(AP) One of four ex-sailors who claim they falsely confessed to a 1997 rape and murder quickly became the prime suspect when police learned that he was romantically obsessed with the victim, a former Norfolk detective said Friday.
Maureen Evans testified at an evidentiary hearing for Danial Williams and Joseph Dick Jr., who are seeking to have their convictions for the rape and slaying of Michelle Moore-Bosko overturned. Williams and Dick are two of the so-called Norfolk Four, who have long claimed that police intimidated them into falsely confessing to the crime. DNA in the case matched a fifth man, Omar Ballard, who admitted committing the crime alone and is serving life in prison.
The ex-sailors drew national attention when their innocence claims were backed by dozens of former FBI agents, ex-prosecutors and novelist John Grisham. In 2009, then-Gov. Tim Kaine freed three of the men from prison but allowed their convictions to remain. Derek Tice has since been exonerated. Eric Wilson, convicted only of the rape, had already been released from prison and has not been cleared.
Evans said in the federal court hearing that she learned of Williams’ attraction to Moore-Bosko from one of their neighbors, Tamika Taylor. She said Taylor told her that Williams, whose wife had cancer, flirted with Moore-Bosko and would knock on her apartment door at all hours of the night — mostly when Moore-Bosko’s husband, also a sailor, was deployed.
Under cross-examination by a lawyer for Williams, Evans said she did not know at the time that Taylor was a childhood friend of Ballard.
Evans denied Williams’ testimony Thursday that she was hostile and aggressive during the interrogation, but she acknowledged lying when she told Williams that he failed a polygraph examination.
She said she turned the interrogation over to other detectives after concluding that she wasn’t going to get much out of Williams, probably because she is a woman. A short time later, detective Robert Glenn Ford obtained the confession. Williams testified Thursday that he cracked after 11 hours of being called a liar and being threatened with a capital murder charge.
Ford was later convicted of extortion and lying to the FBI in an unrelated case and is serving 12½ years in prison.
U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney also heard Friday from Michael Ziegler, who was Dick’s supervisor on the USS Saipan. Ziegler testified that Dick was scheduled for duty on the ship at the time of the murder, and he would have known if Dick had failed to show up or had arranged for a substitute.
“Nothing like that happened,” Ziegler said.
Ziegler said that when police asked to question Dick about the case, he told the sailor to just tell the truth and sent him into the city. Williams had already confessed, so Ziegler thought he need not worry. That changed when Dick, who was described by a forensic psychiatrist as extremely suggestible, failed to return to the ship.
“I thought, he’s confessed to this damn thing and there’s no way he could have been there,” Ziegler said.
In response to questions from an attorney for the state, Ziegler said he shared his concerns with his “chain of command” but never told police, prosecutors or Dick’s trial lawyer that the sailor had a solid alibi.
The trial lawyer, Michael Fasanaro Jr., testified that he looked into whether Dick was aboard the Saipan at the time of the murder but found no written proof.
“Without a record, I did not have an alibi defense,” Fasanaro said.
He also said Dick told him that he was involved in the crime. Dick and his family were “tickled pink” when prosecutors offered a plea deal sparing him the death penalty in exchange for his cooperation against Williams, Fasanaro said.