Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Arrogant cops thought they knew who the murderer was and ignored other clear possibilities

Three current persons of interest in the death of 16-year-old Kimberly Simon were questioned by police within the year after she was killed in 1985, current investigators said. But for reasons that still remain unclear today, past investigators instead turned their attention to 19-year-old Steven Barnes, who was released from prison in late 2008 after DNA proved his innocence.

It would take nearly 25 years before those same past suspects now once again find themselves linked to Simon's homicide. Less than a week after Saturday's “America's Most Wanted” aired a program on the Simon's case, Oneida County District Attorney's Investigator Richard Ferrucci on Tuesday shared new details about what the 16-month investigation has uncovered so far.

What unfolded the night Simon died? Simon was last seen leaving her River Road home shortly before 6 p.m. Sept. 18, 1985, as she walked to meet friends at the Whitesboro Junior High School on Route 69. Simon never made it, and instead she likely snuck away to a popular hangout spot along the Sauquoit Creek in New York Mills known as “Three Bears,” named after a stone structure that resembled something out of a fairy tale, investigators said.

There, Simon likely spent the last hours of her life with at least four young males known for satanic rituals, investigators said. As another young girl at the time watched from behind the bushes, she reportedly saw one member of the group have sex with an unconscious Simon. “Were they true Satanists? No, I believe they were cowards using this as a guise to drug and sexually abuse young women,” Ferrucci said. “I just think this was their way of trying to make people afraid of them.” It's those “sick and demented” individuals - now in their 40s - whom investigators have focused on since Barnes was exonerated.

Whatever occurred in the hours after Simon was seen unconscious at Three Bears until her partially clothed body was found nearly 4 miles away the next day is a mystery investigators continue to face. While Simon might have been drugged that night, a bruise on her face suggests she was struck at some point, investigators say. One of Simon's shoes reportedly seen downstream from Three Bears also might be a clue about how things unfolded that night.

Simon's body likely was driven in unknown vehicle and carried into a wooded area along the Mohawk River in Marcy, not too far from where she was last seen walking the evening before. Her arm was stiffened upwards with rigor mortis, which suggested she had been dead for some time in another position.

The horrific screams of a female were reportedly heard after 1 a.m. that night in another popular hangout spot known as the “Water Tower” behind the Hart's Hill Elementary School on Clinton Street, investigators said. This location was about 2 miles south from where Simon's body was discovered. Shredded papers from Simon's purse also were scattered along both sides of Clinton Street, less than a mile away from Three Bears, investigators said. This suggests the suspects might have tossed Simon's belongings out a car window either before or after they disposed of her body.

Police believe another female - Allison Scranton, who attended New Hartford High School -spent time with one person of interest that night. Investigators confirmed Tuesday that Scranton died in December 1997, but Ferrucci still would like to talk to anyone who knew Scranton or has any information about what Scranton might have witnessed that night.

Investigators also still question what another youth, Michele Mikalajunas of Whitesboro, might have known about Simon's death before she committed suicide less than a month later in October 1985. Both girls were students in the Whitesboro Central School District. “We have reason to believe that Michele might have held some information pertaining to what happened to Kim Simon,” but it is unclear whether she attended the Three Bears party that night, Ferrucci said.

What did past investigators know? Shortly after Simon's death, former investigators with the Oneida County Sheriff's Office were made aware of the same group of youths and disturbing behavior that today's investigators are targeting, Ferrucci said. In fact, the past investigators talked to two of the suspects in 1985 and a third suspect in 1986, Ferrucci said.

One of the first tips past investigators probed in 1985 was that Simon had been seen with this group of interest at a hotel party the previous Friday, Sept. 13, 1985, Ferrucci said. That initially led investigators to two current suspects, one of which admitted at the time that he knew Simon, that she had been to his house at least once, and that they partied together, Ferrucci said.

A third suspect was questioned less than a year later in 1986 when he reportedly signed a letter threatening to kill the young girl who witnessed what was going on at Three Bears that night. Although, at the time, the girl only told police she was being threatened by the group responsible for Simon's death, it wasn't until after Barnes was exonerated in 2008 that she acknowledged seeing someone having sex with Simon.

The past investigators, however, never documented what they concluded after talking with these three suspects back then, Ferrucci said. And today, those past investigators haven't been able to explain why they didn't pursue those suspects further. “It wasn't done maliciously, I just believe that in their hearts and in their minds they believed they were tracking the right person,” referring to Barnes, Ferrucci said.

Simon's parents, William and Cheryl Simon, also received threatening notes and phone calls even after Barnes was in jail, Ferrucci said. Although the Simons say they turned those letters over to past investigators, Ferrucci said the letters have not yet been found.

What are the current obstacles? Investigators still are awaiting final DNA test results to determine whether any DNA recovered from Simon's body matches any persons of interest or anyone who has been in the prison system. One person of interest - Richard W. Miller Jr. - has since died in February. It still is unclear how that may affect the outcome of this case.

Several people also have come forward with information that they overheard certain persons of interest openly speak about their role in Simon's death, Ferrucci said. But because some of those conversations occurred so many years ago, Ferrucci said it is a challenge today to verify those allegations.

But considering how a previous rush to judgment played a role in Barnes' wrongful conviction, Ferrucci said he has no choice but to be patient this time for the sake of Simon's family. “A previous conviction in this case is the biggest obstacle to overcome, but we are going to do it,” Ferrucci said. “It just makes everything so much harder.”

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress. If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where posts appear as well as on the primary site. I have reposted the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts HERE or HERE


Anonymous said...

Nice article, the whole case is fascinating since I know a lot of the key players. The police work was the very shoddy and they could have cracked the case back in 85 if they weren't all wrapped up with charging that patsy for the murder.

Franklin Potter said...

Why don't you reveal who you are, and you find this to be fascinating, I can read right through your subliminal message and I sense you know more than just the key players, I think you are one of the main player's