PLATTSMOUTH, NE - A judge on Tuesday convicted a top crime scene investigator of evidence
tampering, after prosecutors argued that the investigator planted blood
from a slaying victim in a car linked to two innocent suspects to
bolster the case against them.
Cass County District Judge Randall Rehmeier said he didn’t believe
Douglas County CSI director David Kofoed’s excuse that the victim’s
blood ended up in the car because of a sloppy mistake. Rehmeier said
there was enough evidence to show that Kofoed intentionally planted fake
The verdict drew gasps from those in the courtroom, mostly Kofoed’s
fellow investigators and other supporters. Kofoed left the courtroom
immediately following the announcement.
Kofoed, 53, faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine at his
May sentencing hearing. He remains free on bond.
While investigating the 2006 shooting deaths of Wayne and Sharmon Stock,
of Murdock, Kofoed said he found a speck of blood from one of the
victims in a car linked to their nephew Matthew Livers and his cousin,
Nicholas Sampson. That was the only physical evidence tying Sampson and
Livers to the slayings.
Livers initially confessed to the killings but quickly recanted. His
attorney has said the confession was coerced. Prosecutors said Kofoed
searched the car and reported finding a speck of Wayne Stock’s blood
after Livers took back his confession.
Kofoed did not file an official report on the blood sample until May 8,
2006. He indicated the evidence was collected that day, but has since
admitted it was done 11 days earlier. Kofoed has said distractions led
to the dating error.
Prosecutors argued at Kofoed’s trial that he intentionally planted the
blood evidence to bolster the case against Sampson and Livers, who were
jailed for several months on murder charges before they were exonerated.
Kofoed argued that accidental cross-contamination was to blame for his
Investigators linked a stolen ring found at the crime scene to Jessica
Reid and Gregory Fester, both of Horicon, Wis. They pleaded guilty to
second-degree murder and other charges in the Stocks’ deaths and are
serving life prison sentences.
In explaining his reasoning before announcing his decision, Rehmeier
said the Stock investigation had significant similarities to another
case Kofoed probed in 2003 following the disappearance and presumed
death of a Plattsmouth boy.
The body of 4-year-old Brendan Gonzalez was never found, but his father,
Ivan Henk, confessed to murdering his son and dumping his body in a
trash bin. Kofoed said he found traces of the boy’s blood in the trash
bin, corroborating Henk’s confession. Henk was convicted and is serving
life in prison.
In both cases, law enforcement had honed in on suspects, there was a
confession and pressure on investigators to corroborate it, and Kofoed
had access to DNA evidence.
After Kofoed was charged last year, Henk sought to have his conviction
thrown out on the argument that the chief investigator tampered with
evidence in his case. But a judge ruled in October that Henk wasn’t due
post-conviction relief and said Henk inaccurately described Kofoed’s DNA
finding as critical in the case. Henk’s appeal on the ruling is
Prosecutors were allowed to present evidence from the 2003 case in
Kofoed’s trial as they sought to prove his actions while investigating
the Stocks’ slayings were intentional.
Special prosecutor Clarence Mock said he doesn’t take pleasure in
Tuesday’s verdict, but he called it vindication for the overwhelming
majority of law enforcement officials who conduct their work truthfully
and with integrity.
Mock also said it serves as a lesson for law enforcement officials who
think they can cheat or manufacture evidence.
“You might be able to get away with it once or maybe twice or maybe
more, but ultimately, the truth will out, as it did in this particular
case,” he said.
Kofoed’s attorney, Steve Lefler, said he feels terrible about not opting
for a jury trial and he regrets now having Kofoed testify during the
trial. The verdict could have gone the other way, but it didn’t and now
it’s time to move forward, said Lefler who anticipates filing an appeal.
“With all due respect to a judge I greatly respect, I think he could
have gone through a very detailed list to show why he’s not guilty,”
Lefler said he doesn’t fault the judge’s analysis of the case, but said
that, “If you think that he’s innocent, which you’re supposed to do, you
could have answered all those points.”
A federal jury acquitted Kofoed last year in a related case. In that, he
had been charged with falsifying records, mail fraud and depriving
Livers and Sampson of their civil rights.
Livers and Sampson have lawsuits pending alleging that Kofoed and other
investigators violated their civil rights.