The Unimaginable, Infamous Case of Pam Hupp

I’m sharing this outstanding article which was recently published in St. Louis Magazine by Jeannette Cooperman.

As a wrongful conviction advocate, I followed the Russ Faria case closely. Faria was wrongly convicted and ultimately exonerated for the murder of his wife, Betsy. I wrote an article about the case during the second trial, comparing it to the Brad Cooper case in the way that the court dealt with digital evidence.

Before I share the article, I will preface it by pointing out that police and prosecutors often manufacture cases against people when they don’t have evidence, yet feel pressured to “solve” the case. It happens more often than people realize and through the use of “experts” it has become easy to fool jurors into believing the person must be guilty. They are also rather good at convincing jurors that they can vote guilty simply because the accused “could have” committed the crime. Never mind that there is no evidence linking them to it.

So, in the Russ Faria case, prosecutors did just that — they manufactured a case against an innocent man — Russ Faria, and instead of investigating the woman who was with the victim near the time of the murder, they kept all focus on Faria. Normally, they get away with this type of thing. It is difficult to overturn a conviction. Many will never know how sloppy their case was. But this time, their incompetence and maliciousness was revealed. The alternate suspect in Betsy’s death — Pam Hupp was free and she committed a second murder. She killed her friend, Betsy for insurance money, and she killed Louis Gumpenberger to take the heat off herself after Russ Faria was cleared of the murder charges in an attempt to frame him a second time. This time it didn’t work, and Hupp is now facing the death penalty. Blood is on the hands of police and prosecutors who ignored the obvious alternate suspect and built a weak case against an innocent man, but it’s doubtful they will face any consequences for their role in the death of Gumpenberger. This serves as a good example of how many lives are destroyed by wrongful convictions.

The unimaginable, infamous case of Pam Hupp

A tangle of lies, greed, sex, and death—and a surprise arrest

by

January 19, 2017

4:00 AM

 

Steven Avery Case: Were the Remains Identified via Junk Science?

Everyone accepts the assertion that Teresa’s remains were found on the Avery property, but I wouldn’t be so quick to accept that conclusion. Remember that there is no evidence there were ever any bones found on the Avery property. Investigators can say what they want, but not a single photo captured this very important evidence. We are to blindly trust that they found bones where they claimed — in the burn pit and the burn barrels. It would be simple to fabricate this evidence. Agent Pevytoe even testified that the alleged bone fragments were smaller than half a pinky nail and that much of what was found was actually burnt insulation.

How were the remains identified?

The bones were so badly burned that only a single testable bone — reported to be a 2 1/2 inch section of a shin bone survived. The bone allegedly still had remaining tissue intact. How is it possible that a bone survived? The teeth were burned beyond any identification. Teeth are supposed to outlast bone when exposed to fire. Dr. Simley testified that he could crush the dental fragments with his fingers. They were consistent with cremains, not a body burned in an open fire.

Dr. Simley did not find a single tooth suitable for comparison to Teresa’s dental x-rays. He had never seen such an extensive amount of damage. He found root fragments. In fact he super-glued two sections of a root together and stated that they were “consistent” with one of Teresa’s roots. I have searched and have been unable to find a single case where remains were identified from a root. It’s likely because roots are pretty plain. They do not have unique enough identifiers to conclude that they belong to any certain person. That is likely the reason he could not make a positive identification.

Consider what a root looks like.

roots-image

This is how the roots appear on a dental x-ray

root-x-ray

How is it possible that burned-up super-glued root sections were even stated as “consistent” with Teresa’s?! Were they consistent simply because it was identified as a root? This seems like junk science. Forensic bite mark evidence has recently been discredited and this type of evidence should probably be discredited as well. Many are under the mistaken impression that Teresa’s teeth were found in the burn pit. There is NO evidence that is true!

Dr. Simley’s testimony, Brendan Dassey trial

Q: Would you tell us or describe for us the condition of – – uh, these — the 24 tooth fragments and the three bone fragments that you examined?

A. They were all burned. They were all charred. Uh, they were very brittle. Um, again, they didn’t look like normal tooth like we would normally see, and essentially, the crowns were all gone. What we were looking at was just the root structure, which was, um, part of the tooth that’s buried in the bone. There was one portion of a crown, um, but that portion was from a — cuspid or an eyetooth and was not able to be identified.

Is it possible investigators gave him a box of random cremains? I think it’s very possible, in fact likely.

Next, consider the DNA from the shin bone that miraculously survived. There were major problems with this as well. Both Dr. Eisenberg and Sherry participated in the process of identifying the remains with this same bone. Sherry tested the tissue; Eisenberg sent the bone to the FBI.

  • Sherry reported that she only obtained seven of sixteen markers in her STR DNA test because the tissue was too degraded; yet her results were accepted as a MATCH to Teresa’s DNA.

DNA pic

  • Eisenberg sent the bone to the FBI who reportedly tested “charred remains” using Mitochondrial DNA testing and reported that Teresa couldn’t be ruled out as a contributor. If they had a suitable bone for testing, why didn’t they use that for the mitochondrial DNA testing?
  • A year later the FBI received dozens more bone fragments, none of which were suitable for DNA testing.

shin-bone3

I am not convinced that the remains (from who knows where) matched Teresa Halbach. In fact, there is no chain of custody to reflect how Culhane even received the bone into her lab. Dr. Eisenberg testified that she shipped it directly to the FBI after identifying it as human remains. Sherry wouldn’t have received it before Dr. Eisenberg, as it wouldn’t have been identified as human at that point.  If there is no proof there were remains on the property (there isn’t) and there is no conclusive identification of the remains (there isn’t), how can Avery be responsible for Teresa’s death? We’re left with nothing but the car on the property and the (very questionable) blood inside. Is that enough evidence to prove a person was murdered there? Or anywhere for that matter?

It doesn’t add up. IF a shin bone survived, the teeth should have survived! It is impossible to trust any of this evidence.

Scrutinizing the Bone Evidence – Teresa Halbach Investigation

There’s undoubtedly a lot of questionable evidence in this case – the magic key, the magic bullet and the possibility that Steven Avery’s blood was planted in the RAV 4. Should the bone evidence rise above similar scrutiny or can we consider the possibility that the bone evidence was also fabricated?  The suspicious mishandling of the bones is described in this article.

Summary of discovery and handling of bone evidence

  • Teresa’s ’99 Toyota RAV 4 was found at approximately 10:30 the morning of Saturday 11/5/05 on the Avery salvage yard. Investigators arrived at the scene and remained on site for eight days — searching for Teresa and/or evidence of foul play.
  • Bone fragments were allegedly found in the burn pit behind Avery’s garage on Tuesday 11/8/05.
  • Special Agent Tom Sturdivant requested sifting equipment from the Wisconsin crime lab (John Ertl).
  • No one photographed the bones or the collection process.
  • The (alleged) bones were placed into boxes and removed from the site.
  • Dr. Leslie Eisenberg, a Forensic Anthropologist with the crime lab received a box of bones on Wednesday 11/9/05.
  • Since Dr. Eisenberg often worked at the Dane County morgue, she carried the box to the morgue for examination on 11/10/05. She concluded that the bones were human. Specimens were submitted to the crime lab and the FBI for identification.
  • Special Agent Pevytoe allegedly discovered bones in the Janda burn barrel at the Calumet sheriff’s office on 11/12/05. No photos documented this discovery either.
  • Lab analyst Sherry Culhane issued a report on 12/5/05 stating that a partial profile was obtained from a charred piece of tissue and that seven of sixteen markers matched Teresa’s standard profile. The other markers were not present due to the condition of the sample.
  • On December 5, 2005 Dr. Eisenberg, Special Agent Pevytoe, John Ertl, Detective Wiegert and Special Agent Fassbender gathered at the crime lab (basement?) to sift through more of the ash and debris. They allegedly found metal grommets consistent with what would be common on blue jeans.

 

Sifting through ash and debris 12/5/05
Sifting through ash and debris 12/5/05

Exhibit-274-processing-debris-1024x676

The absence of a chain of custody of the bones is critical because it could very well have rendered it inadmissible. What happened? They brought in the state officials right away to ensure that everything would be properly handled. Who dropped the ball? It is very suspicious given everything else that happened in this case.

Since the scene wasn’t documented, there is no proof that any bones were ever on the Avery property. As well, the Manitowoc County coroner was forbidden from entering the scene and none of the forensic experts were summoned until after the bones had been removed. We are to simply accept the word of the state witnesses who claimed to see the bones.

Interestingly, the descriptions of the bones were inconsistent. Dr. Eisenberg claimed to have pieced together fifty-eight fragments of skull bones from the burn pit. That is consistent with them finding a considerable number of fairly large pieces; yet Agent Pevytoe described seeing very small pieces of bone fragments.

  “Yes, the fragmentation that I was finding from the burn pit was very small. Much of it was — in some cases was the size of half your little fingernail, if you will. Most of the bones were very fragmented there.” (Pevytoe testimony, day 18)

Pevytoe testified that three to four larger bones were found in the Janda burn barrel. If only a few bones were found in the barrel and tiny fragments were found in the burn pit, where did all the larger bones originate? This is a box of bones in evidence. Note that non-human charred bones were also found in each of the locations – burn pit, Janda barrel and quarry. Burnt insulation that appeared to be bone fragments was also found in the burn pit.bones3

 

Exhibit 391 skull bones
Exhibit 391 skull bones

DNA Testing

Crime lab analyst, Sherry Culhane reported that a partial DNA profile was obtained from a charred piece of tissue (item BZ) alleged to have been found in the burn pit ash. She used the STR Promega 16 amplification kit where fifteen markers are compared, with one gender marker. Culhane testified that since the specimen was degraded (likely due to extreme heat) she only obtained peaks for seven markers of the fifteen plus the gender marker, so less than 50%. The FBI CODIS database does not even record DNA profiles with less than nine identified markers.

The partial profile matched Teresa Halbach’s standard, but since it’s a partial profile it can’t be conclusively reported as matching Teresa’s DNA. What is the degree of certainty? Culhane reported that the probability of a random unrelated person matching the same seven (eight if including the gender loci) markers is 1 in a billion in the Caucasian population.

DNA stat

 

DNA pic

It’s unclear how she arrived at that statistic. Arizona is the only state that made their DNA database publicly accessible. Interestingly, based on the available DNA information from Arizona, it appears that the partial profile of item BZ would in fact be much more common than 1 in a billion. These are the actual matches based on a total of approximately 65,000 profiles:

  • 122 pairs match at 9 of 13 loci
  • 20 pairs match at 10 of 13 loci
  • 1 pair matches at 11 of 13 loci (full siblings)
  • 1 pair matches at 12 of 13 loci (full siblings)

(source)

This means that even with 12 of 13 markers matching there would be an occurrence of 1 in 65,000 — much more common than 1 in a billion. The less markers compared, the more common the occurrence. 122 pairs matched at 9 of 13 markers. Clearly a match of 7 of 15 would be considerably more common than the reported 1 in a billion at trial. The DNA evidence should have been reported more generally as “Teresa Halbach can not be excluded as source.”

FBI DNA Analysis

A section of the charred specimen (BZ) was also sent to the FBI in November, 2005. They conducted a mitochondrial DNA test and reported that Teresa could not be excluded as the source of the charred remains.

In 2006 investigators sent the FBI thirty-one additional samples – bone fragments. The FBI reported that no mitochondrial DNA testing was conducted due to the condition of the fragments but interestingly they also reported that some DNA was obtained and they were returning the processed DNA samples.

DNA fragments FBI

It is puzzling that they obtained DNA yet were unable to perform the mitochondrial testing. Is it possible it excluded Teresa Halbach as the contributor? Contrary to the DNA report, Calumet County Sheriff Jerry Pagel incorrectly informed the media that the FBI confirmed the bones were Teresa’s.

The Calumet County Sheriff says bones found at the family auto salvage yard of a man charged with murder match those of a freelance photographer.Sheriff Jerry Pagel says the FBI confirms that the bones found at Steven Avery’s family salvage yard are those of 25 year old Teresa Halbach. The report from FBI headquarters in Quantico, Virginia says Mitochondrial DNA analysis of evidentiary remains found in a burn pit match the DNA sample of Halbach’s mother.

Prosecutor Ken Kratz referenced this in an email to Sherry Culhane. Apparently the media was never instructed to edit their misleading articles about the FBI “match” so the public believed there was conclusive proof that Teresa’s remains were found on the Avery property.

Kratz Culhane email

Why question this?

Everyone accepts as fact that Teresa’s remains were found in the burn pit. Obviously it appears to be very incriminating, but what is going on with this evidence? Why weren’t protocols followed?  No coroner, forensic anthropologist, arson investigator or photographer was called to the scene when the evidence was discovered. They had all of these high paid experts at their disposal and didn’t call on them until after the evidence had been shoveled up and taken to the sheriff’s office.

The DNA evidence described above is not conclusive. How is it even possible for tissue to survive a fire that disintegrated 60% of the bone mass? The teeth which are commonly used to identify a body because they outlast bone didn’t even survive the fire. Something’s wrong and it becomes difficult to accept this evidence as presented.

Since there’s circumstantial evidence that all of the other evidence was fabricated, is it such a stretch to consider that the bone evidence doesn’t hold up either?  If we can accept that the RAV4 was placed on the property, key planted in his residence, blood planted in vehicle, bullet planted in garage, should we blindly accept 100% that the bones were Teresa’s just because Culhane reported the partial profile as a “match?”  It’s difficult to trust it when proof of the bones on the property doesn’t even exist!

Is it possible that police were unable to find a body but wanted to secure a conviction so they fabricated the bone evidence?

A Similar Case

Around the time of Teresa Halbach’s disappearance, Kristine Rudy of Clark County, Wisconsin also went missing. She was last seen November 12, 2005.  She was twenty-one years old and six months pregnant, married to Shaun Rudy. Search efforts were unsuccessful and in December, 2005 investigators discovered a burn pit — sound familiar?

In December, detectives piecing together a case against Christine’s husband Shaun were led to the suspect’s mother’s home in northwestern Clark County. According to court documents, they found a burn pile they believe Shaun used to destroy evidence of the crime. In that burn pile, they found what a well-respected forensic anthropologist determined were fetal remains.

Court documents show Dr. Leslie Eisenberg of the State Crime Lab in Madison wrote investigators asking them to consider the mechanisms by which the fetal remains, yet very few adult remains, made their way to the burn pile, and says it’s possible the fetus was deliberately removed and burned independently of the majority of the adult remains. (link)

The really interesting thing is that the victim’s body was found a few months later – fetus intact.

But investigators were surprised when what’s believed to be Christine Rudy’s body was found last month in the Chippewa River – the fetus was still intact.

It kind of throws us for a loop. It raised a couple questions, says Clark County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Jim Backus.

The bones found in the burn pile were severely charred, but Dr. Eisenberg has an excellent reputation and it’s seen as somewhat unlikely that her analysis was wrong, Backus says.(audio)

Dr. Eisenberg incorrectly identified bones as human. Though it may be possible to make a mistake like that, it certainly calls her credibility into question. Had they not found the woman, would they have prosecuted Shaun Rudy with the bone evidence?

We must consider the possibility that Dr. Eisenberg may have been mistaken with the Halbach case as well. We know there were charred animal bones mixed in. Is it possible there was nothing but animal bones?

We can also consider that maybe the state revealed just enough to convince the public that Teresa’s remains were found — photographs of random bones in a box and high priced experts sifting through debris. If true, it’s possible Teresa’s body was never found because it wasn’t on the Avery property. Police were searching in the wrong place.

 

 

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