Monthly Archives: January 2018

Lisa Troemner Trial Continues, She is on the Stand

lisa troemner

Lisa Troemner

The Defendant in the murder of Trevor Smith on Marco Island, has taken the stand in her own Defense. Lisa Troemner had previously admitted to stabbing her then-boyfriend to death, and her attorney indicated that she claims to be acting in self defense. She is now on the stand answering questions, as she tries to convince the jury her actions were justified.

Last week, the state rested, and the defense started presenting their case, including testimony from an expert regarding the effects of drugs and alcohol. The Defense has maintained that Ms. Troemner was acting in self-defense, but the best way for them to convince a jury is if the jury finds her testimony credible. She faces life in prison if the jury does not feel that her actions were justified and finds her guilty as charged. She could also end up with a lesser included offense, such as manslaughter, which would carry a lesser maximum sentence. NDN’s Patrick Riley is live tweeting from the courtroom.

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So… This Lady Stole a House

barbara harris

Barbara Harris

Fort Myers police received a call from Barbara Harris and responded to a home, where Ms. Harris indicated the had just purchased an abandoned property. She showed the responding officer documents from the property appraiser that indicated that she was the owner, and the officer told her she could enter the house. She forced the lock and opened the door, setting off an alarm, and then asked the officer to make sure there was no one inside. The officer did, and observed that the house was fully furnished, which was odd since Ms. Harris had claimed that it was abandoned.

Not long after that, a woman showed up with her family, and said, that no, the house was hers. She explained that her family had built the house, and that they certainly had not sold it, and provided documentation that they had been living there. The officer told Ms. Harris to stay away from the house. It appears Ms. Harris did stay away, but she made repeated contacts with FMPD to try to obtain the house.

Ultimately, the homeowner did her own digging, and was able to locate a forged warranty deed that Ms. Harris had filed with the clerk, and used to get the property appraiser to incorrectly display the property owner. It was a good thing she did, because by the time a detective went looking, the false documents had already been purged. It would have been much harder to prove the case without the owners own detective work.

Barbara Harris, who also used the name Barbara Jeffers, Barbara Jeffrey, and Barbara Davis in her scheme was convicted at trial this week. She faced up to 40 years for Theft, Burglary, and some forgery related offenses. There doesn’t seem to be any media coverage of the trial testimony, or what her defense might have been. She had told the detective she’d meet with him, but blew him off. I’m not sure how this case ended up going to trial… perhaps she didn’t want to accept what was probably an offer that included prison time. Regardless, the most amazing thing about this is the audacity of someone to forge their own deed, and then call the cops to try to help them steal a house!

 

The State might be Paying a Key Witness in the Theresa Sievers Murder Case

  • Indications are that Jimmy “The Hammer” Rodgers former girlfriend is being paid by LCSO
  • Rodgers and Mark Sievers facing possible death penalty in the murder of Mark’s wife Dr. Theresa Seivers.
Theresa Sievers

Theresa Sievers

We haven’t had much coverage in the case of Dr. Theresa Sievers, who was killed allegedly at the hands of two associates of her husband Mark, Curtis Wright and Jimmy “The Hammer” Rodgers. Curtis Wright has already pled to second-degree murder charges, and Rodgers and Mark Sievers are facing a possible death penalty. The case is extremely complex, due to the length of the investigation and the fact that it stretches all the way to Missouri, and the parties have been bogged down in discovery issues.

Now, NBC-2 has uncovered something very interesting in a discovery motion filed by Mark Sievers’ attorney. In the Motion to Compel Discovery, Sievers requests records relating to funds that are being paid to Taylor Shomaker. Shomaker was dating Jimmy Rogers at the time of the murder, and gave a statement against him, and is expected to be a key witness wen the case goes to trial. Therefore, if she has received payments for her testimony, especially if she’s receiving them on a regular basis, that’s fodder for the defense attorneys.

mark sievers jimmy rogers the hammer

Mark Sievers and Jimmy “The Hammer” Rodgers

The legal issue is whether the monetary incentive could influence a witness to testify favorably for one party. It’s not unusual for professional or expert witnesses to be paid for the time they spend working on a case: consider a doctor a or a lab expert that may be hired to give an opinion on a case. However, these types of witnesses are expected to be paid, and even then it is just for the actual time they spend. Even then, it is fodder for the other side to impeach a witness based on the money they are being paid to testify. The Defense will argue that she is being paid to get her to testify against the others, and the more money she is paid, the less reliable her testimony will be.

curtis wayne wright lee

Curtis Wayne Wright

Likewise, Curtis Wright is receiving compensation for his testimony, but not monetary. The Defense will argue that Wright is testifying so he can get a better deal. The State already let him plea to 2nd Degree Murder, effectively eliminating the risk of the death penalty for him, and potentially less prison time. In their motion, the the Defense is also trying to get documentation related to Wright’s proffer and his cooperation. Wright’s testimony will be key to tie Sievers into the plot, as it appears Wright and Rodgers committed the murder while Mark Sievers was out of town. They may have some evidence of communication between Sievers and Wright, but his testimony will be key to prove Sievers’ knowledge and complicity in the plot.

Taylor Shomaker

Taylor Shomaker from her law enforcement interview

That’s not unusual, for consideration to be given to one conspirator to go after another. However, the circumstances regarding the payments to Ms. Shomaker are extremely unusual. Perhaps it will be revealed that it was compensation for travel expenses or something innocuous, but the indications in the Defense’s Motion to Compel certainly sounds out of the ordinary.

via NBC-2

I was quoted in the Miami Herald Exposé on the Prison Death Crisis in Florida

  • More inmates died in Florida prisons last year than any year in history.
  • The death rate spiked 20 percent.
  • Charlotte Correctional Institute has had a spate of questionable inmate deaths, most recently Brodrick Campbell.

cciYesterday, reporter Sarah Blaskey at the Miami Herald published an in-depth exposé  on the recent spike in prison deaths among inmates of Florida’s Department of Corrections (DOC). More inmates died last year while incarcerated in Florida’s prison than any year on record. The increase in deaths is particularly shocking, in that Florida’s crime and incarceration rates have been on the decline for several years. Charlotte Correctional Institute (CCI), just south of Punta Gorda, has been one of the leading facilities for inmate deaths.

There are not answers for the increased death rate, and many of the deaths are still under investigation- or the results have not been published. One possible explanation proposed by DOC that many of the deaths are caused by drug overdoses in prison. Drugs and contraband in prison have always been a problem, and addiction and overdoses have been on the rise outside of prison, as well. Unfortunately, there are few rehabilitation programs in jail, and drug addiction frequently goes untreated, though drugs are quite often a factor in the underlying crime that lead to incarceration.

ID Photo

Brodrick Campbell

One of the cases discussed was the death of Brodrick Campbell, an inmate we’ve discussed here. This young man was found dead under curious circumstances at Charlotte Correctional last year. The case is still under investigation, and the official word is that he committed suicide, which immediately struck me as odd for such a young man. A review of his case discovered that he was only sentenced to prison for three years, was a minimum security inmate, and had less than two years remaining. His family has since described a family man, who had young children who would often visit him. The explanation of suicide doesn’t make sense, and his relatives certainly don’t believe it. Based on previous history, there is a real fear that this or other deaths have come at the hands of guards.

Answers for this crisis are difficult, as it is for the problems at Juvenile Justice. DOC guards are underpaid, and for that reason retention is low. That means DOC trains them, but the good ones don’t stay, and often leave for other job: often better paying jobs in county jails, and DOC has to start all over with new hires. Accountability needs to increase as well: investigations need to lead to consequences, unlike the infamous Matthew Walker situation at CCI. It’s troubling to hear that video surveillance ends up missing, and investigations drag on for years without satisfactory explanation. Kudos to Ms. Blaskey, the Miami Herald,, and the Charlotte Sun, who has also had award-winning coverage of the issue.

Here’s our earlier coverage of the ongoing mysterious deaths at CCI.

Placido Moreno-Torres Found Guilty

Placido Moreno torres

Placido Moreno-Torres

A Fort Myers jury has just found Placido Moreno-Torres guilty as charged of two counts of 2nd Degree Murder, and an additional count of attempted murder, according to NBC-2. Here’s our earlier story. NBC-2 has been in the courtroom, and will surely have details, soon.

He faces 25 to Life in Prison.

UPDATE:  Sentencing set for February.

via: https://twitter.com/jbevis10

UPDATE: More from WINK.

If You Think You Have a Secret, You’re Probably Wrong

Thanks to the omnipresence of electronic devices in our lives today, somebody probably knows everything you do. You have a cell phone in your pocket, which is essentially a listening device, your computer might have a camera on it that is potentially watching your every move, HAL 9000 style, and you might even be wearing a smart watch that is literally following you every step. All of those are able to collect data, store it, and potentially share it with others… perhaps even authorities. It’s potentially an avenue for the government to get in your homes and bedrooms.

Much of this technology is new, and the courts are still trying to determine what the limitations are on privacy, and what the government can access and use. The latest test case is actually in Germany, where prosecutors are using data compiled by Apple iPhone’s Health App: an app that is standard and pre-installed on the last several versions of iPhone. The Defendant refused to give up his passcode, by a cyber-forensics firm was able to crack it and give the data to prosecutors.

There are a lot of issues related to this, particularly here in the United States where different Constitutional rights come in to play. Obviously, the rights to privacy, unreasonable search and seizure, and due process are involved, but a major case last year even involved First Amendment aspects. In Arkansas, James Bates was accused of killing his friend Victor Collins, who was found drowned in Bates’ hot tub. In order to strengthen their case, prosecutors sought info from his iPhone to track his phone calls, and even his smart utility meter to demonstrate his water use (they planned to argue that he had hosed down his deck).

The prosecution also went after Alexa- the digital assistant program that works with his Amazon Echo device. Alexa listens and potentially records everything within the range of its microphone, so there’s a major question whether people would have an expectation of privacy around one. The prosecutors sought to obtain the data, when Amazon itself entered the fray with another claim: that they should not have to turn over the data because it would violate the First Amendment… that it could have a chilling effect on protected expression.

Ultimately, the Bates case did not decide the matters. Kathleen Zellner, the attorney who is handling Making a Murderer’s Steven Avery’s post-conviction claims, took over the case and since her defense was not dependent on the Amazon data, waived any objection and it was turned over. Ultimately, it probably did not play a role, as additional medical and forensic reviews apparently convinced the prosecutors that there was not a murder, at least not one that could be proven, and the charges were dropped without the case having to go to trial.

In the meantime, be aware that there is the potential that the government can find out a lot about you, from your computer, your social media, your phone, your watch, your car, your video game, your pacemaker, and in this case, they didn’t just go after Alexa, they used Bates’ hot water heater to charge him with a murder.

Two Interesting Murder Cases in Trial in SWFL Right Now

Court watchers have a couple of choices as 2018 gets underway. Two major murder trials have started in Lee and Collier Counties, and that’s after the former Naples Officer was acquitted at trial last week.

Placido Moreno torres

Placido Moreno-Torres

In Fort Myers, the trial of Placido Moreno-Torres started yesterday: he’s on trial for murder for a 2016 incident in Lehigh Acres where he shot his wife and the neighbor who tried to intervene in their domestic dispute. It will be an interesting case, as he is likely to claim self-defense, because the neighbor came onto his property trying to break up the altercation, and only then did he retrieve the firearm. He will claim self-defense (and previously filed a stand your ground motion that was denied), but he has an uphill battle if he brought a gun to a fistfight. He is also charged with attempted murder, because after he shot the neighbor and his own wife, he held the gun to his neighbor’s sister’s head and tried to shoot her, only to have the gun misfire. There’s no self-defense argument there. He faces life in prison with a 25-year minimum under 10-20-Life. NBC-2’s Jaclyn Bevis is in the courtroom with live coverage on Twitter.

lisa troemner

Lisa Troemner

In Collier County, jury selection is underway for Lisa Troemner who is charged with killing her live-in boyfriend at their Marco Island apartment in 2014. They had apparently been arguing for a while, when it became physical, and she stabbed him. She tried to resuscitate him unsuccessfully, then went to a nearby convenience store to summon help. Again, self-defense is likely to be argued here. Also, a review of the court file indicates the Defense has sought the assistance of a false-confessions expert to challenge her statement, a blood spatter expert, presumably to challenge the findings at the crime scene. The case has been going on for more than three years, including an appeal of some matter while it was pending. She has been in custody the whole time, and is facing life in prison. There are some 150 witnesses listed, and the trial will take weeks, maybe five or more. Patrick Riley from the Naples Daily News is on this one, and has been tweeting from the courtroom as well.