Sunday, December 4, 2022

List Series: Cases with Dropped Charges

There are many murder and missing persons cases in which a suspect has been charged, but then the charges were later dropped. This may happen due to several reasons - whether it's due to faulty investigative work, lack of evidence, or new evidence that eliminates the suspect. In some cases, charges have been dropped during court proceedings due to unfair or illegal conduct either by a prosecutor, defense attorney and/or a juror. These cases are especially difficult for the victim's families, as it delays justice being served. 

Below is a list of 5 such cases with dropped charges. Do not let these cases be forgotten!

Nadia Kersh vanished in Homewood, Alabama on November 3rd, 2008. The then-21-year-old left her job around 1:00 PM that afternoon to pick up her one-year-old son from daycare. Nadia never arrived - which was an immediate red flag. 

The following day, Nadia's car was found abandoned in west Birmingham. Nadia herself remained missing - but police soon identified a person-of-interest: a man named Joacques Haywood. Nadia had dated Haywood at some point before her disappearance. He was the main focus of the investigation for over two years before he was finally charged with capital murder in relationship to Nadia's disappearance. 

Prosecutors decided to pursue these murder charges without a body. They believed that Haywood killed Nadia during a botched robbery. However, the charges did not stick. During the summer of 2011, a judge dropped the charges against Haywood. The judge stated that the prosecution had failed to test two pieces of evidence for DNA, and they also did not give Haywood his constitutional right to a speedy trial. The charges were dropped without prejudice, which gives the prosecution the option to recharge Haywood with murder if more evidence is discovered.

Unfortunately, it appears that no such evidence has been found. Nadia remains missing and there have been very few updates in her case since the charges against Haywood were dropped. The case remains unsolved.

During April 2012, a man named Michael Johnson of Baltimore, Maryland was arrested and charged with the murder of 16-year-old Phylicia Barnes. Phylicia had vanished from her half-sister's Baltimore apartment in late December 2010. Johnson, the ex-boyfriend of Phylicia's half-sister, was the last known person to have seen Phylicia alive. Nearly three months later, Phylicia's body was found in the Susquehanna River. An autopsy determined that she had died from asphyxiation. 

Johnson was the prime suspect in Phylicia's case from the jump. He told investigators that he went to Phylicia's half-sister's apartment the day Phylicia vanished to gather his belongings, as the two of them had recently broken up. Johnson claimed he saw Phylicia during this visit. However, when her sister later returned home from work, Phylicia was nowhere to be found. Many people suspected that Johnson harmed Phylicia - especially after neighbors told police that they saw him carrying a 35-gallon tub out of the apartment that afternoon. After Phylicia's body was found, the many theorized that Johnson killed Phylicia and transported her body to the Susquehanna River in that tub. 

Prosecutors built their case against Johnson based on that theory. During trial, a witness named James McCray testified that he saw Phylicia's dead body - and that Johnson asked for his help with disposing of her. Following this testimony, Johnson was convicted of murder. However, it was later revealed that McCray had a history of making false statements surrounding criminal cases. After the judge learned this, he overturned the conviction. 

Prosecutors would later attempt to bring Johnson's charges to court two additional times. A mistrial was declared during both proceedings. Finally, in 2015, a judge decided to drop the charges against Johnson. Unfortunately, this leaves Phylicia's case classified as unsolved today. Many still believe Johnson is responsible, and it is unclear if any other leads have been pursued. 

On October 13th, 2011, an animal rescue group was attempting to rescue feral cats behind a Homeland Grocery Store in Bethany, Oklahoma when they spotted a black duffel bag. The bag reportedly had a foul odor that prompted the police to be called. Once there, detectives made a horrifying discovery: dismembered human remains were inside the bag. They appeared to belong to a young female. Several different body parts were wrapped in plastic bags within the duffel bag. It was clear that this young person had been brutally murdered. Days later, the remains were identified as 19-year-old Carina Saunders. 

Carina had vanished a few days prior to her body being found. She struggled with addiction at the time of her disappearance, and many theorized this might have played a role in her death. During 2012, a witness named Tia came forward claiming to have seen a video of Carina being tortured and murdered. Tia told police that she saw the video on a cell phone belonging to a man named Luis Ruiz. According to Tia, Ruiz and another man named Jimmy Massey are seen torturing Carina in the video. 

Another witness named Michelle also came forward. She said she, too, had seen the video of Carina being tortured and murdered. Michelle told police that she had been kidnapped by Ruiz and Massey, and they had forced her to watch the footage. Although investigators were still unable to locate said footage themselves, they still moved forward with the case. On July 5th, 2012, Ruiz and Massey were charged with Carina's murder.

Investigators repeatedly searched for the video footage to no avail. Then, one of the prosecution's star witnesses backtracked on her original statement. Tia later admitted that she had never actually seen the video but had heard of its existence. At that point, the prosecution did not have a strong enough case against Ruiz and Massey. The murder charges were subsequently dropped. 

New investigators have taken over Carina's case. New suspects have been looked into as well. Unfortunately, no arrests have been made and Carina's case is still classified as unsolved.

Keiosha Felix has been missing since April 30th, 2012. The then-15-year-old was last seen at her aunt Patricia Andrus' home in Duson, Louisiana. She was initially classified as a runaway, as she had run away before in the past. Additionally, her cousin Portia Felix told authorities that she had seen Keiosha after her disappearance, and she was doing "just fine". However, three months later, Keiosha was reclassified as an endangered missing child.

Throughout the investigation, the Duson Police Department learned more information about Keiosha’s relationship with her aunt Patricia and Patricia’s boyfriend, Leon Wilkerson Jr. Prior to her disappearance, Keiosha allegedly told Patricia that Leon had sexually assaulted her. Patricia never reported this to the authorities, nor did she tell investigators about it after Keiosha went missing. In July 2012, Leon was arrested and charged with rape and second-degree kidnapping in connection with Keiosha’s disappearance. Patricia was arrested and charged with improper supervision of a minor and accessory to rape. Keiosha’s cousin Portia, who told investigators that she heard from Keiosha after her disappearance, was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice. In August 2012, Leon's brother Ronald Wilkerson was charged with kidnapping as well.

The case began to unravel about a month later. In September 2012, Duson PD’s Assistant Chief of Police, Lt. Gerald Credeur, was removed from the investigation and suspended from duty. Lt. Credeur was in charge of investigating Keiosha's case, but Chief of Police Frank Andrew accused him of mishandling it. Andrew told the Duson Board of Aldermen that Credeur illegally arrested two people for kidnapping, given false testimony and made an illegal search and seizure during the investigation. The Board of Alderman determined that Credeur did, in fact, make the searches and the arrests without probable cause and he was fired the following month. The charges against Leon and Ronald Wilkerson were dropped. The charges against Patricia and Portia were later dropped as well.

Investigators have chased other leads in Keiosha's case, but nothing has panned out. Keiosha remains missing today. Many still believe Wilkerson is responsible for her disappearance, but unfortunately the case remains unsolved.

Curtisia 'Courtney' Smith was shot numerous times at point-blank range in Boynton Beach, Florida on April 5th, 2017. The 26-year-old died from her injuries 12 days later. On the day she was shot, Courtney met up with a group of people at Boynton Beach's Z Food and Meat Market on North Seacrest Boulevard. Courtney was waiting outside for pizza that she had ordered when a man with a covered face approached her and shot her several times in the legs, neck, and chest.

The market's surveillance cameras captured Courtney's murder.  The footage showed the shooter talking with a man, later identified as Roderick Taylor, just a few minutes before the shooting. The camera captured Taylor and the shooter fleeing the scene shortly afterward. Police arrested Taylor once they were able to positively identify him as one of the men in the footage. He was charged with second degree murder and possession of a firearm as a felon. 

Three days after Roderick Taylor's arrest, a 30-year-old man was arrested on first-degree murder charges in connection with Courtney's case. Three separate witnesses had reportedly told police that this man was the person who shot Courtney. However, less than 12 hours after his arrest, the charges were dropped. Police stated that they found evidence that ruled this man out as the shooter. 

Although those charges were dropped, Taylor's second-degree murder charges remained--until 2020, when he accepted a plea deal. Taylor ultimately pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm in relation to Courtney's case, and he also pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine and tampering with evidence in relation to a different case. As part of the plea deal, Taylor also agreed to testify against any others potentially involved in Courtney's murder. Since he accepted the plea deal, the second-degree murder charges were dropped. 

Although Taylor agreed to testify against any others who might get charged in Courtney's case, it appears that Taylor has not offered any valuable information about these potential others. Either that, or police simply do not have enough evidence to arrest any potential others. To date, the only other person who has been arrested in the case was the man whose charges were dropped less than a day later.

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