Knowing who was responsible for a murder is good. Proving it in a court of law is better.
“The police have interviewed no other suspects for the crime,” Noelle said. “Who was it that they missed, and what evidence can we present to exonerate Ms. Ogden?”
“The ‘who’ is simple; her ex-husband is responsible,” Anna said. “Proving that will take some effort however.”
“Not that I have any trouble believing you, but what pointed you in Ted’s direction?” JB asked. They had the dossier fanned open in front of them and were busy correlating its contents with the pages from the dossier they’d assembled when they introduced the case to Anna and the others.
“A review of means, motive, and opportunity,” Anna said. “Consider Tessa’s case. When did everything begin.”
“Judge Klairborn was murdered three days ago,” Noelle said. “Tessa wasn’t arrested until yesterday though because of the need for the forensic analysis to be completed.”
“Two days for forensics seems awfully fast,” Val said, getting up to pour herself a cup of coffee. “Is that usual for this area?”
“Judge Klairborn’s case is a high profile one,” Noelle said. “But, yes, that is incredibly fast. DNA Analysis has gotten much faster over the years, but the labs used have such a large body of work that it can take weeks or months to see results.”
“That is good to know, but the murder was not the beginning of Tessa’s case,” Anna said.
“Yeah, this started at the custody hearing,” Tam said. “Or, wait, no, it started much earlier than that didn’t it? She was framed for embezzling before the hearing.”
“It started here,” Anna said, pushing a sheet of paper into the center of the table.
It was a police report of a domestic disturbance.
“This isn’t helpful for Ms Ogden’s case,” Noelle said. “Her neighbors summoned the police to her address after hearing a dispute between her and her husband. The DA will probably submit this as evidence of her violent tendencies.”
“It says the police found the two adult occupants of the house ‘in disarray’?” Tam said, turning the paper over looking for more details.
“It means there were no obvious injuries but they could tell the two had been fighting,” Anna said. “With neither being willing to press charges, the police settled for citing them for a noise complaint and left.”
“I spoke with Tessa that night,” JB said. “Before this. I didn’t know their fight had become physical though.” There was a hollowness in their voice.
“This was the night they divorced,” Anna said. “The courts and official paperwork caught up with that reality later. Note how in the filings for the custody proceedings, Theodore lists that Tessa had withheld visitations rights from him since the day following the noise complaint.”
“She moved out with the kids,” JB said, still processing the information. “They went to live with a friend of hers.”
“Tam, would you bring up the website for the telecommunications company Theodore’s works at? Search for the date of the ‘Company Picnic’ once it’s up,” Anna said.
“It was the day after Ms. Ogden moved out,” Noelle said. “She said Mr. Ogden was unhappy with her absence from the event, but again, that is not enough to base a defence around.”
“Not on its own, but between that and the pattern of behavior Tessa is willing to describe, it’s clear that Theodore Ogden had a motive to ruin his ex-wife’s reputation and life,” Anna said. “As for means? Consider his job title.”
“IT Specialist for Mobile Communication,” Tam read aloud from the website. “It doesn’t exactly scream dangerous lowlife, but it would mean that he could have the knowledge required to be part of the cyber-intrusion Tessa’s company experienced.”
“That is a supposition,” Noelle said. “And even if we could prove that he was the one who hacked into Ms. Ogden’s account and stole the money, that wouldn’t connect him to Judge Klairborn’s murder.”
“We have more to work with. Starting with Tessa’s story,” Anna said. “According to her, she received a call from Judge Klairborn inviting her to his office to discuss a new version of the custody agreement. She says the Judge assured her that her lawyer would be present, but Ted would not be. She contends that is why her fingerprints and DNA could be found at the crime scene.”
“Her custody lawyer cannot confirm that though,” Noelle said. “They have stated that they received no communication from Judge Klairborn or his office. It doesn’t make sense either. Judges don’t hold private meetings to alter the outcome of publicly decided cases. If there had been some reason to reconsider the balance of custody and visitation rights, Judge Klairborn would have ruled on it during a regular session from the bench.”
“Tessa didn’t know that,” Anna said. “And it didn’t matter. All Theodore needed was to have her be witnessed entering the judge’s chamber.”
“How would that help him?” Noelle asked.
“Tessa’s outburst in the courtroom was a stepping stone,” Anna said. “Theodore either goaded her into it, or was smart enough to see the potential when it occurred. He had to act quickly though, since the impression of it would fade in memory and as a believable motivation. If he could kill Klairborn though, and provide enough evidence to connect Tessa to the crime, he could finish the destruction he’d attempted with the embezzling charge, which was looking uncertain at that point, and never have to worry about her reversing the custody decision if his illegal deeds came to light.”
“So what did he do? Hide in the Judge’s office, wait for Tessa to come in and leave, and then come out and kill old guy?” Val asked.
“That or some variation of it,” Anna said. “It’s not difficult for a killer to leave no fingerprints behind if they plan their actions out.”
“What makes this theory any more likely than another?” Noelle asked.
“Because Tessa left a fair amount of evidence behind but from what I’ve seen in these reports, none of it was where it should have been,” Anna said.
“Her fingerprints were on his door handle, desk, and chair,” Noelle said. “The DA will have witnesses tell the jury that getting that many good prints off a crime scene is solid evidence.”
“The problem is the places were no fingerprints were found,” Anna said. “None were found on the electrical cord, none on the ties used to bind the Klairborn to the chair, and none on any part of Klairborn’s clothing.”
“No defensive wounds either,” Val said, reading over the section of the reports Anna had pointed out. “Whoever killed Klairborn was able to get him into that chair and tied up without any struggle.”
“Nothing abnormal in the toxicology report on his blood,” Tam said. “So he wasn’t drugged. Gunpoint maybe?”
“Most likely,” Anna said. “The gun didn’t even need to be real, just intimidating enough.”
“Right, get Klairborn into the chair and tied up, then blindfold him and he’d never realize what was happening until he was plugged in and frying.”
“A gunshot would have attracted too much attention and left too much forensic evidence for Theodore to falsify as well,” Anna said. “There would be the question of alerting people in the building, of finding the gun and tracing its origin, and of the disguising the blood splatter.”
“That should be more evidence in Tessa’s favor, shouldn’t it?” JB asked. “This clearly wasn’t a crime of passion, or done in a moment of unthinking rage. If the story the DA will try to build is that she’s unhinged and the evidence points to a degree of methodical planning, won’t those be at odds?”
“To an extent, yes,” Noelle said. “That’s the angle we’ll have to drive home, but pointing out weaknesses in the prosecution’s case isn’t the same as having an irrefutable alibi, or concrete evidence that the guilty party is someone else.”
“I think we want more than evidence,” Val said, bringing a pair of freshly filled coffee cups over and depositing them in front of Tam and JB. Tam’s was black with no sugar, JB’s had extra cream and extra sugar, both just as the person they were delivered to preferred. “Evidence is something we present at a trial. Having to sit in a courtroom and listen to the DA build a case against her is not something we need to subject Tessa to.”
“That’s how our justice system works,” Noelle said. “We can’t wish this away, or try to buy an innocent verdict.”
“If only that were true,” Anna said. “I’m afraid the reality is that innocent verdicts are often a matter of proper monetary investment.”
“Good legal defenses do cost money, but that’s not the same as buying a verdict,” Noelle said.
“From the point of view of the very poor and the very rich, it amounts to much the same thing,” Anna said. “But in this case, that’s not what we are suggesting.”
“Right,” Val said. “Our other option is to deliver Ted to the police, all wrapped up in a nice, uncontestable bundle of evidence so that the DA agrees to drop the charges and let Tessa go free. There’s no need to waste the taxpayers money on a trial of someone you know isn’t guilty, at least not when you’ve got someone you can definitely convict already in hand.”
“But how are you going to do that?” Noelle asked. “Mr. Ogden isn’t just going to walk into the police station and confess to his crimes, assuming he is the one responsible.”
“This is true. He will need as compelling reason to confess before a witness,” Anna said, taking the cup of tea Val offered her.
“You cannot threaten or extort him,” Noelle said. “I’m not just saying that because it’s my ethical duty either. Any threats he received, or any coercion from anyone associated with Ms. Ogden will invalidate any confession he makes, and seriously compromise Ms. Ogden’s case.”
“That’s always a disappointment,” Val said, taking a seat again between JB and Tam. “I mean, it’s good the courts work like that, except that they don’t always, and sometimes? Sometimes it would be nice to be able to just smack them into working properly.”
“You’re definitely not alone in thinking like that,” Tam said. “But you might want to check out the kind of people who agree with you on that idea.”
She flashed the results of a quick Google search which showed a number of militias and other fringe groups who’d lost faith in the system and argued for violence to correct the issue.
“Ok, you’re job is to keep me from every getting that far gone,” Val said.
“In this case, we would want to avoid violence for another reason as well,” Anna said, gesturing to pictures of the two Ogden children which JB had included in their dossier.
“Yeah, the last thing we want is for the kids to get caught in the crossfire. Either literal or metaphorical,” Val said.
“They’re already in the middle of this though, aren’t they?” Tam asked.
“I don’t see any reports on their condition or well being?” Anna asked.
“They’ve been in Mr. Ogden’s custody since the hearing,” Noelle said. “Ms. Ogden’s visitation rights are, obviously, suspended as long as she being held awaiting her bail hearing. According to Mr. Ogden, the children are doing well in his care.”
“Do we know what kind of relationship they have with their Dad?” Val asked.
“They were confused and uncertain the last time I talked to them,” JB said. “I’ve got no idea what he’s told them about Tessa at this point though.”
“I’m wondering why he fought so hard to get them?” Tam asked. “Does he love them that much?”
“I would imagine not,” Anna said. “Note these calls from his primary cell phone.” She passed over a printout of Theodore Ogden’s call history which, technically, they shouldn’t have been able to access, but Tam rarely let technicalities get in between her and needed information.
“Full time boarding school? Seriously?” Val said. “So they were pawns?”
“Treasure tokens,” Anna said. “For keeping score, so he could know when he won.”
“I really want to bury this guy,” Val said. “Are you sure I can’t punch him until he spits a confession out?”
“That won’t be required,” Anna said. “We have a much easier option for taking him down.”
“And what would that be?” Noelle asked.
“We’re going to give him exactly what he wants.”