A CSI Scandal in the Heartland
Publication Year: 2014
The remote farming community of Murdock, Nebraska, seemed to be the least likely setting for one of the heartland’s most ruthless and bloody double murders in decades. In fact, the little town had gone more than a century without a single homicide. But on the night of Easter 2006, Wayne and Sharmon Stock were brutally murdered in their home. The murders garnered sensational frontpage headlines and drew immediate statewide attention. Practically everybody around Murdock was filled with fear, panic, and outrage. Who killed Wayne and Sharmon Stock? What was the motive? The Stocks were the essence of Nebraska’s all-American farm family, self-made, God-fearing, and of high moral character. Barely a week into this double murder investigation, two arrests brought a sense of relief to the victims’ family and to local residents. The case appeared to fall neatly into place when a tiny speck of murder victim Wayne Stock’s blood appeared in the alleged getaway car.
Then, an obscure clue left at the crime scene took the investigation down a totally different path, stretching into Iowa, Louisiana, New York, Texas, and Wisconsin. By the time this investigation was over, the charges against the original suspects were dismissed and two new individuals emerged from the shadows.
Author John Ferak covered the Stock murders from the very beginning, including all of the trial proceedings. When the criminal prosecution finally ended in 2007, he remained puzzled by one nagging question: Why was the blood of victim Wayne Stock in a car that was ultimately proven to have no connection to the murders?
Over the next few years, the astonishing “bloody lies” were revealed, culminating in a law enforcement scandal that turned the case on its head and destroyed the career of Nebraska’s celebrated CSI director, David Kofoed.
Published by: The Kent State University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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For most citizens, it is counterintuitive, at the very least, that an innocent person who is not insane or subjected to torture or physical abuse would falsely confess to a crime. That is one of the reasons the issue of false confessions remains a vastly misunderstood or unappreciated issue in the American system of criminal justice...
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1. Easter Massacres
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It was Easter Sunday night, April 16, 2006, in a remote section of Cass County,
A visitor strolled up to Wayne and Sharmon Stock’s impressive, tan, twostory farmhouse on a desolate stretch of gravel road. It was none other than Charlie, the friendly mixed-breed dog belonging to the Stocks’ son Andy and...
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Back at the Cass County Law Enforcement Center in downtown Plattsmouth,
a seasoned sheriff’s lieutenant scrambled to call David Wayne Kofoed, who
was thirty miles away in northwest Omaha.
By 2006, Kofoed was a larger-than-life figure in Nebraska’s law enforcement community even though he did not carry a badge or possess a firearm...
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The Douglas County mobile crime lab van kicked up dust as it sped along
the gravel roads past miles and miles of farmland, an hour from Omaha.
Finally, they came upon a very tidy country farm, a most unusual setting for the CSI team. “You’re talking about a farmhouse in the middle of nothing,” remarked Douglas County criminalist Don Veys.1...
4. Mystery Car
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Within days of the slayings, an unexpected tip came into the Cass County Sheriff’s Office. Justin Hergenrader and girlfriend Tamarra Jeffrey thought they spotted Wayne and Sharmon Stock’s killer speeding away from the murders. The young couple had a rural newspaper delivery route for the...
5. No Luck
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Under Kofoed’s careful watch and direct supervision, forensic scientist Christine Gabig cut out small pieces of floor carpeting and seats for further laboratory tests. She examined all of the obvious locations for blood, including the steering wheel, door handles, gas and brake pedals, gear shifts, and...
6. Case Solved
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Tuesday, April 25, marked the eighth full day since the farmhouse murders,
and both lead investigators had grown sick and tired of their lead suspect’s
prolonged denials of guilt.
That afternoon, Earl Schenck and Bill Lambert pulled into the concrete driveway of Matt Livers’s house in Lincoln. The young man, who had no...
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Matt Livers’s new reality settled in and smacked him like a brick in the face.
No more home-cooked dinners at his parents’ house in Lincoln. No more lounging on his sofa to cheer for Tony Stewart or Dale Earnhardt Jr. during NASCAR season. Dreams of marrying his longtime sweetheart...
8. Odd Find
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On the third day of the double murder investigation, the Douglas County crime lab packed up its crime-fighting tools. Kofoed and his fellow CSIs returned to Omaha after having spent three long, exhausting days and nights of processing the Stocks’ bloody farmhouse. Unbeknownst to anybody...
9. Ring of Truth
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Dave Kofoed assigned Christine Gabig to track the engraved ring’s origin. Gabig, a trace evidence expert, seemed right for the task. She was like a dog on a bone, Kofoed remembered. She scoured jewelry books and magazines to understand the significance of the serial imprint on the ring bearing the letters and numerals AAJ10K. She discovered that the last three symbols...
10. Leopold and Loeb
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Greg Fester had led a train wreck of a life growing up between the communities of Beaver Dam and Horicon in southcentral Wisconsin. His criminal history could be traced back to age ten. At twelve, Fester confronted two students at his middle school with a twelve-inch butcher knife. By the time...
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It took homicide investigators Bill Lambert and Earl Schenck about eight hours to drive from Omaha to Juneau, Wisconsin, to confront the unfamiliar teenagers whose own DNA put them at the scene of the Stock murders. Lambert and Schenck convinced themselves the creepy teenagers had to be...
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A half-dozen Wisconsin police officers swarmed A. J. Wilson’s house in Horicon on the afternoon of June 6, 2006, seeking access to a black cellular phone in Jessica Reid’s bedroom and other potential clues. As the officers milled through the house, A. J. led them to a package hidden in a dining...
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Back in Plattsmouth, Nebraska, the Cass County Courthouse sent a belated
press release on late Friday afternoon, June, 9, 2006.
“On June 8, 2006, the Cass County Attorney’s Office charged both Jessica M. Reid and Gregory D. Fester II with two counts of first-degree murder and...
14. Ransom Theory
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In the 1990s, Patrick “Ryan” Paulding and Matt Livers became best friends in their high school’s special education program back in Abilene, Texas. Paulding and Livers both had IQs of about 70, making them borderline for a diagnosis of mild mental retardation. Ryan’s father considered his own son’s...
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The Cass County cops continued to fail in their efforts to link the Nebraska cousins to the new defendants from Wisconsin. Absolutely nothing added up after months of feeble attempts. The summer’s blockbuster arrests of Fester and Reid sparked frank discussion in Nebraska’s small-town coffee shops...
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Even though Nick Sampson was released from jail, law enforcement in Cass County still hoped to send Matt Livers to Nebraska’s death row or prison for the rest of his life despite a plethora of compelling evidence lined up against the two Wisconsin teenagers...
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Officials in the Cass County Sheriff’s Office were angry with Cass County Attorney Nathan Cox’s decision to dismiss double murder charges against Matt Livers and set him free. But Cox, a noble and honest man, made the right call in the end, and that’s what really mattered most. An innocent man...
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Practically everyone in Nebraska who followed Dave Kofoed’s career at the Douglas County Sheriff’s crime lab was totally ignorant of Kofoed’s shady past. His dark side precipitated his employment into CSI police work, which began around 1990...
19. Deep Throat
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Darnel Kush had battled and survived cancer. She was a devoted parent and dedicated public servant. She mostly worked behind the scenes as an evidence technician, gathering and processing clues from various crimes investigated mainly across metropolitan Omaha...
20. Smell Test
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The recovery of Wayne Stock’s blood did not pass the smell test with the FBI.
The FBI found it suspicious that Kofoed, as head of the crime lab, would go ahead and perform a second search of Will Sampson’s car several days after he had supervised a tedious and exhaustive search of the very same car that found...
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By 2009, a top-secret, federal grand jury probe consisting of sixteen citizens
was reviewing the 2006 Murdock double murder case. On March 19, the
target of the federal grand jury’s investigation agreed to appear and testify.
“Mr. Witness, will you please state your name and spell your last name?”...
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The federal indictment against Kofoed greatly disappointed Nick Sampson’s
former public defender Jerry Soucie, who went so far as to predict Kofoed’s
acquittal months before the trial got underway.
“Kofoed has now been indicted and charged in federal and state court with allegations that can be described as ‘bad note taking practices’ that would...
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Special Prosecutor Clarence Mock went for broke. He built his entire case against Kofoed on the premise that the legendary CSI chief not only planted blood in the Murdock murders but also planted blood to frame a notorious, confessed child killer from Cass County back in 2003...
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The ruling came as a shocker.
Judge Rehmeier found clear and convincing evidence that Kofoed acted with knowledge and intent to fabricate murder victim Brendan Gonzalez’s blood sample. Equally relevant, the prosecution firmly established “independent relevance” to rebut the defendant’s claims of accidental or crosscontamination...
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As CSI supervisor, Kofoed hired and trained the young men and women who came to work for him. Many of the most gullible ones were about half his age. They staunchly refused to believe the allegations that their boss was a crook. This obstacle presented a significant hurdle for Special Prosecutor Clarence Mock during his prosecution of their boss...
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Folksy lawyer Steve Lefler tried to stir the waters of reasonable doubt in the judge’s mind. He offered several alternative theories to explain the blood’s recovery from the wrong getaway car. Lefler solicited the testimony of Kirby Drake, one of Sharmon Stock’s brothers, who had assured Cass County investigators...
27. The Cop
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The Lincoln Community Corrections Center sits on well-manicured grounds near a large recreational park along the southwest corner of Nebraska’s capital city of Lincoln. The exterior of the state institution resembles an upscale hotel and conference center because of its large windows and sloped roof. But...
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In October 2013, Matt Livers and Nick Sampson, the two Nebraska cousins who were wrongly accused of murdering Wayne and Sharmon Stock, reached a staggering $2.6 million out-of-court settlement to resolve their federal lawsuits...
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Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2014