Wisconsin State Journal UPDATE:  New Trial Denied   

Murder convict claims cops framed him

DEE J. HALL dhall@madison.com
December 18, 2005

KAUKAUNA - It was one of the most terrifying crimes ever to hit this community of 13,000.
Kenneth Hudson
Kenneth Hudson at 2001 trial
On June 25, 2000, Shanna Van Dyn Hoven, a 19-year-old UW-Madison student, was stabbed to death as she jogged by a quarry near her home about 6 p.m. The apparently random attack on such a lively and popular young woman shocked the community and turned the suspected killer, Ken Hudson, into one of the most hated men in the Fox River Valley.
Accounts of Crime
Sharply Differ
(Graphics by Wisconsin State Journal)

Biskupic's Tactics Have Been Questioned

Police alleged that Hudson, then 31, was caught red-handed after leading them on a high-speed chase while his hands, chest and legs were covered in blood. Prosecutors said Hudson stabbed Van Dyn Hoven, a stranger, in a fit of misplaced rage, then tried to put her in his truck. She died by the side of a lightly traveled road.

Not only was Hudson covered with Van Dyn Hoven's blood, prosecutors said, but he also confessed to killing the young woman during an interrogation by Kaukauna police. At trial, then-Outagamie County District Attorney Vince Biskupic said the evidence against Hudson - a roofer with a criminal history including burglary, drug and hunting and fishing violations - was "overwhelming."

From his first hours in custody, however, Hudson alleged police officers from Kaukauna and Grand Chute framed him by pouring and smearing a red substance on him and planting a bloody knife in his truck - possibly to deflect attention from a retired Kaukauna police sergeant's son who, like Hudson, was at the scene where Van Dyn Hoven died.

That man, David Carnot, has steadfastly denied any involvement in the woman's murder, and an arresting officer in the case calls Hudson's claims "absurd."

Hudson said he fled from police in a frantic effort to keep them from finding the marijuana in his shorts pocket, the empty beer cans and bottles littering the cab of his truck and his revoked driver's license.

"Obviously, it wasn't a smart thing to do," Hudson said in an interview of his decision to flee. "It made me look guilty."

'I am truly innocent'

 Soon, Hudson will have a chance to present newly uncovered evidence he and his lawyer think he should have had access to from the beginning - evidence they say shows a conspiracy to convict him of a crime he didn't commit. The same judge who sentenced Hudson to a life term without parole is tentatively slated to hear his appeal Jan. 19.

Among the issues Hudson plans to raise:

Police say Hudson's hands were covered with the victim's blood as he fled from them. So why didn't the state Crime Laboratory find any blood on the steering wheel or gear shift of his pickup?

Why was there no blood on the driver's side floor where police say Hudson threw the blood-soaked knife?

If Hudson's left foot was dripping with the victim's blood, as police say, why did the state Crime Laboratory originally find only animal blood on that foot? And why does new testing reveal only Hudson's DNA?

Why do transcripts and a tape of the 911 communications that day omit nearly all transmissions mentioning the murder and chase?

Why does a newly released dispatch log show the two officers who testified that they arrested Hudson at the scene didn't actually arrive until after Hudson was taken away?

Where is the window crank from Hudson's truck, which police say was found near the victim's body and ties Hudson to the crime scene?

And are all of the samples of the victim's blood accounted for?

"I just want the truth to come out," Hudson said. "I am truly innocent, and I do have total faith in God, that he will and is bringing out the truth - that I was framed ..."

Jury unpersuaded

Unable to find an attorney to present his claims of innocence, Hudson, a high school dropout, served as his own attorney at his trial in March 2001. He tried to highlight some puzzling contradictions in the evidence but had little luck swaying the jury.

Hudson pointed to a lack of fingerprints on the knife, animal blood found on his foot where police had claimed the victim bled and the videotape of a purported confession that police said had erased itself.

"I never did confess to the crime," Hudson said in an interview at Green Bay Correctional Institution, the stark, black-granite fortress where he has been confined for more than four years. "The police fabricated that alleged confession. You know darn well ... that if I truly confessed to the crime, they would have produced that tape."

Over Hudson's objections, Judge Harold Froehlich ordered attorney Ed Carns to serve as standby counsel. In his closing argument, Carns argued there was no evidence that Hudson intended to kill Van Dyn Hoven - undermining the thrust of Hudson's defense that he had nothing to do with her murder.

After three hours of deliberation, the Outagamie County jury convicted Hudson of murder, kidnapping and first- degree recklessly endangering safety for allegedly trying to run over Carnot at the scene.

Since then, Hudson has been trying to overturn his conviction. His latest effort will cite reports, audio tapes, forensic analysis and new DNA testing that Hudson obtained with the help of court-appointed attorney David Cook - evidence that largely contradicts prosecutors' version of the crime.

'Absurd' claims?

 Cook argues that the evidence just now coming to light is all information that Biskupic and his deputy, Carrie Schneider, the current district attorney, were ethically required to turn over years ago when Hudson faced the two prosecutors alone in that Appleton courtroom.

In his final brief filed before leaving the case, Cook alleged that Schneider continues to withhold crucial evidence "to conceal police efforts to plant and tamper with evidence."

Hudson's new attorney, Chris Gramstrup of Superior, said he plans to "vigorously" present the new evidence dug up by Hudson and Cook, who closed his Monroe law practice a few weeks ago to open a carpentry business.

Schneider wouldn't answer any questions about the case because it's on appeal, and she advised Kaukauna Police Chief John Manion to do the same. The Grand Chute Police Department also declined comment.

Biskupic didn't respond to a phone message and a set of detailed questions sent to his law office in Appleton, where he is now in private practice. He was the Republican candidate for attorney general in 2002 and lost to Peg Lautenschlager.

At trial and in subsequent appeals, prosecutors deflected Hudson's allegations of a frame-up. They have said that the murder and chase happened so quickly, there was no time to frame Hudson.

One of the arresting officers, Grand Chute Sgt. Todd Zolkowski, said no one framed Hudson. "It was a pretty clear-cut case," Zolkowski said. "I know some of the things that are coming out now - that officers threw blood on him and his vehicle - is absurd."

In an interview, retired Outagamie County sheriff's Sgt. Dan Pamenter also rejected the notion that there was anything unusual about the case. Pamenter took photographs at the arrest scene.

"Hudson and his attorney have had more than enough time to look over the reports and come up with excuses," Pamenter said. "Anything to create doubt - that's the defense attorney's job."

But this time, Hudson believes, the evidence is on his side.

Non-human blood

Hudson has always maintained that police poured blood or another red substance on him as he sat in a police cruiser. It's a story that - even Hudson admits - sounds crazy.

After he was pulled over and arrested, Hudson said he fell asleep in the back of the police car during the hourlong ordeal. He said he awoke to find a Kaukauna police officer pouring something red on him.

"I woke to a warm feeling running down my leg," Hudson said in a 2003 court hearing. "And when I woke, it was a police officer that had a cup. And he was pouring blood on my leg and I said, 'Stop this! What are you doing?'"

Hudson said he kicked the cup away and was eventually moved to a second squad car. There, as he became increasingly agitated, a second officer smeared something on his chest and hands. Hudson began to hyperventilate, officers called an ambulance, and Hudson was taken to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Appleton.

Hudson's allegations get some support from state Crime Laboratory test results presented at trial that the blood on Hudson's left foot was "non- human" or animal blood.

New DNA results of swabs taken from Hudson's body, won after a long court battle, are puzzling. On several of the submitted swabs, two out-of- state labs could find no DNA at all, including a swab of Hudson's right hand, where the state Crime Laboratory had identified a mixture of DNA from Hudson and Van Dyn Hoven. On a swab taken from Hudson's blood-soaked left foot, rather than animal blood, the new testing indicated only Hudson's DNA.

John Ertl from the state Crime Laboratory testified in an Oct. 5 hearing that he doesn't know why the results from the Molecular Forensic Laboratory at the University of Maine and the ReliaGene Laboratory in New Orleans contradict his findings, nor why the labs could find no DNA on several of the swabs.

But Ertl - noting the relative youth of the samples and their bright red color - ruled out a natural breakdown of the DNA. He said the results could be caused by "chemical degradation."

"I've taken bloodstains that looked black or green or had mold growing on them and I still can get DNA from them," Ertl testified.

Cook said in a Sept. 1 hearing that the contradictory findings are important because "it does support Mr. Hudson's claims that the blood that was on his body was a substance that was placed there by the police and subsequently contaminated so that the DNA in that material could not be tested."

Schneider contended in the Sept. 1 hearing that other samples taken from Hudson still show the presence of Van Dyn Hoven's blood - a finding that she said reconfirms the verdict. Hudson said he never touched the victim and believes police put her blood on him or the swab.

Other evidence missing

Additional evidence uncovered since Hudson's conviction - and other evidence that's now missing - raise more questions about the case. In court briefs, Hudson and Cook allege that:

  • Two transcripts of the 911 traffic that night have been edited to exclude virtually all transmissions made during the chase from Kaukauna, where Van Dyn Hoven died, and Greenville, where Hudson was arrested. The 911 tape recording of the incident also has been "corrupted," with "numerous breaks/drop outs," according to Forensic Tape Analysis of Burlington.
Said Cook: "Hudson has reason to believe that some of that communication record has been suppressed because it would show that officers were informed during the chase that the Plank Road incident was a stabbing (and) that David Carnot was present at the Plank Road scene."
  • Two Grand Chute police officers - Randy Reifsteck and David Jackson - who said they were involved in the 16-mile chase and arrest of Hudson didn't arrive at the scene in Greenville until 90 minutes after Hudson was arrested, according to a recently uncovered dispatch log and a 911 tape.
Cook noted that neither one mentioned in his police report seeing a knife in Hudson's truck and that recently released photos taken by Pamenter show the officers' car was nowhere near Hudson's truck at the time of arrest. Cook alleged that the two officers "arrived at the scene after his arrest, without being dispatched to the scene, and were available to assist with the manipulation of evidence."

Zolkowski said in an interview that both Reifsteck and Jackson were at the scene when Hudson was handcuffed, and that all three saw blood on him. He said the other officers might not have mentioned the knife because others had already put it in their reports.
  • At least one vial of Van Dyn Hoven's blood may be unaccounted for. Outagamie County Coroner Ruth Wulgaert testified that she drew just one tube of blood from the young woman, but the forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy, Dr. Michael Chambliss, and other documents indicate multiple vials of blood were drawn.
  • The same day the blood was drawn - June 26, 2000 - records indicate Kaukauna police broke the seal on the evidence bag containing the knife. Kaukauna Officer Robert Momberg said in a May 2003 hearing that he opened the bag to let his boss, Manion, look at the knife. When asked by Schneider whether he added, rubbed or removed anything from the knife, Momberg answered "no."
  • The window crank for Hudson's pickup truck, allegedly found next to Van Dyn Hoven's body and linking Hudson to the scene, is now missing.
Wrote Cook: "The fact that the window crank recovered and packaged by the State Crime Lab is no longer in the bag into which it was placed ... demands explanation, particularly in light of the numerous significant other evidentiary anomalies noted in this case."

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