Discovered in 2007: significant evidence points to an alternative suspect.
During Kevin’s trial, several of Rodney Melton’s family members approached defense counsel and told him that Rodney was the shooter. Rodney and his brother Bruce were friends with Quanita’s father Demetrius. The three of them had recently been arrested for their roles in a burglary ring, accused of stealing controlled substances from pharmacies around Ohio. Defense counsel told the court and the prosecutor about the conversations with Melton’s family, and he then argued to the jury that Melton was the shooter. But counsel did not have all the evidence implicating Melton that the State had in its possession.
In 2007, Kevin’s new counsel discovered relevant evidence against Melton in the files of the Ohio Pharmacy Board. The Pharmacy Board had been a part of the investigation concerning the burglaries of pharmacies across Ohio, for which Rodney, Bruce, and Demetrius were ultimately arrested, and the Board’s files contained details of Rodney’s activities while under surveillance. The Board’s report showed that, two weeks before the Bucyrus Estates shootings, Rodney told a confidential informant “that he had been paid $15,000 to cripple ‘the man’ who was responsible for the raids in Crestline, Ohio last week.” Rudel Chatman, the informant behind the Crestline raids, was related to the shooting victims.
The Pharmacy Board files also showed that Melton and his brother Bruce had “spread the word that anybody that snitches on them would be killed.”
Melton and Bruce knew that Chatman was a police informant. One of their associates told the police, “we know about Rudell [sic], you know? You might as well just keep him under wraps or whatever you’re gonna do with him, Jerry, you know? ‘Cause he’s done around here.”
That same associate told police that Bruce told him that Melton was offered money to “off Rudell.”
The files also showed that Rodney was known to wear the particular type of mouth-covering mask that the shooter wore in order to hide a noticeable gap between his front teeth — which is signifcant because Quanita Reeves and Richard Warren both recalled that the man who shot them wore a mask or turtleneck that covered his mouth. Moreover, Melton’s Impala with a “new yellow paint job” was often used in criminal activity and had two license plates linked to it: JKL218 and 043LIJ.
At the time of trial, defense counsel knew about Melton’s “043” license. But Bucyrus Police Captain Michael Corwin testified that Melton’s license plate was ruled out because “the numbers were where the letters were” in the snow impression. Captain Blankenship testified similarly: “The one imprinted at the scene, you know, the numbers and letters were just the opposite.” The State used forensic expert testimony to support this. It would be years before Kevin would learn that this exclusion was simply wrong.
Discovered in 2010: Police radio logs contradict testimony.
The State had also maintained that a spent bullet casing found outside the home of Fernelle Graham pointed to Kevin as the shooter. Graham lived in the house across from the General Electric plant where Kevin had picked up his fiancé on the night of the murders.
But in 2010, by happenstance, Kevin obtained the relevant Bucyrus Police radio dispatch logs. In the dispatch log, the caller had reported that she “thinks she may have picked up in the McDonalds area”—not in front of her house or near the GE plant.
Those logs also undermine the State’s claims that Warren named “Kevin” as his shooter. At trial, the State claimed that a nurse called the police at 5:00 a.m., immediately upon receiving this information from Warren. But the logs contain no such information, nor is there any activity that would likely coincide with such a revelation.
Discovered in 2016: the State’s forensic “expert” was known to lie for police.
Michele Yezzo, the forensic “expert” who provided crucial testimony that clinched the State’s case, was known to lie for police.
At trial, Kevin countered the State’s allegations about the getaway car by establishing that many other cars in the area had an “043” license plate. The Ohio Highway Patrol printout of cars in the area with registrations with “043” was three pages long. But BCI analyst G. Michele Yezzo testified that it could only have been Kevin’s girlfriend’s grandfather’s car that left the impression.
While Yezzo was still employed at BCI, her personnel file indicated that the “consensus” among her colleagues was that Yezzo’s “findings and conclusions regarding evidence may be suspect. She will stretch the truth to satisfy a department.”
It was also noted that Yezzo had the “reputation of giving dept. answer [it] wants if [they] stroke her;” and that she used racial slurs, threatened her coworkers with physical violence, and was unstable.
The tire and license plate imprints were the key forensic evidence allegedly linking Kevin to this crime. Despite relying on Yezzo’s testimony, the State never informed Kevin or his defense team about these serious issues of bias. His defense counsel learned of it only after the media reported on Yezzo’s file after it was obtained by another criminal defendant.
And Yezzo was wrong about the evidence. Retired FBI Special Agent William J. Bodziak, a nationally recognized expert in tire track evidence, reviewed the evidence in the BCI file. He determined that Kevin’s girlfriend’s car had not left the “043” impression in the snow, because otherwise it would have also produced impressions of the remainder of the bumper.
He also discredited the State’s claims that Melton’s “043” plate could be ruled out.
Discovered in 2017: The police deliberately concealed evidence.
At trial, the State claimed that it first got Kevin’s name from the nurse who called the police and reported that Warren identified Kevin as the shooter. On May 13, 1994—the day after the defense learned of this purported nurse’s call, and the day the trial began—defense counsel served a subpoena on the Bucyrus Police Department for “all records, including radio dispatch logs, of all call-ins from February 12, 1994 to the present time.” Defense counsel never received the subpoenaed materials.
In 2017, Kevin obtained the entire Bucyrus police file and discovered why he had never received the subpoenaed items. Their copy of the subpoena has not been lost or misplaced during the chaos of trial preparation. The subpoena had three words written on it: “Ignore For Now.” The police deliberately ignored the subpoena, and the recordings were destroyed.