said.Niemann was rushed to Capital Health at Fuld, where he underwent emergency surgery and was listed in stable condition.Police used a tracking dog to try to pick up the suspect’s scent, to no avail.Police are searching for the man who was described as having a light complexion, 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-9, 180 to 190 pounds, with a “chin strap”-type beard. He was wearing a gray hoodie and walked casually away from the scene.Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Jose Acosta at (609) 989-4168; Detective Sgt. Carmelo Rodriguez at (609) 989-4014, the Trenton Police at (609) 989-4170 or the confidential tip line at (609) 989-3663.Crime Stoppers of Greater Trenton is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the successful capture of the suspect. Crime Stoppers can be reached by calling (609) 278-8477 (TIPS).

Suspected drug kingpin flees, caught

One of Neshoba County's "major dealers" was arrested last week on multiple felony drug charges involving cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana, law enforcement authorities said.The alleged drug dealer, Marion Christopher "Bubba" Tucker, 41, and Morgan C. Price, 25, both of 11460 Road 339, were each charged with:• Possession of cocaine with intent to distribute;• Possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute;• Possession of over an ounce of marijuana.Tucker was charged with felony escape after he fled authorities on foot and hid out in a wooded area behind his house before being apprehended nearly two hours later, Sheriff Donnie Adkins said.Two others were arrested in connection with the search of Tucker's residence in the Neshoba community.Louis Bradley Killen, 32, of 11361 Road 501, was charged with possession of paraphernalia after he was found at the residence when a search warrant was executed by the Sheriff's Department."We had been getting information on Tucker and investigating it," Adkins said. "On Friday, we got the right information at the right time. I personally consider him one of our major dealers in the county."Seized in the arrests were Tucker's black mustang and the illicit drugs which were found inside and $1,300 in cash.When officers arrived at his residence about 5 p.m., Tucker, Killen and Price were standing in the yard."Tucker ran to his car and we apprehended him before he got inside," Adkins said. "His hands were then cuffed behind his back. All three of them were cuffed."While officers were searching inside the residence, Tucker managed to flee on foot through the woods behind his house, he said. Authorities used a tracking dog personally owned by Kemper county resident Calvin Fulton of the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to track Tucker down."His tracking hound picked up Tucker's scent and tracked him down in the woods behind the house about 7:30 p.m.," Adkins said. "He was still handcuffed but had managed to get them in front of him."

RCMP Police Dog Service

The RCMP police dog service is recognized as the premier police dog service in the world. Their history goes back to 1908 when privately owned dogs were occasionally used by members to assist them in their investigations. This use of man’s best friend worked out so well that in 1935 the RCMP Dog Section was formed. RCMP Police Dog Services only uses purebred German shepherds for General Duty teams. Other breeds may be used for Specialty Detection teams. All RCMP dogs are taught to protect their handlers, themselves or to apprehend upon command. Any that display reluctance to do so are not accepted. The German shepherd breed displays the versatility, strength and courage that makes it eminently suitable for Canadian police work. Their heavy coats allow them to work under extreme climatic conditions.In order to become a police doghandler with the RCMP you have to be a good investigator, be able to work independently, and be self motivated. You have to be a regular member of the RCMP. You have to be physically fit and maintain a fitness lifestyle. A good police dog handler is patient and understands that training takes time. He/she is willing to take the time to achieve results. To get into this is intelligent and respects that his actions will have an effect upon the dog. A good handler has an intuition as to what inspires the dog to respond to his commands. Finally, a good dog handler respects his dog not just as an asset or possession, or as a way of gaining recognition by winning trophies, but as a living, breathing and utterly unique product of nature. Some of the duties of include working along side of Tactics Teams, Emergency Response Teams, Explosive detection units, Provincial Search and Rescue organizations, Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association, Canadian Border Services Agency. Dogs are trained to detect human-laden scent articles, weapons, explosives and narcotics. Police dogs also assist in location of lost persons, tracking criminals, VIP protection, crowd control, hostage situations and last but far from least, community relations. The cost of training each dog can exceed $100,000.A Police Dog Story:On September 7, 1977, at 3:12 a.m., an alarm sounded at the Eaton’s store in downtown Red Deer. A police car on patrol in the vicinity arrived at the scene within seconds. At first glance no point of forced entry could be determined indicating that it was merely a false alarm. However, upon closer examination, the entry point was located behind a large wire fence enclosing the Garden Centre. The store manager and RCMP personnel were unsuccessful in locating anyone in the store. However, due to the initial speedy arrival of police officers, it was felt that the intruder had not had time to escape and Cpl. Danforth and his dog Shado were called upon for assistance.Shado started in the basement storage area and worked his way up to the second floor furniture display. In the drapery department Shado started to pace back and forth indicating that he detected someone. The area was searched thoroughly but nothing was amiss. Shado, meanwhile, persisted to indicate someone was present and he stood up between some drapes with his paws pushing against a wall. Brushing these aside, a small door was located in a false wall. The door was opened and the area searched visually. Still nothing. Shado entered the area and there, lying on the floor out of sight behind a radiator, was the culprit. Through their incredible sense of smell, police service dogs have located drugs in schools, bus and train station lockers; in luggage; hidden behind false walls; stashed in automatic washers and dryers; buried beneath ground; and concealed in various areas of automobiles, boats and airplanes. There is almost no limit to the ingenuity displayed by persons trying to hide a cache of drugs, but it is not mach for a police service dog. If a drug is anywhere near, a dog will find it.

Taking the lead in fight against crime

NEW DOGS are being taught new tricks when they are recruited by Tayside’s crime-fighting canine constabulary.
In a UK first, Perthshire police dog handler Constable Rory Duncan, and his new canine conscript Fredy, have been learning new techniques to help track criminals on the move in the county.
Ground-breaking in Great Britain, the new tracking methods were picked up by chance when Tayside Police dog instructor PC Ron Anderson was on holiday in the United States.
Already the new methods have returned results great for the police, not such good news for the region’s criminals.
Just weeks after completing his training, Fredy – an imposing looking, 20-month-old German Shepherd general police dog – recovered weapons used in an attempted murder.
He’s gone on to track several suspects right to their door – one of them several storeys up in a block of flats.
Trainer PC Ron Anderson told the PA: “You get a great buzz when you year of results like this. Fredy really hit the ground running.
“Most of these criminals could have got away had it not been for police dogs like Fredy.”
Fredy was sourced in Holland by Ron and Rory. Increasingly the constabulary is looking further afield for canines suitable for the demands of being a police dog.
Typically, dozens of dogs can be assessed by Ron until he finds one which he feels will be well-suited to police work.
And new recruit Fredy quickly proved to be a good choice, he made the mission-ready grade after just eight weeks training rather than the usual 12.
The dogs and handlers continually refresh their training at various venues throughout Tayside and the PA caught up with Rory, Fredy and others in the team when they were brushing up their skills at Scone Racecourse.
On first appearance Fredy was a typical, tail-wagging, toy-playing young dog.
But with one command from handler Rory, Fredy instantly switched into work mode and showed one of his many talents – the ability to intimidate and deter. In this case it was for the camera and directed within a foot of a PA photographer muttering the mantra ‘lead don’t break’.
Next Fredy displayed some classic bite training, the move lurking with fear at the back of the mind of any criminal on the run.
Instructed to chase down dog instructor Ron Anderson, Fredy launched at Ron’s padded arm and held on with a vice-like grip until handler Rory caught up with the pair and gave the release command.
Then it was time for Fredy to show off the fruits of the new tracking technique he learned after a flaw in the training of UK police dogs to follow a scent trail recently become apparent.
The dogs initially tracked on grass where they were unwittingly being trained to sniff out freshly crushed grass rather than the scent of the human they were searching for.
This meant there was a critical window of opportunity for the dog to track on grass and then a huge risk the dog would lose the trail as soon as the surface changed to gravel or tarmac.
Dog instructor Ron Anderson discovered the flaw when he was on holiday in the States and encountered a US officer and police dog training outside a shopping centre.
“I went and spoke to them and offered to help set a track.
“I started walking straight towards the grass and the dog handler asked where I was off to and explained they train on hard surfaces first.
“So I went ahead and set the trail and then we stood and chatted.
“As time passed, and the dog hadn’t set off by then, I was worried people coming and going at the shopping mall were going to destroy the trail but then the handler explained how they do their training.
“It was fairly obvious then that there was a better way of training worth trying.
“Train on hard surfaces first and then grass,” explained Ron, “by then the dog has learned to tune into the human scent and not the smell of the crushed chlorophyll in grass.”
Fredy and his fellow new recruits have been trained using the new method and the results have been exceptional.
So showing off his new skills at Scone Racecourse, Fredy swiftly located a lost mobile phone and then hunted down a person hiding – showing off his intimidating side to make sure they were not tempted to turn and run.
With his day’s work done. It was time for Fredy to clock off and head home with handler Rory who, after years in the police force, landed his dream job in the dog section earlier this year.
With the day’s training finished and Fredy settled in the back of the police car ready to head home, Rory explained: “And at the end of the day, after his work is done, Fredy is part of the family.
“He’s done his day’s work too then comes home with me where he has his own kennel outside.
“On days off he is treated just like any other dog we take him out, play with him, head out for walks.
“He needs his time off too,” Rory said, just as young Fredy perked up, eager to tackle a new task.

K-9 grad waiting for order to stay

After nearly three months of training and a few political bumps along the way, Fanto the dog is poised to become the newest member of the Hillsboro police force - assuming he can fetch the final okay from selectmen next week.
Fanto and Officer Nick Hodgen were among the 10 pairs of dogs and trainers that graduated yesterday from the Manchester Police K-9 Academy at Camp Carpenter. The 2-year-old German shepherd sat calmly in a line of wagging tails and barking classmates as he waited to receive his diploma before an audience of clapping friends and officers, who smiled and snapped photos.
The K-9 school included months of training that focused on obedience, verbal commands, agility and scent-tracking skills - the latter of which Fanto is especially good at, according to Hodgen. With driving time, the duo's days typically stretched between 10 and 11 hours; then Fanto went home with Hodgen and his family each night.
"It feels really awesome now that we finished this," Hodgen said after the ceremony. "When we first got here, I had no idea what I was doing. We've come a long way."
There have been a few setbacks since training began in March: Fanto, who was born in Hungary, is actually the third dog Hodgen has worked with. (The others either had "too much energy" or "not enough" and Hodgen said it's critical to match the personalities of dog and trainer.)
An even bigger obstacle, though, was the controversy the dog generated at town meeting this year. Voters slashed significant funds from the operating budget, ultimately forcing many departments, including the police, to get by on their 2008 budgets. The department budgeted nearly $6,000 to buy the dog and for training before the vote and - because school started around the same time - asked selectmen for the go-ahead by e-mail.
According to Hillsboro police Chief David Roarick, two selectmen said yes, and one said no. At town meeting, when discussion about the already-purchased dog came up, several people accused the police department of getting the dog without permission. Roarick said that was not the case.
"In question was the overall town budget. The only vote taken on the floor was to reduce the budget from 2009 to 2008 figures," Roarick said. "We're at 2008 figures now and making things work."
In the months after town meeting, selectmen told the police that Fanto would have to be returned, but "the board has never decided as a whole and we haven't gotten any clear direction from them," he said.
"We're at the point where a decision needs to be made," he said, adding that residents mostly expressed support for the dog and even offered up donations. "The town has invested a lot of time and money on this and the dog would certainly enhance our capabilities."
Hillsboro has since received stimulus funds to boost law enforcement efforts, and the department is hoping selectmen okay police association money for the dog, said Town Administrator John Stetser. Additional costs, like leashes and equipment, are minimal.
"The police chief has come up with a plan to pay for the dog's cost out of the police association's money. He's going to present the request to the selectmen this week," Stetser said. "I'm not sure how they'll react. They felt that the dog should not cost the town money."
Still, Stetser said, the issue has brought "more jokes than the dog has hairs on its back" and now that so much time and money have been invested in Fanto's training, "it's kind of foolish to keep beating it to death. The police will make good use of the dog."
Teachers who handed out the diplomas yesterday said they were very proud of Fanto, and called Hodgen "the hardest working officer in the academy." Despite a late start and challenges along the way, the pair pulled it all together, they said.
As for Fanto's future, Hodgen "really hopes" the selectmen will approve the chief's proposal and said he's even willing to put in extra time when the dog is needed in the field.

Four-legged Soldiers Sniff Out Insurgent Activities in 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team Area of Operations

BAGHDAD -- The four-legged Soldiers of Forward Operating Base Falcon's military police K-9 section working with the 30th "Old Hickory" Heavy Brigade Combat Team, are making a name for themselves by patrolling for explosives and conducting combat tracking. The section is led by Staff Sgt. Christopher Jasper of Everett, Wash., and includes fellow handlers Sgt. Kyle Harris of Essex, Conn. and Sgt. Jeff Todoroff of Willis, Texas.The group has six years of combined experience with their dog partners. Jasper's K-9 section covers the entire 30th HBCT's area of responsibility, and during the past eight months, has participated in almost 100 missions for two brigade combat teams.There are three types of missions all military dogs can train for— patrol explosive, specialized search and combat tracking. The dogs are certified in a specialty, then deploy with their handlers, creating a solid bond between Soldier and animal. The dogs at Falcon go on explosive detection missions that range from suspected weapons caches to suspected weapons or explosives smuggling operations. "These dogs are on point every mission," Harris said. "They are here to find explosives before humans do."The dogs' jobs are very physical. Patrol explosive detector dogs can work without a leash to warn Soldiers before the Soldiers get too close. The dogs find explosive materials by scent. The dog's sense of smell is extremely precise. "When we smell hot stew, all we smell is the stew," Todoroff said. "But the dog smells all of the ingredients." The military dogs track scents close to the ground, and can identify whether a person is running or walking, and whether that person is under stress or at ease. The dogs' special skills put them in danger, but the skills also earn the dogs respect from the locals. Not an easy feat, as most Iraqis have a general dislike of dogs. Even the word itself is hurled as an insult. "They are scared to death [of the dogs], but extraordinarily intrigued." Harris said. When Harris's team goes on patrol, people often move to give the dogs plenty of space.To further increase their mission involvement, Jasper's team is planning a demonstration geared for company and battalion level leaders to educate them on the capabilities of the teams, and how these animals can give Soldiers an advantage over our enemies.By highlighting the dog's abilities and continuing to seek new missions from units, Jasper and his team hopes that units will understand the K-9 section's capabilities and continue to utilize their services.

Super Sniffer! Pike Sheriff’s Department Has K-9 Drug Dog

The newest officer with the Pike County Sheriff’s Department has four legs and a tail, and is an expert at getting drugs off the streets.Bo, the golden Labrador K-9 drug dog, joined the sheriff’s department about a month ago and has already been called into service about 30 times. Sheriff Stephen Korte said the dog will be an important tool in fighting drug use and production in the area.Deputy Michael Starman was certified recently to handle the dog which is trained to detect marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin.“He will help us find and eliminate narcotics that we wouldn’t find without a dog,” Starman pointed out.Cpt. Chris Grote, who is also certified to handle K-9 dogs, noted most crime stems from drugs including robbery and theft to purchase or manufacture them and the crimes perpetrated while under the influence.“We look at having this dog as another tool in our arsenal,” Sheriff Korte said.Starman explained the dog really is a tool. Unlike a regular pet, Bo spends his day either working with Starman or training with Starman. Bo is currently undergoing training for tracking. This could be beneficial in the event of a lost child or a runaway suspect, etc. Since Bo is a passive dog instead of a “bite” dog, he can be used in cases where the search for a human is needed.At a year and one-half years-old, Cpt. Grote pointed out that Bo could have a long career aiding the Sheriff’s Department in a number of capacities.“(Starman) is highly motivated and the dog works hard in training,” Cpt. Grote noted. “The more they train together, the more consistent they will be. They’re progressing rapidly.”Starman explained that as far is Bo is concerned, finding drugs is like a game. He trains by hunting for a ball that has the drug scent. When he finds the “ball” he scratches at the area. Loveable and full of energy, Bo bounces around Starman’s feet as they “play” with the ball before going on duty.The Sheriff’s Department was able to obtain a special K-9 patrol car from the Highway Patrol. Sheriff Korte said the vehicle is equipped with a kennel, computerized fan, temperature detectors and remote open. Bo accompanies Starman on every shift.Sheriff Korte pointed out that despite Bo’s happy, outgoing personality citizens should be cautious around the dog.“He is a highly-trained tool. He is not like a regular dog. People should treat Bo as they would any police equipment with a ‘hands-off’ approach,” Sheriff Korte said.This is the first dog the Sheriff’s Department has had since the early 90s. With rural Missouri being among the nation’s leaders in methamphetamine production, Sheriff Korte noted Bo will be invaluable in helping to keep Pike County safe.“You can’t put a price on it, really. With Bo on the scene, criminals are more reluctant to cause trouble in the course of an investigation,” Cpt. Grote explained.He added that labradors are natural hunting dogs, so he works a great deal by instinct.Starman also noted that Bo is treated just like an officer by the State of Missouri. Criminal charges can be filed against anyone who seeks to do harm against the dog.Cpt. Grote said because of Bo’s pedigree, he could easily work 10 years or more in the field.“His presence will send a message to those who use or produce drugs in the area,” Cpt. Grote explained. “We’ll be able to step up patrol in areas we know are problematic and around the cooperatives and other places where there is anhydrous ammonia.”“We’ll be able to be more proactive rather than reactive,” Sheriff Korte added.

Bulletproof dogs

Picture a crime scene out of at TV cop show: A body is found in a forest late at night and the police are investigating. Chances are there's a canine unit at the scene, trying to determine which way the killer went. Suddenly, the dog catches the scent of the perpetrator and takes off into the woods after him. What happens to that dog if the killer has a knife or a gun? Nothing, if the dog is equipped with a bullet-resistant vest.“We ask these dogs to risk their lives in places of an officer's life,” said Summit County Sheriff's Office deputy Nathan Opsahl, the K9 handler for the office. “We want to give them the same protection we have on the street.”The sheriff's office doesn't have the money to purchase vests for their two canine cops, Tommy and Bobby. So to remedy the situation, members of the sheriff's office will hold a fundraiser to come up with the $4,500 they need to purchase two “Patrol Swat Vests” for the dogs. According to a press release from the fundraiser's organizers, the vests are “equipped with ballistic panels as well as slash and stab protection against a range of wide blade common street knives.”“A police canine is no different than any other officer,” said Sheriff John Minor, who has a fully trained police canine of his own named Nick. “They're a part of the family.”Starting this Friday at the Frisco BBQ challenge, sheriff's office employees will sell tickets for a raffle to be held during the August 1 K9 4K race. They will collect donations and merchandise from local businesses to give away as a single grand prize, with the exception of the cash donations. Any additional donations above the cost of the vests will go the Summit County K9 program.
Dog dutyDeputy Opsahl has worked with Tommy and Bobby as the K9 Deputy for about a year. He described himself as a dog person (he has his own German Shepherd, Barrett) but said it takes more than that to make it as a police dog handler.“It helps to be a dog person, but that's not the quality they're looking for,” Opsahl said. “It's more about how dedicated you are to the program.”In addition to his regular police duties, Opsahl has to put in extra hours to make sure the dogs are healthy and well trained.Not that being a police dog handler is all fun and games. Tommy and Bobby are both “dual purpose dogs” according to Opsahl. This means they participate in activites like narcotics searches and tracking as well as regular patrol and what Opsahl called “bite work.” That's police code for having the having the dogs apprehend suspects ... by biting them and taking them down. In spite of the extra work, Opsahl said he wouldn't trade it for anything.“I love it, it's a great job,” he said.

Police allege phony burglary

WALPOLE - A supposed victim of a home invasion was himself arrested on burglary charges after police say he called in a phony report to try to trick them.
Police believe the man has been stealing from his neighbors for at least the past two months.
Michael Higgins, 19, of 4 Eleanor Road, is being charged with two counts of burglary and one count of larceny, police said.
Police say Higgins called 911 about 3:30 Tuesday morning claiming he had just fought off an intruder.
Deputy Chief Scott Bushway said Higgins told police an unknown man in a ski mask and gloves tried to enter his home but ran off when Higgins punched him in the face.
Officers and detectives who went to the Eleanor Road home, where Higgins lives with his parents, could not find any evidence to support Higgins' claims, Bushway said.
A State Police tracking dog was called in, according to police, but the dog could not pick up a scent.
Bushway also noted detectives couldn't find any footprints in the wet grass surrounding the home.
"It became apparent to the officers there that the story reported was suspect," Bushway said.
The next day, the owner of a Darwin Lane home, which is next to the Eleanor Road home, reported a burglary, according to police. The same home, Bushway said, was robbed in mid-April.
The deputy chief said it became apparent to police that Higgins made his report as a "diversionary tactic."
"He wanted us to believe his house was also broken into" to establish himself as a victim, not a suspect, said Bushway. "Which had the opposite effect."
"The story lacked credibility from the beginning," he said.
After obtaining a warrant and searching Higgins' home, police recovered several "unique wine bottles" that were reported stolen from the Darwin Lane home on Tuesday and in April, said Bushway.
Police also charged Higgins with stealing a cooler from the back porch of a neighboring Queens Court home.
Bushway said Higgins is also a suspect in a few other burglaries around the same Common Street neighborhood.

Aiken bloodhound pups advance in training

Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Aiken County Sheriff's Officer Felton Craig (left) follows Dixie and Lt. Hyler follows Justice as the 9-month-old bloodhounds practice tracking a scent in the woods in Aiken. Dixie and Justice started their training when they were 10 weeks old.
The two were among four pups born Sept. 17 that Aiken County elementary pupils submitted names for in a contest.
The other two -- Smokey and Diesel -- have gone to a law enforcement agency in Orangeburg as part of a departmental agreement.
Dixie and Justice stayed with the Aiken Bloodhound Tracking Team, and officials say they've been doing well in their training.
"They're past their making-it mark," said Aiken County sheriff's Lt. Chad Hyler.
He said they're about 80 percent along in their training.
He said the time it takes for a bloodhound to make the team and then be used in real cases varies, but usually it happens between the ages of 1 year and 18 months.
Lt. Hyler said that 11 more pups were born in December.
Two didn't survive, but four went to SLED, and five are with Aiken.
For Dixie and Justice, training began when they were 10 weeks old, starting with what Lt. Hyler calls "cat and mouse games" that involved "line of sight" techniques.
The pups were taken to a wooded area and challenged to track a handler they could see in the distance.
"We run them in packs. When they're first born, how ever many we've got, we'll run them all at one time so it gives a competition type thing for them, trying to outdo the other. Then as they progress we'll start separating them," he said, adding that those falling behind are paired with a stronger dog.
A couple of months later, they're tracking longer distances and only by smell.
The pups also learn a special one-word command that tells them when it's no longer play time.
Lt. Hyler said tracking by scent comes naturally for bloodhounds, and by the time they're 6 months old it's obvious whether tracking is for them.
"It's either got it or not. You're going to have one out of how ever many, sometimes, that's just 'This ain't for me,'" he said. The few that don't make it are usually adopted out.
The Aiken tracking team has seven pups in training and five other bloodhounds. Expanding the unit is something Lt. Hyler is excited about.
"That was the goal once I took over," he said. "The more we fill them up, you don't have to use the same dog every time. It gives a little more of a break as many calls as we do run."

Huddersfield search and rescue duo make their first big find

AFTER almost three years of waiting, mountain rescuer Wayne Thackray and his search dog Dodge have finally had their first ‘find’.
Wayne, of Crosland Moor, and three-year-old Dodge helped Edale Mountain Rescue Team to find a missing man in the Sheffield area.
Sadly, the 68-year-old was not alive when he was found.
Wayne said: “It was our first find, but not such a happy occasion.
“I was hoping the first find would be someone alive and well.
“Situations like this are one of the sadder parts of what we do, but at the end of the day, it does bring closure for families.”
Wayne, 41, is one of 30 search and rescue dog handlers in England and can be called out to any place across the country to help with searches.
He is on 24-hour call with Dodge, who he began training in 2006.
Wayne and Dodge officially started work as a search and rescue team last October – after two years of tough training.
Since then they have been involved in many searches, including the hunt for missing York woman Claudia Lawrence.
Wayne said making their first find was a big moment.
“It’s what every dog handler works towards,’’ he said.
“It means you know you have a proven dog who can do the job.
“It is also a case of being in the right place at the right time as well as having the right dog – and all the training pays off.”
Search dogs like Dodge do not just find missing people.
They are invaluable tools for scanning large areas for evidence and can do the search work of many police officers simply by tracking scent.
Wayne said: “They are trained to find live casualties, but they can also find things quickly that would take police officers a long time to do on a fingertip search.
“It’s just another example of the dog’s versatility.”
Search missions aside, Wayne and Dodge’s next big challenge is to upgrade to the next level of search and rescue qualification.
A search dog typically only works until the age of 10 and, with it taking several years to reach grading, Wayne plans to begin training a new search dog, alongside working with Dodge, within the next few years.
Dodge was Wayne’s first search and rescue dog, although he has been a member of Hepworth-based Woodhead Mountain Rescue Team for eight years.
Wayne and his MRT colleagues all do their life-saving work on a voluntary basis and are in constant need of funds and members to continue their work.
The Woodhead team is currently particularly short-staffed after the departure of some team members.
Wayne averages around two search jobs a week, on top of his normal job as a freelance first aid adviser.
Wayne said: “People leave, their circumstances change. But we’re very depleted right now, so we’d really like to hear from anyone who would consider becoming a new member.”
Visit for more details about mountain rescue and how to get involved.

Elderly man survives four days in well

An 84-year-old man is in good spirits after spending four days in a well shaft.
Port Alice resident Robert Bennett was tracking a water source on his “sprawling” property he became trapped in a well.
It wasn’t until Tuesday that a business partner of Bennett’s called police to express his concerned for the elderly man, who had not been heard from for three days.
RCMP arrived at Bennett’s home – about 45 minutes drive from Port Alice – but could find no signs of him.
A large-scale search was organized for Wednesday morning.
A police dog named “Nick” was called in to help with the search and it immediately paid dividends.
Nick was able to pick up Bennett’s scent and led police to a dry well shaft located at the side of a mountain.
Inside, they found Bennett, who seemed to be perfectly healthy despite his four day ordeal.
“Mr. Bennett, at 84-years-old, has shown us that age means nothing when you have the will to survive,” said Cpl. Michelle LeBrun of the Port Alice RCMP.

Super-Powered Police Dog Proves a Paltry Pooch; People It Imprisoned Exculpated

Incredible story from Orlando, where police and prosecutors were apparently convicting people of violent crimes based almost exclusively on the "testimony" of a police dog whose handler claimed has extraordinary powers.
Last weekend, we looked at the case of Bill Dillon, the Brevard County resident imprisoned for 27 years before DNA tests set him free...At least two other men suffered the same fate — and another shared link: a dog.Not just any dog. A wonder dog helped convict all three men: a German shepherd named Harass II, who wowed juries with his amazing ability to place suspects at the scenes of crimes.
Harass could supposedly do things no other dog could: tracking scents months later and even across water, according to his handler, John Preston.
Judges and juries apparently bought this crap for years. It finally came to an end when Judge Gilbert Goshorn ordered the dog to perform a basic tracking test after Preston claimed the dog had alerted to a suspect's scent at a crime scene six months after the murder. The dog failed.
So far, three people have been cleared after collectively spending more than 50 years in prison, all of whom were convicted primarily due to the dog's alerts, despite other evidence exculpating them. Florida criminal justice activists say there may be as 60 more people wrongly convicted thanks to Preston and his dog.
Yet Florida officials don't seem to care, and have no plans to proactively look for other people who may have been wrongly imprisoned.
In a statement, [Florida State's Attorney] Wolfinger's office said it didn't have a list of the cases in which Preston testified — nor even the records that would allow the office to compile such a list.Essentially, Wolfinger contends it's up to defendants to raise questions about these decades-old cases."Defendants have had rights in Florida to challenge their convictions through a well established post-conviction process," the statement said.A similar response came from Crist's office, which said: "We believe this is a judicial issue and should be handled on a case-by-case analysis through the judicial system."A spokeswoman for the state's top cop, Attorney General Bill McCollum, simply declared the matter beyond her boss's "jurisdiction."

Details emerge from original Sandoval investigation

Several pieces of the investigation into the disappearance and possible killing of Tina Tournai Sandoval were never revealed as the investigation was ongoing. The arrest affidavit that was released Thursday revealed facts of the investigation that had never been made public before:» John Sandoval had been planning to leave Greeley for good on Oct. 21, 1995, two days after Tournai Sandoval disappeared.» After Sandoval was arrested for questioning, he was videotaped feverishly cleaning beneath his fingernails after refusing to allow police to collect fingernail scrapings from him. When police restrained him to keep him from destroying evidence, he was observed moving his chair so he could continue biting and inspecting his fingernails.» Sandoval did not cooperate with police when they photographed apparent fingernail scratches on his neck and torso. He often moved erratically to prevent the pictures from being taken.» While at the hospital receiving treatment for his scratch wounds, Sandoval asked an X-ray technician, “Have you ever done something that you wished you hadn't?”» A tracking dog was called in from Fort Collins. The dog tracked a scent from Tournai Sandoval's car, where it was found two blocks away from the Sandoval home. The scent was presumably the last person to drive that car, and it led to John Sandoval's house. The dog also traced that same scent to John Sandoval in the emergency room of the North Colorado Medical Center.» Friends told police that Tournai Sandoval told them John had threatened to kill her if she ever left him.» A friend of Tournai Sandoval's reported that she had tried to leave John Sandoval twice before; each time he threatened to hurt or kill himself if she left him.» Police interviewed Sandoval's hairstylist, who reported that in early October 1995, John told her he was depressed because of his pending divorce and had spent “three days sitting in his darkened bedroom.” He told her he gave his wife everything and couldn't understand why she'd leave him.» Sandoval told friends that the meeting he had set up with his wife was for the two to get back together.» As Sandoval commiserated with a friend about the divorce the night before the disappearance, the friend told police Sandoval ended the conversation with, “Too bad we just can't kill them.”Source: Greeley police affidavit for the arrest of John Sandoval

Practice for K-9s: Dogs track along urban, hard surfaces in Dover

DOVER — For a good portion of the day Wednesday, the Garrison City's downtown looked like a crime scene.Numerous police cruisers were parked in the parking lot of Janetos Market and police officers and their K-9 units were scattered around the city doing scent tracks.Fortunately for police, there was no major crime in the city — instead multiple police K-9s from the area were taking part in an advanced course on hard surface/urban tracking."More than half of the tracks we do are in a heavily populated downtown or industrial areas," said Dover K-9 Officer John Usher. "It's extremely difficult for dogs to track on pavement."A less-populated or wooded area is more likely to hold a scent longer, but in a heavy populated area there are more people around that could possibly contaminate the scent, according to Usher.Usher added that weather conditions also play a factor, a breezy day could blow a scent on smooth pavement elsewhere. The training also gives the dogs good training in the exercise of scent discrimination, the act of distinguishing one scent over another.The Vermont Police Canine Association puts on the weeklong training. The training started in Vermont, where two instructors went over how they train their dogs for this type of tracking. The instructors then came down to New Hampshire to observe the K-9 teams and evaluate their performances.During the training the officers would lay a track in a portion of the city and then have the K-9 sniff an item with the scent the on it and follow the track.Usher laid a track that was roughly more than a mile and Strafford County Sheriff's bloodhound, Boomer, successfully tracked it."This is the environment these dogs have to work in," Usher said. "You have to challenge your dog, why not challenge them in an environment like this?"For the dog the training is a game and most are rewarded with play toys after successfully tracking a scent. Usher said all the dogs are extremely friendly and only attack people when they're given a command.Officer Dave Dewey of the Colchester, Vt., Police Department, said it's interesting to evaluate the officers because it seems that everyone has a different way of accomplishing the same goals."It's good for us do see how they do things," he said. "We learn that we all have different ways of doing the same thing."Other agencies taking part in the training include Rochester, Portsmouth, Strafford and Bow. Officers from Wells, Maine and Middlesex County, Mass., also participated. Wednesday was the second day of on-site training for the teams. They were in Portsmouth on Tuesday, will be training in downtown Rochester today and will conclude training on Friday outside of the Fox Run Mall.

Coffee shop crime thwarted in Lincoln

Lincoln – The local Dunkin' Donuts shop was burglarized early this morning for the second time this month, but this time, the alleged burglar didn't get away with much.
Police Chief Ted Smith said the shop was closed and empty just after midnight when someone broke in and was getting ready to take off with some cash.
But the heist was interrupted, Smith said, when a delivery truck pulled in and scared the man away.
"He left most of the money behind," Smith said.
Local police, joined by a state police tracking dog, spent several hours on the trail of the man.
"The dog had the scent but it was raining so hard" it was lost, he said.
Investigators are still piecing together what happened and Smith said he is talking with Plymouth police, where the Dunkin' Donuts shop there has also been burglarized.
Smith said police have a vague description of the man involved in this morning's incident -- average height and wearing blue jeans.
Anyone with information can call the Lincoln police department at 745-2238.

K9 Con Man John Preston cases: innocent jailed, scandal blooms again

This is a kudzu vine of a story, with roots twisting back more than two decades. Innocent men have gone to jail, a Florida judicial system is again under scrutiny, and valid German Shepherd dog capabilities were discredited in a scandal that's back in the news.The tale of German Shepherd handler John Preston has involved Geraldo Rivera, Anderson Cooper, and, at one time, me. It's a story of broken lives, prosecutorial craziness, and the fabricated claims of a dog who could track under water, track old scent, and, in general, do everything but whistle Dixie while typing out a thesis--if you believed Preston.It wasn't the fault of the dog, Harass II, or any dog ever owned by Preston. They were simply income and glory-producing tools used in an ongoing self-promotion that netted Preston, now deceased, thousands of dollars.He zoomed around the country, dropping in to work with police, then testify about his dog's "finds", first having been court certified as an expert. The only problem: he wasn't an expert, and neither his tracking evidence nor his testimony was reliable.Preston put innocent men behind bars and, in some cases, on Death Row. Among them: Bill Dillon of Florida, who spent 27 years in Florida's toughest prison for a murder that he was later exonerated for. Now, the Innocence Project of Florida is working to free Gary Bennett, another inmate who fell across the tracks of Preston's incredible road show.I'm going to take a long, hard look at Preston, a former Pennsyslvania Highway Patrol Trooper, and the cases. Along the way, you'll see video disproving Preston's actions more than 20 years ago--while Brevard County and Florida authorities rolled merrily along, using him in dozens of cases to support prosecutor's cases.And I'll tell you the story of how I contributed my small bit to try and disprove Preston's self-aggrandizing claims while he was testifying in one case. My research caught him flat-out lying--but the state continued to use him as an expert.Many are asking why Preston earned so much fame--now infamy--and money from Florida police departments and state attorney's offices. Not that Florida was the only place where Preston waved his magic dog, who he claimed could perform tracking feats that frankly, aren't even physically possible for a tracking dog, no matter how well-trained, or how good that dog is.I thought the John Preston issue was done with years ago. But now, two Florida news organizations--Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel--have opened up their files to examine the K9 con.I'm going to unpack some boxes and open up my files, too. And I'll tell you some of Preston's big lies--that prosecutors bought--literally--as keystones of their cases.It's a story of ego, greed, rush to judgment, and a K9 con man who, after all, was an expert--at conning cops and prosecutors. But some also ask--were some of those judicial system officials victims of cons, or part of them in a rush to rack up case wins?And, another vital question--if men convicted of brutal crimes like rape and murder were actually innocent--then what criminals may still be at large? The revelation of innocence for one means another unsolved crime.I'm going to tell you the shocking details of a 1980's scandal that in 2009 is rocking even the Florida governor's office. Stay tuned for upcoming stories in this series.

Police dogs renew their licenses

Nine police dogs and their handlers from Ohio and beyond gathered in Sandusky last week to undergo state-mandated biannual recertification. Two- and four-legged officers participated in a number of scenarios, including scent tracking, suspect apprehension and building searches.

Search for girl expands

McCLEARY — The search intensified today for 10-year-old Lindsey Baum who has been missing since Friday night when she failed to return home from a friend’s home just four blocks away.Search dogs were being used this morning in marshy areas surrounding McCleary, and other areas that have been more difficult to traverse during the past two days of intense searching. A National Guard helicopter was to arrive this morning to search the area. And on Sunday, FBI agents were stopping literally every car coming in and out of town, hoping to find a lead.So far, nothing conclusive has been found.“It’s really frustrating to have a child disappear from such a tight-knit community but we have no evidence pointing to anything (suspicious),” Undersheriff Rick Scott said this morning. “This may very well be a criminal investigation, but we can’t rule out the possibility she might be injured or missing somewhere.”“I have hope. As long as I stay busy I can get through it,” her mother, Melissa Baum, said this morning, surrounded by family and friends at the McCleary home.Scott said more local residents will be interviewed today to help develop a timeline of events as the search expands into the more remote areas, including forests, creeks and drainage ditches. There are 25 law enforcement officers from various agencies who are on foot assisting the search, and 45 volunteers and search and rescue experts.The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children carried the young girl’s picture and information on its home page for a while Sunday. She was listed in the database this morning, carrying her physical description: 4 foot, nine inches tall, 80 pounds, Caucasian skin, brown hair, brown eyes. Last seen wearing a light blue hooded pullover shirt and blue jeans.She was walking from her friend’s house on Maple Street to her own home on Mommsen Road, a four-block distance, and was last seen at about 9:15 p.m. She was reported missing by her mother at 10:50 p.m. Scott said Lindsey appeared normal before she left the friend’s house. She had only had a bit of a sibling argument with her brother earlier.

'Scent lineups' stink to critics

By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
Two federal lawsuits are casting a harsh spotlight on an investigative tool long beloved by American law enforcement: a bloodhound's nose.
Lawsuits filed in Victoria, Texas, allege that Fort Bend County Sheriff's Deputy Keith Pikett and his team of hounds — James Bond, Quincy and Clue — failed controversial sniff tests known as "scent lineups."
Much like in traditional lineups, the dogs link human scents left at crime scenes to samples from suspects.
In each case, the suits allege, Pikett's dogs called attention to the wrong person. Both former suspects have been cleared.
The legal challenges are "a first for us," says Randall Morse, an assistant county attorney who is representing Pikett. He says the hounds have worked about 2,000 cases across the country, including the search for Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph.
"He really never had a problem," Morse says.
Defense lawyers say the technique smacks of forensic voodoo and casts further suspicion on the broader use of scent dog evidence.
"It's a fraud on so many levels," says Jeffrey Weiner, former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Since 2004, two men in Florida and one in California have been freed after DNA evidence exonerated them. They had been convicted, in part, on the use of scent evidence, according to the Innocence Project, which uses DNA to exonerate the wrongly convicted. Pikett's dogs weren't involved in those cases.
National Police Bloodhound Association spokesman Dennis Guzlas says the association urges that scent lineups be used with caution.
In the most recent Pikett case, defense attorney Rex Easley says Calvin Miller, 42, was cleared last month after a three-month jail stint as a suspect in robbery and sexual assault cases. He had been singled out by Pikett's dogs in a scent lineup in Yoakum, Texas.
In a lawsuit against Pikett, Fort Bend County, the county sheriff, the city of Yoakum and a police official, Easley alleges the scent lineup was "rigged."
Easley says Miller was released after both victims were unable to identify him in a traditional lineup, and DNA evidence excluded him as a suspect.
"It's junk science," says Easley, who also is representing Michael Buchanek in the second suit. He was a suspect in a 2006 murder in Victoria, Texas.
Morse, Pikett's lawyer, says his client had no reason to implicate either man.
Ken Sparks, county attorney in Colorado County, Texas, an enthusiastic supporter of Pikett's work, says he understands some of the skepticism.
"Everybody who encounters it the first time says, 'Yeah, right,' " Sparks says. "That's what I said before I first saw it work."
Pikett says the lawsuits are just attempts to win large awards. "It's all about money," he says.

Search for woman heads to river

Winchester — Clarke County deputies and search dogs spent Friday searching along the Shenandoah River for Kayleigh Plamondon, missing since Tuesday.
Her disappearance from a home in the county is believed to be related to the shooting death of Gregory Scott Slater, whose body was discovered by deputies in his Valley Mill Road house early Thursday.
Justin Shane Slater, 24, Plamondon’s former boyfriend and the brother of the dead man, is the leading suspect in both incidents. He is considered an armed and dangerous fugitive.
Search dog Petra reacts to scents along the Shenandoah River Friday near the U.S. 50 bridge. Officials were using the dog to check the river as part of the search for Kayleigh Plamondon.(Photos by Jeff Taylor)
Standing at the edge of the river Friday while traffic zoomed overhead on the U.S. 50 bridge, Loudoun County resident Debbie Plamondon used television news cameras to send a message to the man believed to be responsible for her daughter’s disappearance.
“I want to talk to you; I want to know what is going on in your mind,” said Plamondon, pleading with Slater to call her. “I really need to hear from you now, because if I can go to Kayleigh that would be my next step — to find her and make sure that she is safe.”
Starting at 7:30 a.m. Friday, investigators and search and rescue dogs patrolled the house and surrounding landscape where Kayleigh Plamondon was house-sitting when she was last seen.
According to Clarke County Investigator Patricia Putnam, the house is large, with outbuildings and considerable acreage, as well as river access.
Sheriff Tony Roper said deputies were searching the river because of its proximity to the house.
One of the search and rescue dogs has been trained to ride on a boat and scent people or human remains submerged in waterways, according to handler Sharon Jones. She works with DOGS East, a search and rescue organization in Richmond.
Court documents show the house where Plamondon was last seen in showed evidence of violence.
According to a search warrant for the house, deputies found a red substance consistent with blood on the floor next to the bed in the master bedroom and on a roll of toilet paper.
Kayleigh Plamondon was housesitting at this home in southern Clarke County. She was last seen Tuesday in the residence.
Deputies also collected samples of apparent bloodstains from inside the washing machine, several doors, a nightstand, and a chair.
The search warrant also states that sheets were missing from the bed, and that Samantha Stephenson, the last person to see Kayleigh Plamondon, said the sheets were present and the bed was made Tuesday night.
Stephenson told police Plamondon had said she received a number of calls that night from her former boyfriend, Justin Slater, and that she had been having problems with him.
After Plamondon was reported missing Wednesday, investigators tried to locate Justin Slater.
When they couldn’t find him, they tried to reach his family and friends, which led them to discover Gregory Slater’s body at 3:48 Thursday morning. The discovery launched the manhunt for his brother, who has been charged with first-degree murder.
While law enforcement agencies along the East Coast have been asked to look for Justin Slater, Roper said his officers will continue to search Clarke County and the area around the house for Kayleigh Plamondon.
“We’ll search until we find her,” he said Friday.
Justin Slater is considered armed and dangerous, and anyone seeing him should call 911, officials said.
He is white, 6 feet, 1 inch tall, and 170 pounds, with brown hair and green eyes.
Plamondon is white, blond, 5 feet, 7 inches, and 125 pounds, with blue eyes.
Slater may be driving a 1999 brownish-gold Jeep SUV, with Virginia license plate XXG3569. The vehicle has flared wheel wells and a broken rear window; its right side has tinted windows, but the ones on the left are not tinted.
Slater may have a white dog and a black dog with him.
Anyone with information about these incidents may call the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office at 540-662-6168, the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office at 540-955-1234, or Crime Solvers at 540-665-TIPS.

State Police Add Two K-9 Teams to So. Md. Patrols

(June 13, 2009) -- State police have added two K9's to their arsenal which will be used in law enforcement and search and rescue in Southern Maryland. K9 Siko has teamed up with TFC Jason Wiersma at the Maryland State Police Prince Frederick Barrack and K9 Ruddy has joined Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) Officer Tim Pheabus, also assigned to Calvert County. On June 5, TFC Wiersma and Siko graduated from a 14-week drug detection course which was conducted by the Maryland State Police in Howard County at the MSP K9 training facility. TFC Wiersma and K9 Siko will provide assistance to other troopers in the Southern Maryland area, as well as officers from allied agencies. The new team augments TFC M. Murphy and K9 Remington at the Prince Frederick Barrack. On May 8, NRP Officer Pheabus and K-9 partner Ruddy graduated from the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources ten-week canine academy. The team was certified in human tracking, article recovery, and wildlife detection. They will be able to assist in searches for overdue or lost persons throughout Maryland’s public and private lands. NRP officials say the team will also enhance the protection of Maryland’s natural resources by detecting illegal obtained wildlife and assisting in recovering evidence that was discarded in the commission of a crime. While Officer Pheabus and Ruddy are assigned to Calvert County, they will support NRP’s Southern Region, which encompasses Anne Arundel, Prince George’s, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties. The addition of Officer Pheabus and Ruddy brings the total number of canine units that are assigned to the Natural Resources Police to five. One K-9 unit is assigned to each of the four regions in the state. All of these units possess the ability to track humans and detect wildlife and evidence. The fifth canine unit is a state wide unit that has ability to detect live scent and human remains in both land and aquatic environments.

Police dog's nose called into question

Updated: 06/11/2009 08:17:41 PM MDT
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As a rookie cop on his first field assignment, police dog Oso seemed to have difficulty following procedure.
His trainer claimed that Oso properly indicated -- by sitting and staring -- that there were drugs in a Cadillac that had been stopped by South Salt Lake police in September 2006. But a video shows the German shepherd barking about the time he purportedly detected the scent of narcotics.
Oso also lacked narcotics certification because an injury prevented him from completing an eight-week training course.
Those factors, among others, led U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball to rule this week that Oso was not a reliable narcotics detention dog when he sniffed around William Vincent Clarkson's car.
And based on that ruling, Kimball threw out as evidence the Ruger semiautomatic handgun found in the vehicle.
Police say they found the gun and a glass pipe in the car but no drugs. After the search, Clarkson was charged with illegal possession of a firearm by a felon. He filed a motion to throw out the evidence, arguing that Oso was not qualified to detect drugs and, therefore, police lacked probable cause to search.
U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell denied the request, saying it was reasonable for an officer at the scene to search because he didn't know Oso might not be qualified.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Campbell and sent the case back for review by Kimball, who issued his ruling on Wednesday.

Hotel Clerk Robbed At Gunpoint

DAYTON, Ohio -- Police in Dayton search along the banks of the Great Miami River for two men that robbed a hotel.
The hotel robbery happened about 3:30 a.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott on Edwin C. Moses Boulevard near Interstate 75.
Officers said two white males walked into the lobby and one of them pulled out a black, semi-automatic handgun and put it up to the clerk's head.
The robbers demanded cash, and police said the clerk did the smart thing and did what he was told.
Police Sgt. James Mullins said the two men were wearing partial masks that, "Covered the bottom part of their faces, not the whole faces, the clerk could tell they were white males."
Mullins said once the two men got the money, they forced the clerk to walk outside and to a darkened path that runs behind the hotel, along the banks of the Great Miami River. The men then told the clerk to walk in one direction while they took off on foot, heading in the opposite direction.
Mullins said the clerk kept his cool and waited a reasonable amount of time, then, "I think he knew the other guys were gone, they were out of his sight, so he came back and called us."
Officers from the Dayton Police Department and the University of Dayton quickly arrived and began checking the riverbanks on both sides of the freeway. The men were not found.
Police brought in a K-9 to help track the men down, but the dog lost the scent in a hazardous area near the freeway.
Mullins said the hotel did have cameras and, "The video will certainly help us, also we had an evidence crew come in to try to lift fingerprints from the lobby."
Police said it will be later in the day Tuesday before they will know if the surveillance system recorded pictures that can help identify the two robbers.

$83,000 discovered in safe seized following burglary

Buffalo police on Saturday found $83,000 in a safe taken into evidence last week after a burglary on the city’s East Side.
Police were called to a home on French Street, between Fillmore Avenue and Kehr Street, about 11 p. m. June 12 for the report of a burglary in progress. Michael L. Easley, 27, of Weaver Street, and Michael T. Brown, 20, of Broadway, were both arrested by police after Brown was seen dropping the safe, police said.
Easley had run from officers after he was found to be wearing a gun holster. He was later caught, and a .38-caliber revolver was found nearby, according to authorities.
Brown, who had a screwdriver and knife in his pocket, was charged with possession of burglar’s tools.
Police opened the safe after a K-9 unit detected a positive drug scent, and a search warrant was obtained through Buffalo City Court.

Search for missing Kahnawake woman enters fourth year

It's been three years since Tiffany Morrison disappeared, and her family is no closer to finding her, dead or alive.
The 24-year-old Mohawk woman went missing after leaving a bar in LaSalle in June 2006 and taking a taxi home to Kahnawake, south of Montreal, with a man from the community. But that's where the trail ends, says her sister, Melanie Morrison.
Tiffany's bank account and credit card have not been used since that night.
"It's been really, really rough, especially for my parents, not knowing anything but always hoping," Morrison said. "When they hear a car passing or someone getting out, they're waiting to see her just pop up. After three years, they're realistic, but there's always that hope. ... "It's horrible to say, but you hear of people held captive for years, and it gives us hope. At least she'd be alive." The man who shared a cab with Tiffany told police that she stayed in the taxi after he got out at his house, on the other side of the reserve.
But taxi drivers don't always report their fares - particularly when they end up in Kahnawake, Morrison said.
Police have not been able to identify the taxi driver. The three companies that service the area have refused to provide the names of drivers working that night. And without evidence, police can't obtain a court order.
The man says he can't remember which company picked them up, and has refused a lie-detector test.
"Did they really get in a taxi?" Morrison asked. "No one saw them." This week, the Morrisons held a vigil for Tiffany and led a memorial walk through Mohawk territory last night.
They are also planning to put up billboards along the highway with Tiffany's picture, hoping to jog someone's memory, or "eat away at someone's conscience." "There has to be someone out there who knows something but is just afraid or being pressured not to get involved," Morrison said.
In three years, there have been tips leading to searches by police divers and cadaver dogs - dogs trained to locate and follow the scent of decomposing human flesh.
But nothing has been found.
The family even consulted three psychics for help.
Morrison says the Kahnawake Peacekeepers were slow to react - this is the first and only missing person case they have dealt with.
But the delay may have been costly, as memories of people who might have seen something that night faded.
And as the country celebrates National Aboriginal Day today, she says the non-native community has been indifferent.
There were no media reports when Tiffany disappeared, or rewards offered.
"Is it only one day of the year they can think of our community and ask what's going on with us? "There are over 500 cases of missing and murdered native women in Canada (since 1980), most of which are unsolved." Tiffany's 7-year-old daughter and her parents are still waiting for a clue as to what happened to the woman, described as full of energy and heart, perhaps too trusting, who wanted to open a taxi company in Kahnawake.
"Imagine one of your children going out the door and you never see them again," Morrison said.

Police to sniff out new recruit

23 June 2009
NORFOLK Police's Dog Section is sniffing out a new furry recruit and officers want to hear from anyone who can help them in their search. The Dog Section has 16 handlers and 31 working dogs and they are looking for a gundog or collie breed of dog, aged between 10 and 18 months, who loves to play ball, to help them in the fight against crime.Sgt Louisa Foulds, who leads the Dog Section, said: “We will use our new recruit as a pro-active drugs and weapons detection dog. “Each dog undertakes a six-week course learning to identify drugs through scent and they are also trained to search for weapons. “One of these dogs can take as little as 10-15 minutes to check a house for evidence of drugs when it could take police officers several hours.“Our Specialist dogs tend to be Spaniels, Labradors, or sometimes Collies. As well as being physically fit, a dog has to be enthusiastic without being aggressive. If you know of a dog that fits this description then I can't wait to hear from you.”Sgt Foulds can be contacted on 0845 456 4567.

It's a dog's life--playtime after solving an arson fire

The living room is charred. A thick layer of black soot covers everything--the floors, the walls, and two sofas, both destroyed. The lingering scent of smoke hangs in the air.
Still, it only takes a minute for four-year-old chocolate Lab Sprocket to get a whiff of something that doesn't belong. Nosing along the side of one of the burned sofas, he spots it: a piece of linoleum flooring, doused in gasoline. He paws it, then sits down.
"Good work!" says fire investigator Rod Lewis as he fishes out Sprocket's reward, a twisted white towel. The dog snatches one end of the toy in his mouth, launching a tug of war with his handler.
"As you can see, he's got lots of energy," Lewis says. "That's kinda what we're looking for in an accelerant dog--we needed high energy, high play drive, because he's basically a play-reward dog, so he gets to play tug when he finds what he's supposed to find."
Sprocket's job is to sniff out clues that pinpoint the cause of suspicious fires. For the demonstration, he's searching a fire scene set up at a west-end training facility, but he has helped to solve some tough cases in the last three years as the Edmonton Fire Department's sole canine member.
"He's worked a couple of pretty high-profile cases," says Lewis, an 18-year fire department veteran. Once, Sprocket uncovered the remnants of a Molotov cocktail from under about a foot of debris. That kind of evidence can prove invaluable to police, who follow arsons through the justice system.
Sprocket gets called out to about 30 cases a year, and occasionally works on fires out of town. While some private investigators do offer canine services, Sprocket is the only accelerant dog in Alberta, and one of few nationwide, working specifically in public service, says Lewis.
The Edmonton Fire Department found Sprocket through the Camrose humane society. He was 18 months old when he replaced Max, the black Lab that held the post before him. Max was 10 years old when he retired, Lewis says, so it's still early in Sprocket's fire-fighting career.
Imprinted with the scent of flammable substances such as gasoline, alcohols, and paint thinners, Sprocket can recognize the presence of a single drop of accelerant. Samples he finds are sent to labs for further analysis.
"He's a very useful tool when it comes to determining cause," Lewis explains. Without him, investigations would take much longer.
When Sprocket isn't working a fire scene or training--Lewis keeps him busy with 15 to 20 training searches a month--Sprocket hangs out at Fire Station 2, downtown. Offshift, he lives with Lewis and his family in Camrose.

Gas Station Robbers Caught, Bank Robber Sought

Bay City State Police are reporting the arrests of two Bay City men, ages 18 and 19, in connection with the Thursday night hold up of the Admiral Gas Station at Euclid and Jane in Bay County's Bangor Township. Troopers say a witness contacted the post Friday and provided information that led authorities to recover the clothing and knife used in the robbery. An undisclosed amount of cash was taken in the hold up that occurred around 11 P-M Thursday. A State Police K-Nine team lost the scent near Midland Road. Fingerprint and video evidence was also collected at the scene. The investigation is on-going. Saginaw Police are looking for a lone suspect who robbed the Citizens Bank in the 1100 block of South Washington near the main Saginaw Post Office around 9:15 Friday morning. No customers were inside at the time. The suspect, described as a black male, escaped with an undisclosed amount of money. No injuries were reported. The bank was closed for the remainder of the day.

Husband of missing Greeley woman arrested

The husband of a woman who disappeared in 1995 has been charged with murder, though no new evidence has been discovered.
John Sandoval, 44, was arrested Thursday in Las Vegas on a first-degree murder warrant in the death of his wife, Kristina Sandoval. She died in October 1995.
"It's very good news," said Mary Ellen Tournai, Kristina's mother. "We're all very happy charges have been filed."
Sandoval is being held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas and is waiting extradition to Weld County.
District Attorney Kenneth Buck, who began serving in 2004, said the decision to file charges against Sandoval was reached without new evidence surfacing in the case. Greeley police officers reinvestigated the case and presented it to him recently, he said.
"This case is substantially the same as it was years ago," Buck said in an interview Thursday.
The possibility that Kristina Sandoval moved away and never contacted her family becomes less plausible over time, he said. A death certificate was issued for her in 2002.
John Sandoval was a suspect from the first day his estranged wife disappeared. Charges were never filed largely because Kristina Sandoval's body was never found, authorities previously said.
"We have long held out hope that Kristina's remains would be located, but at this point in time, this does not seem likely," said Michael and Mary Ellen Tournai in a statement. "We support the decision to move ahead and prosecute John Sandoval."
John Sandoval and Kristina Tournai were married in 1991 while the two were enrolled at Aims Community College in Greeley.
At the time, John Sandoval had numerous arrests in California and Colorado on suspicion of assault, marijuana possession, sexual assault, burglary, peeking into windows of college students, trespassing and harassment.
Before she disappeared, Kristina Sandoval confided to her family that when she told her husband she was going to leave him, he put a pistol to his head and threatened to kill himself, court records say.
She told several co-workers, her doctor, her friends and family that she was worried that he would harm her, according to an arrest warrant affidavit released Thursday.
Kristina Sandoval, a nurse at North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, finished the graveyard shift Oct. 19 and went to the house that she once shared with her husband. She was never seen again.
She had told her sister, Susan Tournai, that she was apprehensive about meeting her estranged husband to collect his part of the taxes they owed. She promised to call her sister after the meeting, Susan Tournai said in a previous interview.
Kristina Sandoval never made the call.
Police went to John Sandoval's house and found a white 5-gallon bucket and a new shovel with mud on the spade. Next to the front seat of his car was a loaded 9mm handgun. In the back, they found rope and a flashlight with a holder that allowed it to be worn around the neck. In his home, they found her credit cards.
He had fresh scratches on his neck and upper chest.
Kristina Sandoval's car was found in an apartment complex lot several blocks from John Sandoval's house. A police dog picked up his scent at his wife's car and tracked the scent to Sandoval's house, Mary Ellen Tournai said.
John Sandoval has never agreed to speak with police about the disappearance.

Can dogs sniff out old evidence and connect it to the accused?

Katherine Scardino, a veteran Houston defense attorney posted this interesting question, "Is Rover Reliable?" on the Women in Crime Ink blog. Seems in one of Scardino's upcoming cases, prosecutors may be planning to use a sniff test with Scardino's client and evidence that as she says, "has been stored in cans in an abandoned jail since 1994...The bottom line is this: Can a dog smell your scent and then sniff the 15 year old evidence and make a valid connection between your scent and the evidence?"
Guess we'll find out. As an aside, Scardino, who has represented more than her share of capital murder defendants, was dubbed Queen of the Good Ol' Boys by the Houston Press a decade ago.

Dog handler led to bad evidence

Calls grow for reinvestigating cases from 1980sBY JOHN A. TORRESand JEFF SCHWEERS
Scorned as a "charlatan" by the Arizona Supreme Court and a fraud by a retired judge and others, a dog handler who helped the state convict dozens of people haunts Brevard County criminal cases 25 years after he was discredited.
John Preston, who died last year, testified in the 1980s trials of three Brevard men who have since been released with overturned convictions or dropped charges.
Now, the Innocence Project, which helped free Juan Ramos, Wilton Dedge and William Dillon, is looking into a fourth case involving Preston: the murder conviction of Gary Bennett in 1984.
Calls are growing for State Attorney Norm Wolfinger and his staff to reinvestigate and reopen more cases in which convictions may have been tainted by Preston's questionable word, as well as reliance on jailhouse informants. Some allege corruption by prosecutors at the time.
"If Norm Wolfinger had one iota of integrity, he would say it's outrageous and investigate the cases," said Titusville attorney Sam Bardwell, a former prosecutor here. "John Preston was a total fraud, and everyone knew it."
The State Attorney's Office has said it couldn't provide a list of cases involving the dog handler, but a FLORIDA TODAY archives and records search found more than 15 of 60 reported Brevard cases.
In a fax Friday, Wolfinger said only Bennett and another man remain in prison after trials in which Preston testified as an expert.
FLORIDA TODAY's research showed some convicts in the Preston-related cases have been released after serving their sentences. Some have died.
A public defender in the 1980s when Preston was an active witness, Wolfinger had issued a statement Wednesday saying it's the responsibility of convicted people to seek relief. He did not answer questions from FLORIDA TODAY.
"Defendants have had rights in Florida to challenge their convictions through a well established post-conviction process," the statement said. "Historically, that has been through a Rule 3.850 motion. More recently, that right has been expanded to DNA testing through Rule 3.853.
"Those provisions have procedures which defendants must follow, as well as potential rights to appointment of an attorney and having the public pay for costs if a hearing or testing is allowed by the court."
Attorney quit
Bardwell first encountered Preston while working as a prosecutor in the Frank Berry rape case in 1981. Bardwell did not want to use Preston's testimony, but he said he was pressured by others.
"The guy would show up at the State Attorney's Office asking if anyone needed help with a case," Bardwell said.
Berry was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
Though Bardwell thought Berry was guilty of the charges, he said the corruption he witnessed caused him to abandon prosecutions and take up private practice as a defense attorney.
"I left the State Attorney's Office because I could not abide by the fabrication of evidence," Bardwell said.
Berry is the second man Wolfinger identified as in prison in a Preston-related case. He called him a "serial rapist."
"Mr. Berry not only has a prior sexual battery and a subsequent escape sentence, his taped confession was played at trial, and he continues to admit his guilt to prison officials," Wolfinger said in Friday's fax.
Crist bows out
The Innocence Project of Florida has called for the governor to appoint a special prosecutor to look into the Preston cases. Seth Miller, executive director of the nonprofit group, has been outspoken about what he calls "widespread corruption" in Brevard County in the early 1980s.
"Preston was being fed information that allowed him to understand certain facts about the case that enabled him to manufacture evidence in order to get the conviction," Miller said. "Not only do we have to free the folks who are innocent, who were put into prison because of this testimony, but we have to hold the people who did this accountable."
Through a spokesman last week, Gov. Charlie Crist said he won't appoint a prosecutor, agreeing with Wolfinger.
"We believe this is a judicial issue and should be handled on a case-by-case analysis through the judicial system," spokesman Sterling Ivey said after consulting with legal staff. "There are methods by which new evidence can be filed in a case, and this is the appropriate course of action to take."
Attorney Jennifer Greenberg, who helped exonerate Dedge in 2004, said it is unfair to expect inmates decades later to know of developments in related cases, nor how to file for relief.
"Just gathering up the info on all Preston's doings would be virtually impossible, let alone getting into court in a timely fashion to actually get the issue heard," she said. "Post-conviction time deadlines, the necessity of investigative work and the pleading requirements totally prohibit inmates from receiving due process or fundamental fairness."
Judge's action
In the late 1970s, Preston went from a $20,000-a-year job as a Pennsylvania state trooper to a highly paid expert who testified in cases for the FBI, the U.S. Postal Service and Orange, Palm Beach, Brevard and Seminole counties, as well as for Arizona, Ohio and other states. He was paid $300 a day, according to documents.
Retired 18th Circuit and appellate Judge Gil Goshorn put Preston and his dogs to a test and ultimately refused to allow him to present himself as an expert in 1984.
Goshorn was ready to testify late last year in hearings on behalf of Dillon, convicted of a 1981 murder in which Preston testified, but the state first granted Dillon a new trial because of DNA evidence.
"The elected state attorney at that time, Doug Cheshire, relied heavily on Preston in a number of cases and frequently offered him as an expert," Goshorn stated in a sworn affidavit in 2008. "Cheshire also was a prolific user of jailhouse 'snitches.' Cheshire's office often relied on such evidence of dubious reliability."
Cheshire was voted out of office in 1984, when Wolfinger became state attorney. Cheshire died in 1997.
Failed test
Goshorn's test of the dog handler's scent-tracking ability involved two lawyers jogging down separate paths. The following morning, the dog was given one lawyer's sweat-soaked shirt to see if the dog could follow the trail. The dog failed.
Goshorn told Preston that he would give him a second chance a day later, but the handler and his dog left town and never testified in Brevard again.
"It is my belief that the only way Preston could achieve the results he achieved in numerous other cases was having obtained information about the case prior to the scent tracking so that Preston could lead the dog to the suspect or evidence in question," Goshorn continued in his affidavit. "I believe that Preston was regularly retained to confirm the state's preconceived notions about a case."
Prosecutors, including ones in Brevard, continued using Preston's services after a 1983 federal investigation initiated by the U.S. Postal Service. It said Preston routinely asked investigators for information about a case before using the dog and that he led his dog to supply wanted results.
Newspaper accounts said Brevard agencies paid Preston at least $37,429 for work done in the first half of 1984, including in the Bennett trial.
Preston's cases were overturned in Arizona, where the state's highest court referred to him as a "charlatan."
Bennett case
The Innocence Project wouldn't address its involvement in the Bennett case, except to say it was one that their attorneys are looking into. The case fits a pattern similar to those of Ramos, Dedge and Dillon.
Bennett, now seeking new DNA testing, was convicted in part on evidence provided by Preston and testimony of two cellmates who said he talked about killing his Palm Bay neighbor in 1984.
Prosecutors argued that Preston's dog identified Bennett's scent on the murder weapon in the 1984 case. But two scent tests failed when the tracking dog -- after sniffing Bennett's clothing -- failed to pick the murder weapons from lineups of similar weapons.
Bennett's palm print and fingerprint also were reportedly found at the murder scene.
Innocence Project leader Miller has an investigator looking into Preston's Brevard connection, hoping to help more people such as Dillon out of prison.
Memories differ
Preston testified in the Dillon case after his dog tracked Dillon across State Road A1A to the murder scene, then tied him to a bloody T-shirt. DNA evidence has since precluded Dillon from wearing the shirt.
Former Judge Stanley Wolfman, who presided over the Dillon trial, called the dog-tracking evidence troubling.
"It was kind of flimsy. They had this dog tracking across A1A with all the traffic going by there, and I just shook my head internally and (the defense attorney) did not attack it," Wolfman said. "It was just poor evidence as far as I could see."
Defense attorney Karen Brandon, who helped prosecute Dillon, said she presented evidence to the jury that was provided to her by the sheriff's office. She denied knowledge of any corruption in the State Attorney's Office.
"At the time, there was absolutely no reason to believe that Mr. Preston was less than forthright and that his evidence was less than valid," she said.
Dedge was awarded a new trial when Preston was discredited, but the introduction of notorious jailhouse snitch Clarence Zacke in his second trial sealed a second conviction against him. He was released in 2004 when DNA evidence proved that the semen found inside the rape victim did not belong to him.
Ramos, a Cuban immigrant, was arrested in 1982 for the rape and murder of his neighbor, even though no physical evidence tied him to the scene. Preston's testimony, however, was damning and Ramos was sentenced to death.
After four years on death row, the Florida Supreme Court reversed Ramos' conviction in 1986, citing the unreliability of the dog evidence. Ramos was acquitted at a retrial and released in 1987, when he moved to Miami.
Russo joins
In December, longtime Public Defender J.R. Russo joined those calling for an investigation.
"Mr. Wolfinger is very well-versed in the quality of the dog testimony," he said. "I'm surprised they are not going back to look at these cases."
But at the time, Wolfinger responded by saying defendants and their attorneys have been free to bring any motions they deem appropriate before the courts.
"Evidentiary challenges to the admissibility of the dog evidence by defense attorneys began and was well-publicized before I became state attorney," he said.
Contact Torres at 242-3649 or

Courts overturn crime dog convictions

ORLANDO, Fla., June 24 (UPI) -- A Florida tracker who testified his German Sheperd could follow scents through water years after they were left has been discredited, officials say.
Three of the Brevard County men that John Preston helped convict have had their guilty verdicts overturned and a national legal group has just taken up the case of a fourth man, the Orlando Sentinel reported Wednesday.
Gary Bennett has spent more than two decades in prison for the murder of a 54-year-old woman primarily based on evidence Preston and his water-sniffing dog provided.
Centurion Ministries, a faith-based legal group in New Jersey, is taking on Bennett's case in hopes of overturning his conviction.
Prosecutors used Preston and his dog to tie Bennett to the weapons used in the murder.
The dog sniffed Bennett and then Preston said he found the same scent on crucial evidence.
Brevard-Seminole Public Defender James Russo is launching an investigation to find out how many other people Preston helped convict, the newspaper said.

Dog can sniff out hidden signs of arson

Topper has to work for his food.

Several times a day, he needs to hunt down the scant, hidden scent of gasoline, diesel fuel or lighter fluid to earn a treat.

Mealtime doubles as training for the 63-pound yellow Labrador retriever.

The dog's keen sense of smell has been specially trained to help with arson investigations.

When there are suspicions that a fire was intentionally set, Topper's nose quickly can determine if accelerants were used, said Mike Makela, an investigator with the Snohomish County Fire Marshal's Office and Topper's handler.

The law enforcement team was paired up on April 12 during a training program in Maine. Topper started work in Snohomish County on May 11.

Topper, who turns 2 on June 2, is the county's first arson dog, and only the third arson dog working in the state.

Before Topper was put to work, an arson dog from Seattle had to be called in to help with investigations here. That dog, Henny, helped investigate the March 2008 Street of Dreams fire and the January blaze in Snohomish that killed four people in a mobile home.

The advantage to having Topper is that the dog can make quick work of what used to take investigators hours, said Dawn Fones, a spokeswoman for State Farm Insurance, the company that paid about $23,000 for Topper's acquisition and training.

The efficiency helps save money, she said.

The State Farm grant program pays for about 10 arson dogs to be purchased, trained and placed around the United States and Canada each year.

The training is similar to a program offered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

State Farm decided to accept Snohomish County's application based on several factors, including fire investigation statistics, she said.

"We saw that there was a need in that area," Fones said.

Makela is working to cover Topper's ongoing costs through donations. The Petco Foundation paid for a kennel, dog beds and kibble. Veterinary care likely will be covered by Pennies for Puppies and Ponies, a nonprofit that helps pay for law-enforcement animals.

Topper flunked out of a seeing-eye dog program in Florida because he was too eager to play. That's exactly why he was selected for arson training, Makela said. After months of training, Topper's enthusiasm has been channeled.

Topper can sniff out ignitable liquids at 225,000 parts per million. That's nearly four times as faint a scent as can be detected by a human nose.

"His nose is even more sensitive than chemist labs," Makela said.

When Topper finds ignitable liquids mixed in with fire debris, he sits down. Then Makela collects the evidence in a sterile paint can for laboratory processing.

The pair will be on call around the clock, whenever a suspicious fire is reported.

In the meantime, Makela's family, including his two cats, Sweet Pea and Willow, is getting used to having Topper join the household.

And Topper is quickly winning many hearts of those who work alongside him in the county's offices. It has something to do with his wagging tail, friendly bark and seemingly boundless energy.

Still, his job is very serious, Makela said.

"He's not a pet. He's a working dog," he said.

Help with Topper's care

Donations to help pay for Topper's food and veterinary care can be made through Pennies for Puppies and Ponies at

Fort Bend County Bloodhound Trainer Sued In Federal Court For Second Time In 11 Months

Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Deputy and bloodhound trainer Keith Pikett has been sued in federal court for the second time in less than a year over a scent line-up involving his dogs.

Both lawsuits were filed by the same attorney, Rex Easley Jr. of Victoria.

The most recent suit was filed Tuesday on behalf of Calvin Lee Miller, a 42-year-old Yoakum man arrested in March on charges of sexually assaulting a woman, and robbing another. But DNA evidence cleared him in the cases, and he was released earlier this month from Lavaca County Jail where he’d been incarcerated.

Along with Pikett, Fort Bend County and county Sheriff Milton Wright were named as defendants in the suit. So was the City of Yoakum and Yoakum police investigator Collin Campbell.

Pickett, a longtime bloodhound trainer well known in law enforcement circles, was asked to assist in the case and conducted what’s known as a scent lineup.

Miller’s suit indicates Pickett’s dogs were presented with a swab of cloth that had been wiped across Miller’s skin, along with swabs from other lineup participants. Then the dogs were presented with a blanket taken from the assault victim’s bed. The dogs’ actions indicated Miller’s scent was on the blanket. However, the Victoria Advocate reported that DNA evidence obtained the case excluded Miller from being considered a suspect.

Miller’s suit alleges that the scent line-up was “rigged to be result-oriented, that is, to maliciously and intentionally implicate” Miller.

“…The forensic protocol and methodology used by Defendants rendered the scent line-up not only unreliable but so tainted and cross-contaminated as to be consciously indifferent to the rights of Plaintiff,” the suit states. “Mr. Pikett, the supposed K-9 expert, advised and participated in every flawed procedure used.” The suit suggests those procedures in effect helped deny Miller’s 4th Amendment rights.

Sheriff Wright was named in the suit as being “complicit” in Pikett’s alleged actions, and the suit suggests Wright and Fort Bend County, by failing to “control” Pikett’s actions, had essentially made them “official policy.” The suit also stated that Fort Bend County has benefited from an “income stream” derived from fees paid for Pickett’s work for other law enforcement agencies.

Neither Pikett nor Wright could be reached for comment Wednesday morning. Assistant County Attorney Randy Morse is representing Pikett in the Miller suit and an earlier one stemming from a Victoria murder investigation.

“It’s a far cry from making allegations and proving them in court,” Morse said of the two suits Easley has filed.

Morse denied Fort Bend County enjoys an income stream from Pikett’s work, which he said has been carried out on behalf of the FBI, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Texas Attorney General, and cities including Houston, Bellaire, Pearland, and Galveston.

Morse also said Fort Bend County “didn’t have any policy to violate people’s civil rights.”

The earlier suit stems from the death of Sally Blackwell, a 53-year-old Texas Child Protective Services worker who was abducted from her Victoria home and murdered on March 15, 2006.

A 25-year-old Victoria man, Jeffrey Grinsinger, pleaded guilty to kidnapping and killing the woman.

But before Grinsinger’s confession, former Victoria County Sheriff’s Capt. Michael Buchanek was one of at least two people named in local news reports as a “person of interest” in the case.

In June 2008, Easley filed a federal lawsuit saying Buchanek’s constitutional rights had been violated.

Easley said in the suit that “improbable cause and factual assertions” in a search warrant were used by Victoria County law enforcement officers, who then “began a course of harassment, distress and terror” upon Buchanek.

Seeking unspecified damages, the suit names as defendants the Victoria County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Michael O’Connor, the City of Victoria and several individual law enforcement officials, including Pikett.

Easley contended last summer that Pikett acted with Victoria law enforcement officers to “lead” his bloodhounds from where Blackwell’s body was found to a neighborhood near Buchanek’s house, over a winding 5.5-mile route.

“Pikett didn’t even know where he was going, so how could he be leading them?” Morse said. And he noted that the officers that supposedly colluded with Pikett have been dismissed from the case.

He added that he’d just taken his first look at Miller’s complaint and didn’t want to comment on the allegations.

But of the Buchanek lawsuit, Morse said he doesn’t believe Easley will be able to prove the allegations.

Morse said he noticed similarities in the two suits Easley filed, adding that the Victoria attorney “not only bends some of the facts, he pleads the same thing in both cases.”

Email This Email Print This Print AddThis Social Bookmark Button Yahoo! Buzz Fugitive apprehended; six others charged in murder appear in court

It was a credible tip from a citizen combined with the well-trained nose of a good K-9 that led authorities Wednesday afternoon to a fugitive wanted for murder.
Around 2 p.m., deputies received information from a resident of the Hankins Road area who thought he spotted 55-year-old John Frank Roberts Sr., who lives behind his mother's house at 715 Hankins Road.
Deputies with the McDowell County Sheriff's Office and troopers with the N.C. Highway Patrol responded to the location across the road from Roberts' house, according to Sheriff Dudley Greene.
"We set up a perimeter and kept him in that area," Greene stated.
They called for U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Jason Crisp and his K-9, Maros. Within minutes of putting the dog on the scent, Maros tracked Roberts to a patch of weeds in the edge of the woods, said the sheriff.
The suspect was taken into custody at 2:31 p.m. without incident.
Roberts has been on the run from officers since last Thursday, when, acting on a tip, they initiated an investigation into a possible murder.
Detectives searched two houses – the one occupied by Roberts and the other by 52-year-old Kenneth Wayne Pittman Sr. of 96 Stacy Hill Road in Nebo – and discovered human remains at Roberts' home, according to Greene. The sheriff added that officers later found evidence inside Pittman's residence that made them believe the killing occurred there.
Autopsy reports show the victim, 44-year-old Harry Dewayne Causby of Sherwood Forest Drive in Nebo, was shot once in the back, possibly with a medium-caliber handgun.
Pittman was located Sunday and charged with drug offenses and first-degree murder. He is in jail with no bond.
Roberts has been charged with first-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a felon. Authorities stated that, during the search of the suspect's home, they found a gun. Roberts is a felon, having been convicted in Buncombe County in 1993 of charges related to a robbery, according to court records.
Roberts is also in jail with no bond.
Five others have been charged with accessory after the fact of first-degree murder. Sgt. Dan Shook said two of them helped "cover up" the crime, and the other three moved the body from Pittman's residence to a location in Burke County on May 9 and then from Burke County to Roberts' house on May 10.
The six who were already in custody made their first appearances in McDowell County District Court Wednesday, where they were appointed lawyers.
A call to The McDowell News Wednesday morning makes it appear that Roberts has been in the county the entire time.
A woman who lives off Nix Creek Road phoned the newspaper to tell her story but asked that her name not be printed.
She said she's known Roberts since they were teenagers. She left to go out of town Saturday and returned Tuesday to find Roberts in her house, eating one of her frozen dinners. He entered by crawling through a window.
"He said he was sorry, but he didn't have anywhere else to go," the woman recalled. "I said, 'Well, you have to go.'"
She said deputies questioned her Friday, so she knew they were hunting for Roberts. When she told him to leave, he walked out the back door and into the woods. That's the last time she saw him.
Roberts looked "poorly," she recounted.
"He looked run down, like he had lost 20 pounds," she stated. "He was pitiful looking."
The woman said Roberts has been a good friend to her, often doing repairs around her house and helping out with yard work, all at no charge.
"I can't believe what is going on. I can't believe he's capable of anything like this," she said. "He's a wonderful person, very loving and friendly."
She also knows Roberts' wife, 51-year-old Lynn Higgins Roberts, who is one of the five charged with accessory.
"She is as sweet as can be," the caller stated. "She wouldn't harm a hair on a child's head."
Shook said no other arrests are anticipated.