Associated Press

Omaha CSI director accused of planting evidence

By MARGERY A. GIBBS, Associated Press Writer 

Thu Apr 23, 2009

OMAHA, Neb. – The commander of the Douglas County crime scene investigations unit is facing federal and state charges over accusations that he planted evidence in the car of two wrongly accused suspects in a Nebraska couple's murder.

U.S. Attorney Joe Stecher said Thursday that David Kofoed has been charged in a federal indictment with deprivation of rights and other counts. State prosecutors charged Kofoed a day earlier with evidence tampering in the investigation of the 2006 shooting deaths of Wayne and Sharmon Stock in rural Murdock in southeast Nebraska.

Nicholas Sampson and Matthew Livers were charged in the murders and held for months but were later cleared; two other people ultimately were convicted. Prosecutors say Kofoed planted a speck of Wayne Stock's blood in a car believed to have been used by the initial suspects.

The case could lead defense attorneys to re-examine convictions in Omaha and elsewhere in Douglas County that involved evidence handled by Kofoed, who has led the CSI unit since 2000 and previously worked as a crime lab specialist for Omaha police.

Kofoed, 52, says he is innocent.

"They didn't go to jail because of (the CSI unit)," Kofoed told the Lincoln Journal Star on Wednesday, referring to Sampson and Livers. "They went to jail because of a bad confession.

"It had nothing to do with what we did."

Calls by The Associated Press to an Omaha listing for a David Kofoed went unanswered Thursday.

Court records show that Livers, who is mildly retarded, was interrogated for 11 hours before he falsely confessed and implicated his cousin, Sampson, in the murders. Livers was the Stocks' nephew.

The federal indictment says Kofoed deprived Livers and Sampson of their constitutional rights of due process and against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Kofoed also is charged with falsifying records in a federal investigation and faces a count of mail fraud; prosecutors say he mailed a DNA report based on false information. The most serious federal counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Livers and Sampson have filed lawsuits that accuse law enforcement of trying to cover up a botched investigation.

Kofoed had been placed on paid leave after the lawsuit was filed, but he returned to work in July 2008 after passing a polygraph test about how he handled evidence in the case.

Kofoed has again been placed on administrative leave, Sheriff Tim Dunning said in a statement issued Thursday. Dunning said he would not comment on the charges against Kofoed until he has had a chance to read court documents in the case and consult with the county attorney.

Federal prosecutors would not comment on why authorities are apparently convinced that Kofoed is solely to blame for Stock's blood being found in the car, federal prosecutors said they had no comment. Cass County Attorney Nathan Cox did not immediately return messages left by The Associated Press on Thursday.

The case has raised questions from some defense attorneys about other criminal cases in which Kofoed handled evidence.

Jerry Soucie with the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy said Thursday that he has been in touch with several prosecutors concerning criminal cases on which Kofoed has worked, although he would not name the attorneys or the cases.

"This is really a big deal," Soucie said. "When you start drawing into question the reliability of forensic evidence in a case, it makes it difficult not only for prosecutors but for defense lawyers as well. 

"Historically, defense counsel relies on the integrity of conduct by lab personnel. And if we lose that, then we have to go into every lab personnel's notes and evidence logs and things that we typically don't do." 

Cases in which Kofoed has given prosecutors evidence or testified in include the murder trial of Ivan Henk, who was sentenced in 2005 to life in prison for killing his 4-year-old son, and the murder trial of Christopher Edwards, who was sentenced in 2007 to 80 years-to-life in prison for the death of a 19-year-old college student whose body has never been found.

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