Archive for March 15th, 2010


good cops, bad cops

After last Friday’s hearing, Jordan Brown’s attorneys Dennis Elisco and David Acker told reporters that Kenzie Houk’s ex-boyfriend was overheard tearfully admitting to someone at a friend’s party that he had killed his ex-girlfriend.

The attorneys said this information had been turned over to state police, though Trooper Jeffrey Martin, who is leading the investigation, claimed he was unaware of it, according to media reports.


This lead was given to him months ago (on August 26, 2009) and was never followed up on, despite the defense’s having afterwards asked Trooper Martin if he had learned anything more about the lead they’d given him.

Maybe Trooper Martin is experiencing some memory problems; if so, it seems to me he should be relieved of duty on medical grounds. Or maybe Trooper Martin is not telling the truth, in which case he should be relieved of duty on ethical grounds.

When the facts of this case are known—the full and truthful facts, not the prosecution’s fantastic connect-the-dots “spin” on fragments of innocuous “evidence” which simply does not add up—there will be no other reasonable conclusion but that the hateful and tragic outcomes of Kenzie’s and the baby’s murders can be traced back to abysmal police work and a betrayal of the trust we place in the police.

Good cops deserve our admiration and respect. Bad cops, on the other hand, so often turn out to be criminals with badges. What has been happening in Western Pennsylvania for the last year is, by my reckoning, criminal official behavior.

It seems significant to me that at least a couple key players in the investigation and prosecution of this case are the same individuals who were involved in another Lawrence County PA murder case which is now so notorious: the attempted railroading of Thomas “Hank” Hughes Kimbell, Jr. who was sentenced to death for the 1994 murders of his neighbor, Bonnie Lou Dryfuse, her daughters Jacqueline Mae and Heather Sue, and their cousin, Stephanie Herko. After serving several years on death row, Kimbell’s conviction was overturned in 2000 and he was acquitted of the murders in 2002.

The official reason that Kimbell’s conviction was overturned was a technicality: limitations placed on his defense in questioning the testimony of a key witness. However, if the information I have learned about this case is true, there is more to the Kimbell story than is publicly known.

The charges against Jordan were based to a great extent on a tainted statement improperly elicited from Jordan’s younger step-sister by Janice Wilson (recently retired), one of the same Pennsylvania State Police troopers who had, fifteen years earlier, disclosed to Kimbell information “known only to the killer”or so the story is currently being told in the courthouse halls in Lawrence County.

In one of Kimbell’s interrogations, Trooper Wilson and one other investigator allegedly shared details of the case which were not public, including that the mother was killed first, the children’s bodies were stacked up in the bathroom, and that the back door did not open. Then, when Kimbell repeated these “inside facts” to others, the police had entrapped him through the creation of witnesses for the prosecution.

The police covered themselves by claiming that Kimbell said he learned details of the slayings by listening to a police scanner (and the prosecution claimed he knew details that hadn’t been broadcast). Kimbell was thus portrayed in his first trial as a murderer and a liar.

This case is profiled in Bill Kurtis’ book, Death Penalty on Trial. As with Kenzie’s murder, the real murderer of Mrs. Dryfuse and her children and niece is still living free.

Two dots connected does not a pattern make. Yet I cannot help but wonder if, were other “dots” from Trooper Wilson’s career investigated, would we see a disturbing pattern?