death penalty news---TEXAS, FLA., CALIF., N.H., PENN., CONN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Jul 6 15:56:42 CDT 2004
Killer who chanted rock lyrics set to die Wednesday
The heavy metal rock group Metallica exploded into pop culture in the
early 1980s with the album "Kill 'Em All," which depicts a pool of blood
on the record cover and includes a song called "No Remorse."
According to testimony at his capital murder trial, then 18-year-old Troy
Kunkle chanted the song's refrain - "Another day, another death, another
sorrow, another breath" - after fatally shooting a man in the head in
Corpus Christi and robbing him of $13.
Kunkle, a San Antonio high school student at the time in 1984, is now 38
and set to die Wednesday night. An appeal was before the U.S. Supreme
Court to keep him from becoming the 11th Texas prisoner executed this
Leslie Poynter Dixon, a former assistant district attorney in Nueces
County who prosecuted the case, last week recalled a hearing about whether
the Metallica song could be used as evidence.
"As this album was being played for the judge so he could make his
decision on whether it would be admitted, Mr. Kunkle was playing an air
guitar," said Dixon, now the district attorney in Van Zandt County in East
Texas. "That really struck me. It suggested to me that Mr. Kunkle had no
regard for human life - even his own - because this was his trial and the
state was seeking the death penalty."
Kunkle, who declined to speak with reporters in the weeks preceding his
execution date, told the San Antonio Express-News in 1996 his life was
transformed while on death row thanks to prison religious ministers.
"I feel better about myself now," he said. "I get along better with
others, which I had a problem with in the past. ... But I do think about
my victim every day."
Kunkle and four friends got high on LSD and marijuana and were drinking
large amounts of beer when they decided to drive from San Antonio to the
beach at Corpus Christi, 140 miles to the southeast.
Court records show they robbed a man of $7 at a convenience store, then
drove around Corpus Christi looking for someone else to rob.
Steven Horton, 29, was walking home after playing pool at a bar and the
youths offered him a ride. When he got into their car, testimony showed
Kunkle urged one of his companions to shoot Horton. When the friend
refused, Kunkle grabbed the .22-caliber pistol. As they drove behind a
skating rink, Horton was shot in the back of the head. His body was pushed
out of the car and his wallet taken.
Kunkle, identified as the shooter, and his friends were arrested later
back in San Antonio. "I can't forgive him," Horton's mother, Mary, told
the Corpus Christi Caller-Times in a story published this week. "He had no
reason to do that. ... I guess the worst thing is it was a senseless
Kunkle's girlfriend, Lora Lee Zaiontz, received a life prison term. 2
others received 30-year sentences for murder. No charges were filed
against a 5th person in the car.
Kunkle's rights to due process were violated when his trial judge refused
to allow his appeals lawyers to have a state-paid full transcript of
nearly six days' worth of questioning of potential jurors, according to an
appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The appeal also contended jurors who deliberated his death sentence were
not allowed to properly consider his drug and alcohol abuse history, and
that he was on drugs and alcohol the night of the murder.
"In addition, evidence demonstrated that Mr. Kunkle was the product of a
troubled and turbulent home environment, including parents who had been
medically treated for depression, which would naturally have left him
psychologically and emotionally scarred," his appeal said.
The Texas attorney general's office accused Kunkle's lawyers of "trawling
... the record for possible errors" in the jury selection questioning.
The attorney general's office also contended that if jurors believed
Kunkle's drug and alcohol use and home environment were mitigating
factors, they could have expressed that in their answers to questions that
Kunkle, whose father was in the military, was born in Germany and was
almost a teenager before he moved to the United States. Ulrich Maly, the
mayor of Nuremberg, where Kunkle spent his early years, sent a letter to
Gov. Rick Perry urging Kunkle's sentence be commuted to life in prison.
While acknowledging the crime was terrible, "The death sentence violates
the most fundamental human right," Maly said.
(source: The Associated Press)
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Scott Peterson denied having an affair, polygraph expert testifies
A day after his wife, Laci, disappeared, Scott Peterson told a state
polygraph expert that he was not having an affair and that his marriage
was fine, the expert testified Tuesday at Peterson's murder trial.
Peterson was, in fact, having an affair with a massage therapist, Amber
Frey. Prosecutors have suggested that he killed his pregnant wife so that
he could be with Frey.
Douglas Mansfield said he interviewed Peterson on Christmas Day 2002.
"He said there was no 3rd parties ... involved with him or his wife,"
Mansfield was not identified to the jury as a polygraph examiner he was
described only as an employee of the state Justice Department and the
context of his questioning of Peterson that day was not made clear in
court. Polygraph examinations are generally not admissible as evidence.
Prosecutors allege Peterson, 31, murdered his wife and dumped the body in
San Francisco Bay. He was arrested four months later, after her remains
and those of her unborn child washed ashore. Peterson could get the death
penalty if convicted.
He has said he was fishing when his wife disappeared.
Prosecutors spent much of last week portraying Peterson as a liar and a
cheat who maintained a relationship with his mistress even after his wife
Peterson murder trial: No cause, weapon or witnesses----Prosecution's case
so far has holes, legal analysts say
The prosecution's disjointed story probably has jurors in the Scott
Peterson trial questioning what really happened to his pregnant wife,
legal experts say. But with the California murder trial well into its
second month, there may be a good reason for their failure to weave a
cohesive tale: They do not have enough hard evidence to forcefully claim
that Peterson committed the crime. They have no cause or time of death, no
weapon and no witnesses who saw him do it.
"Those things are the heart of their story, and they just don't have it,"
said Robert Talbot, a professor at the University of San Francisco School
Defense lawyers, who say Peterson was framed, are confident they can pick
apart the alleged motive -- an affair with a woman Peterson had only known
a short while.
But they are not without their own challenge: how to convincingly explain
why the bodies of Laci Peterson and the couple's fetus surfaced just two
miles from where Scott Peterson claims he was fishing alone the day his
Here's the story prosecutors have presented in the first five weeks of
trial, along with some of the holes the defense has tried to poke in it:
- Peterson killed his wife in their Modesto home late on the evening of
December 23 or early on December 24, 2002. If he did it on December 23,
the defense counters, why would he have invited Laci Peterson's half
sister, Amy Rocha, to the couple's home for pizza that night? Rocha
testified she did not accept the invitation.
- Peterson cleaned the murder scene immaculately and loaded Laci's
153-pound body into the back of his pickup truck, then drove through
downtown Modesto to the warehouse where he stored his boat. How could no
one notice, the defense responds, and why would he spend about 20 minutes
on the Internet with his wife's corpse in the truck?
- Peterson leashed the couple's dog and set it loose in an attempt to
suggest Laci had been walking it when she was abducted by someone else.
But, the defense says, witnesses have reported seeing Laci Peterson
walking the dog after her husband claims he left to go fishing.
- Peterson drove 90 miles to San Francisco Bay, launched the boat and
hoisted her body, weighted down with concrete anchors, into the water. But
the defense argues it is preposterous to suggest Peterson could have
transferred the body to the 14-foot aluminum boat, motored to a secluded
enough area so that he would not be seen, and then dumped the body without
tipping the boat.
Prosecutors claim Peterson's affair with massage therapist Amber Frey
drove him to devise a plan in which he purchased his used boat weeks
earlier for the sole purpose of disposing of his wife's body.
They have called several witnesses to portray Peterson as a lying cheat
who wasn't ready for family life.
Defense lawyers do not deny the affair or even that Peterson was a "cad."
But they say that just because Peterson cheated on his wife that did not
make him a murderer. They say it's absurd to believe Peterson would kill
Laci to be with a single mother with whom he had been on only a few dates.
Prosecutors have yet to call Frey, their star witness, and have not played
for the jury the bulk of wiretapped phone conversations between her and
Peterson that many experts say might reveal damaging details.
Experts say those recorded conversations had better bolster the
"Unless the wiretaps are going to make up for the holes ... prosecutors
are in trouble," said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson. "If
they thought they were going to win this case by simply saying Scott
cheats on his wife, therefore he killed her, they will lose."
Talbot said if Peterson did it, he covered his tracks "fantastically." If
the bodies had not been found exactly where Peterson's alibi places him,
"we wouldn't even be at trial," Talbot said.
However, Talbot said, that is a fact that is difficult to explain away.
"It's very, very powerful that the bodies were there," he said. "There's
got to be some reasonable explanation, but so far we really haven't heard
(source for both: Associated Press)
Killer institutionalized after decades in prison
New Hampshire's longest-serving inmate knows he may die in prison, but he
is not worried about that.
Even if he is granted parole for killing a 4-year-old girl in 1955 in
Manchester, Walter Bourque does not know what he would do or where he
would go. His parents have died, and he doubts the parole board would let
him live with his brother in Manchester.
"I've never lived by myself," he said.
He thinks about Patricia Johnson, the slain girl, all the time. Bourque
was convicted of killing her with an ax and burying her in his parents'
cellar. He was 17 at the time.
"I wish it had been me," Bourque, now 66, said. "I wish someone had come
down the stairs and stopped me. I was scared of the father. . . . The
whole time I've been here, I've been thinking about it."
Bourque, who would mark 50 years as an inmate in December 2005, killed the
girl because she said she would tell her mother that he had sexually
abused her. Prosecutors asked for hanging, the death penalty at the time,
but the jury convicted him of 2nd-degree murder, "on account of my age,"
Bourque said. He was sentenced to 18 years to life.
Bourque last walked outside the state prison unescorted in 1979, when he
was given a 72-hour pass. He went to visit friends and remembers a club
where the drinks were 50 cents each.
"That was freedom," he said.
Bourque first came up for parole in 1966, but the board denied it because
of the nature of his crime. He was transferred to the minimum-security
unit in 1977, in preparation for leaving prison, but was accused of
inappropriate conduct with minors. In 1978 and 1979, he took part in a
program for sex offenders. He said he stole a check and was sent back to
Bourque went before the parole board again in 1999, which said it would
release him if he completed the sex-offender program. But Bourque was not
assessed to see whether he was appropriate for treatment. In May, after
the Concord Monitor brought Bourque to his attention, John Eckert,
executive assistant to the parole board, asked again for Bourque to be
Bourque spends his afternoons working in the print shop, where he started
on March 1, 1958.
He does not seem to care that he may never leave. "They call that
institutionalized," Bourque said.
(source: Associated Press)
The Reinhert murders: 25 years later
Upper Merion High School shuddered on its sprawling foundation 25 years
ago with the grim news of Susan Reinert's murder.
The petit English teacher's nude body, which had been beaten black and
blue, was found curled up in the luggage compartment of her car in a Host
Hotel parking lot, near Harrisburg, on June 25, 1979.
A toxicology report indicated that she had been drugged with a large dose
The agony was compounded with the sickening discovery that the 37-year-old
teacher's 2 children, Karen, 11, and Michael, 10, were missing.
Almost immediately, suspicion fell on Reinert's lover, high school English
Department chair William Bradfield, 46, according to a police official who
worked on the case. Bradfield, who was involved with at least 3 other
women, was named beneficiary on Reinert's insurance policy.
Even so, it would take a task force of state police and FBI agents nearly
4 years to pin the homicides on Bradfield.
Eventually, former Upper Merion Principal Jay C. Smith, who was serving a
prison sentence for robbery and drug possession, was implicated in the
"It was a weird, weird time," recalled Anthony DiSanto, a former social
studies teacher and guidance counselor at the high school.
The Times Herald covered the extensive investigation and the criminal
trials that spanned a seven-year period, from 1979 to 1986, though legal
maneuvering kept the saga alive well into the 1990s.
The sensational case was the subject of Joseph Wambaugh's 1987 book,
"Echoes in the Darkness," and a CBS miniseries by the same name.
Though both Bradfield and Smith were convicted of the homicides and sent
to prison, a decade later one of the conspirators was dead; the other, a
In the 10 months prior to Reinert's death, the rumor mill at Upper Merion
High School had been churning nonstop following the arrest of Smith, the
school's eccentric principal.
On August 19, 1978, the 50-year-old Smith, who earned a doctorate at
Temple University, was picked up carrying 4 guns near Gateway Shopping
Center, in Tredyffrin, near routes 202 and 252, according to The Times
All 4 guns were loaded, according to Wambaugh and Loretta Schwartz-Nobel,
the author of "Engaged to Murder: The Inside Story of the Main Line
"That opened the floodgates," DiSanto said.
David Wrona and his girlfriend were sitting on a curb at the shopping
center eating pizza that Saturday night, the newspaper reported, when they
observed a hooded figure brandishing guns and peering into a van in the
The scared couple slunk away to the nearby Gateway Cinema and phoned
Soon after, Sgt. Clayton Clark III stopped Smith's Ford Granada at the
Route 202 South on-ramp. When police Lt. Carl Brown pulled up behind the
principal's vehicle, according to a Sept. 6, 1978, Times Herald account,
Smith was out of his car.
Eventually, Smith walked to the driver's side of the Granada, and Brown
went around to the passenger side. A moment later, Smith reached into the
vehicle and grabbed a pistol, and "pointed it straight at my chest," Brown
later testified in court.
After Brown yelled for the suspect to "drop it," Smith replied "Oh my
goodness," and dropped the weapon, the article reported.
When police searched Smith's car, they also found a silencer made from an
oil filter, a tranquilizing drug, and "a hood with 2 slits for the eyes,"
according to an August 1978 Times Herald article.
At the time of his arrest, Smith lived with his wife, Stephanie, in a
brick house on West Valley Forge Road, across the street from a General
Electric Co. office building, currently PennDOT's District-6 headquarters.
When police searched the home's downstairs, they discovered stolen items
from the high school that included office machines, paintings and bottles
of nitric acid.
DiSanto said teachers were unable to locate a special typewriter in the
school building. However, after bringing the missing equipment to Smith's
attention, it appeared the following morning.
"He brought it back to school (from home)," he said.
Smith's basement contained swinger publications, books on bestiality and
chains and locks, according to Wambaugh, which shifted the local rumor
mill into overdrive.
According to the best-selling crime author, Smith's wife told her lawyer
and co-workers that her husband had a devil costume and a collection of
"There were rumors of wild parties in the (New Jersey) Pine Barrens
involving sex with students," said 1972 Upper Merion graduate, Dan Rooney,
a longtime resident of King of Prussia.
Smith's daughter, also named Stephanie, was a classmate of Rooney's.
Among other finds in the basement was a bogus Brink's security badge,
which later tied the principal to a $50,000 robbery at Sears in St.
David's a year earlier.
Smith was eventually sentenced to up to 5 years in prison for the St.
Davids' Sears heist, an attempted robbery at Neshaminy Mall's Sears store,
as well as firearms and drug violations.
The lady killer
According to Wambaugh, a small group of English-teaching colleagues were
drawn to the bearded, charismatic Bradfield, though other Upper Merion
teachers viewed him as a pseudo-intellectual who was "full of himself."
A dedicated fan of poet Ezra Pound, Bradfield, a Haverford College
graduate, boasted of visiting the famous literary figure while he was a
patient at St. Elizabeth's Mental Hospital in Washington, D.C.
When Bradfield began teaching at Upper Merion in 1963, he had been married
twice before. For about 6 years, he lived with fellow English teacher, Sue
In the 1970s, Bradfield befriended Vince Valaitis, then a young, naive
English teacher in his mid-20s, according to Wambaugh, and Chris Pappas, a
young substitute teacher.
Besides his involvement with Reinert, Bradfield carried on relationships
with an 18-year-old Upper Merion honor student, Wendy Zeigler, and a
Harvard student, Joanne Aitken.
Reinert was divorced from ex-husband Ken Reinert and lived with her
children in Ardmore at the time of her death.
After months of hearing Bradfield talk about Smith's alleged sinister
plans to kill Reinert, and others, Wambaugh said, Valaitis got spooked as
he drove near Valley Forge National Historical Park during a violent
thunderstorm one evening. Eventually, he wound up at Mother of Divine
Providence Church, on Allendale Road, where he spilled his guts to a
Eventually, Valaitis began cooperating with investigators.
According to The Times Herald, when Bradfield was tried for the murders in
1983, Valaitis testified in court that Bradfield told him he obtained a
gun from Smith, and the teacher said it might be necessary to shoot Smith
to protect Reinert.
"(Bradfield) said he got the gun from Dr. Smith, and that he thought he
might have to use it against Dr. Smith," Valaitis testified on Oct. 20,
Valaitis still teaches at Upper Merion. Phone calls made last week to
Valaitis and retired English teacher William Scutta by The Times Herald
were not returned.
Though Myers was Bradfield's longtime roommate, Reinert clung to the hope
that he would eventually marry her, Wambaugh said. She eventually took out
insurance policies worth $730,000, naming Bradfield as sole beneficiary.
After Smith's robbery arrest, Bradfield seemed obsessed with the former
principal, according to "Echoes in the Darkness," telling his circle of
friends that the former principal had probably killed his daughter,
Stephanie Hunsberger, and husband Edward, and dissolved their remains in
Morbid speculation suggested that Karen and Michael Reinert met a similar
fate at the hands of "Dr. Jay."
Retired state police Det. Lou DeSantis, a Norristown resident, joined the
law enforcement task force shortly after Reinert's body was discovered.
The investigative team, made up of state troopers and FBI agents, met at
Philadelphia's Belmont Barracks, in Norristown, and eventually transferred
In an interview last week, DeSantis said he had strong suspicions about
Bradfield's guilt in the weeks following the murders.
Though the insurance policies raised a red flag for police early on, it
was difficult for them to put the blame on the English educator, whom
DeSantis called "condescending."
"He always thought he was better than us (police)," he said.
But investigators finally got a break when Bradfield tried to probate
Reinert's estate two years after her death. During hearings in Delaware
County's Orphans Court, questionable financial dealings came to light,
During Bradfield's trial for bilking Reinert out of $25,000 for a phony
investment scheme, his web of deceit finally began to unravel.
"We locked him into all his lies," DeSantis said.
Eventually, Bradfield was convicted of theft by deception.
In 1983, he was convicted in the killing of the Reinerts and sentenced to
life in prison. Bradfield died in 1998 at Graterford state prison.
During the murder investigation, police got tips about the possible
whereabouts of the missing Reinert children, DeSantis said.
The retired state policeman recalled searching a Church Road landfill in
King of Prussia, and in a freshly dug grave at Valley Forge Cemetery in
Valley Forge Park.
In January 1983, an anonymous letter sent to The Times Herald claimed the
Reinert children were with an ex-con in Denver, Colo.
But the 2 children were never found.
While in Dallas prison in Pennsylvania in 1986, Smith was convicted of
conspiring with Bradfield to kill the Reinerts. He was given the death
A key piece of evidence included a blue comb marked with Smith's Army
Reserve unit "79th USARCOM" that was found under Reinert's corpse, a green
Philadelphia Museum of Art pin identified as Karen Reinert's found in
Smith's car, and alibis that didn't check out for the weekend Reinert was
However, Smith got a break 6 years later.
In 1992, The Times Herald reported that antique dealer Mark Hughes was
hired to clean out state police Det. Jack Holtz's attic. Hughes found a
box containing a duplicate blue comb, investigative notes contradicting
prosecution testimony, adhesive "lifters"containing grains of sand and
quartz, and a letter from Wambaugh offering to pay lead state police
investigator Joe Van Nort $50,000 for information about the case.
After the attic find, Smith's defense lawyer cried foul.
A month later, the newspaper reported that Holtz had received $45,000 from
the author. However, in 1993 the Associated Press reported Holtz was
cleared of any wrongdoing in the case.
The quartz and sand samples had been taken from Reinert's feet, according
the newspaper. Smith's defense suggested this could have placed the murder
at the New Jersey shore. The weekend Reinert was killed, Bradfield, Myers,
Valaitis and Pappas drove to Cape May, New Jersey.
According to Valaitis' Oct. 20, 1983, testimony during Bradfield's trial,
during the trip to Cape May, Bradfield expressed fear that Reinert would
be killed that weekend.
"I'm afraid this is the weekend (Smith) will kill her," Valaitis
But after serving 6 years on death row, Smith was released in 1992 because
the evidence prosecutors withheld may have exonerated him. The following
year, Smith filed suit against the prosecutors.
In 1998, a federal jury rejected a Smith lawsuit claiming prosecutors
violated his constitutional rights. He appealed, but in 2000, a federal
appeals court upheld the earlier decision.
Though the appeals court conceded unethical conduct by the prosecution for
withholding evidence, the court found "nothing untrustworthy about Smith's
conviction for murder."
In October 2003, Smith participated in a Harrisburg rally calling for a
moratorium on the death penalty, according to the Pennsylvania Alliance
The Times Herald made repeated attempts to contact Gerald Williams, the
attorney who represented Jay C. Smith in his civil right lawsuit, but none
of the calls were returned.
DeSantis said Wambaugh's payment to his former state police partner Jack
Holtz was a sore point, because officials insinuated that he, too,
received money from the author.
"It was source of contention," he said.
DeSantis said the author never offered him money, and that Holtz never
told him about receiving payment from Wambaugh.
Though DeSantis takes pride in the work he accomplished during the lengthy
investigation, he does have regrets. 2 to be exact.
"The saddest part of it is, we never found those children," he said.
In 1987, Diane and Michael Reinert were officially declared dead.
(source: The Times Herald)
Hung Jury in Death Penalty Case
A jury considering whether to make Jessie Campbell III the 8th man on
death row in Connecticut Tuesday told a judge that they were unable to
make a unanimous decision.
After 2 weeks of deliberating in the death-penalty phase of Campbell's
double murder trial, the Hartford Superior Court jury gave Judge Edward
Mullarkey a note saying they are a hung jury. He accepted their word and
On Thursday, he is expected to consider a defense motion to sentence
Campbell to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He could
also decide to hold another hearing on whether Campbell should be
sentenced to death. Prosecutors did not make a recommendation Tuesday,
saying they needed more time to consider any recommendation.
The same jury in May found Campbell guilty of capital felony, double
murder, attempted murder, weapons charges and violating a protective
On the night of August 26, 2000, Campbell killed Desiree Privette, 18, of
Hartford and formerly of Manchester. He also shot La-Taysha Logan, 20, the
mother of his son, in the head. She died a day later. The third woman he
shot in the head, Caroline Privette, then 39, survived and became the
state's chief witness against Campbell. The incident took placed outside
of Desiree Privette's duplex apartment on Sargeant Street in Hartford.
Testimony and court records show that Campbell and Logan had a tempestuous
and violent relationship for years. Prosecutors say she was his intended
target the night of the shooting and that he shot Desiree and Caroline
Privette to silence them because they saw him kill Logan.
Prosecutors Vicki Melchiorre and Dennis O'Connor had painted Campbell as a
cold-blooded killer, who shot all 3 women in the head without concern
about the heinous nature of the crime or whether the victims suffered. But
his lawyers, public defenders Ronald Gold and David Smith argued that
Campbell's mental capacity was a significant mitigating factor that should
convince the jury to spare Campbell's life.
(source: The Hartford Courant)
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