Steve Drizin's False Confessions Blog

December 5, 2006

Another Proven False Confession
Charges against Matt Livers dropped

by Steve Drizin

Meet Matt Livers, the latest false confessor to a murder, set free after evidence that two other persons committed the crime surfaced. Today, in a courtroom outside Omaha, NE., charges were dropped against Livers who has been incarcerated at the Cass County Jail for seven months, five months of which came after evidence linking the true killers surfaced.
Matt Livers and his parents
Matt Livers is hugged by his parents after his release from jail

Here's the skinny -- Wayne and Sharmon Stock of Murdoch, NE were found shot to death in thier home in April 2006. With no real leads, authorities focused on family members and the two blacksheep of the family whose names kept coming up were Matt Livers and Nicholas Sampson. Livers, who is mentally retarded, was asked to come down for questioning. He was grilled relentlessly for over 18 hours during which time he denied he killed his aunt and uncle more than 100 times. Many classic psychologically coercive tactics were used with Livers including minimization, false evidence ploys (including a failed polygraph result), and a threat that they would seek the death penalty if he did not confess. After 18 hours, Livers finally confessed, implicating his cousin Nick Sampson as his accomplice. Livers is not able to provide many details without prompting (he is spoon fed the details) but gets a few facts right which he learned from conversations with his relatives.

Less than two months after Livers and Sampson are arrested, evidence found inside the Stock home leads investigators to two Wisconsin teenagers Gregory Fenster, age 19, and his girlfriend, Jessica Reid, age 17. Seems that a ring which was at the crime scene was left by its owner in his car which had been stolen by the Wisconsin teens during a multi-state crime spree of farmhouse burglaries and car thefts. DNA evidence from the ring and a marijuana pipe left at the scene link Fester and Reid to the murder. The victim's DNA is also found on the shirt of Ms. Reid and the shoe of Mr. Fenster. The two confess and do not mention Livers or Sampson. In fact, Jessica writes about the killing in her diary which contains a keepsake from the crime -- a shell which matches the ammo used to kill the Stocks.

Nebraska authorities charge the two Wisconsin teens but do not drop charges against Livers and Sampson, clinging to the idea that Livers and Sampson met the two teens at a bar in Murdoch and recruited them to kill the Stocks (at some point Reid and Fester adopt this theory after Nebraska authorities insist that they are lying).

No forensic evidence links Livers to the killing. However, DNA from one victim (Wayne) is found in the car of Will Sampson, Nick's brother. This car was car identified by Livers as the car he drove on the night of the murder. Interestingly, no DNA is found in the car on first inspection. It is only on second inspection, using a wet swab, that the DNA is found, in the only area searched. Whether the DNA was the result of contamination or transference or was planted by the authorities may never be known.

On October 6, authorities dropped the charges against Sampson, citing a lack of evidence. On the eve of Livers' motion to suppress, which was scheduled for December 5, authorities announced that charges against Livers will be dropped. The inside scoop is that the State's own expert agreed with the findings of the defense expert that Livers was mentally retarded, vulnerable to the tactics used by the police, and the confession was almost certainly false.

Recent Cases
Police/Prosecutor Misconduct

Truth in Justice