Forensic Files - Dollars and Sense   View more episodes

Aired at 02:00 AM on Tuesday, Jul 20, 2010 (7/20/2010)      View all transcripts from this day


00:00:02But they weren't loud.
00:00:09>> Narrator: The three men drove off.
00:00:11And the next day, wesley person was dead.
00:00:18Police questioned wesley's family and learned that the men matching the description were wesley's longtime friends justin glover and lawrence murrell.
00:00:29Both men were in their early 20s AND, LIKE WESLEY, HAD MINOR Brushes with the law but had never served time and had no violent offenses.
00:00:41>> They had known each other for a very long time.
00:00:44From my understanding, they had known each other going back to when person lived in new york.
00:00:49>> Narrator: When questioned by police, both men denied any involvement in wesley's murder.
00:00:55They said they dropped wesley off at his house and that was the last time they saw him.
00:01:00>> Shopping bags of recent purchases from that morning that wesley had were found in the house.
00:01:07We feel certain that wesley person did make it back to the house.
00:01:10>> Narrator: Police obtained a search warrant and checked every room.
00:01:15>> We luminoled that house top to bottom.
00:01:18We could find nothing, absolutely nothing, in that house that gave us any indication that he was shot and killed there.
00:01:25>> Narrator: Police also checked lawrence murrell's car, the one wesley person got into after christmas shopping.
00:01:34>> We checked the trunk and the interior of the car for any evidence for a shooting scene, any evidence of trace blood or anything.
00:01:41Dn't find anything in the car.
00:01:43>> Narrator: Then, investigators found a potential clue.
00:01:49At wesley person's autopsy, they found some material inside the plastic tarp next to his body.
00:01:57>> The medical examiner finds that in the small of the victim's back was a great deal of construction debris that came out of the fire unscathed.
00:02:07>> Narrator: It consisted of small bits of painted drywall and some chunks of plaster.
00:02:17>> They were about the size of a thumbnail.
00:02:20But this plaster was not like normal plaster.
00:02:23>> Narrator: What made it abnormal were these threadlike strands embedded in every piece.
00:02:29>> I was saying, "hmm, I wonder what that is?
00:02:33Is this something that's " it was something I had never seen before, so it was my own curious nature that led me to pull it out of the sample and then look for it in other samples.
00:02:44>>rator: TRACE ANALYST Cassandra burke extracted these threads and viewed them at as soon as I looked at them under the microscope, I could tell they were animal hairs.
00:02:59>> Narrator: Prior to the 1940s, animal hairs were commonly used as a binding-and-strengthening this meant the murder site was probably in a house built before 1940.
00:03:14Unfortunately, there were thof them.
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00:05:47[ Cellphone ] HEY. WAIT.
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00:05:53[ chuckles nervously ] I LOVE THE BOOK CLUB.
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00:05:59YOU WANT TO GO SOMEWHERE? [ laughs ] Ow. ow. ow. this is where it goes.
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00:06:23>> Narrator: On the day wesley person went missing, his cousin told police wesley had been carrying a large amount of cash and left the shopping mall with his friends justin glover and lawrence murrell.
00:06:35But police wondered,hy did wesley person have so much cash, even though he was unemployed?
00:06:45A background check revealed wesley was being investigated for bank fraud by a local credit union, as were his friends justin glover and lawrence murrell.
00:06:59>> They were involved in a bank scheme, and essentially what the bank scheminvolved was using falsified records to obtain loans.
00:07:07And they would take the loan money and pocket it.
00:07:11>> Narrator: The alleged scam utilized a front person, usually a young woman looking to buy a used car.
00:07:17After getting a loan from the credit union, she wouldn't buy the car.
00:07:23Instead, she'd split the money with wesley person and his partners.
00:07:28When the loan wasn't repaid, the credit union couldn't repossess the car for nonpayment because no car had been purchased.
00:07:36The scam ruined the woman's credit rating, but wesley and his partners walked away unscathed.
00:07:44>> A lot of people in the banking community were giving out loans without a lot of background investigation.
00:07:52>> Narrator: During a 2-year period, wesley person and his two partners embezzled about $120,000.
00:08:02Was it possithat a falling-out among the three scam artists was the motive for murder?
00:08:08>> Disrespect always plays a big part in a lot of the murders that I've seen in this community.
00:08:13If these guys were pure businessmen, they wouldn't have killed him.
00:08:18>> Narrator: A background check of wesley's friends revealed an interesting coincidence.
00:08:24Lawrence murrell was involved in the construction business.
00:08:28He'd buy distressed residential properties in harrisburg, pennsylvania, fix them up, then sell them for a profit.
00:08:37>> The victim was wrapped in plastic -- construction plastic, plastic that would be consistent with someone who's rehabbing a house.
00:08:44>> Narrator: This also might explain the unusual plaster found with wesley's body.
00:08:52Could one of murrell's construction projects be the actual murder site?
00:08:58>> We found five properties listing him as the owner in harrisburg, pennsylvania.
00:09:04When we began looking at these properties, we were able to determine that three of those properties were vacant at the time of the murder.
00:09:12>> Narrator: The property that south 13th street in downtown harrisburg.
00:09:18Records showed it had been built 0s, AROUND THE SAMETIME BUILDERS USED ANIMAL-HAIR With wesley person's body.
00:09:32>> We were hoping for slugs.
00:09:33Ere hopi bulle weere hoping for anything we could get.
00:09:37We were unsuccessful.
00:09:38>> Narrator: Investigators sprayed lumino of lawrence murrell's construction property on south 13th street and ran into an unexpected problem.
00:09:48>> As we're looking at that, crime-lab techs are explaining to me that in harrisburg, their soil is iron-rich, and iron in itself will give false positives during a luminol test.
00:10:00>> Narrator: But in the basement, investigators found a pile of debris swept into a corner.
00:10:07They gathered everything and sent it to the forensic lab.
00:10:14Found pieces of drywall with the same blue-and-pink paint layers as the drywall found underneath wesley's body.
00:10:24>> What are the odds that you and I both went to home depot and bought the same paints all the time and painted our walls the same colors year after year were both samples the same paint?
00:10:40Analysts putsamples unde a scanning electron microscope.
00:10:46>> We are using the microscope and all of the features of the chemicalion of the paint.
00:10:56>> Narrator: The chemical structures in both samples were identical.
00:11:01Scientists also found animal-hair pl but this wasn't justanyanimal hair.
00:11:09The animal hair in the plaster found underneath wesley's body had something in common with the animal hair in the plaster from the renovated house.
00:11:21>> I was able to say that they were animal hairs that were from the same animal.
00:11:25They knew that they had the right residence.
00:11:28They knew that they had the right people.
00:11:30>> Narrator: But the ultimate proof came from a piece of ductwork from the basement floor.
00:11:35Testing showed it contained a tiny speck of human blood.
00:11:43And dna testing left no doubt who the blood had come from.
00:11:49>> It ended up being the blood of wesley person.
00:11:52We had found our crime scene.
00:11:53We had the victim's blood there.
00:11:55Investigators felt they knew who planned this attack.
00:12:00>> Justin glover's an idiot.
00:12:01Lawrence murrell is the smart one here, and he's the one with the brains to be able to put this thing together.
00:12:07>> Narrator: But could they place justin glover and lawrence murrell at the scene?
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00:15:02>> Narrator: Both lawrence murrell and justin glover denied any involvement in wesley person's murder.
00:15:08They both claim they had alibis for that night.
00:15:12So investigators checked the men's cellphone records.
00:15:17>> Glover's phone is trackable because he instantly either receiving calls or he's making calls.
00:15:25And from those cellphone calls, we're able to see what tower the closest tower that that cellphone was going to hit off of.
00:15:33>> Narrator: Gloversaidhe was with his girlfriend.
00:15:38>> He made a series of telephone calls to his girlfriend from his cellular telephone, which was not consistent with being with her the whole night.
00:15:46>> The cellphone records show that glover was in the area where the burning body was later found.
00:15:53>> Narrator: And a check of lawrence murrell's cellphone records showed he was in the area, as well.
00:16:0030 in the morning, his cellphone is used right near the capital of pennsylvania, right near the capitol building, as the cell towers tell us.
00:16:10>> Narrator: Murrell was checking his voicemail.
00:16:17At the exact same place and exact same time.
00:16:2130 in the morning, justin glover's checking his voicemail messages at the capitol building.
00:16:27It shows, when you look at the cellphone records, that they WERE TOGETHER. Narrator: Harrisburg, pennsylvania, is about 65 miles from where wesley person's body was set on fire in maryland.
00:16:40Ten weeks after wesley person was killed, justin glover and lawrence murrell were arrested and charged with his murder.
00:16:51Prosecutors believe wesley person cashed a check for a fraudulent bank loan without telling his partners, and, in doing so, signed his own death warrant.
00:17:04>> I know you got a check.
00:17:05>> What check?
00:17:06I ain't got no check, man.
00:17:07>> Wesley person never paid them the money that they were owed.
00:17:10Justin glover, lawrence murrell were supposed to receive at least $1,000 each from each of these loans.
00:17:18>> Narrator: Prosecutors believe glover andll found out and wanted revenge.
00:17:24They picked him up in harrisburg, then took him home so he could get the money they believe he'd stolen from them.
00:17:45The evidence shows this was where they shot person three times in the head.
00:17:54His blood spattered onto a piece of ductwork on the basement floor.
00:18:00The two men cleaned up the scene but didn't see the blood on the ductwork.
00:18:07They wrapped the body in construction plastic, unaware that bits of animal-hair plaster ..
00:18:17Plaster that tied the body to the house.
00:18:28After driving 65 miles to the outskirts of baltimore, they hauled the body down an embankment, doused it with fuel, and set it on fire.
00:18:41But the fire didn't consume wesley's entire body.
00:18:46Enough remained to create this likeness, and the animal-hair plaster and construction plastic ultimately led police to the murder scene.
00:18:59>> Without that last pile of debris, without that piece of ductwork, wesley person's case would be unsolved today.
00:19:05>> Narrator: Justin glover and lawrence murrell were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
00:19:16>> For them guys to do something real devious like that, it really put a hurt on everybody in my family.
00:19:28>> Narrator: The murder was planned and so was the cover-up.
00:19:33But they simply couldn't hide all the evidence.
00:19:38>> First thing I think of when i think of this case is exceptional forensic investigation -- hands down, the best forensic work I've ever seen, in any case I've been involved in.
00:19:50>> This is one case that probably encompasses about every genre of forensic science that's out there.
00:19:56>> Oh, this was probably the most interesting case I've had yet.
00:19:59>> You would think that their friendship would trump money, but it appears as if, I guess in this case, money trumped friendship in this case.
00:20:12>> Narrator: Up next, three college students are murdered.
00:20:16It looks as if one person had killed them all.
00:20:19>> He picked on young women, picked on pretty women.
00:20:23Police immediately have a suspect.
00:20:25>> In law-enforcement terms, it's almost like winning the lottery.
00:20:28>> Narrator: But not everyone was convinced he was the one.
00:20:31>> If he's going to brag about three, why not four?
00:20:33>> He mentioned all the other cases, but never mentioned susan schumake.
00:20:37>> Narrator: For 20 years, questions remained, until decades-old evidence reveals the terrible truth.
00:20:45>> It's a horrifying thing to think that there's more than one monster in your community at one >> Narrator: It was a week before the fall semester began in 1981.
00:21:05Susan shumake moved back to the campus of sohern illinois university at carbondale.
00:21:11She was anxious to start her senior year.
00:21:14>> She had just gotten a job at the radio station, and she was going to be doing some of the broadcast work.
00:21:23>> Sue schumake, section 3, description, narration, and dialogue.
00:21:29>> Narrator: On august 17th, susan left the radio station just before 6:00 p.m.
00:21:35She pld to meet her girlfriend for dinner.
00:21:38But she never arrived.
00:21:40>> The friend who she was supposed to have supper with called her roommate, mary.
00:21:46Mary did not know where she was at.
00:21:48Later into the night, approaching midnight, they started calling all their friends.
00:21:53They went to places where they thought she might have gone.
00:21:57>> Narrator: Then next day, with still no word from susan, the police were notified.
00:22:04That night, officers noticed some trampled vegetation near a dirt footpath students use to walk from one side of the campus to the other.
00:22:15>> As he walked into the weeds a little deeper with a flashlight -- and the weeds were quite high.
00:22:21It was very difficult to see.
00:22:22Then all at once, he saw susan's body.
00:22:25>> This was something that really undid us.
00:22:28This was -- it was obviously a horrible thing.
00:22:31And I immediately started crying.
00:22:33It was a very terrible moment for me.
00:22:36>> Narrator: It appeared that susan had been beaten, strangled, and sexually assaulted.
00:22:43Police assumed the crime occurred just after susan left 00 , which meant she was abducted and attacked in broad daylight.
00:22:56>> This was in the middle of the day that this happened, and i think that really -- that was one of the more scary things to people, is that it was so random.
00:23:04>> Narrator: Police asked anyone who might have seen anything suspicious to come forward.
00:23:09They also interviewed all of susan's friends, including her past romantic relationships.
00:23:15>> There had been a few people who had attempted to date her that she had denied, so they, of course, became part of a growing suspect pool.
00:23:25>> Narrator: Police also had to consider whether the perpetrator was a stranger.
00:23:32>> Because of the location of the murder and its accessibility to a number of dormitories, they were looking at dormitory lists and who lived in the area.
00:23:41>> She was such a blameless victim.
00:23:43The thing that we're all afraid of is some monster coming out of nowhere and snagging someone we love or snagging ourselves, and that's what happened to susan.
00:23:52>> Narrator: Then police learned of a remarkable coincidence.
00:23:56On the day susan was murdered, a subcontractor working on the new campus gymnasium had employed a man who'd been a suspect in two murders.
00:24:07Both victims were students at the university.
00:24:11>> He was within 300 or 400 yards.
00:24:14You got to remember, he's working on campus, where there are 8,000 or 9,000 pretty girls walking around every day.
00:24:19>> The investigators on that day figured that if a woman was raped and murdered, he's the one that did it.
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00:27:10>> Narrator: Within days of susan schumake's murder, john paul phillips topped the list of suspects.
00:27:18>> He was known about town as kind of a hellion.
00:27:21I met him early in his life.
00:27:22He had a terrible temper.
00:27:25I met him when he was perhaps 15 or 16 years old, in a fight.
00:27:28He tried to beat some kid to death with a baseball bat.
00:27:31>> Narrator: Phillips had been a suspect in the rape and murder of two other southern illinois university students five years earlier.
00:27:3821-Year-old theresa clark was found raped and murdered in her apartment off campus.
00:27:44At the time, john paul phillips lived in an apartment about 100 feet away.
00:27:50>> We worked that case to death.
00:27:52We didn't have any fingerprints.
00:27:53Dna was way in the future.
00:27:55We had no witnesses.
00:27:56We didn't have much of anything to go on.
00:27:59But we felt pretty comfortable that he might be our person.
00:28:02>> Narrator: One year later, 24-YEAR-OLD kathleen McSherry was also found raped and stabbed in her apartment.
00:28:09Again, john paul phillips lived in the neighborhood.
00:28:13>> Again, no dna, no fingerprints.
00:28:15Well, where's john paul now?
00:28:17Well, it turned out he lived just a few blocks north.
00:28:20>> Narrator: There had been insufficient evidence to arrest john paul phillips for either murder, but in susan schumake's murder, police finally got a break.
00:28:30At susan's autopsy, the medical examiner found two foreign hairs on her body -- presumably from her killer.
00:28:40>> One was a body hair.
00:28:41One was a pubic hair that was recovered from susan's body.
00:28:45>> Narrator: Phillips willingly provided hair samples for comparison.
00:28:49Based on microscopic examination, phillips' hair was not similar, so he was eliminated as a suspect.
00:28:57Despite the hair analysis, susan's family was convinced