Marion DA: Jefferson chief mishandled rape case
Robin Y. Richardson
March 28, 2012 at 10 p.m.
In a 5-1 vote, the Jefferson City Commission approved the resignation of Police Chief Hollis Shadden Tuesday during its regular commission meeting.
Alderman Joe Lee casted the dissenting vote. Alderman Carey Heaster presided over the meeting in the absence of Mayor Jeff Fratangelo.
Shadden, who was hired for the position on Jan. 1, 2011, turned in his resignation last Monday to be effective immediately.
"While I remain grateful for the opportunity to serve the people of Jefferson, I do not feel that the present administration is willing or able to support my efforts to reorganize and manage the Jefferson Police Department," he wrote in his resignation letter. "During my tenure, I believe we have made great strides in the department and I am proud of those accomplishments.
"Unfortunately, recent events have made it impossible to continue those efforts," Shadden wrote.
Marion County District Attorney Bill Gleason addressed a crowd of citizens during Tuesday's meeting, informing them that the events that led to Shadden's resignation resulted from the way Shadden handled an alleged rape investigation. The alleged incident occurred around 9:30 p.m. on March 13 - six days before Shadden resigned.
"I think the police chief made an assumption and drew a conclusion without looking at the evidence and processing the scene correctly," said Gleason in an interview after the meeting.
Gleason said Shadden made an assumption that the rape never occurred without even talking to the victim.
However, "The rape is confirmed by the SANE nurse," said Gleason.
"So, you made an assumption at the start of the case before you had any evidence that this woman was not – not that she was not telling you the truth because you never talked to her….You just made the assumption and that's what you based your investigation on…" he said, referring to Shadden.
"How would you feel if it was you and he made that assumption?" Gleason asked the crowd. "You think you'd feel irritated, maybe that justice had not been served?"
Gleason said the "flaw" in the investigation came quickly, beginning at the crime scene.
"The scene wasn't secured. People were walking in and out the front door where the sexual assault allegedly occurred," he said, sharing that dogs were also trekking in and out.
"These officers are trained to secure the crime scene first, call the Ranger and he will bring in forensic assistance, and that didn't happen until the next morning," said Gleason. "The crime scene was already spoiled by then."
Gleason said the department also failed to do any door-to-door searching the next day for the suspect or visit local stores to review any video that he may have been captured on.
"None of that happened even when I asked," said Gleason.
Gleason said the police department didn't even call him about the alleged incident the night it was reported.
"When there are homicides, aggravated robberies, sexual assaults…even David McKnight from the sheriff's department will call me at 2 a.m.," said Gleason.
Gleason said citizens were being told a lie, particularly, that the woman answered the door with little clothing and welcomed the alleged stranger in.
"She didn't invite a stranger into her house to have a chat and it leads to something else," said Gleason, adding she was also fully clothed.
"She opens the door and gets knocked out. He knocks her on the floor and rapes her," he said, getting emotional. Gleason said he's known the alleged victim for about 25 years.
Gleason said the alleged victim managed to free herself from the alleged attacker and run next door for help.
"She's got swollen cheeks, bruises on her legs, scratches on her legs, she's got scratches on her arms, a scratch on her chest where her shirt was ripped off, and this guy," he said of Shadden, "says nothing happened.
"I think a jury would disagree," the DA said.
"You don't have to be CSI. All you got to do is say rope it off, call the Ranger…but you don't talk bad about your victim and you don't pretend to be something that you're not without working at it," said Gleason.
Gleason said he told the mayor.
"I said I'm not trying get a guy fired; I'm not trying to get a guy railroaded out of town, but I just want (you) to know when the bad thing happens, I want there to be a record," said Gleason. "A rape by force in this town is very unusual.
"I don't care who it is, you start off by saying it happened until you learn otherwise because if you make a judgment call…. If the cops are saying it didn't happen, then he gets another bite at that apple."
Gleason said the police chief is a friendly person as citizens have argued.
But, "I think the citizens who pay his salary deserve to know what is going on," he said.
"That is why we have a new police chief. That is why the investigation has been turned over to Investigator David McKnight (with the sheriff's office) and the Texas Ranger," said Gleason.
Gleason said the alleged assailant is in his 30s or 40s, six-feet tall and about 180 to 210 pounds. He said he has sandy hair "not very long, but long enough to hang," and a full, dark beard that's long enough to grab. He was wearing blue jeans, and a red shirt with a pattern that may have been plaid.
In addition to accepting Shadden's resignation, the council also approved to contract with former Police Chief Gary Amburn to serve as interim chief at a rate of $40,000 a year, and for a term to last no longer than 1,000 hours.