Target 2 Investigation
Maloney Family Gathers Evidence of Innocence 
A former Green Bay police officer says he is innocent of murder.

John Maloney was convicted three years ago for killing his estranged wife and then burning her body, but Target 2 investigative reporter Natalie Arnold found out Maloney and his family say there is evidence that should cast doubt on his conviction. It is evidence the jury never heard.

Without a doubt, Green Bay and state investigators say, John Maloney is a killer.  John Maloney, the prosecution said, was an angry and calculating killer. Not only did he beat, strangle, and set his estranged wife, Sandy, on fire, investigators said he worked hard to throw them off the track, arranging the scene at Sandy's house to look like an accident. Like Sandy had been smoking carelessly. He was, they pointed out, an arson investigator.

After twelve hours of deliberating, the jury agreed with the State, devastating Maloney's three sons.  Currently, Sandy's husband is serving a life sentence in prison. He says he had nothing to do with his estranged wife's murder, "not at all."

John Maloney says the jury never heard the whole story.  Maloney and his supporters say that's because the investigators ignored evidence indicating no crimes occurred in the first place.

When reminded that other information points at his guilt, he responds, "This is all information coming out of reports from the police departments.

"I am an innocent man in prison, that committed no crime," Maloney told Target 2. "I say there was no crime committed in the first place."

There were no witnesses to the crime, no physical evidence linking Maloney to the murder. What investigators had was Sandy's burned body on her couch in her home and markings on her neck and in her eyelid suggesting Sandy had been strangled.

And there was something else at Sandy's home, in her basement, that investigators found but never publicly talked about.

The police video shows an electrical cord attached to a basement ceiling pipe. It hangs near a table with two VCRs stacked on top of each other and appears to be tied in a noose.

And in a kitchen waste basket were five suicide notes written by Sandy. One says she is sorry and, to John, "take care of the kids."

The autopsy report describes Sandy on the night of her death as "acutely intoxicated." Her blood- alcohol level was at least 0.360.

Her son, Matt Maloney, said, "It doesn't surprise me that she was acting that way. From phone conversations, she's telling people that she's sorry, she loves my dad, she hates my dad, she loves us. She's just on an emotional roller-coaster."

Police reports also document Sandy's history of careless smoking. One written by a state investigator talks about an incident one New Year's Eve. When Sandy's friends came to visit her, they found her on her bed fully dressed.

"Sandy Maloney was intoxicated, in a sleeping/stupor state, with an ashtray on her abdomen and one hand holding a cigarette, said cigarette lying in the ashtray," the report stated.

James Munger, a fire investigator from Alabama, reviewed this case at the request of an advocacy group that believes Maloney is innocent. Munger says the state's claim the fire was staged to look like an accident is ridiculous because of Sandy's smoking history, because of an apparent suicide scene, and because of another key piece of evidence found in the basement.

"Someone that was trying to stage this to look like a smoking accident and eliminate any evidence that would be contrary to that, would have done some fire damage in the basement," Munger said.

In the basement, investigators found a shirt covered with blood. Investigators say it indicates Maloney struck his wife on the head and then took her shirt and put it in a basement hamper.

The question Munger has, is why would Maloney essentially "preserve" evidence by removing it from Sandy before starting her on fire.

The answer, says Munger, other experts, and the Maloney family, is that someone else was at Sandy's home-- and that someone is Sandy's close friend, Jody Pawlak.

Maloney's supporters point to fingerprint and blood evidence that suggests Pawlak was at Sandy's home the night of her death.

Maloney says the police reports also talk about what appears to be blood in the basement, specifically on the table near the cord. There is also trace blood in the basement shower and, according to Maloney, there is a fingerprint in the blood, the fingerprint of Sandy's close friend, Jody Pawlak.

Brent Turvey, a forensic scientist and author of a textbook on criminal profiling, reviewed the case for an advocacy group that believes Maloney is innocent.

"The bloody fingerprint that was found in the basement area belongs to her (Jody), there's no question of that, that's not in dispute. The blood belongs to the victim, so therefore you have her (Jody) being there after the victim is bleeding," Turvey concluded.

The theory? Jody Pawlak found Sandy in the basement bleeding after she fell while trying to hang herself. Maloney and his supporters say Pawlak helped clean Sandy up, tossed her bloody shirt in the basement hamper, then took Sandy upstairs to the couch and left her with her cigarettes, where Sandy passed out and accidentally lit herself on fire.

For the first time ever, Jody Pawlak is publicly answering that claim. We asked her, was she there the night of Sandy's death?

"No, I wasn't," she said.

While investigators declined to go on camera, a source close to the case gave Target 2 some supplemental reports dated August of this year. One report says Sandy's mother now tells police that she is the one who looped the electrical cord on the pipe to run to a dehumidifier. The other report says Pawlak's fingerprint was not in the blood, but near it, but the source of the blood was never identified.

Pawlak says her fingerprints should be there, she often visited Sandy. As far as the blood, she said Sandy had uncontrollable menstrual cycles.

"She was in need of a hysterectomy, so possibly if she took a shower down there, my print was there. Something like that," Pawlak said.

Maloney's supporters don't buy it. Maloney himself says the evidence should cast doubt on his conviction.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. I don't belong here," he said.

Maloney says he was convicted because of a poor defense. Maloney says there is plenty of evidence that shows Sandy Maloney's death was an accident, but Maloney says Boyle ignored it because Boyle didn't think an accidental death would sell in Hollywood.

Immediately after Maloney was found guilty of murder, he agreed to talk to ABC's primetime news program, 20/20. Then and there he stood by the defense used in court. Asked who committed the murder, Maloney answered, "Tracy Hellenbrand."

Hellenbrand was John's girlfriend-- then ex-girlfriend-- who the defense theorized wanted John all to herself.

Now, three years later, Maloney says Hellenbrand had nothing to do with Sandy's death. In fact, he says no one killed his estranged wife at all.

"I'm not trying to figure out a different defense, that's what I felt from the beginning, and I put my trust in an attorney who said he knew what he was doing," Maloney told Target 2 in prison.

The attorney was Gerald Boyle. Maloney says from the beginning, despite his pleas, Boyle ignored evidence suggesting Sandy was suicidal that night then died accidentally in a fire, evidence that she had a history of careless smoking, that there was an electrical cord with what looks like a noose hanging from a basement ceiling pipe, that police found five suicide notes in Sandy's handwriting in a waste basket.

"What I think happened, she tried to commit suicide in the basement. I think that's how the marks got on her neck," Maloney said.

During the trial, the jury heard none of this information or theory.

Special prosecutor Joe Paulus initially told Target 2, "It's not my job to present the defense." Later he did not return our calls. His co-counsel, Vince Biskupic, declined to do an interview.

However, Boyle did talk to Target 2 over the phone-- angrily. That's because the Maloney family claims Boyle was not interested in an accident defense because he could not profit from it later.

John's sister, Ginny Maloney, said you can't sell the story in Hollywood if there isn't a crime. "Wouldn't buy it. They wouldn't even look at it twice."

Maloney says Boyle was working on a movie deal. We saw a treatment for a script called "Playing With Fire," which at one time was being pitched to CBS.

Boyle doesn't deny the movie negotiations but he told Target 2 on the phone he didn't pursue them until after the verdict.

"There's no way that it was an accident. It is absolutely craziness to think so," he added. "I couldn't find an expert who did." 

However now there are at least three forensic scientists who believe it was an accident, and wrote reports saying so. They believe if Maloney can get a new trial, this evidence would set him free.

"One minute in prison or jail is too long for what I've done-- which is nothing," Maloney said.

How would the jury have responded to the accident defense three years ago? One declined to go on camera but told Target 2, "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, that's horrible to think that we might have sent an innocent man to prison."

Another juror, Larry Montgomery, said, "This is pertinent information a jury should have heard, and I can't believe it wasn't brought up."

"Who decided they would ignore this evidence and go for a murder conviction?" Montgomery asked. "There's a possibility the system didn't work."

It is exactly what Maloney, who's serving a life sentence, wants to hear.

He said, "It's not a matter of getting out of here on a technicality. It's a matter of getting out of here because I'm an innocent in prison."

It's something his family, including his 17-year-old son, are working hard to do.

"Knowing that someone is in prison for something they didn't do, and a crime wasn't even committed at all, how can you give up on something like that?" Matt said.

Maloney has a new attorney who plans to ask for another trial in the next month. He'll base that request on ineffective counsel during the first trial. However, we're told the chances of getting a new trial are slim.

Maloney is up for parole in 2024.

Target 2 wanted to talk to the prosecutors and investigators who handled the case. All of them declined to comment or go on camera for this report on Maloney's theory of innocence. It should be noted that they did talk to ABC News's "20/20" and "City Confidential" on A & E about how Maloney was convicted.

John Maloney
Innocent Imprisoned