Forensic Files - No Safe Place   View more episodes

Aired at 10:00 PM on Friday, May 07, 2010 (5/7/2010)      View all transcripts from this day


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00:02:06>> Narrator: Ron shaw's murder was a major news story in louisiana and the entire gulf coast region.
00:02:13>> It was huge.
00:02:15It was characterized as a well-organized home invasion of people who the police believe laid in wait for the shaw family.
00:02:22>> The victim was portrayed as a very wealthy business executive.
00:02:28And then to have him killed in front of his wife certainly hit a nerve with society in general.
00:02:37>> Narrator: The shaws' home was only a few months old.
00:02:40Not all of the landscaping had been completed.
00:02:44And this produced the first piece of evidence.
00:02:47>> It's a new construction.
00:02:48There was builders sand in the back of the house.
00:02:51So, as the suspects stepped in that sand in the back of the house and went through the house, they left real nice shoe impressions down the hallway.
00:03:02>> Narrator: The outside print was preserved with a substance " t's kind of like pancake batter.
00:03:11And you're able to lift those impressions and bring them back to the crime laboratory.
00:03:18>> Narrator: Inside the home, investigators lit the hardwood floors from various angles and saw two more sets of shoe impressions.
00:03:30Criminalists lifted the prints with gelatin strips.
00:03:35>> You roll the gelatin with the black side down onto your questioned shoe impression.
00:03:41And when you peel it off, the adhesive in the gelatin adheres to the dust particles on the floor.
00:03:47>> Narrator: With some research, investigators identified the prints outside as a pair of size-10 nike air jordans.
00:03:57The perpetrators inside also wore nike shoes.
00:04:00One wore the air metal force model, the other the shocks trainers.
00:04:07When police interviewed the neighbors, several of them said they saw a burgundy-colored car parked a short distance away from the shaws' home.
00:04:16>> The vehicle was occupied by black males.
00:04:19Either they observed these black males within the vehicle or standing outside the vehicle.
00:04:25But it was parked in frontf a vacant lot in this particular neighborhood, so it did stand out.
00:04:30>> Narrator: And about a mile from the crime scene, search dogs found a potentially crucial piece of evidence.
00:04:38>> While they were walking around on the roadway, they discovered a red ski mask with blueutlines on it next to the roadway which was in direct line of sight to the rear of the victim's property.
00:04:50>> Narrator: This ski mask -- red with dark trimming around the eyes -- was similar to the one described by rosana shaw.
00:05:01At ron's autopsy, the medical examiner confirmed that ron shaw was shot three times with a .38-caliber weapon.
00:05:10>> There were two torso shots.
00:05:12One of those torso shots, the bullet remained.
00:05:15The other torso shot, the bullet went all the way through his body.
00:05:19>> Narrator: In the yard, investigators found the projectile that passed through shaw's body.
00:05:26This, along with the two bullets from insid's body, were firearms expert chris henderson discovered that the lands and grooves on two bullets were the same.
00:05:44The third bullet was different.
00:05:45>> We determined that we had two different shooters, based on the class characteristics of the bullets.
00:05:53>> Narrator: In their search for potential suspects, police had to consider whether rosana shaw had anything to do with her husband's murder.
00:06:03Ron's grown son from his first marriage certainly thought so.
00:06:07>> He had distrust for her.
00:06:09He wondered what her motivation was for marrying his father.
00:06:13Had she married for money?
00:06:15>> We got along fairly well while ron and I got married.
00:06:19But right after ronnie died, he just turned against me.
00:06:24He just doesn't like me.
00:06:28>> Narrator: And there were others who had a potential motive.
00:06:33A background check revealed ron had shifted funds from one oil-drilling research project to another.
00:06:41One was successful.
00:06:42The other wasn't, which created substantial losses for investors.
00:06:48>> There were a couple of them that had actually lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
00:06:52It didn't surprise them at all that the victim had met such a violent death because they felt that his business practices were dubious and unethical.
00:07:01>> Narrator: With so many potential avenues to explore, investigators focused first on who knew that the shaws had a safe.
00:07:10>> The people that knew about the safe was the safe company, my family, ronnie's family, people at the office, the architect, the construction workers, friends.
00:07:23There was a lot of people that could have known about the safe.
00:07:27>> Narrator: The general contractor who built the shaws' home fully cooperated with authorities.
00:07:33>> Ernest touchet revealed the names of several disgruntled employees that he felt might play a role and later added that he also had two grandsons that had worked on the home and that had also recently had several run-ins with the law.
00:07:57>> Narrator: But investigators dismissed that idea.
00:08:01The perpetrators were black, yet ernest touchet, and presumably his grandsons, were white.
00:08:08And ron shaw knew these boys personally.
00:08:12>> Ernest touchet came to my husband and asked to hire his two grandchildren to keep them out of trouble.
00:08:20They needed to do something.
00:08:22" my husband really appreciated the grandfather, ernest touchet.
00:08:30So he said, "of course.
00:08:31Bring your two grandchildren, " >> Narrator: Police didn't believe the touchet boys would repay ron shaw's kindness in this way.
00:08:43Or would they?
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00:12:06>> Narrator: The owner of the construction company who had built the shaws' new home, ernest touchet, to feared his two grandsons might have been involved in ron's murder.
00:12:20Initially, police thought little of it since the perpetrators were black and ernest touchet was wh until they looked at the mug shots of his grandsons.
00:12:31>> Shannon touchet was a black male and was a product of an interracial marriage that his earlier years.
00:12:44>> Narrator: 17-Year-old shannon touchet had worked on ron shaw's home and would have known about the safe hidden in the master-bathroom investigators went to shannon's home.
00:12:58He wasn't there, but his mother was.
00:13:01And she was very helpful.
00:13:03>> She reported to us that she had found some bullets in a black bag, a black bag that she recalled had at one time also ..and drugs.
00:13:15>> Narrator: Police found the bag in shannon's bedroom.
00:13:19The drugs and ski masks were gone.
00:13:23But they did find 13 unfired .38-caliber bullets.
00:13:28Investigators wondered whether these bullets matched the ones that killed ron shaw.
00:13:35Firearms expert chris henderson examined the knurls on the fatal bullets.
00:13:42Knurls are the ridgelike protrusions that hold the lubrication needed to fire them.
00:13:49Henderson then compared those knurls with the knurls on the bullets in shannon touchet's bag.
00:13:56>> We had the same number of knurls, same width.
00:13:59And those knurls looked like railroad tracks going around the outer surface of that bullet.
00:14:04All the physical characteristics, everything that we could physically see and measure, were indistinguishable from one another.
00:14:10We could not tell the difference between one and the other.
00:14:13>> Narrator: Police brought shannon touchet in for questioning.
00:14:16He insisted he knew nothing about ron shaw's murder.
00:14:19He said he was with his girlfriend that night.
00:14:22>> She did verify his alibi and stated that shannon touchet was, in fact, with her in lake charles.
00:14:29>> Narrator: But looking at shannon's shoes, investigators noticed he was wearing nike air jordan basketball shoes -- similar to the shoe impressions at the crime scene.
00:14:42Scientists took casts of shannon's shoes and compared the casts from the impression in the sand outside ron shaw's home.
00:14:52>> We concluded that the shoe impressions at the crime scene were basically indistinguishable from those of shannon touchet's shoes.
00:15:00They had the same wear, the same physical characteristics.
00:15:02They were nike air jordans, same size.
00:15:05>> Narrator: Shannon's own mother disputed his alibi.
00:15:09She told investigators that shannon was out with two friends on the night of the murder -- reggie basil and ronald benson.
00:15:18And they were driving a burgundy ..
00:15:22Similar to the one witnesses saw near the murder scene.
00:15:26When questioned, both reggie basil and ronald benson denied any involvement in the robbery and murder.
00:15:34Police obtained a search warrant and confiscated all of the shoes belonging to the two men.
00:15:41But none matched the shoe impressions found inside shaw's home.
00:15:47>> It's frustrating to believe that your investigation is focused and it's going in the right direction but there's no certainty that you're, in fact, looking at the right folks.
00:15:58And for these type of charges, you don't want to make a mistake either.
00:16:03>> Narrator: So investigats decided to look for genetic material inside the red ski mask that had been discarded after the murder.
00:16:12The forensic scientist turned the mask inside out and swabbed around the mouth area, hoping to pick up cells from saliva.
00:16:23>> We're using the entire surface area of the swab to collect as much of the potential cellular material that's there.
00:16:29And then, basically, we just let the swab air-dry, and hopefully we'll have some dna on those swabs.
00:16:36>> Narrator: Using a dna test ," or "short tandem repeats," scientists found dna from three different individuals inside the mask.
00:16:49But investigators needed to know who was wearing the mask before it was discarded.
00:16:56To find out, they analyzed the swab from the ski mask to determine who left most of the saliva behind.
00:17:04And the results of this test were clear.
00:17:07>> In this case, the major-contributor dna matched that of ronald benson.
00:17:13>> The red ski mask was very important because it corroborated the story that we were able to receive from mrs. shaw.
00:17:21 shaw indicated that the person with the red mask was the most aggive in the robbery.
00:17:28>> Narrator: The identity of the other two dna profiles in the mask was inconclusive.
00:17:35The ski mask implicated ronald benson.
00:17:40The shoe impression outside the shaws' home implicated shannon touchet.
00:17:47But there was no forensic evidence linking reggie basil to the crime.
00:17:51>> As an investigator, that's a little hard to swallow.
00:17:54That's a little hard to leave in the end of the day with, knowing that there's nothing else you can do and you feel fairly certain of who's responsible for doing it.
00:18:05>> Narrator: Iestigators hoped we're never gonna catch anything.
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00:21:23>> Narrator: Shannon touchet, reggie basil, and ronald benson were all arrested for the murder of ron shaw.
00:21:31>> It was decided that the only way was to arrest all three suspects simultaneously and interview them in the same building at the same time, going from room to room until we got the confessions from all of them.
00:21:47>> Shannon touchet, the individual that was the ringleader, the one who had the information about the location of the safe, he ultimately turned on his two associates.
00:21:57>> Narrator:HANNON ADMITTED That benson and basil both participated in the murder.
00:22:11Shannon said that the motive was robbery.
00:22:15This was how shannon repaid ron shaw for giving him a job at his grandfather's request.
00:22:40Prosecutors say the three men drove to ron shaw's neighborhood and ited for the shaws to come home.
00:22:49Witnesses saw the three men loitering in the area.
00:22:57When the shaws arrived, they were ambushed.
00:23:01Ronald benson fired twice.
00:23:03[ Gunshots ] reggie basil fired the third shot.
00:23:07Shannon touchet stayed outside, leaving the the sand.
00:23:13Benson and basil took rosana inside and forced her to open the safe.
00:23:19For reasons that are unclear, they didn't take all of the valuables but they spared rosana's life.
00:23:30>> I think my daughter saved my li when I told that man that I was pregnant, it just did something to his mind and decided not to kill me.
00:23:41And, yes, my daughter saved life.
00:23:45>> Narrator: While running to the getaway car, they dropped the box full of jewelry.
00:23:52As they drove away, benson threw his ski mask out of the car, unaware that it contained his dna.
00:24:03Shannon touchet left ammunition matching the fatal bullets in his gym bag.
00:24:10The murder weapons have never been found, nor the shoes that left the impressions inside the shaws' home.
00:24:19Shannon touchet and reggie basil both pled guilty to first-degree murder and aggravated robbery and were sentenced to life in prison.
00:24:30Ronald benson chose to go to trial.
00:24:33The jury found him guilty.
00:24:35He got the same sentence -- life in prison.
00:24:40Investigators point to the case as a classic example of basic police techniques and forensic science coming together to get a conviction.
00:24:51>> The forensic efforts on the part of our crime lab were invaluable to a final conclusion in this case.
00:24:57Without them, there would have been no conviction for any of the three defendants.
00:25:04>> It was amazing to me, about the dna, the shoe prints, all the evidence they can gather from the crime place, you know, that can help find out who did it.
00:25:23>> There's a lot of technology.
00:25:25If things are done right, everything falls into place.
00:25:28And sometimes a little bit of luck helps.
00:25:36>> Narrator: For years, no one in seattle knew who killed this rock singer.
00:25:41The evidence sat waiting in a freezer, until a computer identified a suspect 3,000 miles away.
00:26:15[ Rock music plays ] IN THE EARLY 1990s, SEATTLE, Washington, was home to a revolution in rock music " " it was hard, it was edgy, and it drew thousands of people to the area.
00:26:32>> Musicians were moving here from all over the world to play, and there were fans moving here just to watch -- just to see live music becauto a sll club ane pret much what people thought would be the next big g.
00:26:44>> BACK IN THE EARLY 1990s, There were a million emerging bands, and thee same kind of grunge sound.
00:26:51>> Narrator: Ground zero for this rock revolution was a part of downtown seattle known as " rents were cheap, drugs were plentiful, and crime was rising.
00:27:04Early one morning, around , a pedestrian found a woman's body on a deserted city street.
00:27:13>> And they tried to resuscitate her.
00:27:15She was still warm.
00:27:16It appeared that she had expired, literally, just a few minutes bere.
00:27:20>> Narrator: The victim was a young woman with no identification.
00:27:25She'd been strangled with a cord from a sweatshirt bearing the name of a local rock band -- " the body's location made it look like there was a possible religious link to the crime.
00:27:39>> On either side of her, or on either side of the street, are religious buildings.
00:27:45One is a catholic church, and the other is a catholic-services community area.
00:27:50>> She was laying on her back, her feet were close together, and her hands were out to her side -- kind of like a crucifix.
00:27:59>> Narrator: At the victim's aupsy, something unexpected happened -- the medical examiner recognized her.
00:28:08>> He liked to go to the clubs and listen to independent music.
00:28:12He knew who mia zapata was.
00:28:14[ Rock music plays ] >> Narrator: 27-Year-old mia zapa was the lead singer and songwriter of the gits, one of the most popular bands to emerge from the seattle music scene.
00:28:29>> Well, the local rock-music community is saddened tonight by the death of a seattle band's lead singer.
00:28:34>> The young woman was murdered, and police are searching for her killer.
00:28:38The motive is unknown.
00:28:40[ Rock music plays ] >> we had been on tour on the west coast.
00:28:46We were to be home for three or four days before we had to leave on the road again.
00:28:51 tour, a european tour planned consecutively.
00:28:58>> Narrator: Investigators tried to reconstruct mia's activities before her murder.
00:29:05According to friends, she spent most of the night at a local bar.
00:29:09>> Mia was at the comet tavern having some drinks with friends.
00:29:13I believe she was there till about midnight.
00:29:16>> Narrator: From there, she visited the apartment of a friend who lived nearby.