By Stephanie Zacharek
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Inkoo Kang
By Alan Scherstuhl and Stephanie Zacharek
By Ciara LaVelle
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Calum Marsh
By Amy Nicholson
Ferguson said Bergstrom had seen the blood and instructed him to remove the door panel for analysis before doing fingerprint work. He remembered nothing about a speck of tissue. If there had been tissue, Ferguson said, it should have been placed in a vial before the door panel was removed and taken to the DPS crime lab for analysis.
Jim Raines showed Ferguson the 21 photographs, including the photo of the red speck. Ferguson was sure a fellow named Pete Janik had taken the photos.
Investigators soon spoke with Janik, now a Tempe police sergeant. Janik said he hadn't taken the photos, but he probably had held the ruler next to the blood smears and streaks during the photo session. He had a "vague recollection" of someone placing a tissue speck in a vial.
Still trying to get to the bottom of things, the Crane team in September 1990 interviewed retired DPS criminalist Bruce Bergstrom. Bergstrom recalled "in general" examining the inside panel of Carpenter's passenger door twice, both on the car and in the lab.
Bergstrom said he was quite certain the photographs and fingerprinting of the car had been completed before he took the panel with him to the lab.
That was exactly the opposite of what Doug Ferguson had told investigators.
Jim Raines showed Bergstrom the photo of the tissue speck. Bergstrom said it appeared to be a piece of flesh with blood on it. He said he had studied the door panel with a magnifying glass, but hadn't seen any tissue.
"If there was a piece of flesh," Bergstrom told the investigator, "it should have been noted, but I don't see it in my notes. . . ."
Neither Bergstrom, Doug Ferguson or Pete Janik put anything in writing about the speck.
In early October 1990, Ferguson called Jim Raines with news. He said he'd been doing some thinking and now remembered he, not Janik, had taken the car photos at DPS.
Also that month, DPS Lieutenant Colonel G.W. Ross responded to Rick Romley's request for answers about what had happened at the agency in 1978. Ross got right to the point, and it wasn't a pleasant one:
"According to the Crime Laboratory, even under the best of circumstances, it is unlikely that stains or substances can be identified as blood smears or tissue merely by reviewing photographs. Therefore, the confirmation of any stain as being blood or tissue requires extensive laboratory testing."
Bruce Bergstrom's notes had not mentioned tissue, Ross continued:
"Therefore, it must be assumed that personal examination of the door panel did not reveal tissue and that no evidence was destroyed."
A few days after Ross' devastating letter, investigators interviewed ex-county attorney Chuck Hyder. Hyder said he had never seen the DPS photos. Jim Raines asked him to study the photo of the red speck.
"It looks like tissue or skin," Raines quotes Hyder as saying. " . . . If we would have seen that, we would have been talking a whole new ballgame."
But the County Attorney's Office did have the photo, if former investigator Ron Little's memory had served him correctly. Little said after Hyder's interview he did remember seeing the tissue-speck photo, but it apparently hadn't made an impact on him.
Little said Scottsdale had sent all the rental-car photos to him sometime before he left the office in late 1981. That directly contradicts the Scottsdale case investigators, who avow they never saw the tissue photo.
Little first said in his 1990 interview that the speck appeared to be a grease spot or a piece of debris. He kept staring at the photo, according to Jim Raines' report, then said it could be blood.
"Is that flesh with a hair in it?" Little finally blurted out.
Little sat there a moment with his mouth open, staring at the ceiling, Raines' report says. "I never at any time suspicioned it to be tissue. All I can say is we blew that one . . ."
The Crane team pushed on. It already had Dr. K on the record that the speck in the photo was fatty tissue. Now, investigators sent a copy of the photo to other forensic pathologists for their opinions.
In November 1990, Dr. Vincent DiMaio, the nationally known chief medical examiner for Bexar County, Texas--its seat is San Antonio--looked at the evidence. DiMaio studied the speck photo, a series of Crane autopsy photos and slides of what Dr. K had identified as human tissue found on a pillowcase near Crane's bludgeoned head.
DiMaio concluded the speck was "most probably blood-encrusted brain--the only pathologist to date who has mentioned "brain--though he said he couldn't "absolutely rule out subcutaneous tissue, such as was found on the pillow."
Dr. Patricia McFeeley, then the chief medical examiner for the state of New Mexico, next looked at the same evidence as DiMaio.
McFeeley deduced the speck was "a piece of human tissue." But she added a caveat: "One cannot make that determination with absolute certainty in the absence of serologic tests or microscopic examination. . . ."
@body:By the spring of 1992, prosecutor Myrna Parker was convinced she had a winnable case against Carpenter. A seasoned prosecutor, Parker is reputed to be a thorough and relentless bulldog at trial.
Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city