As the high-profile murder trial of David Camm stretched into its fifth week, attorneys for the former state trooper accused of killing his wife and children opened their defense by slowly deconstructing the case against their client, forcing a former key prosecution witness to admit he’d lied about his expertise.
On the witness stand Tuesday, Portland State University research assistant Robert Stites said it was a “dumb thing” to do when he pretended to be a crime scene expert during the investigation into the September 2000 deaths.
Stites’ error-riddled notes, and his speculation about how the killings occurred in Camm’s garage in Georgetown, ended up in the probable cause affidavit used to arrest Camm on the day of his wife’s and children’s funerals.
“In hindsight, I would have kept my mouth shut,” said Stites, who was forced by the defense to admit a litany of mistakes and falsehoods he made during the investigation and two subsequent trials in which Camm was convicted, but later saw those verdicts overturned.
Camm, who resigned from the Indiana State Police four months before he was arrested on murder charges, is being tried for the third time for killing his wife, Kim, and their two children, Brad, 7, and Jill, 5. The trial is being held in Boone County, north of Indianapolis. A special prosecutor and judge have been assigned to the case.
Stites, who worked for a private company hired by the Indiana State Police to do a forensic analysis of the crime scene, conceded he was an inexperienced employee with no training in blood analysis or homicide investigations when sent to the crime scene, yet pretended something else for years after.
Stites, for example, was described as a “professor” during Camm’s first two trials. But on the stand Tuesday, he conceded he had an undergraduate degree in economics, had flunked general chemistry in college and has never started either a master’s degree nor pursued a doctorate as he had indicated during an earlier trial.
In the probable cause affidavit used to first charge Camm, Stites was described as a “crime scene re-constructionist” even though he never had experience reconstructing a crime.
Under questioning from Camm co-counsel Stacy Uliana, Stites admitted that he believed that a series of stains — found in the garage, on clothing found at the scene, and on a pipe in a drainage area — were blood. Those stains later turned out to be something else. What he thought was blood splatter on a garage door, for example, later turned out to be a petroleum-based product.
Stites’ lack of experience, and the false impression he gave otherwise, is seen as critical by defense attorneys who contend state police rushed to judgment when they arrested Camm on murder charges. The defense has argued that the murders were committed solely by Charles Boney, who is serving a 225-year sentence in the slayings.
The day’s second witness, Sam Lockhart, 68, Georgetown, provided emotional testimony as he recounted seeing the victims. Lockhart, who is Camm’s uncle, said he rushed to Camm’s home after being called by his brother and told something “bad had happened” at the Camm home.
Lockhart said after he pulled into Camm’s driveway the night of the killings and got out, he saw Camm clutching the tailgate of his pickup truck and “rocking back and forth.”
“He just screamed this loud, howling primal scream,” Lockhart said, choking up during his testimony.
Lockhart has long contended that Camm spent the evening of the murders with him, at what he described as a “pickup” basketball game at a local church, along with about 10 other players who were friends, relatives, and co-workers of Camm. Prosecutors believe Camm slipped out of the gym, while others were playing basketball, went home and killed his wife and children, then returned to the gym.
During his afternoon testimony Lockhart acknowledged that the timeline he laid out for police and prosecutors differed from that given by other players who were at the gym.
“Is your truth the only truth there is?” asked Boone County prosecutor Todd Meyer, co-counsel for the state.
To which Lockhart responded: “It’s the only truth I know.”
Lockhart also said he’s spent “well over six figures” to pay for Camm’s defense attorneys during the first two trials, but has since run out of money.
Asked why he exhausted his finances to help his nephew, Lockhart said: “Because David Camm is innocent. I know he’s innocent. I wouldn’t have spent one penny if I thought he killed Brad, Jill or Kimberly.”
The trial is expected to last several more weeks before closing arguments and jury deliberation.
— Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at email@example.com