A Murder in Texas
Part Four – Evidence Issues and An Unheard Witness
The first problem with the evidence came on the morning that Sister Tadea was found.
As you may recall, Sister Angela was the nun who discovered the body.
She then made it known to the other nuns of what she had found.
They then wrapped Sister Tadea’s body in a sheet and cleaned up the “blood.”
Now, of course I’m not trying to say that one of the sisters committed the murder or that they were trying to hide something, however, since there was the presence of blood why would they think she died of “natural causes?”
And, as we all know, the contamination of the crime scene, could easily have led to different conclusions by the forensic team.
Then there’s the broken window that was discovered by Sister Florantine.
In her statement she said she found the broken window, “later in the day,” and realized there had been a break in.
Yet, even though the police were called to investigate the broken window, they still weren’t told of Sister Tadea’s death.
Sister Florantine testified that, “In my mind, I thought of it. But, I took it for granted, as the others did, that she died a natural death.”
This absolutely makes no sense.
There was blood present.
Sister Tadea was found on the floor, naked.
A window was broken seemingly from a break in, and still the police weren’t told?
They happened to overhear some of the nuns talking about it and that’s how the police even became aware that there was a death inside the convent?
I understand that the Sisters would be in some shock but, once the broken window was discovered, at least one of them must have known that this was a police matter.
Then there’s the autopsy.
By the time the body was recovered from the funeral home it had been partially cleansed and arterial embalming completed.
The autopsy revealed multiple injuries, including contusions to the head, stab wounds to the chest, and excoriation and abrasive injuries to the front and back of the neck. The pathologist, Dr. Erdmann, determined that death was caused by manual strangulation.
The autopsy also revealed evidence of forcible rape. Dr. Erdmann found signs of external bleeding and internal trauma in the vaginal area. Tests of vaginal contents revealed the presence of sperm and prostate secretions. No test was conducted from the vaginal contents designed to determine the assailant’s blood type.
And yet that evidence that was destroyed by the medical examiner because, “no one asked him to keep it?”
He testified in court painting a picture of a brutal rape and murder but because no one asked him to keep the semen found in the vaginal wash, he disposes of it?
Somehow, it’s hard for me to imagine that any medical professional would do this in what is clearly a rape/homicide.
At worse, it’s the intentional destruction of evidence, at best very shoddy work by the medical examiner.
In either case, there is no physical evidence left as to whom may have committed the rape.
Next we have the so called, “confession.”
Two police officers testified that, after they reduced Garrett’s statement to writing, Garrett agreed that it was true but refused to sign it until after he consulted counsel. After consulting counsel, Garrett declined to sign the statement. In the statement attributed to Garrett by the police, Garrett admitted breaking into the convent by knocking out a window on the bottom floor. He admitted going into a nun’s room. He stated that:
“There was a nun in bed and she acted as if she was going to scream. I covered her mouth so she couldn’t make any noise.
I started choking her until she passed out. I had sex with her. I left the convent the way I came in.”
Garrett denied making that statement. He testified that the police officer would “say something, and I would say, ‘put it down,’ he would say something else and I said ‘go ahead and put it down.’ Then he said ‘sign this.’ I said, ‘I ain’t signing nothing.’ ”
In the police report, it was stated that Garrett asked for an attorney but then confessed, unrecorded, to the murder, BEFORE speaking with the attorney he requested.
Why would he do that?
Another bit of testimony that makes no sense.
There were two knives recovered at and near the scene of the murder.
One, a steak knife, was recovered from the driveway of the convent.
It was said to match other steak knives in Garret’s home.
Another, a butter knife, was recovered from under Sister Tadea’s bed.
Neither of the two knives had been used to stab the Sister.
Garrett also testified that he entered the convent two days before the murder looking for items to steal. According to his testimony, he entered the convent through the front door shortly after noon and proceeded into the medication room and the cafeteria, where he picked up the kitchen knife. He testified that he then went into several of the bedrooms. In one bedroom he bent the knife in prying open a locked drawer. He explained his fingerprints on the headboard of Sister Benz’ bed by stating that he grabbed the headboard so he could lean over and reach a cross on the wall. He testified that he heard a noise in the convent and fled. Garrett testified that he went to his mother’s house at approximately 10:20 p.m. on October 30 and did not leave until later the next morning.
On rebuttal Sister Bernice Noggler testified that, contrary to Garrett’s testimony, the front door of the convent is ordinarily locked and no one could enter the cafeteria around the noon hour without being noticed. She also denied that any of the chests in the convent were locked or that any valuables had been reported missing. She also denied that Sister Benz ever had a cross hanging above her headboard.
At this point though, one must ask, how accurate is this testimony?
After all, the good nuns thought Sister Tadea had passed of “natural causes” even though she had been stabbed multiple times and there was blood on her face.
Again, things aren’t making any sense.
The state also presented rebuttal witnesses who lived near Garrett’s mother. One neighbor testified that Garrett was seen prowling around an elderly woman’s home in the neighborhood on the night of the murder. The second neighbor testified that Garrett came to his house at approximately 11:00 the same evening.
All I can say is, how many people REALLY know with accuracy, day and hour, events that occur in their lives?
When exactly did the events the neighbors testified to take place?
The Sister was murdered on Halloween morning.
Was the “prowler” around the elderly woman’s home Halloween night or the night before?
Same question for the neighbor whose house Garrett was at supposedly at 11PM.
Halloween or the night before?
After all, Garrett was a mentally challenged 17 year old.
Wouldn’t he be out looking for candy on Halloween night?
I think these are valid questions.
Curly hairs found at the crime scene could not be Garret’s.
His hair was not curly but straight.
And, they did not come from the “afro wig” that Bubbles the clairvoyant described.
That’s easily determined.
So, where did those hairs come from?
The pubic hair recovered showed similar characteristics to those of Johnny Frank.
But, no DNA was tested so “similar” does NOT mean a match.
The state also offered the testimony of Lonnie Watley, an inmate and trusty of the Potter County Jail during Garrett’s pretrial incarceration. Watley testified that Garrett originally denied committing the offense, but eventually admitted to breaking into the convent and killing the nun.
A 14-year-old boy testified, outside the presence of the jury, that he had gone with Garrett into the convent 2 days before the murder to steal necklaces, just as Garrett claimed.
WHY was this boy’s testimony not heard by the jury?
In addition, why didn’t Johnny’s court appointed attorney demand that this boy’s testimony be entered into evidence?
Along with the following things that were left out at trial.
Numerous foreign prints not belonging to Garrett were found at the scene
Numerous foreign curly, black hairs not belonging to Garrett were found at the scene
A foreign, bloody V-neck T-shirt not belonging to Garrett was found at the scene
A foreign, athletic sock not belonging to Garrett was found at the scene
Shoe prints found outside the convent did not match Garrett’s.
These are all pertinent questions in my opinion and makes for some gross skepticism about the conducting of this trial.
Tuesday – The Verdict and Penalty Phase