Memorandum, dated January 10, 2003
Re: DNA Test Results In The Case Of William “Thomas” Zeigler
A growing number of citizens in Florida believe that William “Tommy” Zeigler, Jr. is an innocent man sitting on Florida’s death row because he dared to stand up for a black man who was being framed by corrupt, powerful white men in the deep south of rural central Florida in 1975. Zeigler, who marked his 26th anniversary on Florida’s death row on July 16, 2002, was finally granted DNA testing of some of the crime scene blood used to convict him. DNA testing was ordered by the Florida Circuit Court in Orlando at the end of August 2001; the evidence was transported to the lab in North Carolina for testing at the end of November 2001; and the written DNA test results were provided on June 20, 2002.
The DNA test results support Zeigler’s account of what occurred at the murder scene. The DNA test results destroy the credibility of the State’s case and the credibility of its so-called eyewitnesses. There can be no doubt that if the DNA test results had been known to the jury at the trial in 1976, there is at least a substantial likelihood, if not a virtual certainty, that this additional information would have affected the jury’s conclusion. Zeigler must be granted a new trial.
The purpose of this memorandum is to address with specificity exactly how the DNA test results destroy the credibility of the State’s case against Zeigler and the credibility of the State’s witnesses. This memorandum also raises new and dramatic questions that arise directly from the DNA test results and other evidence discovered since the original trial in 1976.
II. Executive Summary.
If the jury at the trial in 1976 had known the new DNA test results, there is at least a substantial likelihood, if not a virtual certainty, that this additional information would have affected the jury’s conclusion. Zeigler must be granted a new trial.
· Based upon the DNA test results:
Ø The State’s case against Zeigler lacks any credibility. Given the results of the DNA testing, which establish that Charlie Mays is the probable murderer of Perry Edwards, that Felton Thomas is his co-perpetrator, that the orange grove excursion couldn’t have happened in Dunaway’s car or any other car possessed by Zeigler, that the January 2 evidence cache is a hoax, and that the latex glove tip is not connected to Zeigler, there is a substantial likelihood, if not a virtual certainty, that a reasonable jury would conclude that the State’s case against Zeigler is fatally flawed and has no credibility.
Ø The State’s so-called eyewitnesses, Felton Thomas and Edward Williams, lack any credibility. The DNA test results establish that Felton Thomas is lying. The DNA test results also establish that Edward Williams is lying. Perry Edward’s blood is on Mays and the gun that killed Perry Edwards is in the hands of Edward Williams. If Edward Williams wasn’t at the Zeigler store when Perry Edwards was murdered, how did Edward Williams get possession of the gun that killed Perry Edwards?
Ø Several of the State’s other witnesses lack any credibility.
· New and dramatic questions exist which must be addressed by a new trial.
A. DNA Test Results.
Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp) in North Carolina performed the DNA testing and provided the DNA Test Results (see Attachment D). Blood Samples of six persons were forwarded to LabCorp: Perry Edwards, Virginia Edwards, Eunice Zeigler, Charlie Mays, Felton Thomas and Tommy Zeigler. Zeigler’s lawyers requested testing of Zeigler’s shirt and Mays’s shoes and trousers. The State requested testing of Zeigler’s socks and jockey shorts, t-shirt, trousers and belt, two grocery bags, a towel, the vinyl strip from the headrest in Dunaway’s car, a blue towel and white towel, tissue paper, swabs from the bloody phone, q-tips from the desk, and the root of a tooth.
The key DNA test results are as follows:
1. The tested blood on Zeigler’s T-shirt (under the left arm), on the front pocket of his outer shirt, and on his pants (back, left pocket and left knee) is not the blood of Perry Edwards. It is the blood of Charlie Mays. Zeigler does not have Perry Edwards blood on him.
2. The tested blood on Charlie Mays’s pants (on the back, bottom of the right leg and on the front of the left knee) is not the blood of Charlie Mays. It is the blood of Perry Edwards.
3. The blood on the waistband and zipper of Charlie Mays’s pants is his own blood, as is the spot on the socks of Zeigler. The tooth belongs to Mays. These traces of Mays’s blood and the tooth are all consistent with the fight between Zeigler and Mays described by Zeigler.
4. Zeigler’s briefs (underwear) evidence his own DNA. The other items showed no results from testing.
B. Credibility of the State’s Case Against Zeigler.
1. The State’s case against Zeigler is based on the contention that Zeigler killed his father-in-law, Perry Edwards and, therefore, the blood under Zeigler’s left arm (and on the front of Zeigler’s shirt) is from the bleeding head of Perry Edwards as Zeigler administered the fatal beating. For example, in Prosecutor Eagan’s cross-examination of Zeigler:
Q (Eagan): I want you to tell me, if you can, sir, how you got all the blood under the armpit of your clothing. Type A blood?
A (Zeigler): The only thing I can tell you is that during the fight [between Zeigler and Mays] I was grabbing everything I could grab ahold to and swinging with everything I had. That’s the only thing that I can tell you.
Q: You can’t tell me how you held Perry Edwards around the neck and clubbed him with your right hand as you held him with your left?
A: No, sir, because I did not do it.
Eagan continued to harp on this point:
Q: How did you get all this A Type blood under your left arm?
A: I have no idea, sir.
This constant connection of the Type A blood of Perry Edwards with the heavy bloodstain under Zeigler’s left arm laid the foundation for Eagan’s closing argument on this point:
“You will have the opportunity to examine Mr. Zeigler’s clothing…You will see a soaked area of blood under the left armpit of those shirts. That could have gotten there only by his having someone in his arm who was Type A blood. He didn’t get that crawling around on the floor. Who was bleeding Type A blood!”
The DNA test results contradict this contention by the State. Zeigler did not kill Perry Edwards. Perry Edward’s blood is on Mays, not on Zeigler. The blood points the finger of guilt for the killing of Perry Edwards directly at Mays. The type A blood on Zeigler is from Mays and is consistent with a fight to the death with Mays who jumped Zeigler when Zeigler walked into the darkened store.
2. The State’s case against Zeigler is based on the contention that Mays is an innocent victim who walked into the store to pick up a television when Zeigler killed him. For this to be true, the Type A blood on Mays’s pants would have to be only his own. It’s not. It is the blood of Perry Edwards.
The State’s case is fatally contingent in every respect upon Mays being an innocent victim. For example, Felton Thomas’s story that after the orange grove excursion, Zeigler ordered Mays to reload the gun, becomes the only plausible explanation for why Mays wasn’t just shot dead by Zeigler, as argued in Prosecutor Eagan’s closing statement:
“[Zeigler] threw the box of bullets to Charles Mayes in the back seat and said, ‘Reload that pistol.’ Was that the pistol he thought he had in his hand when he turned on Charles Mayes, but instead he had an empty one? That pistol [the one Mayes reloaded] was in the back seat of the Dunaway car.”
This same explanation becomes the only plausible way for Eagan to explain why Edward Williams ends up in possession of the principal murder weapon:
“… the good Lord was with Edward Williams. [Zeigler] got the wrong gun. Instead of firing bullets into [Edward Williams], it snapped, and were it not for that, were it not for that, I don’t think we’d be here today. I don’t think we could have really made a case.”
The State’s whole case against Zeigler requires that Mays walk into the store for the very first time that night at about 7:45 p.m. Eagan knows this and argues it in his closing statement:
“At 7:45 p.m., estimated, Mrs. Tinsley hears another series of shots. I submit to you that that’s when Tommy Zeigler walked into that dark store with Charles Mays.”
The fact that the DNA test results show Perry Edward’s blood on Mays fatally decimates the State’s entire line of reasoning and its case. First of all, the State’s blood-splatter expert, Herbert Leon MacDonell, testifies at trial that the way the blood swipes on the floor are overlaid by the blood splatters from Mays’s death conclusively establishes that Perry Edwards was killed at least fifteen to thirty minutes before Mays.
“The swipe patterns, the thicker portions, would have to have had at least fifteen minutes and possibly a half an hour to be dry enough that they would not cause a dissolving of the fine streaks of blood that were deposited on top of them.”
This means that in order for Mays to have Perry Edward’s blood on him, he had to be in the store when Perry Edwards was killed, before the orange grove excursion. This DNA established fact unhinges the State’s whole case against Zeigler, which is predicated upon the following findings of MacDonell:
“After the initial shots which killed Mrs. Zeigler, Mr. Edwards would have constituted the greatest challenge to the perpetrator. This assumes that Mr. Mays was not in the store at that time. The basis for this conclusion is the fact that when Mr. Mays was beaten his blood spatters did not mix with the already dried, swipe blood patterns that resulted from Mr. Edwards’ movement throughout the rear of the store. …Undoubtedly, Mr. Mays entered the store after all three other victims were killed. To conclude otherwise would suggest that he was present while the other victims were being killed and did nothing to prevent their deaths.” [Emphasis added.]
It’s possible that, in order to justify the Perry Edwards’ blood on Mays, the State might try to contend that Mays somehow walked though the pool of blood around Perry Edwards after the alleged orange grove incident. However, if that had been the case, then the blood splatters from the Mays’ beating would have dissolved into the wet tracks that Mays would have had to leave after walking (kneeling) into enough blood to leave the size blood stains that were on Mays’s pants. According to MacDonnell’s testimony such dissolving did not occur. Perry Edwards was killed long before Mays was killed.
The DNA test results establish that Mays was present in the store during the murder of Perry Edwards and, most likely, Eunice Zeigler and Virginia Edwards. Mays is not an innocent victim; he is a perpetrator involved in killing Perry Edwards and, therefore, involved in the murder of Eunice Zeigler and Virginia Edwards. He also returned to the store a second time, after the orange grove excursion. Why would Mays do this? The obvious answer is that he attempted to murder Zeigler, jumping Zeigler when Edward Williams brought him to the darkened store at the prearranged time.
3. The State’s case against Zeigler is based on the contention that Felton Thomas is an innocent bystander who accompanied Mays, an unsuspecting victim, to the Zeigler store to pick up a television. As already shown, the DNA test results establish that Mays is no innocent bystander. Mays is a perpetrator. That makes Felton Thomas a co-perpetrator and changes the nature of all his reported actions.
In his deposition, Felton Thomas testifies that he is picked up in Oakland by Charlie Mays as “it was starting to get dark.”
Q: (Hadley): What time was it when Charlie drove up?
A: (Thomas) Just like I say, it was starting to get dark, you know. He drove up and asked me to come ride with him. So I told him I ain’t have nothing better to do.
At trial Felton Thomas testifies that it was just starting to get dark when Charlie Mays picked him up, that they went straight to the furniture store, and arrived sometime after 6:00 p.m.; it was dark. Meteorologist and atmospheric physicist Kenneth J. Walsh testifies at trial that on December 24, 1975 sunset occurred at 5:35 p.m., that full dark occurred at 6:02 p.m., and that there was no moon in the sky before midnight.
Consequently, it is established that Mays, en route to kill Perry Edwards, Virginia Edwards and Eunice Zeigler, picks up his co-perpetrator, Felton Thomas, in Oakland at around 6:00 to 6:15 p.m. The co-perpetrators go straight to the Zeigler Furniture Store, a trip of five to ten minutes, arriving at about 6:15 to 6:30 p.m. The co-perpetrators sit in the van and wait for a white man who finally arrives. Mays tells Felton Thomas that the white man is Tommy Zeigler.
Felton Thomas’s testimony claims that he and Charlie Mays are not present during the first three murders. Felton Thomas says the store is dark when he and Mays pull up and that Perry Edward’s car is already parked in front of the store.
The DNA test results establish that Felton Thomas is lying. Mays was involved in the murder of Perry Edwards. Either Felton Thomas was picked up before that murder—and therefore was present for it—or was picked up after that murder by Mays who has Perry Edward’s blood all over his pants. There are no other options.
In the first case, which is consistent with the time Felton Thomas claims to have been picked up by Mays in Oakland, even if Felton Thomas was sitting outside in Mays’s van while the three murders took place in the store, when Mays and the white man told Felton Thomas to come with them to the orange grove in the white man’s car, Mays would have had Perry Edward’s blood all over his pants. Mays and Felton Thomas were both outside the van standing on the passenger side of the white man’s car. Felton Thomas watched Mays get in the car first. He doesn’t report seeing any blood on Mays.
The DNA test results establish that Felton Thomas is not an innocent bystander. He is at best culpable as an accessory (before, during and/or after the fact) to a triple homicide and an attempted murder. At worst he is actually a participant in a triple homicide and an attempted murder.
Based on the DNA test results no other scenarios are possible. There is no way for Felton Thomas to be an innocent bystander escorted to the crime scene by an innocent victim; rather he accompanies Mays, a murderous perpetrator, to the crime scene and spends the time from their arrival (just after dark) until the trip to the orange grove (7:30 p.m.) either inside the store assisting with the murders of Eunice Zeigler, Perry Edwards and Virginia Edwards (7:10-7:30 p.m.) or sitting as a lookout in Mays’s van outside the store while the murders occur inside and bullets are whizzing overhead.
He then actively participates in the attempted murder of Zeigler by shutting off the power to the store so that Mays and the mysterious “white man” can jump Zeigler when Edward Williams brings Zeigler to the darkened store at the prearranged time.
Felton Thomas’ account of what he supposedly did after he left the furniture store was not supported by the persons with whom he said he made contact. He lied about where he was. Was he with Edward Williams getting their stories together? The State secluded Edward Williams and Felton Thomas together for about a week after the murders. Was the State helping them get their stories together?
4. The State’s case against Zeigler is based on the contention that Felton Thomas and Mays were innocently duped by Zeigler into a trip to the orange grove to fire the murder weapons and thereby get their fingerprints on the guns.
Based on the DNA test results, if there really were a trip to the orange grove, it could only have taken place after Mays killed Perry Edwards. That means that the rear, right side passenger area of the vehicle, where Felton Thomas says Mays was sitting,should have had a good deal of blood transfer stains from Mays’s pants. Perry Edward’s blood on Mays’s pants should have left some stains in the back, right car seat area. No such stains were found in Curtis Dunaway’s car, the vehicle that was available for Zeigler to use that night. The DNA test results prove that the excursion to the orange grove did not take place in Dunaway’s car.
The DNA test results dictate that if an orange grove excursion took place, Mays and Felton Thomas participated in the trip as co-perpetrators, riding with someone who was not Zeigler, in a car not possessed by Zeigler, and probably firing guns already used by one or both of them in a completed triple homicide.
The State’s case against Zeigler is based on a cache of evidence discovered on January 2, 1976 and a tip of a latex glove.
a. This evidence cache “proved” events described by Felton Thomas and Edward Williams. The DNA test results, however, now show that those events couldn’t have taken place (see above).
“The evidence perfectly fit the stories of Felton Thomas and Edward Williams. … the box of bullets that Zeigler had carried out of the garage and from which Charlie Mays had reloaded one of the pistols. Thomas identified one of the grocery bags as the one in which Zeigler carried the three guns that he took to the orange grove. And could this be the same towel with which Zeigler had concealed his pistol when he tried to shoot Edward Williams?”
The January 2 evidence cache allegedly bolsters Zeigler’s participation in the orange grove excursion; however, as indicated above, the DNA test results prove that it didn’t happen that way. Whatever happened in the orange grove was not done in Dunaway’s car or any car possessed by Zeigler.
The January 2 cache allegedly bolsters Edward Williams’s story about how he got the gun from Zeigler; but as is shown below, the DNA test results prove that it didn’t happen that way. That gun killed Perry Edwards who was killed by Charlie Mays. Wherever Edward Williams got the gun that killed Perry Edwards, he didn’t get it from Zeigler.
So who provided the January 2 cache of evidence that supports events that didn’t happen? And how was it placed into a secure crime scene under the management of the Orange County Sheriff Office?
There is credible evidence that the State manufactured a bullet for the grove to help convict Zeigler. Certainly in suppressing such valuable exculpatory evidence, the State availed itself of perverse and despicable tactics in the effort to convict Zeigler. Was there a limit on just how far the State would go to get Zeigler? It does not appear so.
b. The tip of the latex glove supposedly proved that Zeigler had worn surgical gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints. The State believed the tip of the glove was torn off when Zeigler was beating Perry Edwards to death.
The DNA test results show that it was Mays who killed Perry Edwards, not Zeigler. The latex glove tip proves nothing with respect to Zeigler.
Given the results of the DNA testing, which establish that Charlie Mays is the probable murderer of Perry Edwards, that Felton Thomas is his co-perpetrator, that the orange grove excursion couldn’t have happened in Dunaway’s car or any other car possessed by Zeigler, that the January 2 evidence cache is a hoax, and that the latex glove tip is not connected to Zeigler, there is a substantial likelihood, if not a virtual certainty, that a reasonable jury would conclude that the State’s case against Zeigler is fatally flawed and has no credibility.
C. Credibility of the State’s So-Called Eyewitnesses.
1. Felton Thomas.
a. DNA Test Results.
As shown above, the DNA test results establish that Felton Thomas is lying. Mays was involved in the murder of Perry Edwards. Either Felton Thomas was picked up before that murder—and therefore was present for it— or was picked up after that murder by Mays who has Perry Edward’s blood all over his pants. There are no other options.
The DNA test results establish that Felton Thomas is not an innocent bystander. He is at best culpable as an accessory (before, during and/or after the fact) to a triple homicide and an attempted murder. At worst he is actually a participant in a triple homicide and an attempted murder.
b. How Plausible Is The Testimony Of Felton Thomas?
Shortly after Edward Williams turned over the primary murder weapon to the police, Felton Thomas, an itinerant fruit picker, showed up to provide a bizarre tale of events, the point of which was to establish that Zeigler had lured Mays into the store to kill him and make it look like a robbery to cover up Zeigler’s murder of his wife and her parents. Felton Thomas claimed that Mays had picked him up to help with a TV and that they then met a “white man” called Zeigler at the store. Felton Thomas acknowledged that before that night he had never met Zeigler. There are serious problems with Felton Thomas’s testimony, some of which are:
• Charlie Mays Was Picking Up A TV. In fact, Mays parked his van in a location hidden from the street and from which it was impossible to pick up a console TV. They would have to have lifted the console television over a six-foot fence.
• Route Taken By Charlie Mays And Felton Thomas To The Zeigler Store. Felton Thomas testified as to the route he and Mays took going to the Zeigler store on Christmas Eve night. The route describe by Felton Thomas would have required the vehicle to go over a 3 foot high concrete wall.
• The White Man’s Car. Felton Thomas said a white man drove up in a car that looked like a Cadillac. Christmas Eve afternoon, Zeigler had switched cars with employee Curtis Dunaway so Dunaway could use Zeigler’s Toronado for a long trip. The Toronado Zeigler would have been driving if he hadn’t switched with Dunaway did resemble a Cadillac. But Christmas Eve night, Zeigler was driving the dark Oldsmobile that belonged to Dunaway.
• The Identity Of The White Man. Felton Thomas said that the white man who met him and Mays at the store told Mays that the owner of the store was coming from Apopka with the keys. He also testified that the same white man attempted to break a window with a metal bar in order to get into the Zeigler furniture store. Mays knew Zeigler, who was from Winter Garden, was the owner of the store and had the keys for it.
The testimony of Felton Thomas is absurd given the established physical facts in the case. Clearly, the white man who met Charlie Mays and Felton Thomas at the Zeigler furniture store could not have been Zeigler. Members of the Zeigler defense team vividly recall that the first time Felton Thomas came to court the Prosecutors had to point to Zeigler so that Felton Thomas would know who Zeigler was.
Felton Thomas appears to have lied about what he did after he left the furniture store because no witness corroborated what Felton Thomas claimed to have done. It was all a lie. Why? Was he an active participant in the murders?
Given the results of the DNA testing, which establish that Charlie Mays is the probable murderer of Perry Edwards and that Felton Thomas is a co-perpetrator, there is a substantial likelihood, if not a virtual certainty, a reasonable jury would conclude that the absurd story told by Felton Thomas has no credibility.
2. Edward Williams.
A review of the testimony of the two so-called State eyewitnesses, Edward Williams and Felton Thomas, and the State’s third key witness, Frank Smith, reveals that the testimony of the latter two witnesses is wafer thin. In reality there is only one witness against Zeigler. That is Edward Williams, “the man whose truck was found at the murder scene, who was in possession of the principal murder weapon and whose friend admitted to buying the others, and whose movements before and after the crime are unverifiable and highly suspect. This is the man that the State chose to make the prime witness for the Prosecution.” In fact, the police and investigators never even fingerprinted Edward Williams. How strange.
a. DNA Test Results.
The DNA test results establish that Edward Williams is lying. The blood of Perry Edwards is on Mays. That means Mays was involved in the murder of Perry Edwards. But Edward Williams is in possession of the gun that killed Perry Edwards.
“The two killing shots to the head of Perry Edwards had come from the Securities Industries .38, Tommy Zeigler’s chrome-plated “truck gun,” which Edward Williams gave to the police. The same pistol had also fired the killing shot into the head of Virginia Edwards.” [Emphasis added]
If Edward Williams wasn’t at the Zeigler store when Perry Edwards was murdered by Mays, how did Edward Williams get possession of the gun that killed Perry Edwards?
The State’s case against Zeigler is circumstantial. The DNA test results have cast a whole new light on the circumstances. It’s been said that either Zeigler is guilty or both Edward Williams and Mays must be guilty. Perry Edward’s blood is on Mays and the gun that killed Perry Edwards is in the hands of Edward Williams. What could be clearer?
The house of cards has fallen in. There is a substantial likelihood, if not a virtual certainty, that a reasonable jury would conclude that Edward Williams has possession of the gun that killed Perry Edwards because Edward Williams was in the Zeigler furniture store when Perry Edwards was killed.
Furthermore, the DNA test results leave Edward Williams standing all-alone in a field that had appeared crowded in 1976. Before the DNA tests, a reasonable jury could have accepted the State’s circumstantial evidence case against Zeigler because they accepted Prosecutor Eagan’s characterization of Zeigler as so craven as to have beaten his father-in-law, Perry Edwards to death and to have killed his longtime customer, Charlie Mays, to hide the crime. From this perspective, Edward Williams appeared to be just another loyal, duped black man, like Mays and Felton Thomas, who was used by Zeigler.
That premise is fatally shattered by the DNA test results, which establish that (1) Charlie Mays is the probable murderer of Perry Edwards, (2) Felton Thomas is a liar and probable co- perpetrator, and (3) Edward Williams is in possession of the very gun that was used to kill the person murdered by Mays. In that light, a new question must be asked: how credible is Edward Williams’s testimony?
b. How Credible Is The Self-Serving Testimony Of Edward Williams?
There is really only one eyewitness standing against Zeigler’s version of events on the night of Christmas Eve 1975. It is Edward Williams who turned in the primary murder weapon that killed Perry and Virginia Edwards to the police on Christmas Eve night. There are some major problems with the testimony of Edward Williams. For example, he worked closely with the Zeiglers for many years, but he claims to have not known the identity of Charlie Mays, a frequent customer of the Zeigler store. Edward Williams, who also worked in Oakland from time to time, claims he didn’t even know what Charlie Mays looked like. One of the greatest inconsistencies is between the clothes he was wearing and the story he told:
• No Gunshot Residue On Edward Williams’s Pants. Edward Williams said he put the gun that Zeigler gave him (the gun which killed Zeigler’s in-laws Perry and Virginia Edwards) into his pocket. In fact, there was no evidence of gun residue on the pants Edward Williams claims to have been wearing the night of the murders. The jury never knew this fact because the State delayed turning over the pants to the defense until it was too late to obtain the results for trial.
• Edward Williams’s Clothes Were Good As New. When Williams presented himself and the murder weapon to the police several hours after the murders, his shoes were brand new and still had a price tag on the sole. The shoes he was wearing when he presented himself and the gun to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office are inconsistent with having been worn during the activities Edward Williams testified he engaged in that night. The clean clothes and new shoes are consistent with Edward Williams having first disposed of bloody clothes and bloody shoes.
• The Roach Testimony. The State’s entire case hinges on the conclusion that Ziegler killed all four victims by firing all 28 shots with 7 guns--even though there was no gunshot residue on Ziegler’s pants. Ken and Linda Roach, witnesses who heard the shooting, stated they heard rapid firing at different loudness levels, in “two firecracker like bursts” suggesting more than one person firing shots. Their testimony was never heard at trial.
The Roaches gave an affidavit in 1979, claiming Ken Roach had called the Orange County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) after Ziegler’s indictment, had given this information to a woman there and that she told him his statement wasn’t needed and refused to give him defense counsel’s name. It seems highly unlikely that Ziegler could have fired 28 shots from 7 guns in different parts of the store in “two firecracker like bursts.”
Even more pertinent to the credibility of Edward Williams is the fact that the Roaches swore to having seen the following:
“Each saw four vehicles parked in front.
“Linda Roach described two of the cars. One was large, white or cream. The other was, also large, was dark metallic blue-green, which is consistent with the Edwardses’ sedan.
“Ken Roach said that one of the four cars appeared to be a new Cadillac. He also saw a dark-skinned man calmly walking along the front of the store, toward a pickup truck which was backed in along the north side of the building. …
“Of course, the Roaches’ observations are utterly incompatible with the State’s case. Among other details, the prosecution’s theory cannot accommodate four cars, a pickup, and a dark-skinned man walking in front of the store at 7:20; and even with a revolver in each hand, one man alone could not fire off ten shots so rapidly as to produce a sound ‘like a pack of firecrackers being ignited all at the same time.’”
• The Nolans Testimony. The trial testimony of J.D. Nolan and Madelyn Nolan completely contradicts Edward Williams’s description of his efforts to call the police from the Kentucky Fired Chicken Restaurant.
“Both of them swore that they watched Robert Thompson drive off with Zeigler to the hospital. The Nolans continued to watch the store, then crossed the street to speak with J.D.’s brother, whom they saw in the door of the restaurant. At this time, according to J. D. Nolan, the black man who resembled Edward Williams walked up and said that he wanted to use the telephone. By now Zeigler must have been on the gurney at the hospital, probably lying in the emergency room.
“This is devastating testimony. There is no innocent explanation for Williams’s arrival at the restaurant at this late moment…
“To put it another way; the Nolan’s testimony implies that Tommy Zeigler must have already been shot when Williams left the furniture store. …Williams’s story is fatally flawed, and so is the state’s hypothesis of guilt.”
Given the results of the DNA testing, which establish that Charlie Mays is the probable murderer of Perry Edwards, there is a substantial likelihood, if not a virtual certainty, that a reasonable jury would conclude that the problematic and self-serving story spun by Edward Williams has no credibility.
The DNA test results cause a dramatic change in the factual landscape, which now focuses intense scrutiny upon the story of Edward Williams.
Edward Williams knew two days ahead of time that he would be meeting Zeigler to take him to the store to pick up gifts on Christmas Eve, plenty of time to schedule a hit that was loosely planned ahead of time but waiting for the right opportunity. “…Zeigler had been compiling information on organized loan sharking in West Orange’s migrant labor camps, and had made enemies.”
The labor camps were run out of Oakland. Edward Williams, who lived in Orlando,occasionally worked in Oakland, had even done some personal work for Curtis Massey on his residence. Edward Williams also had a relationship with Jimmy Pitchfort.
Q (Hadley): Do you know a fellow by the name of Jimmy Pitchfort?
A (Williams): Yes; Jimmy Pitchfort… To me, he was nice to me; he treat me nice.
Edward Williams had even done a little work for Jimmy Pitchfort. And Edward Williams financed his weekly groceries at one of the very stores allegedly involved with the loan sharks.
c. Edward Williams’s Financial Condition in December of 1975.
What reason might Edward Williams have had to participate in this crime and then lie about it? One reason might be that Edward Williams was in dire financial straits in December of 1975.
• In December 1975, Edward Williams had lost his job again and was working day labor for Zeigler at the Zeigler Furniture Store.
• In December 1975, Edward Williams had received his last unemployment check, in the amount of $74.24 (on December 21).
• In December 1975, Edward Williams’s Utilities And Phone Had Been Disconnected For Non-Payment.
• In December 1975, Edward Williams had to refinance his car in order to extend his December payment. This appears to be the Promissory Note, dated December 4, 1975, in the amount of $866.28 with The First State Bank of Winter Garden, as payee, Edward Williams as obligor, and William Thomas Zeigler and Eunice L. Zeigler, as endorsers, a copy of which is shown in Attachment C2-C3.
• In December 1975, Edward Williams had to refinance loans he had guaranteed for a girl.
“The next day, I went to the First State Bank. He said they were looking for you for some money you signed for a girl and she didn’t finish paying and said they were looking for you… So I went there and borrow some money to pay that old bill off.”
Were the “they who were looking for him” the loan sharks? This appears to be the Promissory Note Dated December 2, 1975, in the amount of $4,146.48 with The First National Bank of Winter Garden, as payee, and Edward Williams as obligor, a copy of which is shown in Attachment C1.
In December of 1975, Edward Williams, was unemployed, had just refinanced at least $5,012.76 in debt, had a truck with a bad carburetor that he couldn’t afford to replace, had a repair bill on his Camero, and didn’t have anyplace to live. Zeigler advanced him the money to put down on an apartment and agreed to finance some inexpensive furniture for him on the Friday after Christmas.
When the foregoing facts are taken together with the DNA test results and the “Oakland connections” among Edward Williams, Mays, Felton Thomas and Robert Thompson (discussed below), there is a substantial likelihood, if not a virtual certainty, that a reasonable jury would conclude that the constellation of events at the Zeigler Furniture Store on December 24, 1975 circled around Edward Williams, Robert Thompson and the Oakland hub of illegal activities at the West Orange migrant labor camps.
3. A Major Flaw In The Testimony Of Both Felton Thomas and Edward Williams.
Based upon the State's theory of how the crime was committed, the very theory that was used to convict Zeigler, the stories told by Felton Thomas and Edward Williams cannot be true. If Felton Thomas and Edward Williams did what they claimed they did and saw what they claimed they saw, both of them would have seen incredible amounts of blood on Zeigler.
In a situation where one murder victim is shot several times, then bloodily beaten on the head while allegedly being held, and then shot to death, i.e., Perry Edwards, and another is shot twice and beaten to death in a blood bath, i.e., Charlie Mays, one would reasonably expect that those involved would be covered in blood. The State contended, and proved, that Zeigler was covered in blood when he ultimately emerged from the furniture store after calling for help.
If the State’s theory were correct, Zeigler’s clothes would have been virtually dripping with blood at the times Felton Thomas and Edward Williams claim to have seen him. Yet, Felton Thomas never saw and never reported seeing any blood on Zeigler, and Edward Williams only reported seeing a few “spots of blood on Zeigler’s face and clothes.”
This is highly significant. There is no indication from any of the witnesses that Zeigler, at critical points, ever appeared to be covered with blood until he emerges from the store at 9:20 p.m. covered with blood, "almost as if it were uniformly painted on", as reported by Chief Robert Thompson. These facts are totally consistent with Zeigler’s explanation of what happened and totally inconsistent with the State’s explanation of how the crime took place.
The only witness who claimed to have seen Zeigler immediately after the first three murders and again immediately after the last murder of Charlie Mays is Edward Williams.
The fact that Edward Williams does not see large amounts of blood on Zeigler and does not report large amounts of blood on Zeigler clearly destroys any credibility for his story about the events of that evening.
Given the results of the DNA testing, which establish that Charlie Mays is the probable murderer of Perry Edwards, there is a substantial likelihood, if not a virtual certainty that a reasonable jury would conclude that the defective stories of Felton Thomas and Edward Williams have no credibility.
D. Credibility of the State’s Other Witnesses.
1. Frank Smith
The man who had purchased the two RG revolvers, the primary murder weapons, from a pawnshop in June of 1975 was Frank Smith, a black cab driver and friend of Edward Williams. Smith testified that he had purchased the guns for Zeigler, a man who Smith had never met. His answers on cross-examination defy any incrimination of Zeigler in the purchase of the two RG revolvers.
Frank Smith testified that: Edward Williams made the call to Zeigler from Smith’s apartment; Edward Williams dialed the phone himself; Smith, who had never met Zeigler, had no idea what Zeigler’s voice sounded like and had no idea who Edward Williams had really called.
Frank Smith admitted under oath that it would be a fair statement to say that he had no way of personally knowing whether or not the voice on the other end of the phone was Zeigler.
Q (Hadley): So, then let me see if I understand your testimony so far, Mr. Smith. You never met Tommy Zeigler. You talked to a voice on the telephone. You think might have been Mr. Zeigler, but you have no personal knowledge of that, is that correct?
A (Smith): That’s correct.
Q: The only one you really had direct personal contact in the transactions on these weapons was Edward Williams, is that correct?
A: That’s correct.
Smith disavowed any prior acquaintance or meeting with Zeigler. In his deposition, Smith said that when he called the number Edward Williams gave him, the man who answered only said, “Hello.” At trial his story had improved and he testified that the man who answered said, “Tommy Zeigler Furniture Store.” When he was asked by counsel to repeat the balance of the phone discussion, as he remembered it, Frank Smith had to begin at the very first word of his account: “I put a dime in the phone…” This is a textbook dead giveaway for memorization of created testimony.
Edward Williams paid the money for the guns in cash to Frank Smith who delivered the guns to Edward Williams. Edward Williams claimed to have delivered the guns to Eunice Zeigler, who was murdered in the store and couldn’t refute his claim. The only corroboration of Frank Smith’s story was the testimony of Edward Williams.
In the wake of DNA testing, which shows that the facts were not as everyone assumed, there is a substantial likelihood that a jury would scrutinize the testimony of Frank Smith and conclude that rather than corroborating Edward Williams, his memorized testimony too closely echoes the voice of Edward Williams.
2. Mary Ellen Stewart
Mary Ellen Stewart testified that in April or May of 1975 Zeigler asked her if “Smitty” (Frank Smith) could get him some hot guns. According to her account, Zeigler asked her this even though he didn’t know that Frank Smith was her son-in-law. It was to Ms. Stewart’s house that Edward Williams fled on Christmas Eve night after leaving the Zeigler Furniture Store.
She also testified that she didn’t know about the relationship between her daughter Mavis Barkley and Edward Williams. The fact that Mavis Barkley, only 20 years old, was the girlfriend of Edward Williams (over twice her age) was dealt with as common knowledge by Frank Smith.
Mary Ellen Stewart also had quite a beef with Tommy Zeigler over his effort to repossess furniture from her in 1975. Yet, the most interesting fact of all never came to light until after the trial, a recorded deed showing that Mary Ellen Stewart jointly owned her home with none other than Edward Williams. A copy of that recorded deed, dated June 1st, 1973, is attached to this Memorandum as Attachment B-1. The lot/block description of the property is “Lot 100, Richmond Estates, Unit 3,” PB 3, pgs. 97-98. The conveyance is from the developer to “Edward Williams and Mary Ellen Williams, his wife.” On the surface, it sounds like Mary Ellen Williams must be a different person than Mary Ellen Stewart.
On closer examination we see that the Warranty Deed also contains the street address: 4549 Marabelle Boulevard in Orlando, Florida. That’s the address that Mary Ellen Stewart gives at trial as her home address. Are Mary Ellen Stewart and Mary Ellen Williams the same person? The public records of Orange County say that they are.
On page one of the 1982 Mortgage Deed (see Attachment B-3) and on Page two of that same Mortgage Deed (see Attachment B-4), the identification of the mortgagor and the notarization both read as follows: “Mary Ellen Stewart a/k/a Mary Ellen Williams.”
This is drastic information. There are only two possibilities: either (a) Edward Williams and Mary Ellen Stewart were married and they committed a fraud upon the court, or (b) they weren’t married and they colluded in falsifying a public record.
(a) If Edward Williams and Mary Ellen Stewart were husband and wife, as they indicated in the public records of Orange County, Florida, then Edward Williams didn’t flee to the house of a casual friend on the night of the murders. He went to his recent marital home! The property at 4549 Marabelle Boulevard in Orlando, Florida is the very same property that he and Mary Ellen Stewart purchased two years before the murders as their marital home.
No wonder Edward Williams had trouble giving his home address under oath at the trial:
Q (Eagan): “Where do you live Mr. Williams?”
A (Williams): “I live on – I forget the name of the place – Ivey Lane, and my house number is 452B Barley Street.”
It seems bizarre for the State’s star witness, a man possessed of profound recall and acuity of senses—even able to hear small noises and see small things at a distance in total darkness—to have difficulty recalling his home address. Yet, just three months before the trial, in April of 1976, Edward Williams testified under oath at his deposition that he didn’t even have a home address:
A (Williams): “I got no home address. I’m just living here and there until I can get a place.”
The State Attorney’s investigator, Jerry James, then tells counsel, on the record, that “Bob” will provide a more exact address. Presumably, “Bob” means Robert Eagan, the State Attorney. Did the State Attorney play a roll in this sham about addresses that hid the relationships between Edward Williams and Mary Ellen Stewart, the State’s disinterested corroborating witness?
Edward Williams then gives answers about his marital status that may well be a fraud upon the court.
Q (Hadley): Have you ever been married, sir?
A (Williams): Married. My wife is in Winter Garden.
Q: Are you still married to her?
A: She divorced.
Q: When were you divorced, sir?
A: About five or six years back, I’m not ….
If the information in the public records of Orange County is correct, the wife of Edward Williams does not live in Winter Garden. She lives in Orlando. They were not divorced five or six years back. The two of them just purchased a house as husband and wife less than three years before the deposition. The extent to which these misrepresentations worsened is difficult to ascertain because the next page of the deposition (pg. 7) is missing from every copy of the deposition made available to the author.
The tangled and incestuous relationships among Edward Williams, Mary Ellen Stewart a/k/a Mary Ellen Williams, and her daughter Mavis Barkley are further complicated by the fact that in October of 1975, just two months before the murders and half a year before the depositions and trial, Edward Williams quitclaimed the marital home to Mary Ellen Stewart. A divorce sometime in 1975 can be inferred from the recorded quitclaim deed (see copy of Indenture dated October 22, 1973, in Attachment B-2) wherein “Edward Williams, a single man” conveys any interest he has in the property to Mary Ellen Stewart.
(b) If Edward Williams and Mary Ellen Stewart were not married, then the public records of Orange County, Florida establish that these two people have a history of collaborating on production of false information.
What is clear, however, is that in June of 1976, prosecutor Eagan presented to the jury a picture of disinterested corroborative testimony by a trustworthy Mary Ellen Stewart that buttressed Edward Williams’s claims about Zeigler requesting the hot guns that Williams bought from Smith and corroborated Edward Williams’s accounts of his whereabouts after the murders. A jury who thought Zeigler was so craven as to have beaten his father-in-law, Perry Edwards, to death and to have killed his longtime customer Charlie Mays to hide the crime apparently accepted that.
Given the results of the DNA testing, which establish that Charlie Mays is the probable perpetrator of that murder, there is a substantial likelihood, if not a virtual certainty, that a reasonable jury would conclude that the testimony of Mary Ellen Stewart lacks any credibility and is really a reflection of the excessive influence of the very complicated and tangled relationships between Edward Williams and her daughter and between Edward Williams and herself. Her corroborative testimony is worthless.
3. Mattie Mays
The DNA test results change the status of Mattie Mays from the survivor of an innocent victim to the widow of a murderer. This is no small change. At least it speaks to the financial recovery claimed by her from the Zeigler family and their insurance companies. Mattie Mays has a lot riding on claiming that Charlie Mays was a victim. He wasn’t.
Finances were a big problem in the Mays household. Charlie Mays and his wife, Mattie, worked together in Oakland as crew bosses and worked for a white boss man, Walker Powell, the same white boss man who lent Charlie Mays money shortly before Christmas, and then deducted all but $39 from their last pay before Christmas, on December 23, 1975. This is a typical maneuver to pressure somebody into doing something for the boss. The Mayses were broke for Christmas in 1975. Jai-alai may not be the only gamble they took.
In June of 1976, the State persuaded the jury that Zeigler was so craven as to have beaten his father-in-law, Perry Edwards to death and to have killed his longtime customer, Charlie Mays, to hide the crime. Given the results of the DNA testing, which establish that Charlie Mays is the probable perpetrator of that murder, there is a substantial likelihood, if not a virtual certainty, that a reasonable jury would conclude that on December 24, 1975 the Mays family needed $400 more desperately than Zeigler could ever have needed $500,000.
E. New And Dramatic Questions Based On The Evidence Presented In 1976 And Evidence Discovered Since.
1. Who is the mysterious white man that met Mays and Felton Thomas outside the store and took them to the orange grove?
Mays tell Felton Thomas that the white man is Tommy Zeigler. Such a source of identification may have sounded credible to a jury under the impression that Mays is an honorable man. Eagan certainly did everything in his power to drive home that impression.
“Charles Mayes had a good reputation… I know Charles Mays had a good reputation. Charles Mays was a family man. He had a job. He was down there to get a Christmas present for his wife….”
If the jury had known that Mays was not an honorable man, that Mays, not Zeigler, had the blood of Perry Edwards on his clothes, that Mays had come to the store with Felton Thomas not to buy a Christmas present but to commit murder, it is virtually certain that the jury would have severely discounted Mays’s identification of the white man as being Tommy Zeigler.
Furthermore, in his deposition, Felton Thomas indicates that he was wary of the unknown white man because of past experiences with him. He describes what happened after the orange grove excursion when the unknown white man and Mays enter the darkened store:
Q (Hadley): How long did you sit in the car?
A (Thomas): I ain’t sitting in the car no time. As soon as they closed that door and got into the store, I just got right out of the car and went cross over there to T.G. and W. over there.
Q: Why did you do that?
A: Because he had been acting a little strange. I ain’t paying too much attention because he was on the truck when everybody trying to get their equipment sharpened there.
The clear implication is that Felton Thomas knows the mysterious white man from his work in the fields around Oakland as a migrant fruit picker. Mays and his wife, Mattie Mays, work together as crew bosses and work for a white boss man, Walker Powell, the same white boss man who lent Mays money shortly before Christmas, and then deducted all but $39 from their last pay before Christmas, on December 23, 1975. The Mayses were broke for Christmas.
In an amazing Christmas miracle, Mays is said to have gambled the $39 and won $420 at jai-alai, roughly the same total amount of cash and hand receipts from the Zeigler Furniture Store that are found in Mays’s pants pocket at the crime scene.
Does Mattie Mays know the identity of the mysterious white man? Does her boss man, Walker Powell, know the identity of the mysterious white man?
Given the results of the DNA testing, which establish that Charlie Mays is the probable murderer of Perry Edwards, there is a substantial likelihood, if not a virtual certainty, that a reasonable jury would conclude that the mysterious white man was not Zeigler.
2. Why Are The State’s Two So-Called Eyewitnesses, The Mays Couple and The Most Involved Police Officer, Robert Thompson, All Connected To Oakland, The Local Heart Of Illegal Activities in The Migrant Camps?
(a) Edward Williams: Edward Williams testifies that he has worked on and off for Curtis Massey in Oakland, that he is treated well by Jimmy Pitchfort and has done a little work for him.
(b) Felton Thomas: Felton Thomas is an itinerant fruit picker who knows Mays because he has worked on his crews as recently as early 1975. Felton Thomas also knows the mysterious white man, apparently from working in the fields out of Oakland.
(c) Charlie Mays: Mays and his wife, Mattie Mays, work together as crew bosses and work for a white boss man, Walker Powell, the same white boss man who lent Mays money shortly before Christmas, and then deducted all but $39 from their last pay before Christmas, on December 23, 1975, thereby possibly putting tremendous pressure on them to do something for the boss.
(d) Robert Thompson: Robert Thompson went from his jobs of fifteen years experience with the Florida Highway Patrol and the U.S. Border Patrol as well as bodyguard to Governor Claude Kirk of Florida to becoming the Chief of Police of Oakland. At that time Oakland police kept no records or files and carried no guns. For a man of Thompson’s experience to have taken such a position is amazing. Equally amazing is his presence throughout the entire course of this event.
His involvement starts the day before the crime (see below concerning the buried police report) and continues through the day of the crime:
- Thompson selected the Mays family for a substantial Christmas Eve gift from a local church;
- The night of the crime: Thompson is across the street while Zeigler is being shot, first at the scene to take Zeigler to the hospital, first to enter the Zeigler Furniture Store, and first to enter the Zeigler home; and
- After the crime: Thompson is probable source of defamatory rumors against Zeigler, preparation of dummy police report, and alteration of critical facts in his testimony from the original police report which was buried.
(e) The Mays – Thompson Connection:
“Thompson liked Charlie Mays. Charlie did not smoke or drink or cuss. He coached the local softball teams, he worked hard, and his children were well-behaved. You did not see the Mays boys on the streets after dark.”
Oakland Chief of Police Robert Thompson had a special place in his heart for Mays.
“[Christmas Eve afternoon] someone from the First Presbyterian Church in Oakland dropped off a basket of food and about $40 that had been collected from the congregation. The church’s pastor, Herman “Mickey” Fisher, had asked Oakland’s police chief, Robert Thompson, to give it to a needy and deserving family. Thompson had chosen Charlie and Mattie Mays and their sons.”
The DNA test results challenge this thin veneer of respectability and good character. The DNA test results establish that Charlie Mays is the probable murderer of Perry Edwards, causing a dramatic change in the factual landscape and focusing intense scrutiny upon the apparent gatekeeper function of Oakland Chief of Police Robert Thompson.
There is a substantial likelihood that a reasonable jury could conclude that on December 24, 1975 Oakland Police Chief Robert Thompson was diligently involved in advancing the interests of those whom Zeigler had offended by standing up for the black man Andrew James and taking steps to bust the loan sharking rackets from the migrant camps of Oakland, interests that had nothing to do with the legitimate concerns of law enforcement.
3. Why Is Oakland Chief Of Police Robert Thompson, Who Does Not Even Have Jurisdiction In Winter Garden, Sitting Nearby While Zeigler Is Being Shot And Is Then Omni-Present At Every Critical Evidence Gathering Juncture On the Night of the Crime?
(a) Christmas eve 1975, Chief Robert Thompson gives his two officers the night off. This assures that he will be the only Oakland City police officer on duty.
(b) Chief Robert Thompson logs out of service at 8:20 p.m. to meet Winter Garden police officer Jimmy Yawn at the Kentucky Fried Chicken across the street from the Zeigler furniture store. Thompson logs back in at 8:50. This just happens to place both Thompson and Yawn about 100 feet from the Zeigler store at the Kentucky Fried Chicken during the first thirty minutes after Zeigler was jumped in the store.
Thompson explained that these meetings with Yawn were routine because they shared information. This is especially interesting since Yawn is not Thompson’s peer in the Winter Garden police force. Don Ficke is the Chief of Police. Yawn was just a patrolman.
Thompson says he left the Kentucky Fried Chicken, drove back up to Oakland to look around and then came back to Winter Garden to attend the open house at Judge Van Deventer’s.
(c) Chief Robert Thompson is the first to the scene when Zeigler calls for help. He escorts Zeigler to the hospital. His testimony as to whether the blood around the gunshot wound in Zeigler’s abdomen is wet or dry is pivotal to the State’s case. Thompson’s original police report said it was dry. Then Don Frye constructed the State’s theory of the case, which required the blood to be wet or at least damp. The first police report was buried and Thompson’s sworn testimony said it was damp. (This matter is discussed in detail below).
(d) Chief Robert Thompson is the first one to enter the Zeigler Furniture Store. Yawn arrives first. (Yawn was right next door at the Winter Garden Inn), but doesn’t go inside until Thompson arrives, allegedly because Thompson knows Mays who might still be alive.
(e) Chief Robert Thompson is the first one to enter the Zeigler home. Yawn arrives first but doesn’t go in until Thompson arrives. One might speculate that this is because the screen had been cut on the door to the Zeigler home. Yet, Yawn testified that it was a metal screen, and the cutting did not look fresh. So why didn’t Yawn go in?
The DNA test results focus intense scrutiny upon the apparent gatekeeper function of Oakland Chief of Police Robert Thompson. There is a substantial likelihood that a reasonable jury would conclude that on December 24, 1975 Oakland Police Chief Robert Thompson was diligently involved in advancing the interests of those whom Zeigler had offended by standing up for the black man Andrew James and taking steps to bust the loan sharking rackets from the migrant camps of Oakland, interests that had nothing to do with the legitimate concerns of law enforcement.
F. There Are Critical Discrepancies Between The Original Police Report (Which Was Buried By The Prosecution Until 11 Years After The Trial And Has Never Been Seen By A Jury) And The Abbreviated Police Report And Subsequent Sworn Statement Given By The Same Officer. Are These Discrepancies Merely Technical? Is This Much Ado About Nothing?
The discrepancies are not minimal and are not merely technical. The discrepancies are pivotal to the State’s erroneous prosecution of Zeigler. In fact one of the discrepancies completely torpedoes the State’s case. Another one, when viewed in light of other evidence hidden by the Prosecution, raises the specter of deliberate concealment of police involvement in the quadruple homicide. First, we must identify the two police reports and the history of their respective release.
1. The Original Police Report: was prepared by Robert Joe Thompson, Police Chief of the City of Oakland. It is notarized December 24, 1975, the date of the crime, by Charlie B. Parker. The cover page bears the legend “Oakland Police Department” but the thirteen pages of attached narrative are stamped both “Oakland Police Department” and “Sheriff’s Dept. Orange County, Florida” and are designated “Statement of Fact” and “Continuation.” Of the thirteen pages of attached narrative, the date December 25, 1975 appears on pages 1 through 8. The remaining pages are undated.
This is a comprehensive Statement of Fact by Chief Robert Thompson, the first police officer to arrive at the crime scene, the very same officer who took Zeigler to the hospital for treatment of his abdominal wound. The Prosecution buried this police report. This unethical maneuver was consistent with Sheriff’s Department Detective Don Frye having taken the highly unusual step of declaring Oakland Police Chief Robert Thompson a “confidential informant” so that an indictment against Zeigler could be issued without Chief Thompson being subjected to any questions. We shall refer to the Original Police Report as the “Buried Police Report.”
2. The Abbreviated Police Report: was also prepared by Robert Joe Thompson, Police Chief of the City of Oakland. It is only one-page in length, is notarized December 24, 1975, the date of the crime, by Charlie B. Parker, is stamped both “Oakland Police Department” and “Sheriff’s Dept. Orange County, Florida” and is designated “Statement Fill Out In Full Detail.” Notwithstanding the reference to full detail, most of the facts in the first eight pages of detail in the Buried Police Report are omitted. Especially noteworthy is the omission of the facts that torpedo the State’s case against Zeigler and those that raise the specter of police complicity in this horrendous crime. We shall refer to the Abbreviated Police Report as the “Altered Police Report.”
3. History And Use Of The Two Police Reports: The defense never saw the Buried Police Report until 1987, 11 years after the trial, when a Freedom of Information Act request was made by Zeigler's second attorney. The Altered Police Report was given to the defense by the State Attorney in response to discovery demands. This shell game by the Prosecutors allowed them to elicit sworn testimony from Chief Robert Thompson, which was inconsistent with his statements in the Buried Police Report. The defense couldn’t object to Chief Robert Thompson’s misleading testimony because they didn’t know about the Buried Police Report.
Was Chief Robert Thompson’s Misleading Sworn Testimony Material?
The misleading sworn testimony of Chief Robert Thompson was so material that the discrepancy revealed by the Buried Police Report torpedoes the State’s case against Zeigler. Simple logic dictates that this is probably the reason why the Buried Police Report was buried.
5. What Is The Issue Involved?
The issue involved is whether (a) Zeigler shot himself in the abdomen to appear like a victim of the crime, or (b) Zeigler was in fact a victim of the crime and was shot by someone else.
6. What Are The Facts Upon Which The Issue Turns?
The critical fact is very simple: was the blood on Zeigler’s abdominal wound dry or damp when Zeigler was examined by Chief Robert Thompson five to six minutes after Zeigler called for help.
7. How Can The Analysis Be That Simple?
The analysis is that simple because the total time involved is only five to six minutes. The positions of the State and Zeigler and the established timelines are as follows:
(a) The State claims that after Zeigler had killed four people, he then made a phone call for help. The State further claims that after making the call, and knowing that he would be rescued within minutes, Zeigler then shot himself in the abdomen.
(b) Zeigler claims that he was in a fight for his life, was shot in the abdomen and fell unconscious to the floor. He later came to, found the phone and called for help.
The following times are not in dispute by any parties and are verified by official dispatch and call records:
9:18 p.m. Time of Zeigler’s phone call for help.
9:21 p.m. Approximate time of Chief Robert Thompson’s arrival at the crime scene.
9:23 p.m. Time that Chief Robert Thompson arrives at hospital with Zeigler and inspects the abdominal entry and exit wounds in the emergency room.
Even allowing for the time to run and get a gurney and run Zeigler into the emergency room, the maximum elapsed time from Zeigler’s phone call until Chief Robert Thompson inspects the abdominal entry and exit wounds is five to six minutes. Only one of two possibilities can be true:
If Zeigler shot himself after calling for help and the wound has bled significantly, the blood will still be wet or damp within five to six minutes.
If Zeigler did not shoot himself but was wounded earlier, then even though he has bled significantly the blood will be dry.
8. Did Zeigler’s Abdominal Wound Bleed Significantly?
Attachment A is a photograph of the undershirt which Zeigler was wearing the night of the crime. Attachment A-1 is the front of the shirt. Attachment A-2 is the back of the shirt. In examining the front of Zeigler’s shirt, we can see at the upper right of the picture exactly what Chief Robert Thompson was referring to in his testimony when he said:
A: ….“the underside of [Zeigler’s] left arm was completely caked and almost completely covered with dried blood."
Q: Was there any kind of blood on him like he had rubbed on him or maybe as he was crawling on
the floor it might have smeared on his face?
A: The smeared blood was all under his left arm, particularly from the forearm all the way up, and I would say this portion of his underarm from the backside here was completely covered almost as if you had uniformly painted it on (indicating).
Clearly Chief Robert Thompson was quite impressed by the amount of blood that was caked under Zeigler’s left arm on his outer shirt. Yet, when we turn to A-2, the photo of the back of Zeigler’s undershirt, we see that a large amount of blood is caked on his undershirt at the abdominal exit wound. It is also thick and dark. This is a large amount of blood. The critical question is: Was this large amount of blood from Zeigler’s abdominal exit wound dry or damp five to six minutes after he called for help?
9. What Was The Misleading Sworn Testimony That Was Given By Chief Robert Thompson?
In Chief Robert Thompson’s sworn statement, which was given weeks after the crime and was used to indict and convict Zeigler, he said that when he examined Zeigler’s abdominal wound at the hospital, the blood was “dry and damp.” This critical testimony supported the State’s theory that Zeigler called for help and then shot himself. Unknown to anyone except the Prosecution, this sworn testimony was inconsistent with Chief Robert Thompson’s statements prepared within two hours of having inspected Zeigler’s wounds.
In the narrative portion of the Buried Police Report, at pages 3-4, Chief Robert Thompson described his arrival at the hospital with Zeigler who had suffered a gunshot wound in the abdomen: “I noticed a burned hole in the lower right side of Mr. Zeigler’s shirt. I pulled up the shirt and observed what appeared to be a bullet wound in the right side of his abdomen, about in line with the naval. I also saw what appeared to be a bullet exit wound approximately six inches from the entrance wound and to the rear located on the extreme right side. Neither wound was bleeding. The entrance wound was black around the edge with dried blood on the surrounding skin. The rear, or exit wound, was puckered outward and was not bleeding. There was dried blood around the exit wound also.”
The State contends that after killing four people in cold blood, Zeigler called for help at 9:18 p.m., then, shot himself in the abdomen, and waited to be rescued. This is not possible if the large amount of blood from his abdominal wound was all dry within five to six minutes after Zeigler called for help. Lynn Churchwell, the nurse who cut the clothes off Zeigler in the emergency room at West Orange Memorial, testified that Zeigler’s shirt was completely dry when she cut it off. “I didn’t get any blood on my hands.” Her testimony is consistent with the Buried Police Report.
10. How Did The Prosecution Allow This Misleading Sworn Testimony?
The misuse of the Altered Police Report occurred within a month of the crime. According to Zeigler’s co-trial counsel, when Chief Robert Thompson's oral statement was taken by the State Attorney's office on January 12, 1976, a "gracious” invitation to attend the proceedings was extended to Zeigler's trial lawyer, Terry Hadley. He attended. In response to questioning by Lawson Lamar, Chief Thompson recounted a large portion of his original report, but, when questioned by investigator Frye, Thompson was led to testify that some of the blood was "damp" to bolster Frye's theory that Zeigler shot himself just after calling for help. The defense, unaware that a contrary report had been written by Chief Thompson and buried by the Prosecution, was misled, denied the most vital information for Zeigler’s defense at trial.
Furthermore, according to Zeigler’s co-trial counsel, then-State Attorney Robert Eagan misled the grand jury by intimating in the questioning of Chief Robert Thompson that the closeness of the gunshot would cauterize the wound so it would not bleed. Clearly, Mr. Eagan was well aware at the time that the bullet had exited the body creating a second wound that could not possibly be cauterized. And he knew or should have known that the exit wound in such a situation is usually the one that bleeds the most. Mr. Eagan did not explain any of this to the grand jury and never told them or the defense about the Buried Police Report.
G. Another Discrepancy, When Viewed In Light Of Other Evidence Hidden By The Prosecution, Raises The Specter Of Deliberate Concealment Of Police Involvement In The Quadruple Homicide.
The Jellison Tape.
In April of 1987, Zeigler’s lawyers made a Florida Public Records Act request for the files of the State Attorney in Orlando. In the files they discovered a tape-recorded telephone interview of John Jellison. The interview had been conducted on April 30, 1976 by a state investigator named Jack Bachman. The tape had been hidden by the State Attorney’s Office, which failed to disclose anything about it before trial or even in answering requests for disclosure in conjunction with Zeigler’s appeals.
John Jellison, his parents and his sister were staying at a motel next to and behind the Zeigler furniture store on Christmas Eve 1975 and witnessed some of the happenings outside the store. Mr. Jellison told the investigator that at about 9:00 p.m. he and the rest of his family had seen a police car at the back of the store, a police officer aiming his gun toward the store over the top of the car, and had then heard shots as they were watching, and that other police cars had arrived on the scene thereafter.
The State’s investigator made plain his disappointment with Jellison’s recollection: “[A]s long as you heard the gunshots after, you know, you saw the police car, that wouldn’t help us a bit.”
When Jellison asked if Bachman wanted to interview his mother, Bachman replied: “Not unless, you know, you all get together and decide you heard those gunshots before you saw the police car. In that case, we’d give you a free trip back to Florida.”
Disturbing Revelations In The Buried Police Report.
The narrative prepared by Chief Robert Thompson in the Buried Police Report yields some disturbing insights. First of all, at 8:30 p.m. Chief Robert Thompson indicates that he had “checked out of service” at the Kentucky Fried Chicken across the street from the Zeigler Furniture Store His report says he was there with Officer Jimmy Yawn until 8:50 p.m. This incredible “coincidence” puts Chief Robert Thompson within 100 feet of the crime scene within minutes of the approximate time when the Jellisons claim to have seen a police car at the back of the store with the policeman with gun drawn pointed at the store before some of the shots were fired.
Even more baffling is the fact that the Zeigler Furniture Store is in Winter Garden. Robert Thompson, Police Chief of Oakland, a neighboring city is not even in his jurisdiction. How does he explain being at the periphery of the most notorious crime in central Florida? It’s Zeigler’s fault.
3. A Police Report That Begins The Day Before The Crime.
The Narrative attached to the Buried Police Report prepared by Chief Robert Thompson starts on the evening of December 23—the day before the murders. Chief Thompson explains that Zeigler invited him to attend the Christmas Eve open house at the Van Deventers. This hardly explains why Chief Thompson is 100 feet from the Zeigler store at the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant on his way to a buffet of coffee and sandwiches just about the time Zeigler is being shot inside the store.
4. Spin Doctoring Within Hours Of The Crime.
We have observed the large amounts of deep red, caked blood on Zeigler’s undershirt from his abdominal exit wound. Yet, at page 9 of the Narrative to the Buried Police Report, Chief Robert Thompson is already putting a spin on the events by noting: “Tommy Zeigler had been slightly wounded, was at West Orange Hospital, but would be O.K.”
No medical record or doctor’s opinion was cited as support for this statement.
In a 1983 investigative report by an Orlando TV news program, the investigative reporter stated that the bullet traveling through Zeigler’s abdomen came within a centimeter of his liver.
As opposed to Chief Robert Thompson’s spin in the Buried Police Report, the medical staff at the hospital that treated Zeigler believed that Zeigler's life was in danger.
The medical records show that Dr. Gleason, a very reputable medical doctor, believed that a laparoscopy examination was called for to determine whether or not a vital organ had been pierced. Dr. Gleason felt Tommy's wound was sufficiently close to vital organs that he needed to perform a laparoscopy in order to ascertain the damage. In the Reply to Respondents' Answer to Supplemental and Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, filed in Federal Court on the 28th of February 1998, the wound is called a "near fatal gunshot wound."
5. Chief Robert Thompson And The Rumors Of Homosexuality.
One of the most perverse and baffling aspects of the State’s case against Zeigler was the vicious rumor campaign that alleged Zeigler was motivated by a need to hide a secret life of homosexuality. According to Winter Garden Police Chief Don Ficke, these rumors started as early as the night of the murders when Chief Robert Thompson speculated out loud to investigator Don Frye and others that the crime might have been sexually motivated.
No evidence was ever presented by the State that Zeigler was homosexual. The defense team tracked down every person who was rumored to have such knowledge, and each and every one of them denied any knowledge whatsoever. Of course that was because the rumor was false. It appears that there was no depth to which the State would not sink to convict Zeigler. Why?
If the jury at the trial in 1976 had known the new DNA test results, there is at least a substantial likelihood, if not a virtual certainty, that this additional information would have affected the jury’s conclusion. Zeigler must be granted a new trial.
List of Attachments
A1. Front of Zeigler’s Undershirt
A2. Back of Zeigler’s Undershirt
B1. 1973 Warranty Deed into Edward Williams and Mary Ellen Williams, his wife
B2. 1975 Indenture By Edward Williams, single, and Mary Ellen Stewart
B3. 1985 Mortgage Deed Page 1
B4. 1985 Mortgage Deed Page 2
C1. Promissory Note, dated December 2, 1975, in the amount of $4,146.48 with The First National Bank of Winter Garden, as payee, Edward Williams as obligor and unknown co-signor.
C2. Promissory Note, dated December 4, 1975, in the amount of $866.28 with The First National Bank of Winter Garden, as payee, Edward Williams as obligor, and William Thomas Zeigler and Eunice L. Zeigler, as endorsers – Page 1.
C3. Promissory Note, dated December 4, 1975, in the amount of $866.28 with The First National Bank of Winter Garden, as payee, Edward Williams as obligor, and William Thomas Zeigler and Eunice L. Zeigler, as endorsers – Page 2.
D. Copy of DNA Test Results.