Miami Valley Cold Case - Dayton Police Departmentwww.daytonohiopolice.com/coldcase/Officer Kevin Brame Killed: 11/1/1999 Status: Unsolved. sample image The Dayton Police Homicide Squad needs information regarding the violent shooting ...
By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
(The Medical Examiner's Office continues to decline comment, both to the Drenths and to New Times. Dr. Lyon recently left the office for an unspecified job out of state.)
Diane Drenth is right that if Sean had tried to simulate a murder, he surely could have made it appear as though a more serious struggle had taken place. As it was, the body had only a few scratches and there was some dirt on the back of the hands and on parts of Drenth's uniform.
The sergeant also could have maintained radio contact with dispatchers until the very last moment (he didn't) and then informed them, perhaps, that something suspicious was happening down the alley and he was going to investigate.
He still would have had the time to kill himself before backup arrived and made it appear to be a murder.
But, DiMaio tells New Times, "I don't agree with the assessment that this was a suicide. Suicide seems, initially, the obvious choice, due to the nature of the wound, the contact under the chin, and so on. But there are all kinds of reasons not to call it that. It is totally undetermined.
"Too many things happened out there to make this a clear-cut ruling. If you're going to commit suicide, why bother getting the shotgun out? You've got two guns on your body.
"If you went there to commit suicide, this is a bizarre way to . . . try to make it look like a murder. [It would be] a really inferior job of pulling it off. And the shotgun lying like it was on this officer's body? With the recoil factor, that would have been highly, highly unlikely."
That "recoil factor" is a key piece of the complex puzzle that is the Sean Drenth case.
The shotgun ended up on Drenth's body with the muzzle about four inches from the entry wound, as if the 12-gauge pump-action weapon, loaded with powerful law enforcement ammunition, had little or no recoil.
But it decidedly does, ballistic experts say, especially when its shooter instantaneously loses muscle control (as Drenth would have if he fired the gun) upon being killed,
(New Times recently tested a replica of Drenth's powerful shotgun at the Ben Avery Shooting Range. It had a kick of about 18 inches, which was even less than it could be under other circumstances.)
"The shotgun was not in a final resting place consistent with having been discharged by [Drenth]," writes Dean Beers, a Colorado private investigator retained by Colleen Drenth.
That jibes with what the first responders from the Capitol Police later told investigators.
"[The] whole thing, when I first saw the body, struck me as odd," Corporal Nathan Clark told a Phoenix PD detective hours after Drenth's body was discovered.
"It didn't look like it was natural to me. It looked like it may have been manipulated or placed in that position. It was too perfect."
Lucien Haag, a top ballistics expert later retained by the Phoenix PD in the case, wrote in a June 2011 report that Sergeant Drenth "was down on the ground or nearly so when the fatal shot took place."
But no one, including Haag, adequately has explained the recoil issue and how the shotgun could have ended up like it did and still be a suicide.
Nor has anyone satisfactorily explained why, if Drenth shot himself (or was shot) lying down, investigators found no "biological material" — brain matter or pieces of skull — directly behind him on the ground, in the desert debris, or on the chain-link fence mere feet away. (The police did find some brain matter in a paloverde tree about 12 feet northeast of the body.)
"No one can explain it because it wasn't a suicide and Sean didn't die lying down," says Jon Colvin, a Phoenix private investigator who worked on the Drenth case (much of it at no charge).
"He was murdered while kneeling or standing by people he had gone out there to meet for reasons we still don't know. Then they placed the shotgun on his body, which is how it was found.
But Lucien Haag doesn't seem to be that sure about anything.
As for the biggest question, he concluded his report with these frustratingly ambivalent words:
"The fatal injury could be self-inflicted or at the hands of another and satisfy the factors of contact wound, wound path, supine subject [Drenth], and the post-injury flight path of the plastic wad.
"Regrettably, the central issue of suicide vs. homicide was not answerable as of this writing."
Questions of motive and opportunity always arise first in investigations of violent deaths.
Those who insist that Sean Drenth was murdered have been unable to provide any viable motive for homicide other than the speculative.
Those who lean toward a suicide theory also lack sound evidence.
If Sean Drenth did kill himself, his sole known motivation may have been his role in an off-duty scandal that originally ensnared more than 25 Phoenix PD officers.
Miami Valley Cold Case - Dayton Police Departmentwww.daytonohiopolice.com/coldcase/Officer Kevin Brame Killed: 11/1/1999 Status: Unsolved. sample image The Dayton Police Homicide Squad needs information regarding the violent shooting ...
You have to go with the logic on this one - 1. The Sgt was facing an indictment 2. Suicide would disqualify life insurence 3. The family gets the pension benefits.
All of the details like the firearm tossed over the fence and back-up pistol location is all about # 2 above. Don't "over-think" this one folks...
Mr. Pulsifer---Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, as I don't work for Phoenix New Times anymore since being laid off a few months ago. Thanks.
Murder, " He engaged in behavior that is consistent with routine police work," a Phoenix PD investigator wrote later. This observation, and his "pudding" request is most telling.
this explains the warning shot (so the suspect technically didnt shoot anyone), the kneeling, and the gun over the fence. and its the only rational idea to the obviously failed attempt at suicide coverup. could have been a man he picked up, was chasing, someone on the side of the street. a friend, lover, anyone. there was dirt...... no footprints?
the suspect go the glock off of drenth, drenth tried to pull the ankle gun and didnt make it while he turned to the vehicle to get the shotgun, brings the shotgun to drenth, makes him shoot himself, walks away, throws the gun over the fense never to be found.
It wasn't the investigation of the charges of overtime abuse that was worrying this officer, it was the investigation of his activities, and other officers, into their jacking drug dealers, pimps and hos and stealing from them. There is a lot of this type of activity going on in police departments across the nation. You know just like the movie "Training Day." They didn't make that up - it's real and it exists in our Cities and Towns. Cops misusing their authority under the constitution and citizens, who, because their non-violent activities are declared "illegal" by society, feel they have to give up their inalienable rights to stay out of jail. I guess the Cops feel that if society in the United States can abuse the constitution and interfere in the free association and contract rights of citizens to engage in commerce, they can abuse the Constitution too. This type of corruption is rooted in this cognitive dissonance created by the War on Drugs and the natural tendency of humans to want to interfere in the sexual activities of their fellow humans - even if it NONE OF THEIR GOD DANNED BUSINESS!
I have it on good authority from a number of "snitchs" for the PPD that this officer was offed because he was getting too caught up in the security service overcharge investigation and was the one most likely to spill the beans on the widespread "jacking" going on within the Phoenix Police Department in order to cut a deal on his upcoming indictment. I'm wondering why the FBI isn't is involved in this?
I don't think the investigation/charges would have done much to him as he was at best collecting the money from someone else who was suppose to be tabbing the hours. RIP I think he was stone cold murdered, and by someone he knew and probably 2 people involved and probably cops at that. I'd be lookin at the main guy getting indicted and who he was on the phone with most as well as any other phones or laptops he could have been on at that point in time, nothing else would make logical sense, either the after set up was sloppy by the killers are they did it that way to let everyone know they just got away with something and a message
I wonder if Sergeant Drenth had any enemies, either within the Phoenix Police or in general?
The AG indictments would have destroyed his career as a police officer had the Assistant AG not fucked up as badly as he/she did.
RIP Sergeant Drenth.
(cont. from previous comment)
(12) As to why Drenth's shotgun was used rather than his service Glock or his backup pistol, presumably a single shot from the shotgun, fired correctly, would be more likely to cause instantaneous death. A lot can go wrong with the trajectory of a bullet, and serious injury could prevent a second shot while failing to kill. This seems consistent with the suicide theory, yet his Glock was found 15 yards from the body and his backup pistol had been fired; and while the latter two facts could be used by Drenth to frame a homicide, the use of his own service shotgun in such a scenario, held in his own hands, would strike anyone as stupid and unconvincing of homicide, including Drenth himself.
(13) Would Drenth's widow receive benefits from the police department and/or insurance companies if he committed suicide? If not, and Drenth was concerned to provide for his wife, why create such an awkward, unconvincing, and inconsistent crime scene?
(14) Why would Drenth's handcuffs and personal cellphone be strewn on the ground near the body, as well as his flashlight? It makes sense that he might have had the flashlight out, but cuffs are not indicated until a suspect is under control and ready for formal arrest.
(15) Could some of the evidence in this case involve someone (e.g., kids, crazy or drug-addled transients) finding Drenth's body after death but before Vernier's discovery, and fiddling around with things before leaving? How reliable is the testimony of the homeless man who was camped out just 50 yards away and heard two shots fired in close succession (with perhaps 15 seconds between)? What did he do after hearing these shots, and when and how did his involvement come to the attention of investigators?
(16) The inconsistency between Vernier's version of the resting position of the shotgun, and that of Lentz and Swick (who were also the first departmental officers to arrive), seems important. Yet, Vernier says he did not closely approach the body after discovering it. When did he see the shotgun in the position he reported, from how far away, and under what conditions?
(17) Did Vernier have a police-band (specifically, PPD frequency tunable) radio? Was this standard issue for capitol police?
(18) Do we have any independent evidence that Vernier first came across the body when he did and under the circumstances he reported?
(19) As a security officer Vernier would have knowledge of weapons and possibly of investigation methods; working for the capitol police he would have an extensive knowledge of the area and the habits and working methods of regulars (e.g., policemen such as Drenth); as a former army medic he would have knowledge of anatomy and pharmaceuticals; and as someone who served duty in Iraq in this capacity he would have developed an intimate and extensive experience of injury and death. Could any of this be relevant to the case, in terms of either method or psychology/motive? (I know this is fanciful speculation, but all questions should be considered in a persistently puzzling case.)
(20) If Drenth was incapacitated prior to being shot, how was this done and why were there no marks (e.g., taser burns)? If a handheld taser was applied at a point later to receive the shotgun blast, would this obliterate the evidence? What about a blow to the back of the head? Was a toxicology report on Drenth undertaken?
(21) The article suggests that either a homicide or a suicide was framed. But what if the confusing evidence found at the scene was created specifically for that purpose: to confuse investigators?
Thank you for this fascinating piece of investigative journalism, Mr. Rubin. Phoenix New Times had been a bit barren lately, notwithstanding some of Stephen Lemons' short but frequently interesting columns.
There seem to be more questions than answers here, but a few more questions might contribute to a discussion of possible answers:
(1) Leaving both front doors open isn't suggestive of a framed suicide, nor is it suggestive of an attempt by Drenth to frame a homicide (unless he intended to suggest the presence of an unauthorized passenger). So why were they both open with the engine left running?
(2) Why "throw" Drenth's service Glock anywhere? How would such an act contribute either to a frame suicide or a framed homicide?
(3) Why would either Drenth use his backup gun to frame a homicide, or someone else use it to frame a suicide, since his service revolver would be the first weapon of choice used by Officer Drenth unless deprived of it at gunpoint, and since firing the backup gun would not contribute to the appearance of a suicide?
(4) The back of Drenth's hands were abraded and dirty. Could Drenth have been dragged by his feet, face up and with his hands dragging behind him and most of his body not in contact with the ground, after being incapacitated or killed? If so, why shift the position of his body a short distance at the scene, unless he was dragged out of his car after being incapacitated? Could someone attempting to position his body after dragging it out, temporarily support it by resting it on its knees, perhaps even holding it with one hand while so balanced and holding a weapon with the free hand?
(5) Why was a "notebook binder" on the front floorboard of Drenth's patrol car? Were there contents? If so, what kind; if not, why? Was this on the passenger side, as seems likely given the driver's feet and pedals and the fact that a footprint (inconsistent with the type of footwear worn by an on-duty policeman) was found on the binder?
(6) Vernier was "not a sworn officer"; what kind of shoes was he wearing? Shoes can be changed. Would someone cognizant of standard forensic investigation techniques be likely to wear their own shoes to a planned crime scene, or wear them (or keep possession of them) afer the commission of the crime?
(7) Vernier said that police "always" back down the alley rather than go in head first as Drenth's patrol car did. Could the driver at that point have been a non-policeman?
(8) From roughly 10:25 pm to 10:26 pm Drenth stopped or slowed to a crawl near the volleyball court, according to GPS data, during which time the "subject stop" screen in Drenth's patrol car was activated by someone. No information was subsequently entered, however, indicating either that Drenth changed his mind or that he was interrupted by someone or something; and by 10:26 pm his car was moving again towards the back of the "alley". Under what circumstances is the "subject stop" screen on a patrol car activated? Is it easy to do by accident? How long was this screen up? Was it ever cancelled, either automatically or manually, and if the latter, by whom and when?
(9) Drenth's patrol car headlights were off at 10:25 pm driving south of the alley, just before or at the time when the "subject stop" screen was activated. Would Drenth have turned on the headlights and/or his prowl spotlight if he saw a "suspect" in a dark alley? If so, were either or both of these lights on at the time he left the vehicle with the engine running and the door(s) left open?
(10) Could Drenth have seen a dark figure loitering, engaged the "subject stop" screen, then recognized someone he knew flagging him down? Could he have allowed this hypothetical individual in the passenger side before proceeding down the alley for a discussion?
(11) Drenth started duty at 2:00 pm, yet engaged in two extended personal meetings with Lentz (at 6:00 pm and at 8:50 pm) -- also "bumping into" Swick at the end of the latter -- and also told his wife in a 10:00pm telephone call that he planned to meet with a third officer (Moore) between 10:30 pm and 11:00 pm. What was so critical that required him to meet these officers while still on duty that night? Why inform his wife at the late hour of 10:00 pm of a planned meeting with Moore scheduled to take place within the next hour, unless, first, it had only just been arranged (perhaps during or after the meeting with Lentz that ended at 9:30 pm), and second, unless Drenth had reason to be concerned enough to share the name of Moore and the time of the proposed meeting with his wife, who says that the rest of the call was about "silly things" such as boiling an egg?
This was not a suicide in the least. The recoil from the 870 would have thrown it well off the body of the Sgt.
who gives a shit if this cop is dead. Is this not the SAME precinct that produced the likes of Shawn Crismon??? He murdered, in cold blood, a man and his dog, shot them dead while hyped up on god knows what. how many of you PIGS went to that murdered guys funeral and cried your pathetic tears?? remember when his partner tried to do the right thing and report to his supervisors how Mr Crismon murdered that man only to be turned on boy all the other boys in blue for ratting out a fellow brother???? oh and remember the youtube video that showed not only Shawn Crismon, but a few fat hookers who still are currently employed by the Sounth Mountain Precinct laughing, just laughing their fat asses off as Officer Shawn Crismon planted a crack pipe on some homeless lady, just to impress the fat hooker cops whom probably gave him blow jobs on their lunch breaks...fuck cops.
how many other injustices have the citizens suffered at the hands of these pigs, that no one will ever know about simply because those crimes are shielded by the likes of other dirty pigs?? fuck pigs
I grew up in a time when, if there was a problem, you could call the police and they would come and do what it took to help right the wrongsd, they were ...well...heroes..
Boy oh boy have times changed. Cops, ALL COPS, are bigger crooks than drug dealers. They will be damned if they go out on a call and someone doesnt get arrested. Its all about the money. Remember mJack Harris and his BULLSHIT kidnapping statistics, just so he could come up on some grant money. Cops make me sick, if you want to help people, and be a heroe, become a fire fighter..If you want to be a baby humping bully, be a cop
Note this is my opinion and NOT fact: It is likely he was murdered by other cops who then decided to try and make it look like an accident - possibly because of the impact a suicide would have on his wife's benefits. Drenth lived for his job but was under investigation and likely to face dismissal. This would make him vulnerable to internal affairs pressure to name others involved in the wide reaching scandal that has tainted the South Mountain police department. Perhaps he was approached by Internal Affairs, maybe not, but the risk was considered too high. Consequently my guess would be that a couple of cops staged the suicide then discharged his gun and threw it over a fence in a clumsy attempt to make it look like he was killed by persons unknown. If this happened it was probably done with the connivance of a senior officer with knowledge about the investigation. As for proof, one of the best ways is to determine whether he had "prepared" for the suicide. Even if he didn't leave a note, a man typically does some personal "clean up" before taking his own life. Of course I have no idea if the police are smart enough to consider that avenue of investigation (probably not) but to me it is kinda clear that he was murdered by fellow officers.
Should have been brain, skull, etc. all around the deceased. To find it in a palo verde 12 feet away is the biggest "huh" to me.
What is even more curious is the fact that Chris Smith was killed in the same area by an unknown assailant. But then, poor Chris was a crackhead and no one but his family even thinks of him anymore. Nothing to see here... just a dead man with a drug problem. What is happening near the capitol? Drenth knew of dirty cops. Smith knew of dirty politicians... Nothing to see here...
Great job New Times! I am entranced - cannot wait for the next installment on this tragic story. Prayers for peace of heart and mind for Sgt. Drenth's family and friends....
Suicide, don't forget he was a cop. He knows what a murder scene looks like and a suicide scene looks like. He was about to be indicted, which meant he would have lost his peace officer certification. Which would have meant he would have lost his benefits and gone to jail. Make it look like murder and his wife would have received FULL benefits for life or until she married someone else. Also, his cop friends arrived first, which means they also know what a murder scene looks like and a suicide scene looks like... They know if he committed suicide, his wife wouldn't receive benefits...
I was on the freeway getting passed by a zillion cop cars. I was freaking out thinking some really serious shit was going down.
@ExpertShot Okay - I get it. So, while these officers were supposed to be employed by the non-profit event producer or guarding some event somewhere, instead they were out holding up criminals? That's ingenious - those cops are smart. Just go and check in to the event where they were to be working a four hour shift, hang around for a half an hour and then off for fun and games with the monied elite of the Phoenix underworld, completely covered as to their whereabouts - guarding the event! I think you've got the "modus operandi" of the gang and the motive for killing Drenth. He was going to have to testify about what the cops involved in the overtime violations were doing when they weren't at their assigned job! The overtime violations (e.g., saying they were working an event as security and getting paid for four hours but only working a short amount of time) covers for their gang activities. Face it, there are some cliques (Gangs?) of officers which actually do this type of crime - and it is a crime. Only thing is, the criminals (drug dealers, pimps and hos) can't report it without going to jail. Well, if the cop gang killed Drenth, which is what I suspect, then they must have been sure that he was the only potential rat for their operations. Even if there are more officers which might be ready to speak to the county attorney's office (which is also probably getting payoffs) they are now frightened into silence lest they also get their face blown off!
lingus, you are a clueless idiot. Not one piece of filth that you wrote is supported by the truth. See what happens when the truth comes out in the Crismon trial, if it even gets to that point. Your alleged hero whistle blower cop? His wife was convicted of a felony for shipping dope as a postal employee while he worked in the department's drug bureau.....hmmm. The crack pipe that Crismon "planted?" It was never charged....the officers never intended to charge it. The kidnapping stats? When the feds investigated, they actually found hundreds more kidnapping cases. You don't have a clue about the issues that you are commenting upon. But rest assured, the fine men and women of the Phoenix P.D. will respond to help you when your door gets kicked in, or your baby is choking.@lingus233
@OinkOink you don't need to be so insensitive and rude. this was my cousin. please have respect for the death of a man no matter what type of job he had.
@farwalker7 You are a brainless idiot. Go back to watching CSI you moron. You don't have a clue.
@WhoCares ive had my fair share of run ins with bad cops...but they arent all bad man...show some respect for those that put their lives on the line to protect us.
@WhoCares Why don't you SHUT UP you stupid PUNK!! You'll be the FIRST one to call a cop when you need one!! It's MORONS like you that DISGUST the rest of us!!
@EvMechamLives Where is our police-community committee? What the heck are they doing to make sure our police officers are not out on the take or jacking dealers, pimps and hos?
@mgibbons8019 That sounds really amazing and awesome, except Drenth wasn't the only one subjected to the off duty job investigation (which ultimately was nothing more then a couple guys leaving 10 minutes early) and yet no one lost their certifications or their jobs. So I guess your "motive" lacks merit.
Bluline, I would differ with you. I believe farwalker has it pretty close to accurate. I was held for 5 hours because I happened to be driving down the wrong street at the wrong time. I was questioned by the lead investigator two days after Sgt Drenth's murder. The questions kept coming back to, "Who could have "mistakingly" been seen as wearing a uniform that was in my group?" Mine are not simply "supposition." I am 100% convinced somebody witnessed someone or multiple someones, in uniform, there that night.........then he was dead....
It doesn't take rocket science to put 2 & 2 together. You keep believing in the "proud blue line", I don't!
Bluline, I would differ with you. I believe farwalker has it pretty close to accurate. I was held for 5 hours because I happened to be driving down the wrong street at the wrong time. I was questioned by the lead investigator two days after Sgt Drenth's murder. The questions kept coming back to, "Who could have "mistakingly" been seen as wearing a uniform that was in my group?" Mine are not simply "supposition." I am 100% convinced somebody witnessed someone or multiple someones, in uniform, there that night.........then he was dead.... It doesn't take rocket science to put 2 & 2 together. You keep believing in the "proud blue line", I don't anymore, Arizona has cured me of that!
Your insults are water off a duck's back. I have seen many suicide by gun scenes and nothing about this one adds up. Nothing. I would love the opportunity to actively investigate this crime. Anyhow, I do have an active murder investigation to get back to, so have a nice day.
@yourproductsucks The indictments were thrown out only to be sent back to the A.G. Drenth knew he was going to be indicted on felony counts. People do crazy things like this. so my "motive" doesn't lack merit..... Investigation is still ongoing.
It's entirely possible that Sergeant Drenth was killed by someone in uniform. I am just pointing out how ridiculous it is, however, for arm chair investigators who have never seen any of the evidence, nor interviewed any potential witnesses to pretend that they (farwalker) have the answers.@justaspectator1 @bluline17 @farwalker7
@farwalker7 Your comments are nothing but supposition. I'm amused by the fact that you feel that you know more than highly experienced homicide investigators that were "at the scene" and were able to "examine the evidence" firsthand, as well as conduct thorough interviews. I also find it amusing that instead of attending to your "active murder investigation" (read: pushing the play button on my remote so that I can get back to my episode of CSI) you find the time to insert your ignorant commentary into this unsolved "real life" murder.
@mgibbons8019 @yourproductsucks The investigation is over, and the AG that initiated it and spread falsehoods is about to lose her job. A judge thrashed her report, noting that 1st year law students would not have made many of the mistakes that she did. The AG's office is also getting sued by the 4 whose reputations were irreparably damaged by their shoddy investigation. People love to spout off about their opinions, but very seldom have the facts to support their position. Educate yourselves.
@mgibbons8019 @yourproductsucks you ever fired a shotgun Mgibbons? no way it ended up like that on his chest if he fired the shot himself. Im not investigator, but that much i do know. I have to say though, from what ive read it sounds like the scene was staged by someone who knew investigative procedures...only they made a few very small errors. Namely, the shotgun on his chest.
Question though about that Paul Rubin, was it lying on his chest or was it in his hands?