Saturday, May 29, 2010

Summary of Notes re Toledo PD File (1977)

This will be a long post. I hadn't planned on posting this information publicly, but I am very frustrated. I can't afford to hire a PI to conduct interviews. Relevant parties I have contacted have not responded. This includes one of the prosecuting attorneys, Henry G. Harris, who has been an Episcopal priest since 1985. Clearly many members, and former members, of the so-called justice system are more interested in covering various body parts than they are in actual justice. I'm not surprised, just disappointed. I shouldn't be. But, I am. A man spends 32 years in prison for a crime evidence suggests he did not commit. And, the system churns forward. Or backward, depending on how you look at it.

In April, I received materials from the original Toledo Police Department investigative file. I'm sure it's not the complete file because of some things that should be there that are not. But, what is there is
very interesting. Below are some of my notes regarding said file.

Background -
The defense called only one witness, June Kramer. She was the desk manager at the Y.

The state called several witnesses. Most were those involved in the investigation (i.e., police officers, YMCA staff, coroner, etc.). E.g., Detective Thomas Ross spoke about his interview with Ustaszewski.
The coroner, Mignerey, testified about the knife wounds. The
only two witnesses who spoke directly to the defendant’s alleged involvement were Michael Morris (co-defendant) and Carl E. G- (jailhouse informant). No physical evidence, confession, or other testimony linked Ustaszewski to the crime. Morris remains in prison, G- lives in Kentucky.

Regarding the police file -
In addition to routine documents (e.g., crime report, Ustaszewski arrest report, other supplemental crime reports not described here), the police file – as provided - includes the following:

1. Supplemental crime report re evidence. Among the blood evidence were “(2) envelopes/specimens of blood from the stairwell. These were given to Thomas Carroll for analysis. To my knowledge, at trial, no mention was ever made of analysis of the blood in the stairwell or fingerprints associated with that blood. Other evidence was provided to the police Property Room, PR #2343. Carroll was not called as a witness.

2. Supplemental crime report, notice to Officer E. Marok from Det. Tom Ross. The narrative requests that Marok remove various pieces of the floor “for blood comparison to ascertain if the perpetrator(s) may have been injured. . . further request you test the blood located on the wall from the victim’s room and between the second and third floor stairwell as to type.” Again, at trial, no mention - that I recall - was made of blood in the stairwell and associated analysis.

3. One potential (defense) witness to Ustaszewski's actions, knives, etc. was Cotton DeWayne Russell. He was not called as a witness. He may have no longer been alive. Supplemental crime report, “Request T.W.X.” Detective Tom Ross sent a request to the Fort Wayne, IN police stating, “DeWayne Russell, -aka- “Cotton”, W.M., age 18, D.O.B. 4/1/59 is a witness in an Agg. Murder trial this city [sic], set for Monday, 11-28-77, in Lucas County Common Pleas Ct., Tol, OH. We received information he may have been a homicide victim himself in your city. Please reply if you have had any contact or information about or on said subj/…" Nothing else on Russell appears in the file.

4. Supplemental crime report, narrative stating, “I have received information that the victim of a homicide at the Central YMCA, did in the past have a great deal of trouble with his grandson one Dennis Cordell [sic], WM early 20’s. Also that this Dennis has a record and or is wanted at this time for other offenses. I have not checked this out. The person who told me this wishes to remain unknown, but knows or knew Mr. Cordell [sic] very well prior to his death. This person also knows that the grandson and friends had abused Mr. Cordell [sic] in the past. This person thinks that the grandson is a good suspect for the murder as he has harmed the grandfather in the past. Supposedly the grandfather (victim) did not report any of this to the Police.” This report ends, “Resp. JM” and “White copies sent to Detectives Perdeau and Ross. No information regarding Cordell or others who may have had conflicts with the victim was brought out at trial.

5. Supplemental crime report, narrative of interview with John E. Miller, 248 Linden Place, White Male, DOB 11/10/52, Works at Toledo Zoo. Miller was the friend of Ustaszewski’s and whom Ustaszewski later said he was with for at least part of the evening of the 20th. He was also with Ustaszewski on 9/11/77 when Ustaszewski was arrested. This statement is fairly lengthy and speaks to how well he knew Ustaszewski, how often he saw him, that Ustaszewski never mentioned Morris to him, that he didn’t know Morris, that he bought Ustaszewski the wooden-handled knife in the brown sheath. He also noted that 9/11/77, when he was with Ustaszewski in his room, was the first time he had seen the silver dagger. This is consistent with Ustaszewski’s claim that he had just purchased it from Russell on Friday, 9/9/77. Miller was not called as a witness.

6. Supplemental crime report, narrative statement by Thomas Ross. “Officer Cutsinger [responding officer] further stated . . . once inside he saw the room in complete disarray and a large amount of blood the length of the room.” Note: Contrast this with Cutsinger’s response, in the Morris trial, to a question about the condition of the room: “Total disarray, not at all. It was neat.” Ross described his interview with the resident in a nearby room, Thomas Trotzier. Trotzier stated that he fell asleep around 2:30-3 am on the night of the murder and “heard no unusual sounds come from the victim’s room.” In this statement, Ross notes that he and Investigator Inman “found what appeared to be blood smeared on the wall directly across from the victim’s door. We also discovered some coagulated blood on the staircase landing located on the west end of the building which leads to a large greeting room on the ground floor adjacent to the night attendant’s desk. The blood in the stairwell would be located between the second and third floors…” Ross also describes being contacted by the victim’s daughter, Theresa Crowe and her husband, Charles. This describes Cordle having visited their home on 8/20, the reason he was at the Y, etc. Ross also writes, “This officer found several letters from the victim’s son, Dennis E. Cordle, who is an inmate at Mansfield Reformitory [sic]. I pulled Cordle’s package and it reflects he has been sent up for 4-25 years. On 4-9-76 for Aggravated Robbery.” Note: Dennis Cordle is elsewhere described as the victim’s grandson, apparently the correct descriptor. Again, none of this, including presence of blood outside the room, was brought out at trial.

7. Supplemental crime report, submitted by Det. Charles Perdeau. This report describes meeting Otis Moses, a case work supervisor at the Ohio Youth Commission. Moses retrieved Morris’ property from the Y, including a green shirt that the author notes, “could have been the shirt that Morris was wearing on the night of the murder. According to the witness Percy Wright, he saw a black man in the victims [sic] room and thought he was wearing a pea green shirt. The shirt recovered from Morris’ property is a dark green. I went to the YMCA with the idea of showing Percy Wright the shirt to see if he could identify it. I found that Percy Wright has moved out of the YMCA on Sept. 9, 1977 and left no forwarding address. I checked with Toledo Metro Park System where Wright was last employed. I talked to Ranger Donahue who was Wrights [sic] boss. He said that Wright only worked three days. He didn’t show up for work two or three times, then called and said he had to leave town because he beat up on some guy. Ranger Donahue said that Wright got his money for the three days work and they have not seen him since. I place [sic] the shirt in the property room. This was marked with a O M by Otis Moses and a C.P. for Det. Charles Perdeau. Moses was not called as a witness. 

8. The supplemental crime reports regarding the arrests of Michael Ustaszewski and Michael Morris (which occurred separately) are almost impossible to read. One line of particular interest that I can barely make out is that Ustaszewski appears to have been administered a polygraph exam by a “technician Alexander.” Three lines or so after that appear to refer to the exam, but are illegible. The last page ends with “homicide, then asked at this point to speak to his attorney. All questions at this time ceased and Mr. Ustaszewski was returned to the County Jail.” Ustaszewski said that a polygraph had been administered and I believe he said that they told him he failed, but it is never mentioned elsewhere. I don’t know what was permitted in 1977 re polygraph; I know that it was raised in Morris’ trial by his attorney, Paul Geller. If Ustaszewski did take a polygraph that implicated him, why wasn’t it brought out in trial? And, if he took one and “passed,” or it was inconclusive, why wasn’t that brought out in trial, if permitted?

9. Supplemental crime report, narrative report of a conversation with Mrs. Delores Carpenter, 2758 Lagrange Street, stepdaughter to the deceased, taken on 8/28/77. “She said that after the furnal [sic] and during the gathering of family and friends at one of the homes, a Belinda Clifton, W. F., who lives somewhere on Pickel Rd., address unknown, 20 yrs, who is a half sister to Dennis Cordel [sic], she is described as, “W.F., 20, 5’2”, dark brown hair, and four and one half months pregnant, employed as a Go-Go dancer at a [sic] unknown location, stated during a conversation that she remembers that back in 1971 she remembers that both Hanna and Confer [described elsewhere] were over to Henry Cordel’s [sic] home when he lived at 5622 Bannockburn Dr., both were high at the time on drugs. They came over to see Dennis, and while they were there they have Henry a hassle and as a result Henry told them to leave the home or he would call the police. They left but as they were going they threatened to get the old man. Dennis at that time told them that they would not get him while he was around. They told him that he would not always be around. She does not know how much truth there is to this information, but wanted to pass it along to see if there was anything to it. It does not appear that Hanna, Jim could have been at the residence as stated by this witness as he was in prison at the time. However, the witness further indicated that one of the Confer’s [sic] used to hang around the Monroe bar since Mr. Cordel [sic] moved into the Y.M.C.A. and it might be worth looking into this man.” This report appears to have been initialed by “N.M.” but the full name is illegible. Although I don't believe any of this information is probably relevant to the investigation, why wasn't it raised at trial and/or someone subpoenaed as a witness regarding these conflicts?

10. Document in which the top is illegible; some kind of supplemental report. This document contains information regarding the desk clerks who worked the weekend of 20-21 August. Harold Beat, a 74 year old man described as “very sharp,” said that “the night was on the quiet side, but that he did remember that a black man in his twenty’s [sic] dressed in dark clothes came running down the stairway sometime between 0200 and 0400 hours. He came down the stairway or the elevator. Mr. Beat was not sure of which. Joe Soinski, resident in room 534, then came running down the stairway which exits in front of the desk. Mr. Beat told him that the guy just went out the front door. Soinski then went back upstairs. He did not say anything to Mr. Beat. Mr. Beat said he would not know the black man if he saw him again.” Beat was not called as a witness.

11. The report includes the following: “On 8/23/77, June Kramer, the desk clerk manager, called me and said she had Kodak Instamatic 124 camera and two rolls of film. This property was turned in by a guest who found it under a stairway at the rear of the YMCA. She does not know the guest’s name, but she will try to get it the next time he comes in. He does not live at the YMCA. The camera was dusted for prints with negative results by Officer Maholak of the Bureau of Identification. The film was taken to Gross Photo to be developed.” On 8/24/77, June Kramer called me [Perdeau?] and said that at 1430 hours she got a call at the desk. She said the caller was a black man and said, “is this the desk clerk.” [sic] June Kramer said, “yes, it is.” The caller then said, “you keep your mouth shut, baby.” Then he hung up the phone. June said she did not recognize the voice. Though Kramer was a witness, this call was not raised at trial.

12. The report also describes an interview with Joseph Soinski, white male, 23, 10/3/53, and resident of room 534, about the incident that desk clerk Beat reported. The interview with Soinski states that an unknown black male had been his room around 2:30 am and had tried to take small bag of marijuana from one of the other two men in the room with him. “Soinski put this black man out of room and shut the door. About five minutes later, somebody in the hallway yelled, “I'll get you.” Soinski said he jumped up and went out into the hall to see who said that, but the person was going down the elevator. Soinski said he ran down the steps to the first floor to see who it was, but the man had gone out the front door." The other two men in the room showed up when Soinski was being interviewed and corroborated his story saying they didn't know the unidentified black man. The police are alleged to have tried to contact Soinski again only to have been told by his parents that he had "joined the circus." Soinski, it appears, still lives in Toledo. Thus, Soinski was not called as a witness.

13. The report also describes an interview with Percy Wright, a “colored [sic] male, 22 years (9/7/54). The report states, “I talked to Percy Wright in room 304. [Victim's room was 325] . . . Mr. Wright said that on Sunday morning, 8/21/77, at 0330 hours he came home to the YMCA. He said that he had been out drinking and dancing. When he came home it was raining and Mr. Wright went to his room and took off his wet clothes. He put on his bath robe and was going to the first floor to get a half pint of milk out of the machine. Mr. Wright said that as he walked by the victim's room, he noticed the door open about two inches and the light was on. Mr. Wright said he looked in as he walked by and he could see and black male with and [sic] afro wearing a pea green shirt. As he looked into the room, the door closed. Mr. Wright went down and got his milk and then returned to his room. When he walked by the victim's room this time, the door was open about three or four inches and the light was out. Mr. Wright said he did not see anything so he went to his room, which is about fifteen feet up the hall on the opposite side. Mr. Wright said he left his door wide open and drank his milk. He said he heard the victim's door close so he looked out into the hallway, but he did not see anyone. Mr. Wright then closed his door [illegible]. Mr. Wright said he did not get a look at the face of the colored male that was in the room. He said that he was sure that the man had an afro that was combed and it was fairly long. Mr. Wright said he would not know this man because he did not get a look at his face.” This information contradicts Morris' testimony regarding both the time of the crime and how long he was in the victim's room. Wright was not called as a witness.

Note: Although a search on the actual name of the informant may reveal a cached version of the blog that provides his real name, I've changed it here because I know that he spends a fair amount of time online. He may already have read the blog. But, he's one twisted SOB and I figure since his name is irrelevant to getting the word out, might as well leave it out of publicly available materials.

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