By GORDON BOYD
Rob Stites called his notes “brainstorming:” a place to collect his thoughts while taking photographs and documenting evidence in the murders of David Camm’s wife and their two young children in the garage of their Georgetown home on Sept. 28, 2000.
But those thoughts included the conclusion that Camm could have gotten blood spots on his T-shirt, only as a result of “high velocity impact spatter;” namely, that he was so close by when at least one victim was shot that only he could be the shooter.
It was the linchpin in the probable cause affidavit that led to Camm’s arrest for murder three days later after the killing. Tuesday morning, Stites found himself answering for it, as the first defense witness in Camm’s third trial.
“In hindsight, I would have kept my mouth shut,” Stites told special Prosecutor Stan Levco during cross-examination.
Stites became part of the Camm murder investigation two days after the crimes, when then-Floyd County Prosecutor Stan Faith hired his boss, Rod Englert, an independent crime scene reconstructionist and blood-pattern analyst. Englert was unavailable, he earlier testified, so he sent Stites instead to take pictures and document evidence.
But Camm’s team maintains that Faith misrepresented both Stites’ credentials and his findings when gathering and evaluating evidence, leading to miscalculations, erroneous conclusions and a rush to judgment.
“I had done a lot of those crime scene reconstructions with Mr. Englert, but I don’t know what I would define myself as,” Stites told the jury.
“You’d read only one book on blood stain analysis, and you’d not had any formal forensic training,” defense counsel Stacey Uliana said.
On direct examination, Stites conceded that he spent hours detailing what he believed to be blood stains and patterns on the Camm’s garage door, even requesting the door be taken off its hinges to be tested. Later testing revealed no blood, only residue from gasoline or oil.
Stites tested that he had “run out” of phenolphthalein, used as a “presumptive” test to rule out substances suspected of being blood.
“But [ISP crime scene technician] Lynn Scamahorn noted she was with you, and that she had it [phenol],” Uliana asked.
“I could have asked her, but I don’t remember,” Stites responded.
Stites’ notes also indicated he believed that the killer had tried to mop up the blood on the garage floor using bleach. That prompted testing of a mop, and a drain leading to a septic tank. Both tests came back negative for blood.
Stites did use phenolphthalein to capture some of the blood spots noted on Camm’s T-shirt. But at the time of Camm’s arrest, DNA testing had not confirmed the blood belonged to his 5-year-old daughter, Jill.
Stites’ phenol pre-testing also indicated that two spots on Camm’s jacket “could be blood.” But Scamahorn was unable to find any DNA, after running 17 tests, Uliana told the jury.
Stites reviewed the gray sweatshirt found underneath the body of Camm’s 7-year-old son, Bradley. But his notes failed to mention the name “Backbone” found in the shirt’s back collar. Almost four-and-one-half years later, DNA testing revealed that the shirt belonged to serial felon Charles Darnell Boney, and that ‘Backbone’ was the nickname Boney bore while in prison. Boney was convicted of the Camm murders in 2006, and is serving a 225-year prison sentence.
The “blood dots” on the T-shirt figured prominently in the probable cause affidavit that Faith drafted as the warrant for Camm’s arrest Oct. 1, 2000. Faith prepared the affidavit prior to Englert reviewing Stites’ conclusions. Stites indicated his only contact with Englert prior to Camm’s arrest was a telephone call seeking “confirmation” that he’d identified the characteristics of high impact spatter correctly.
“He told me I had,” Stites testified.
Those conclusions also figured prominently in how Faith presented Stites’ credentials and findings in Camm’s first trial in 2002.
“He [Faith] kept calling me ‘professor,’ which made me uncomfortable,” Stites told the jury. “I thought he was exaggerating a bit.”
Stites clarified his role during testimony in Camm’s second trial. But such claims did not prevent him from presenting himself as a crime scene reconstructionist to a jury hearing another criminal case two months later.
“Were you exaggerating then?” Uliana asked.
“My roles were different,” Stites answered. “During [Camm’s] second trial I was referring to my role in the first.”
Stites also conceded errors in the curriculum vitae [detailing academic qualifications and experience] presented to jurors in Camm’s first two trials. It indicated Stites was pursuing a master’s and doctorate in Fluid Analysis.
“Saying that you had a course in Fluid Dynamics, you lied,” Uliana said.
“Yes, and I regret that,” Stites replied.
Camm’s uncle, Sam Lockhart, took the stand late Tuesday morning. He’s the first witness to help establish his nephew’s alibi: that Camm was at church, playing basketball when the murders occurred.
Lockhart told the jury that Camm already was on the court when he arrived at Georgetown Community Church about 7:25 p.m. on Sept. 28.
“I played the second game, and David sat out,” Lockhart testified. “He was talking to a friend of ours.”
Camm was still at the church when Lockhart left shortly before 9 p.m., he told the jury.
Lockhart’s testimony continues Tuesday afternoon.
— This article was produced as a partnership between the News and Tribune and WAVE 3 News.