April 3, 2008
Ex-Cop Who Led Discredited Case Probed
By ERIN GARTNER
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — State officials said Thursday they will determine whether a former detective lied on the witness stand and withheld evidence from defense attorneys in a case that sent a man to death row for 14 years.
A day after Glen Edward Chapman was freed from prison, the State Bureau of Investigation agreed to review allegations of perjury and obstruction of justice against Dennis Rhoney. The former Hickory police detective led the 1992 double-murder investigation that resulted in Chapman's convictions, which were thrown out last year.
Rhoney, a deputy in Burke County since 2004, has been placed on paid administrative leave, said Sheriff John McDevitt.
"I will say that I'm not going to terminate someone's career based on something that happened 15 years ago until I have all the facts gathered, and that's what the SBI is going to do," McDevitt said Thursday.
Chapman was sentenced to death in 1994 for the killings of Betty Jean Ramseur and Tenene Yvette Conley. Two years earlier, the women's bodies were discovered within a week of one another in vacant houses in Hickory, about 50 miles northwest of Charlotte.
Superior Court Judge Robert C. Ervin granted Chapman a new trial last year, saying investigators mishandled the case and Chapman was offered ineffective assistance. Instead of retrying the case, prosecutors dropped the the charges Wednesday.
Ervin determined investigators failed to tell prosecutors about a witness who identified someone other than Chapman at the home where Ramseur's body was found. He also concluded detectives failed to report witness statements that Conley was alive — and with a person who had a history of violence against her — in the days after prosecutors said she died.
"The big concern is that there could be a pattern. He's done work in other criminal cases," said Jessica Leaven, one of Chapman's attorneys. "You don't expect this kind of conduct from anyone — lying on the stand, withholding evidence — especially a law enforcement officer. He put an innocent person on death row. I don't know how he slept at night."
Rhoney worked for the Hickory Police Department from 1984 to 1996, according to his testimony at an August 2004 hearing in Chapman's case.
He has spent the last four years working mostly as a desk clerk after briefly serving as a jailer and a road deputy, McDevitt said. He has spent most of his tenure answering phones and collecting fingerprints from day care workers, school system employees and others.
Messages left Thursday for Rhoney at several listed phone numbers were not returned. McDevitt said he could not provide any contact information for Rhoney.
Chapman, 41, walked out of prison Wednesday. He said he had no bitterness when asked about the investigators who handled his case.
Leaven and fellow defense attorney Frank Goldman said Thursday they were considering seeking a pardon from Gov. Mike Easley, which would make Chapman eligible for financial compensation for the years he spent in prison.
A lawsuit also was possible, Goldman said, "but there's a lot of research that would have to be done. That's a ways off."
|Death Penalty Issues