Forensic Files - Kidnapping (The Ginger Hayes Murder)   View more episodes

Aired at 09:30 PM on Friday, Jul 09, 2010 (7/9/2010)      View all transcripts from this day


00:00:02>> It gives you that little bit of hope.
00:00:04She's alive now, maybe she'll be alive five minutes from now or an hour from now, et cetera, until you have time to find them.
00:00:12>> Narrator: But the baby wasn't in the surveillance footage, leading police to believe that the perpetrator had an accomplice.
00:00:21>> I knew my daughter well enough to know, and I had seen her with nicholas enough to know, that had he not been in jeopardy at that point in time, she would have fought like a wildcat.
00:00:36>> Narrator: Investigators were hopefu robbery was the kidnapper's only motive.
00:00:41>> And he's probably promised her freedom and her child will not be harmed.
00:00:44So she gives him the money, go back out, and hopefully they're set free.
00:00:48>> Narrator: Several hours later, police found the hayes car in a suburban neighborhood 45 miles from the kidnap site.
00:00:56>> But when the car is found, ginger hayes and nicholas hayes are nowhere to be found.
00:01:01>> Narrator: Inside were the baby's toys.
00:01:04The car was rked in front of a home that belonged to a man with a criminal record -- 24-year-old timothy evans, who had previous arrests for robbery and assault.
00:01:14>> Timothy evans did roughly fit the description that was given to us of a black male with a stocky build and about a medium height.
00:01:23>> Narrator: Police converged on the home and took evans in for questioning.
00:01:27>> He claimed that he didn't have anything to do with the car, that he was asked to wash the car for someone else.
00:01:34>> Narrator: Evans led police to andre edwards, the man he claimed left the car in front of his house.
00:01:40>> That's him right there walking in the door.
00:01:43[ Knock on door ] >> police department!
00:01:48Is andre edwards here?
00:01:49>> Narrator: Inside, police found edwards, along with several others.
00:01:54>> There were four other people taken into custody besides timothy evans.
00:01:58They had no idea what this black male may have looked like.
00:02:01So they took everybody in to try and sort things out.
00:02:06Found on elizabeth pitman was a cellular phone and se jewelry which was later identified as belonging to ginger hayes.
00:02:15>> Narrator: Police ask the only eyewitness to th mailman, to pick the perpetrator from a lineup.
00:02:22>> That's the guy.
00:02:23>> That's the guy you saw in the parking lot?
00:02:26>> Narrator: He chose 31-year-old andre edwards, a known crack addict and career criminal with more than 40 arrests.
00:02:35>> He immediately picked him out and said, "that's the guy I saw push the young lady into the car " >> Narrator: But edwards denied any involvement.
00:02:45>> I said, "if you tell us where ginger and nicholas is now, they could still be alive, and you won't be in as much trouble as " he said, "i don't know anything " >> I mean, they were racing against time.
00:02:58And it's rare that you find your suspect before you find your victim.
00:03:03>> Narrator: Then investigators tried getting some information by asking another way.
00:03:08>> Whatever story you have to tell me to allow me to find the d alive, then tell me that story.
00:03:14Let's just save a life.
00:03:15You don't have to tell me that you actually did it.
00:03:18All you had to do was tell me, "a friend of mine might have told me, 'you needo go look '" but he wouldn't do anything.
00:03:26>> Narrator: Shortly after edwards' arrest, police got a call from a man named c.d. thompson.
00:03:32He'd been walking his dog on a farm 50 mis from the kidnap site.
00:03:37>> Immediately, I felt a lump just come in my throat, thinking that we have two deceased victims.
00:03:46>> I thought it may be a baby doll because I was near an area where people have dumped trash over the years.
00:03:51I saw flies around it, and the way my dog was reacting, I knew it was no baby doll, it was a human being.
00:03:59>> Narrator: There, police found ginger hayes dead from multiple blows to the head.
00:04:0630 Feet away was her infant so nicholas, lying facedown in the dirt.
00:04:12>> I was very shocked.
00:04:14The emotion was already set that I'm gonna have to deal with the demise of a child, which was one of my greatest fears.
00:04:22>> Narrator: But as sergeant saunders got closer, the baby began to move.
00:04:27>> When he raised his head and started to crawl, you went from " >> Narrator: The baby wearing only a diaper was severely sunburned but otherwise unharmed.
00:04:41He was airlifted to a regional burn center for treatment.
00:04:45>> The hospital medical doctors at the burn center in chapel hill estimated that the baby probably would not have survived the night, given the degree and severity of the burns to the body from the sun.
00:04:58I basically call it a miracle that that child's even alive today, and probably wouldn't thompson hadn't been out there walking his dog that afternoon.
00:05:10>> I don't know what purpose god may have for nicholas, but i don't believe that it was just luck.
00:05:18>> Narrator: But joy was mixed with grief.
00:05:22Ginger hayes had been brutally murdered.
00:05:25>> To find out that my nephew was still alive was awesome.
00:05:31You know, being 11 months old and that he survived was amazing.
00:05:36And then on top of that, ginger was not -- just was incredibly hard to deal with.
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00:08:47>> Narrator: It was the worst kind of crime -- two innocent victims chosen at random.
00:08:54>> She was changing her baby's diaper -- a basic need that any mother takes care of.
00:09:01And because of her taking care of her child, ultimately, she becomes a victim.
00:09:08>> Narrator: A suspect, andre edwards, was in custody after the only eyewitness, the mailman, picked him out of a lineup.
00:09:17>> I actually told him that both nicholas and ginger were deceased and to see what his reaction was to that -- no emotions.
00:09:24"I feel you, but I don't know " >> Narrator: But there was one problem.
00:09:30How did the mailman get a good look at the perpetrator since the abduction happened so quickly?
00:09:36And the mailman told an incredible story.
00:09:41He had seen this same man earlier in the day, before the abduction.
00:09:47He was on foot, walking through a nearby neighborhood, and seemed to be following the mailman as he made his deliveries.
00:09:55The mailman said every time he thought he got far enough ahead of the man, he seemed to catch up.
00:10:00>> The fact that the mailman is doing his route, he's stopping several times, and he keeps seeing this person, was odd.
00:10:08Red flags are gonna start to go up, and that's what happened with this mailman.
00:10:12>> Initially, the mailman was concerned that he himself could potentially be a victim because at each stop that he made, the black male was always at his vehicle.
00:10:21He would always catch up to him at the point where it was gonna be a stop, a mail stop.
00:10:25>> Narrator: So, the mailman saw this man's face before the incident in the parking lot.
00:10:31But police still needed forensic proof.
00:10:36So investigators examined the stolen car for blood, both inside and out, but they didn't find any.
00:10:43Then they dusted the interior >> a potential advantage to processing a rental car would be that a rental car is normally cleaned after each use before another customer takes possession of the vehicle.
00:10:58>> Narrator: 17 Partial fingerprints and 19 partial palm prints were found that did not belong to jeremy or ginger hayes.
00:11:11Fbi analysts compared them with fresh prints from andre edwards.
00:11:16>> His fingerprints and his palm prints came in contact with this vehicle numerous times.
00:11:22>> Now, andre edwards said he didn't know anything about the car.
00:11:26Very quickly, they were able to prove that he had been inside of it.
00:11:30>> Narrator: That meant edwards was lying.
00:11:34But it didn't prove he was a murderer.
00:11:37The medical examiner estimated that ginger was murded about two hours after she had been kidnapped.
00:11:45The cause of death was blunt-force trauma.
00:11:49She had also been sexually assaulted.
00:11:52>> The medical examiner could actually see the curve in her skull when they performed the autopsy.
00:11:59She alerted them to start looking for something that looked curved in nature.
00:12:05>> Narrator: At the crime scene, the area was littered with discarded tires.
00:12:10All were covered with brush, except for one just 20 feet from ginger's body.
00:12:17>> When they looked at it, they thought they saw what might have be they thought they saw what might have been some hair on the rim of the tire.
00:12:26>> The tire rim was rusty, so that may have actually led to recovered when it was processed.
00:12:35If it had had a smoother finish, any transferred hairs may have been lost.
00:12:40>> Narrator: More than 50 hairs were recovered, but none had roots attached that could be used for dna analysis.
00:12:48>> There were head injuries.
00:12:50You would assume that those hairs were broken off during an assault, during an attack.
00:12:56>> Narrator: The hairs were dyed brown.
00:12:58The physical characteristics of the dye and the hairs themselves were consistent with hairs collected from ginger hayes.
00:13:07>> The hairs recovered from the tire rim exhibited all of the same microscopic characteristics as a known head-hair sample identified as coming from the victim.
00:13:16>> Narrator: During police questioning, investigators noticed some dark brown stains on edwards' shoes and clothing.
00:13:24Those stains were blood, and the dna profile of that blood was compared to the blood found on the tire at the crime scene.
00:13:32The results left no doubt.
00:13:34>> Certainly the presence of the victim's blood on the subject's clothing is suggestive of certainly an interaction between these two individuals.
00:13:47>> Narrator: Semen recovered from the rape kit provided the final proof.
00:13:53Dna testing showed it was from andre edwards.
00:13:58>> What's the chance of it having been someone else?
00:14:01And in this case, the probabilities are extraordinarily low.
00:14:07In fact, they're so low that if we were to take one person in a quadrillion, that's many, many, many times more than the population of the earth.
00:14:21>> Narrator: Andre edwards was charged with murder, attempted murder, rape, and carjacking.
00:14:28But his lawyer claimed he was impaired because of drug addiction.
00:14:32Would the jury believe it?
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00:15:45CALL OR CLICK TODAY.ñq >> Narrator: Just a week before her death, ginger hayes and her son, nicholas, got to spend a week with her mother and father while her husband, jeremy, was away on a boy scouts trip.
00:17:03It was a week her family will always cherish.
00:17:09It's indescribable, the joy that you feel when you have that child and the grandchild and you're just getting to watch.
00:17:17It's like watching a flower bloom.
00:17:19You just get to see things open up, and it's just, the pleasure, the joy that it brings you is just -- you can't put words to that.
00:17:28>> Narrator: Just one week later, as ginger hayes was innocently changing her son's diaper in parking lot of a convenience store, she came face-to-face with a crack addict who needed money and didn't care how he got it.
00:17:43>> The word senseless was thrown around a lot.
00:17:48What he did was really for no reason.
00:17:52He destroyed a family, and, still, there's no real motivation, and, again, that anger comes up.
00:18:03>> Narrator: Edwards was driving his girlfriend's car, and it ran out of gas.
00:18:07He walked through residential areas where the mail carrier first noticed him.
00:18:15Edwards stopped at the same strip mall where jeremy and ginger hayes stopped to get snacks.
00:18:21Edwards saw the car running, with the door open, and decided to steal it.
00:18:27He probably didn't know that there was a baby in the backseat until later.
00:18:32Edwards drove to a store 45 miles away and forced ginger to withdraw $100 from her debit card.
00:18:40Investigators believe edwards may have had an accomplice watching the baby in the car at the time.
00:18:46Edwards drove to a secluded ..
00:18:52Assaulted ginger, then beat her to death with a discarded tire.
00:18:59Investigators found blood spatter on his shoes, his shorts, and the tire.
00:19:08He left the baby in the field, apparently willing to let him die from exposure.
00:19:15Edwards parked the car at a friend's house, unaware that he'd left dozens of fingerprints behind.
00:19:24>> You can almost see the timeline being laid out, just based on fce alone.
00:19:30>> Narrator: Edwards' lawyers claimed their client was so impaired by his drug addiction he didn't know what he was doing.
00:19:38>> His defense throughout this whole process had been, oh, he couldn't understand.
00:19:44He didn't have intent.
00:19:46But people know what happened.
00:19:47The result of what happened was a woman lost her life, and a family was changed forever.
00:19:52>> He knew well enough between right and wrong that when he sat in the interview room, he did not admit to committing a crime.
00:19:57He knew that he should not admit to anything.
00:20:00>> Narrator: In february of 2004, andre edwards was convicted of charges ranging from robbery to kidnapping to first-degree murder.
00:20:11He is currently serving fe without parole.
00:20:15Elizabeth pitman, who was in posssion of ginger's cellphone and jewelry, claims she was given the items by edwards at the picnic and was not charged.
00:20:27Today, nicholas hayes is a healthy grade-school student, although he has permanent scars from the sunburn.
00:20:36His father says he has only vague memories of what happened.
00:20:41>> Told me that the monsters were gonna get him.
00:20:46I asked him about what he meant, and he said, "well, mommy holds " >> if all police forces in the united states of america conducted themselves with the professionalism that the greenville police department did, we'd be a lot better off.
00:21:00>> The blood on his shoes, the blood on his pants and shirt all matched ginger hayes' blood 100%.
00:21:07There was never any question as to whose blood was found on his shoes, his shirt, or his pants.
00:21:15>> Nobody could look at it and say, "yeah, it was someone " in fact, I think one of the investigators put it so well during the trial on the stand, saying, "there aren't enough people in theworldfor it to be " that's how accurate the testing was.
00:21:33They knew it was andre edwards -- guilty.
00:21:38>> Narrator: Up next, an unexplained death had medical experts baffled.
00:21:42>> At the end of the autopsy, i didn't find anything slightly wrong whatsoever.
00:21:46>> Narrator: Each new clue ..
00:21:49>> The trail's getting warmer and warmer.
00:21:51>> Narrator:..Until a ls the ultimate betrayal.
00:21:56>> No one would ever expect someone would do this sort of thing to another human being.
00:22:08[ Marching band music playing ] >> Narrator: Fall means football at the university of florida.
00:22:14[ Music continues ] it's also time for thousands of students to get back to their studies.
00:22:2424-Year-old michelle herndon was entering her senior year.
00:22:28After graduation, she hoped to do volunteer work.
00:22:32>> She wanted to go join the peace corps.
00:22:34She had a very long list of orke as a personal trainer.
00:22:43Between classes and her job, michelle kept to a predictable schedule.
00:22:49[ Bell tolls ] but one day shortly before thanksgiving, she didn't attend any of her classes or show up for work.
00:23:00>> This was so unlike her -- not to return her calls or not to show up -- and I guess their sixth sense was that something is very, very wrong.
00:23:13Jason doyle, immediately drove the 0 miles from his home in miami to michelle's home in gainesville to see what was wrong.
00:23:22>> He finds michelle's house is locked up.
00:23:25All the doors are locked.
00:23:27All the windows are locked.
00:23:29The outside lights are still on, as they would have been left on from the night before.
00:23:36>> Her dog was inside, and the tv was on.
00:23:39Through a crack in the blinds, jason could actually see what later turned out to be michelle's foot.
00:23:46>> Narrator: When police arrived, they found michelle's body in her bedroom, facedown.
00:23:53It was clear she'd been dead for some time.
00:23:57>> She was in this somewhat awkward position with her left arm folded up underneath her body.
00:24:01>> Narrator: At first glance, there was no trauma to the body -- no bruises, no wounds, no blood.
00:24:09>> We had no indication of what would have caused her death.
00:24:12>> Narrator: The medical examiner thought the position of michelle's body, facedown, was unusual.
00:24:19>> If somebody is sick and in the process of dying, most folks tend to end up either on their side or on their back.
00:24:28>> Narrator: There were no foreign fingerprints in the apartment, no signs of forced entry, and no valuables were missing.
00:24:37>> Her vcr, her television set, her radio, jewelry -- it was all intact.
00:24:41>> Narrator: And there was no indication this was a suicide.
00:24:47>> If it's gonna be a suicide, there's gonna be pill bottles laying around and frequently a note.
00:24:52There was none of that on this case.
00:24:55>> Narrator: There was a half-full bottle of beer next to michelle's body.
00:25:00Only michelle's fingerprints were on the bottle.
00:25:04>> There was no indication that she had got drunk off the one beer that was lying on the bed.
00:25:08There was other beer in the refrigerator.
00:25:10There was just nothing to indicate that she had passed out drunk.
00:25:13>> We wanted to see if, perhaps, something had been inside of the beer bottle -- perhaps foul play, a substance placed in the beer bottle -- that may have contributed to her death.
00:25:22>> Narrator: But no foreign substances were found inside the bottle.
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00:28:21>> Narrator: In most cases, the medical examiner doesn't have much difficulty determining the cause and manner of an individual's death.
00:28:30But michelle herndon's case was different.
00:28:34>> At the end of the autopsy, i really had no idea.
00:28:40Anything slightly wrong whatsoever.
00:28:42>> To find somebody that's deceased without any indication of what caused them to die, especially somebody that's that young, was highly unusual.
00:28:53>> Narrator: The medical examiner estimated that michelle died about 24 hours before her body was found.
00:29:00So investigators interviewed everyone who was with michelle duri.
00:29:07They also checked the alibis of those closest to michelle, including her fiancé.
00:29:13>> Jason -- squeaky clean.
00:29:15Jason had an alibi of being at work and was quickly removed as a potential suspect.
00:29:21>> Narrator: Then the medical examiner took a closer look at something on michelle's left most needle marks.
00:29:32>> We needed to find the explanation for that puncture wound, and there could be a very legitimate explanation for it.
00:29:38>> Narrator: But michelle's personal physician said she didn't have any blood drawn before her death or receive any injections.
00:29:48So the medical examiner told investigators to widen their search at the crime scene, looking for possible evidence of drug use or an overdose.
00:29:59>> In a case like this where we have no clues,everyclue is