The Wrongful Conviction of David Thorne
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The Investigation

The investigation into the murder of Yvonne Layne was a forensics textbook example of what not to do at a crime scene.  Not only did the police do a poor job of collecting evidence at the scene, but they brought a civilian into the scene and utilized tunnel vision when investigating those who may be responsible. As a matter of fact, there was a chapter dedicated, about this investigation, in the textbook forensic scientist expert, Brent Turvey, co-authored, entitled Crime Reconstruction.  

Evidence Collection
The crime scene was mishandled from the minute the first officers arrived on the scene.  The chief of police had a civilian doing a ride-along the morning the call came in about Yvonne’s murder.  He brought the civilian into the house, which should have been secured.  Also, in order to remove the children from the scene, understandably, the officers did not want them to see their mother’s body on the ground, so decided to cover her up.  This should have been done with a sterile cover of some sort; however, the victim was covered with the comforter from her own bed.  It was observed that there were empty condom wrappers on the floor of her bedroom and therefore, there may have been evidence on the comforter. However, this was disregarded and the comforter was used to cover Ms. Layne’s body, thereby potentially ruining the chance of collecting semen or blood from the comforter.  This could have been used to determine who she had sex with recently, which may have been her killer.

The day after the discovery of Yvonne’s body, a knife was found a couple of blocks from her home on the street. This knife matched the same set of knives which Yvonne had in her house and the same sized knife which was missing from that set.  There was a thumbprint on the blade of the knife, which did not match David or Joe’s finger prints.  A blood swipe on a pillow at the crime scene appeared to be that of a knife being wiped off, matched the size of the knife.  However, the police decided this could not be the knife used to kill Yvonne, as they instead got Joe Wilkes to lead them to a knife, which in his confession, he claims to have used to murder Yvonne.  

Bloody shoe prints were found throughout the house.  They must have belonged to the murderer, as Yvonne was barefoot.  Rather than having an expert analyze the shoe prints, the Alliance police detectives brought a cut out of one of the prints to a Dick’s Sporting Goods store’s shoe department and asked the teenager working there to identify the print. 

Additionally, a couple of different brands of cigarettes were found at the scene.  Since people that smoke, generally smoke one brand of cigarettes, one would assume that when there are two different brands in an ash tray that the brand that Yvonne did not smoke was someone else’s who had been at the home recently.  Possibly the killer's?  Tests were done on the cigarette butts and were determined to test positive for saliva, however, no DNA tests were performed on the butts to determine who had smoked the cigarettes. 

So, we have a knife that matches the knife that is missing from the home of the deceased with a finger print on it, bloody shoe prints throughout the house, cigarette butts on the scene and open condom wrappers in the bedroom, none of which tie the crime to David Thorne or Joseph Wilkes.  These items are probably the most important pieces of evidence at the scene and yet, none of the evidence can be connected to David or Joe. 

The detectives on this case believed one of two people committed the crime.  According to Detective Sampson’s trial testimony, they assumed it was either Eric Cameron, the current boyfriend and father of at least one of Yvonne’s children, or David Thorne, the father of Yvonne’s two year old son.  It was immediately determined that Eric Cameron was incarcerated at the time of Yvonne’s murder, therefore the police believed he could not be responsible for her death, this led to the only other possible suspect, David Thorne.  David was asked to come to the police station for questioning and he immediately agreed to do whatever he could to assist in the investigation of the death of his son’s mother.  David’s grandfather hired an attorney for David.  The attorney was out of town, so he faxed a letter to the police station stating that David was represented.  This letter explained that because the attorney was out of town, therefore, unable to be present, David was not to make any statements at this time.  David followed his attorney’s suggestion and did not speak with the police.  A few days later when a detective contacted David’s attorney about speaking with David again, his attorney, unbeknownst to David, told the detective that the only way David would speak with them is if he was granted immunity.  This set off alarms for the police, and they immediately decided David was guilty.  The police got a search warrant for David’s car and came up with nothing.  Until Joe Wilkes was suggested as a suspect, the police had no way of proving David murdered his son’s mother.

When Joe Wilkes was brought in for questioning in July of the same year, the police used the fact that David was represented and that his attorney had asked for immunity to get Joe to confess.  The interrogating officers went as far as to lay the entire crime out for Joe, explaining to him exactly how he committed the murder of Yvonne Layne and that David hired him to do it.  Obviously, Joe was stunned and believed that he would receive the death penalty if he did not confess.  With the above in mind, he broke down and confessed, because he believed his friend was blaming him from another room.  In reality, David never spoke with the police and never blamed Joe for the murder.  This is a classic case of the detectives taking advantage of a young kid, with less than average intelligence, to confess to a crime he did not commit, rather than doing their job to find the real killer.  Click to read an excerpt of Joe’s interrogation.

Wondering why the police focused on David and Joe?  Click here to read more.