Forensic Files - Constructive Criticism (The Darrell North Murder)   View more episodes

Aired at 10:30 PM on Friday, Aug 06, 2010 (8/6/2010)      View all transcripts from this day


00:00:00Darrell was basically mentoring curtis into the constructi business.
00:00:07He stayed approximately 20, 25 minutes.
00:00:10He left darrell.
00:00:11Darrell said he was going to wait out the rain and let the traffic die down before he headed home.
00:00:18>> Narrator: Darrell's wife told police curtis pope could not be the killer.
00:00:25>> Curtis pope had done some repair work on our pool.
00:00:29I said, "please don't spend your time looking at curtis pope.
00:00:34He did not kill darrell.
00:00:36Please spend your time looking " >> Narrator: Pope was distraught over darrell's murder.
00:00:45>> He came through the receiving line crying, and I thought he was so touched by darrell's death.
00:00:53And he said, "i loved darrell.
00:00:55He was betteto me than my own " >> Narrator: Pope was 40 years old, married, with a young daughter.
00:01:04He did, however, have a police record consisting of arrests for petty theft.
00:01:09Since he was the last-known person to see darrell alive, he was automatically considered a suspect.
00:01:17Pope agreed to take a polygraph ..and passed.
00:01:22>> It's not likely that somebody could come in and intentionally be untruthful and still pass a polygraph test.
00:01:29>> Narrator: The next suspect was bob johnson, a roofing contractor.
00:01:33Darrell fired johnson just two weeks before his murder.
00:01:37>> He was upset that he wasn't going to continue to work there because, according to him, darrell had promised him continued work.
00:01:49>> Narrator: Darrell's family never met johnson, but they'd heard of him.
00:01:53>> Darrell had mentioned that he had had some problems with him.
00:01:58He usually didn't bring his problems home, and so since it was something that he had shared with me, I thought it was probably serious.
00:02:08>> Narrator: Incredibly, jt two days after darrell's murder, johnson called asking to get his job back.
00:02:15>> The superintendent felt like it was odd that bob johnson was calling there, "when can I come to work" after the fact -- after darrell's been murdered, because his belief was that darrell didn't want him there.
00:02:27>> Narrator: Johnson said that on the day of the murder, he was with his c hospital.
00:02:33This was verified, but he still had time to commit the murder.
00:02:38>> The alibi wasn't sufficient enough in my mind to totally exclude him.
00:02:44>> Narrator: But like curtis pope, he, too, passed a polygraph examination.
00:02:49Is just a tool.
00:02:51It's not 100% reliable.
00:02:53That's why it's not admissible in a court.
00:02:56>> If it hadn't have rained, maybe we could have gotten fingerprints, but you can't focus on what wecouldhave had.
00:03:01You got to find what you do have.
00:03:03>> Narrator: Investigators needed forensic evidence to solve this crime, and hoped to find some of it at the scene.
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00:06:16>> Narrator: Darrell north's murder was so violent that forensic tests were needed to make sense of what happened.
00:06:25>> We had numerous types of bloodstains.
00:06:28They included passive blood drops.
00:06:31We had smears, transfers, and, frankly, there was so much blood that you'd be hard-pressed to try to classify some of it as to how it got there.
00:06:40>> We took many samples.
00:06:42We took 23 samples of blood from various different parts of that crime scene.
00:06:47>> Narrator: They first had to determine if all the blood had come from darrell north.
00:06:53>> When the assailant is wielding a knife and he stabs a victim, oftentimes that knife blade hits bone and it stops.
00:07:02And oftentimes the killer's hand continues its movement and it slides down the blade and can cut the assailant.
00:07:11>> Narrator: The other clue they looked for was shoe prints.
00:07:16With so much blood, both the killer and the victim would have stepped in it.
00:07:21Crime-scene technician jim varnon found several shoe prints and tried to enhance them with a special dye.
00:07:30>> Amido black works because it stains proteins, and it's applied to a protein stain, in this case, a bloodstain.
00:07:36A footwear impression in blood or fingerprints, latent prints, in blood can be enhanced with this substance.
00:07:43>> Narrator: In several of the enhanced prints, analysts could clearly see the word "justin," a well-known brand of texas-made boots.
00:07:53>> We knew that these footwear impressions in blood that had the pattern of a justin heel was most likely going to be from our assailant, because it did not match the only other bleeder at that crime scene, which was our victim.
00:08:08Rtunately, these boots weren't unique.
00:08:12>> How common are they?
00:08:13You're probably not from here if you don't have a pair.
00:08:17>> Narrator: And it was impossible to tell the size of the boot from the print.
00:08:22>> In a justin boot heel, it is possible that you're going to have one physical size that would overlap into several different boot sizes so that you're not going to be able to tell the precise size of the boot by looking at the size of the heel.
00:08:37>> Narrator: Nevertheless, investigators asked both suspects, bob johnson and pool contractor curtis pope, if they owned a pair of justin-brand boots.
00:08:48Bob johnson owned a pair, but the heel of his boots was larger than those at the scene.
00:08:56Curtis pope also owned a pair of justin-brand boots, which appeared to be new, and willingly turned them over to investigators.
00:09:03>> In this case, my result was inconclusive.
00:09:06I could not eliminate or identify the boot as having made that mark.
00:09:11>> Narrator: When investigators talked with pope about his boots, they noticed something they hadn't seen before -- some bruising under his eye.
00:09:23>> He had some darkness under his left eye.
00:09:26There was no cut, but it was a slight bruising.
00:09:30>> Narrator: A background check revealed pope's business was faltering.
00:09:34>> He had a reputation of just not being very good at what he did, as far as the construction of these swimming pools.
00:09:42>> Narrator: Pope's business records indicated he was deeply in debt, wasn't able to pay his suppliers, and the only big client he had left was darrell north.
00:09:54If darrell fired pope during their meeting, it would have been the end of pope's company.
00:10:01>> Pope's finances were in terrible shape.
00:10:04He was on the fine edge of disaster all the time.
00:10:07>> Narrator: With a warrant, investigators searched pope's home computer and found something suspicious.
00:10:14>> Someone on that computer had visited a website on how to beat a polygraph and had, in fact, paid money to download a book on how to beat it.
00:10:24>> Narrator: As testing continued on the bloodstains on the floor of the crime scene, investigators noticed one blood drop on darrell north's pants that they had previously overlooked.
00:10:36>> There was a vertical drop on the back left pant leg of darrell north while he's laying on the floor.
00:10:44>> Narrator: The shape of the drop was perfectly round, meaning that the origin of the blood was stationary and hit the fabric at a 90-degree angle.
00:10:55>> The significance of such a drop falling and hitting the pants perpendicularly while north is on the floor is that it would mean that the assailant was standing above him, bleeding on him, after he has been attacked.
00:11:09So it puts a sequencing to the events.
00:11:12>> Narrator: Max courtney cut out the stain and submitted it for dna testing.
00:11:18Investigators found five other drops of blood at the scene, perfectly round, in between darrell's body and the door.
00:11:28Y not let's just test these five particular drops of blood that we know or we feel like didn't come from " >> Narrator: Tests confirmed the blood was not darrell north's.
00:11:41There was only one question that remained -- who left the blood, one of the two suspects or someone else?
00:14:38>> Narrator: This tiny drop of blood on the back of darrell north's pants told an important story.
00:14:44Since the blood hit darrell's pants at a 90-degree angle, it meant the killer was standing over darrell's body while he was bleeding from his own wound, and he continued to bleed as he left the scene.
00:14:59>> When we observed those vertical drops of blood leading north's body, that was a very significant thing for us to find, because we knew then that the killer's dna was going to be present on that scene.
00:15:11>> Narrator: And there was a possible explanation for how the killer was injured -- the dented two-hole paper-punch unit found near darrell north's body.
00:15:22Darrell may have used it to defend himself, causing an injury -- a facial cut or nosebleed.
00:15:29To identify the killer, dna samples were collected from the two suspects, bob johnson and curtis pope.
00:15:38Dna testing revealed it was curtis pope's blood at the crime scene.
00:15:47>> If darrell north had not taken some steps to defend himself, causing him to bleed, this case wouldn't have been solved.
00:15:55>> Would have never dreamed that firing somebody would cause somebody to, you know, go postal.
00:16:02>> Narrator: Darrell's family couldn't believe that the man whom darrell had mentored in business and treated in many ways like a son could have done this.
00:16:12>> Not until the day they came out here to the house and told me that it was his dna that had been identified did I really believe.
00:16:22>> Narrator: The bruises police noticed under pope's eye were probably the result of the fight.
00:16:27>> And I was able to examine his arms and his hands for injuries.
00:16:32He didn't have any.
00:16:34There was no cuts.
00:16:35>> Narrator: On the night of darrell north's murder, the dallas-fort worth area was hit with a driving rainstorm, causing flash floods and power outages.
00:16:46The storm was so bad, darrell sent his construction crew home early.
00:16:52But he stayed behind because he appointment with curtis pope.
00:16:59They were going to discuss quality problems with the swimming pool pope was installing at the hotel.
00:17:06Pope was having financial problems.
00:17:08His company was headed towards bankruptcy, and darrell north was his only large client, although it's unclear whether darrell knew this.
00:17:19>> Are you firing me?
00:17:20>> Yes, I am.
00:17:22>> Narrator: No one knows what the two men said to each other, but prosecutors believe curtis pope snapped and attacked darrell with a knife.
00:17:32>> Sit back down!
00:17:35>> Narrator: Darrell was caught off guard and struck pope in the face with a paper punch, causing the nosebleed.
00:17:43Pope stabdarrell over 40 times.
00:17:49As he lay dying on the floor, a drop of blood from pope's nose fell onto darrell's pants.
00:17:57And he continued to bld as he left the scene.
00:18:02 pope might have been able to come up with an explanation about how some of the other drops of blood got in the trailer on that particular night, but there's no way he could have explained away how his blood was dripped onto darrell north's pants.
00:18:15>> We knew we had eliminated any possible innocent explanation for his blood being at the scene, and we felt like we had him.
00:18:23>> Narrator: Curtis pope was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
00:18:28He posted bail, but on the first day of his trial, pope didn't show up.
00:18:34>> We learned through an informant that he was headed toward canada.
00:18:41>> Narrator: That afternoon, police in watertown, new york, just 25 miles from the canadian border, stopped a car from driving the wrong way down a one-way street.
00:18:52It was curtis pope.
00:18:54He tried to run, but was arrested at a shopping center.
00:18:59Curtis pope was returned to texas.
00:19:03He stood trial and was convicted of he was sentenced to life in prison.
00:19:10>> There is nothing good about curtis pope.
00:19:13I just think he's a sociopath and an endangerment to society.
00:19:18>> Narrator: It was an unusually bloody crime scene, but darrell north unwittingly provided the evidence needed to convict his killer.
00:19:29>> He probably bloodied curtis pope's nose.
00:19:34We have always thought darrell helped to convict curtis pope.
00:19:38>> The forensic evidence in this case was absolutely the linchpin of the entire case.
00:19:45>> This case stands out to me because it is one of the best of the uses of dna combined with bloodstain-pattern analysis where, working together, the two show who the blood came from and provide a scenario by which it possibly got there.
00:20:07>> Narrator: A husband gunned down on his anniversary.
00:20:11>> There had been no chance of surviving either shot.
00:20:14>> Narrator: A young family shattered by tragedy.
00:20:17>> He never did anything to anybody.
00:20:19>> Narrator: But investigators are suspicious.
00:20:22>> Something's not right immediately.
00:20:28>> Narrator: A depraved secret ..
00:20:32>> They began to make films of their sexual escapades.
00:20:36>> Narrator:..And a deadly plot revealed.
00:20:43>> It is absolutely diabolical.
00:21:10>> It can be the clearest day and the most beautiful day on the beach.
00:21:16But something happens whenever you pass 77th avenue.
00:21:20It's almost like the air gets extra thick.
00:21:25It will never be the same for me, knowing what happened there that night.
00:21:41It was a very typical night on the beach -- partially clear, good moon, little bit of wind.
00:21:50I' got my lights on.
00:21:51I usually ride about three or four miles an hour, ni slow, because we do have lots of people come up asking questions.
00:21:58>> Narrator: It's a busy shift, but the incidents are normally minor.
00:22:02>> Anything from petty larceny to assaults that may occur.
00:22:09Lots of fireworks calls.
00:22:10>> Narrator: It's just before midnight when brown reaches a quiet residential section of the beach.
00:22:16>> Here, a woman comes walking from the front of my headlights on the driver's side.
00:22:20I thought shto ask me a question, just like most people do.
00:22:24Shaking a little bit, had her hands muffled over her face.
00:22:29And I was expecting, "i've lost my child.
00:22:32" and she hits m"someone " my immediate response was, " I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
00:22:43She pointed headlights, down towards the water.
00:22:51And I saw something on the beach.
00:22:59It was a white male that had been, obviously, shot in the head.
00:23:03>> Narrator: Brown immediately radios for help.
00:23:07>> I've got shots fired.
00:23:08I've got one on the ground.
00:23:09I need some backup.
00:23:13>> We heard over the radio there were shots fired on a beach.
00:23:17We said, "no.
00:23:18" >> when you hear "10-3," you automatically start to listen.
00:23:26>> 10-3. 10-3.
00:23:26>> 10-3 Means something serious is going on.
00:23:33>> And then we heard some more that scott needed help.
00:23:38, and he needed detectives down there.
00:23:47>> Narrator: Detectives altman and joyce head for the scene, where brown is assessing thevictim's injuries.
00:23:55>> Being shot like he had been shot, I didn't try to render any assistance.
00:24:00He's been shot in the head.
00:24:02I fear for our safety now.
00:24:04My immediate concern was, I look like a deer in headlights here.
00:24:07I've got floodlights on me.
00:24:10glowing in the dark out here, and i thought the person that had done the shooting was still in the immediate area.
00:24:23>> Narrator: Brown quickly usrs the woman into his truck and cuts the lights.
00:24:30>> Let's protect this woman HERE, PROTECT MYSELF.r: 21-Year-old renee poole tells officer brown that she and her husband, brent, came to myrtle beach to celebrate their third wedding anniversary.
00:24:41She says they were taking a romantic stroll when they were attacked.
00:24:49Officers arrive and set up around the crime scene.
00:24:54Renee, meanwhile, tells brown that a masked man came up to them, forced them to lie on the beach, demanded her jewelry, and took her husband's wallet.
00:25:03Moments later, she says, he shot brent twice in the head and then ran off.
00:25:16An ambulance arrives, and brent, still clinging to life, is rushed to a hospital.
00:25:21Police fan out, desperate to track down the shooter before he can attack again.
00:25:40>> I'm askin, "what did " to try to get a description so I can immediately get that out.
00:25:46>> Narrator: Renee says she couldn't see any of the man's features.
00:25:49>> Wearing all black with a black ski mask.
00:25:52That's really the only description.
00:26:09>> The dogs came down to the beach and went to the wooded area in the direction that we got the information that the shooter ran to.
00:26:20>> Narrator: But whoever shot brent poole has managed to slip the police dragnet.
00:26:35And whatever clues he may have left have been compromised.
00:26:38>> I knew the ambulance people had already been down there and everything was just kicked around, tousled around.
00:26:44>> There's a lot of foot tracks on the beach, so as far as a crime scene for evidence, it was kind of messed up.
00:26:52>> We were trying our best to preserve what we had, 'cause we did have blood, we did find a couple shells.
00:27:02>> Narrator: The 9-millimeter shells are live -- possible misfires.
00:27:06Police also find a bea towel, but there's little else to go on.
00:27:11And as brent poole arrives at the emergency room, police don't have a single lead on what appears to be a puzzling and tragic case.
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