Jamie Snow

Several months ago I discovered the show "Crime Watch Daily."  It is a weekday show in which several crimes are profiled in the hour long show. I enjoy these types of shows the most because while they obviously are all always bias, the shorter segments have the ability to just get out the more important information about the case so you can go into them with less knowledge that may taint your thoughts on the case.  This is a case I heard about on that program.  

I have often said here on the blogs that I go into case with the belief that the jury got it right as this is essential for me in my trust of the justice system.  And yet then I read about a case such as this one and have to question my belief in our courts and the reliability of juries.  I do not come to decisions like these lightly but I need to see evidence and proof, not speculation and wonder.  I think what amazes me the most about this case is that it is not a case from pre-1980 where many cases were "solved" on mere speculation and less forensics.  We are talking about a case that went to trial in 2001, although the crime was committed in 1991.  We are talking about a case in which not one single finger print or shoe print lifted matched the defendant.  We are talking about a case in which the murder weapon has never been found, nor have the courts allowed modern ballistic testing done on the bullet from the victim.  We are talking about a case in which many witnesses have recanted their testimony or proven to have lied on the witness stand. We are talking about a case in which an answer to a 2011 appeal stated that this case screamed for a new hearing on the evidence.  But here I go getting ahead of myself.....

On Easter Sunday, March 31, 1991 a silent alarm was triggered in a Clark's gas station in Bloomington Illinois.  When all was said and done 18 year old clerk, William Little had been shot dead. The first officer on the scene, Jeffrey Pelo, arrived without his siren since the alarm had been silent and parked across the street.  He would claim in his reports, in court records and even to the dispatcher on his radio what he saw.  He saw a car at the air pump and as he was walking towards the store called in the license plate number. He watched the man, who would later be identified as Danny Martinez, walk towards the entrance to the store but then turn around, get in his car and drive away.  Martinez was the only person present when Officer Pelo arrived according to his report.  A new vehicle pulled into the lot as Pelo got closer and the officer asked the occupants to wait while he went in and checked things.  

While officers were at the scene a man by the name of Gerardo Gutierrez arrived.  He had been at the store a short time earlier and claimed that when he got home and soon heard about the shooting he felt he needed to report what he had seen.  According to Gutierrez he had witnessed a man approximately 6 feet tall with long hair, a gold earring and a fresh scar on his chin wearing a black motorcycle jacket arguing with William Little at the time of his visit.  A police sketch artist was called and a composite picture was made of the man Gutierrez saw.  Between the next few months and several years Gutierrez was shown several police line ups, both live and through pictures, and was never able to identify anyone.  In fact, at the trial in 2001 he still failed to ID the defendant.  

The neighborhood was canvased to see if anyone saw anything.  Across the street from the gas station lived 14 year old Carlos Luna and his brother.  He would tell investigators that he had been looking out the window around the time the murder is believed to have occurred. He was a distance of about 200 feet away and told the officers that he could not really identify anyone but initially reported someone wearing an ankle length coat.  By the time of the trial it had changed to a waist length coat.  He was unable to give officers enough description of the man to form a composite.  Several months later he was shown a picture police line up Luna did pick out Jamie Snow but was quoted as saying that he took a wild guess and even the officer involved in that viewing said Luna had stated he was not certain.  

Then there was Danny Martinez.  He was the guy the responding officer said was at the gas station when he arrived and had called in his license plate number.  Police interviewed him at his home the following day.  Martinez would claim that while he was putting air in his tires at the station he had heard two "pops" and would practically run into a guy coming out of the station.  He would be quoted as saying he had eyes he could "never forget" yet over the next several years failed to ever identify Jamie Snow in any police line up.  There were several interesting things about Martinez.  The one that I found most interesting is that he knew Jamie Snow personally.  Martinez had grown up with Jamie Snow and while I cannot say they were close friends still, they did know each other as testified by many other people. The second interesting fact about Martinez is that his story seemed to be discredited by the first responding officer. While Officer Pelo would have his own legal troubles several years later that I will discuss as an after note, his report not just to the courts, but to the dispatcher claim that Pelo saw Martinez show up at the station and leave and there was no one else there and definitely no one coming out of the station door.  

Just a few months prior to the trial in 2001 Martinez had a private meeting with the prosecutor in this case.  It was then that he was shown a picture line up from the live line up he had seen just a month or so after the murder that he finally picked out Jamie Snow, nearly ten years after the crime. An investigator for another attorney spoke to Martinez after Jamie was arrested in 1999 and had his picture in the paper and he continued to maintain that was not the man he saw at the station. However, at trial Martinez would maintain that when he saw the arrest picture in the newspaper he realized that Jamie Snow (who apparently he was maintaining he did not know prior despite other evidence) was the man but had not explanation as to why he failed to notify the police. Then again the first responding officer claims there was no man at the station at all.  

In 1991 the detective in charge of the case was Charles Crowe.  I do not know just how or why he looked into Jamie Snow being involved but he apparently did. It could be that Jamie had a bit of a criminal history.  By then he had a few thefts on his record and had done some jail time but nothing violent.  The month after the murder Jamie was arrested although I cannot say what the charge (it has been widely reported as being unrelated to the shooting) was but this is likely how he ended up in the police line ups that the witnesses were shown. Jamie would maintain that instead of being at the gas station as prosecutors would later contend, he was at his home with his wife and children on the other side of town eating Easter Dinner.  In 1994 Jamie would take, and pass, a lie detector about the case.  Over time Detective Crowe apparently believed in Jamie's innocence and moved past him.  When he retired in 1997 Detectives Dan Katz and Rick Backes took up the case.  By all accounts it seems that they began with tunnel vision and immediately focused again on Jamie Snow.  However, they also had a surprising theory that to this day no one has ever figured out how they were able to come to the conclusion that Jamie's sister in law, Susan Claycomb was also involved in the murder and had driven a get away car.

Keep in mind that there was no witness ever mentioned seeing the man that they believed to be involved in the murder get into any kind of car.  It has apparently been a puzzle as to where the detectives came up with this theory.  In September of 1999 both Jamie Snow and his sister in law, Susan Claycomb were arrested for the murder of William Little.  By this time Jamie Snow had moved to Florida and owned his own tree trimming business.  As far as brushes with the law, I cannot say.  Another thing I cannot determine is what evidence in which they were able to use to arrest them.  There had apparently been a grand jury hearing in August of 1999 in which likely brought on the arrests the following month.  I saw mention of of the grand jury hearing in a 2011 appeal commenting  an officer claiming at trial that in a 1991 arrest Jamie had made comments about the Little murder but that in the same officers grand jury testimony he stated the comments were about the unrelated crime he had been arrested for.  There was not, nor has there ever been any forensic evidence linking Jamie Snow to the crime; Martinez did not identify him until a few months before his trial, and long after his arrest; Luna had identified him, but not very confidently.  This leads me to believe that the only evidence used to get the indictment from a grand jury came from other witnesses that would later testify at the trial.

Keep in mind detectives often say things like in order to get the devil they have to go to hell to get the witnesses.  Basically what this means is that in so many criminal cases the defendant in the cases are not up standing citizens in the community.  They often have criminal (minor and major) backgrounds, and often many of the people they know and socialize with do also.  In this case many, if not all, of the witnesses, aside from the three I have already mentioned that testified as to what they saw at the scene were people with criminal backgrounds seemingly looking to make a deal with prosecutors in their own cases. The prosecutors today will say they have "dozens" of people to testify that Jamie Snow confessed to them in some manner that he was involved in the murder of William Little. More than 15 of those witnesses have either been discredited or recanted their testimony. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

So Jamie Snow and Susan Claycomb are arrested for this murder and were awaiting individual trials. Jamie had been appointed attorney Frank Picl as his attorney while although I cannot tell you who it was Susan had another attorney, Steven Skelton,  who had their own investigator for the case.  Seeing as the evidence, or lack there of, was basically the same any evidence the defense attorney's found could have presumably helped the other considering the goal would have first been to prove their client was not involved in the murder but also helpful to prove that the defendants were not even with each other.  While awaiting her trial it has been said that Susan was offered a plea deal. Apparently the deal was to drop the murder charge if she agreed to plead guilty to perjury for supposedly lying to the grand jury in August of 1999 she would receive a sentence of probation.  She would have been required to testify against Jamie at his trial.  Susan declined the plea offer and went to trial in August of 2000.  Just as one would see in Jamie's trial later that year this one would see many convicts testifying against her claiming that she had confessed in some form to the murder of William Little.  Although I could not find any information about how the jury ultimately came to the decision that they did but by the end of August Susan got to go home to her family after the jury acquitted her. I had to dig quite a bit to find anything on her trial and even then it was difficult because so much is dominated by Jamie Snow's trial a few months later.

It is reasonable to believe that Susan's acquittal left the prosecutors scrambling.  Then again in their theory of the crime Susan was only the get away driver.  It was Jamie they really wanted.  It is also reasonable to believe that even before her trial they were likely worried about a lack of evidence against both of them since they offered Susan the deal that they did.  If she had taken the deal they would not have taken her to trial and risk losing like they obviously did, but then they also would have had another "witness" against Jamie.  At the end of Susan's trial in August Jamie was expected to go to trial that following December. However that was pushed back to May of 2001.  

Again, there was absolutely no physical or forensic evidence linking Jamie to the crime. That does not mean there was not any, it just means that it did not match to Jamie.  So the trial starts out and he has two lawyers, Frank Picl and the other was G. Patrick Riley.  Riley had a stroke at some point (some things say during the trial) and his speech ability was hindered so Picl was the lead attorney.  Something else I found that interested me was the fact that while at trial Jamie was held at the defense table wearing a stun belt. Remember, aside from this charge Jamie had never apparently had any violent charges.  There are some courts (I am unsure Illinois is one of them) in which they are not allowing these belt to be in courts, or at the very least where they are seen by witnesses and juries. Some courts have decided that the visual of seeing a defendant wearing one of these belts can prejudice a jury.   So, this trial hindered on the three witnesses at the station, most notably Danny Martinez and a multitude of people who would testify that Jamie Snow had confessed to the crime.  So let's look at them.

1) Bruce Roland.... on the stand he denied receiving any deal to testify saying that Jamie Snow confessed.  He failed a polygraph but those results were not given to the defense.  When it was time to be sentenced for his own crime he received a lighter sentence with the paperwork says his cooperation in this crime was "taken into consideration."

2) Kevin Schaal... Schaal never said Jamie Snow directly confessed but had eluded to the fact that he had done the crime and apparently later admitted that he and another witness, Ronnie Wright, had come up with this plan.  On the stand he denied receiving any deal but again, his paperwork says he was given good time credit for providing information "valuable to a murder trial."

3) Ronnie Wright.... He would testify that Jamie Snow confessed to the crime to him in a Florida jail.  He has since written an affidavit saying that he lied at the trial because he and Jamie Snow had argued in jail and he did not like him.  He also admitted being given and reading all of the discovery material before the trial, provided by the prosecution so he could make the "confession" sound believable.

4) Ed Palumbo... He was in jail at the time and admitted that he had tried to get a deal but indicated that he had still not gotten one.  In a later affidavit he has claimed that the DA, Charles Reynard admitted to him that he knew Snow was innocent but "since they couldn't get that other person Jamie would have to do." Palumbo also claims that he was told if he did not testify that Jamie Snow confessed to the crime he would be placed in segregation and charged with perjury (apparently for another case) and get five years for not cooperating. Note that I have found nothing anywhere that says Reynard has commented on this claim.

5) Steve Scheel...  Testified that he had ran into Snow at a party in April of 1991 and he confessed.  He has since claimed that he agreed to testify after he was placed in a segregated cell in the jail.  It should be noted that prior to his recantation Scheel had taken, and failed a polygraph test. 

6)  Bruce Roland... Testified that Snow confessed saying that he shot William Little because he wouldn't give him a free pack of cigarettes and because he could have ID'd him.  He continued to say that Snow stated that he was at a home near the station at the time at a party.  All residents of the home in which Snow supposedly told Roland he was at denied he was there.  Roland received a deal of some sort for his testimony.  Snow says he never met Roland.

7) Karen Strong.... She lived with a man named Mark McCowan and says Snow showed up the evening of the shooting but didn't stay.  She claimed that both Snow and McCowan claimed that Snow had shot "the Little kid."  She had no reason why she had not contacted the police at the time.  At the time of trial Strong was facing charges relating to cocaine possession.  Several witnesses came forward to discredit her and it was discovered that she had a long going feud with Tammy Snow, Jamie's wife.

8) Bill Moffitt... He would share a jail cell with Snow in October 1994 and claimed Snow confessed and he supposedly called the police in 1995 with this information, although I was unable to prove this.  At the time of the trial Moffitt was in jail again facing charges and was given a deal for his cooperation.

9) Edward Hammond...  Claimed to have known Snow for 25 years. Testified that while in a Correctional facility in 1995 Snow had confessed.  It was proven that Hammond and Snow were not in the same "yards" at the time of their incarceration, although they obviously couldn't prove they had not run into each other.  Snow denies even knowing him.

10) Jody Winkler....  Testified that while in Florida Snow had confessed.  Winkler had a long list of felony convictions and was facing forgery charges at the time of trial which he received a deal on.  Admitted that at the time of the supposed confession he was on the run from the law and used crack cocaine on a regular basis.  

11) Dan Tanasz... Testified that Snow confessed a few times between 1995 and 1996 that he could not return to Illinois because of a robbery and shooting.  He admitted on the stand that during these conversations he was likely highly intoxicated. He has since recanted his testimony.

12) Dawn Roberts... Testified that she had heard Snow say he wanted the composites around town to come to him between 1993-1994 and that when they were brought to him he said "this is me."  She has since recanted her testimony. (I will go into the issue of the composites later but her testimony may have meant nothing anyway.)

13) William Gaddis... claimed that in March of 1991 (keep in mind this information came from a 2011 appeal so directly from the court documents and the crime occurred on March 31st) he saw Snow at his brothers home and that those around the room were crying and someone said "Jamie shot a boy."  Gaddis' brother claims this never happened and Gaddis was proved to be a known liar.

14) Mary Jane Burns.....  She was a former correction officer who says Snow did not confess to the crime but said he knew who did it and was at the scene in a car behind the building.  She claimed other inmates were there as the confession was made.  At least one of the former inmates has refuted her testimony.

Now, it is true in order to get a snake sometimes you have to roll around in the grass and by the list of witnesses against Snow it looks as if a lot of rolling had gone on.  I am not going to sit here and tell you everyone that has a criminal past or even everyone who is facing charges at the time they testify is lying in order to make a deal or that every person with a criminal background is approached by "crooked" investigators and prosecutors out to do whatever it takes to make case.  However, when the only evidence you have against a defendant is the word of people who seemingly are out to make a deal from themselves, in my opinion there is no evidence.  

I said above when I mentioned Dawn Roberts that I would go back into the composite drawing issue.  The original drawing, composed off the description given by Gerard Gutierrez did not look like Jamie Snow.  He did not have pierced ears, nor did he have a scar on his chin, then or ever. It was claimed that over time the composite became to look more and more like Snow as the investigation went on.  It was said that even a police spokesman who released a "new" version of the composite to the public had publicly stated he disagreed with this and that the FBI suggests that this never happens.  They rely on the description given from the initial interview and do not allow any changes.  Dawn Roberts never claimed at trial that Snow confessed to the crime, only that he stated the composite drawing was of him.  She has since recanted her story, but even if she had not I believe a competent attorney could have made this "evidence" less meaningful.  

Once again I have gotten ahead of myself in this story, and did so as I went through the witnesses so let me go back a bit.  As you can probably already tell considering I have mentioned appeals and the fact that this is a true crime blog and Jamie Snow is the title, he was convicted of murder in May of 2001.  He was later sentenced to life without parole.

Aside from the many recantations I have mentioned above there have been many other developments to this story since that time.  Let me start with what I did learn in the 2011 appeal.  First off, let me be clear that the appeal was technically an original appeal of another court that had denied the things asked for or brought up.  Basically what that means is that an appeal was filed and denied so the defendant appealed to a higher court and it is their job to determine if the lower court had rightfully denied the appeal.  They cannot then grant the things the original appeal asked for they can only say if the lower court was correct in their opinion or not. It was here where I was able to determine many, if not all of the witnesses involved in the case, what their status was prior to their testimony and what has resulted since that time in regard to their testimony.  The original appeal had asked for "post conviction relief," ballistic testing done on the bullet that was retrieved using modern technology, claiming ineffective counsel among other things including the lack of discovery from the trial as well as new evidence discovered since the trial.  The appeals court in 2011 did in fact find that the lower court had erred in their dismissal of the case based on several things.  

I am going to start with the ineffective counsel charge.  Now, this is such a common argument that it is generally dismissed not only by the courts but by the lay people.  I have recently seen an appeal written in which a judge totally admonished the whole idea that everyone seems to claim ineffective counsel as it is an easy appeal point. The difference here is that not only had the courts determined that Frank Picl had in fact done a very poor job, much was learned after the trial about Picl.  In 2006 he pleaded guilty and was disbarred by the state of Illinois after he admitted to bilking an elderly woman out of over $200,000 as he had been appointed as her Power of Attorney.  At his hearing many experts and others testified to Picl's behaviors that had been going on for several years.  It was determined and admitted that he had suffered from alcoholism and gambling issues for many years.  His secretary stated that Picl's downfall began in late 1999 in which his work performance began to become "poor" as she stated.  This was prior to Snow's trial if you had not noticed.  

One of the "new" discovery of evidence revolved around the issue of Jeffrey Pelo, the first responding officer at the scene.  To look at Pelo himself one would not find a lot of confidence in him so I am going to get his issues out of the way first.  In 2006 (that was a bad year for people involved in the Snow case it seems) Pelo was arrested and later charged with the rape of three women and the stalking of another.  There had been a rash of rapes in the city starting in 2002 and they could not determine who was responsible.  At the time of his arrest Pelo was still a sergeant with the police department. On the night of July 7, 2006 a woman called 9-1-1 to report a prowler.  When an officer got to the scene he found Pelo, who was not on duty in the area.  He was eventually charged with 35 cts relating to rape, kidnapping and stalking.  Despite no physical evidence of his crimes once again there were dozen of witnesses ready to testify, there was evidence of what was called "violent porn" in his home and it was determined that his police computer log in was used to research the known rape victims (I cannot say if this occurred before or after the actual rape).  He was ultimately convicted and given a sentence of 440 years.  However, that being said, Pelo's description and information regarding the Snow case seemed to be backed up by his conversations with the dispatcher the night of the crime.  The defense had not been made aware of Pelo's claims, nor the proof of the audio available to the dispatcher until 2004. This evidence would dispute the testimony of Danny Martinez.  

Other new evidence has come to light also.  First there was the issue that two detectives that testified in the trial stated that when they arrested Snow in April of 1991 for an unrelated crime that he had made comments regarding his involvement with the Little murder and yet grand jury testimony taken in 1999 shows that they stated the comments were to the crime in which he had been arrested.  I find this odd that these officers would go to court and testify that they basically had a confession from Snow less than a month from the crime but other than their word their seemed to be no record of this.  On top of that to know that eight years after this supposed confession they do not tell this same information to a grand jury. In fact, it seems quite the contrary.   Then there is a man named Leigh Denison.  He apparently worked with Snow in Florida and apparently rented a room off of him.  He has claimed that Bloomington police officers had interviewed him in Florida and that they threatened that if he did not testify against Snow, they would charge his for assisting Snow in the crime.  Of course they would have had to prove he was in Illinois in 1991 and since Denison denied the allegations they likely had no leverage but it has to make you wonder if this was not used on Susan Claycomb and how, or at least why they came up with the charges against her.  Susan passed away in 2013 so she could not answer these questions if she has not already.  

The 2011 appeal went through every witness it seems and all of the issues they were to look over very deeply.  Again, while they could not necessarily grant the things the defense wanted in the original appeal they not only completely disagreed with the lower court dismissing the case, they said the things they had discovered in this case "screamed" that a hearing on the evidence was necessary.  

One thing that I have a note for in my research has puzzled me.  I am unsure where I found this reference, but it was only referenced once it seems in all the things I looked at but it has left me curious.  I read somewhere that at the time of the crime Jamie Snow had a large cast on his arm.  It would seem to me that if this was true it would be easy to determine. It would then beg to ask why none of the witnesses at the station mentioned this, especially Danny Martinez.  I cannot say what angle Gerard Gutierrez had to which he could have seen the arm of the man he described to the police, but keep in mind that Gerard never ID'd Snow in or out of court.  However, Danny Martinez claims to have "practically run into the guy" outside the station door.  This would indicate he had a full view of the supposed perpetrators body.  For his part Carlos Luna  would have also seen a full view only from a few hundred feet away and yet no one mentions a cast.  

Jamie Snow has never admitted to authorities, in interviews or apparently to anyone credible that he was involved in this crime and steadfastly maintains his innocence. He has another court date in November of 2016 in his case.  The Justice for Illinois' Wrongfully Convicted took up his case several years ago and are fighting for him.  The prosecution maintains that while they can hardly argue that there was any physical or forensic evidence linking Snow, that he confessed to 40 people.  They leave out that many have recanted, not to mention I have yet to see a list of that many people.  The city of Bloomington and the police department have been sued for violating the Freedom of Information Act in their failure to provide evidence in this case including audio recordings that the police department claim they cannot provide because they have no way to transfer said audio from the cassette form it is in to a more modern technology.  As far as I can tell this case is also pending.  

Is Jamie Snow guilty?  I am going to have to say I don't believe so.  There were fingerprints, blood samples and footprints in the area of the crime and apparently they have been all tested and nothing links to Jamie Snow.  No, Jamie Snow is not an angel by any means and he had his run ins with the law but again, nothing was violent in nature.  Nearly everyone of the witnesses against him have either recanted, been proven to be untruthful or at the very least have others saying their testimony was false, or was given a deal to testify.  But regardless of that, we do not convict people solely on the words of others, especially when there is evidence at the scene that can point to a perpetrator.  Snow's "co-conspirator" was acquitted because there was no evidence against her and yet the prosecutor had the same theory in Snow's trial.  Susan Claycomb testified in Jamie's defense at his trial. Not one single witness claimed seeing the perpetrator get into a car, let alone that another car was in the area.  In my opinion the state is fighting against his release and appeals because they know if this case is overturned, as it should be, they will never get another conviction.

I am so confident that this case was mishandled that I have added a label to this blog that I do not believe I have ever done without clear proof or admittance from the court "wrongfully convicted."

Comments

  1. Hi Susan,
    I read your blog from time to time as I am also very interested in true crime stories. I really enjoy your thorough re-telling and research on these cases.
    I am from Bloomington-Normal, IL and I remember this murder happening and Jamie Snow being convicted. While I don't know anyone involved in this case, it wouldn't surprise me to find out that Jamie Snow was wrongly convicted. I do know that Bloomington, in my opinion, has a horrible track record of convicting the right person in these high-profile cases. Have you looked into the David Hendricks case? The cops and courts screwed that one up, IMO. Also, the Jennifer Lockmiller murder case where they convicted Alan Beaman and then later, Beaman was either pardoned or sentence commuted (I don't know which) and he has always proclaimed his innocence. Also, there was another case where they dragged some guy from Indiana back to Bloomington in 1996 and accused him of killing his wife, Coleen Uban, in 1968 in a staged auto accident. He was found not guilty. It seems like in a true whodunit kind of case, Bloomington isn't the best at finding the answers.

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    Replies
    1. So Lori, today I blogged on the Hendricks case, partly because of you mentioning it but also because I saw something else recently because it was the anniversary of the case. After I finished the blog, I went to get dinner and threw in Jennifer Lockmiller's name. Holy crap! What is (or hopefully was and it's stopped) going on there in Bloomington??

      I live in the south west corner of Indiana and this week I have joked that I need to move west to Illinois after this election.... I'll be sure to not move to McLean county!

      Delete
  2. No Lori, I don't think I have heard of those cases....they will surely make it to my list.

    ReplyDelete

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