Background: Joe Wilkes allegedly “confessed” that he murdered Yvonne Layne 5 minutes after police had him in the interrogation room at the Ravenna police department on 7/14/99. He allegedly broke down and said “I’m sorry. I killed her.” The story would go that David Thorne paid him to kill her for the sum of $300.
Police wrote in their supplemental report and testified at trial that just before the “confession” they confronted him with the following:
- Information that Joe had been telling others that he murdered Yvonne
- Proof that he stayed at the Comfort Inn on the night of 3/31/99
- Proof that he purchased a knife and batting gloves at K-Mart on 3/31/99
- Proof that he called David Thorne’s home from the mall the morning of 4/1/99
After that, they describe how Joe broke down and said “I’m sorry. I killed her.”
There are several problems with this scenario. To begin, if Joe truly confessed (before the tape recorder was turned on) as police allege, why do they then begin the recorded interview with Miranda rights and inform him that he is not under arrest?! A man just confessed to a murder and he is NOT under arrest?! How is that possible?
What really happened: There is much evidence to support a theory that police set out to frame a co-conspirator for this crime and they selected Joe Wilkes. They knew they couldn’t pin the murder on David Thorne because he had an alibi. They wanted to solve this murder so they created a “murder for hire” plot. Once they selected Joe, they then had to build a case against him. They did this via police informants, coercion of witnesses, planted evidence and a threat on Joe’s life – confess to the murder or face the electric chair. To be blunt, they threatened the life of a frightened 18 year old kid by describing exactly what evidence they cooked up against him and telling him that his friend, David Thorne implicated him in the murder. That is how they secured this conviction.
I believe police told Joe that if he cooperated, if he made the required statements – statements probably presented to him with cue cards – that he would be free to go. Why else would they tell him he was not under arrest?! They totally manipulated him. Once they had the statements and all of the details (that they fed to him) on tape, they were able to make their arrest and then they were able to arrest David Thorne. Case closed – only it’s not closed because this murder remains unsolved.
How do we know Joe was framed? For starters, none of his statement was consistent with the evidence at the crime scene. His description of how the murder occurred was impossible, he didn’t see any children in the home, he didn’t see the yelping puppies on the deck, he didn’t have any blood on his clothing or shoes as there was no blood found in David Thorne’s car that he allegedly drove him home in the following morning. He had no change of clothes with him. There were no bloody footprints on the stairs that Joe said he descended following the murder. The pants that were allegedly “found” in the woods had no blood on them. The (planted) knife found in a storm grate had no blood on it. Not one person saw a bloody man walking around town that night and he would have had a 4 mile walk back to the hotel. His own story changed during several times during the interview. It just doesn’t fit! This was a personal crime, but I won’t go into that in this article.
Samantha Pegg –
Police informed Joe that he had discussed the murder with others during the unrecorded portion of the interview (see above) —- how then is it possible that the person Joe stated he talked to about the murder (Samantha) didn’t contact police about the information until 7/18 – four days after Joe’s interrogation? I believe police coerced her to make a statement against Joe before his interview. That is the only thing that makes any sense. Detective Sampson stated during a preliminary hearing on 7/23 that Samantha is the only person that Joe allegedly spoke to about the murder – yet police already HAD the information before Joe uttered a word. They wanted to make it appear as if they learned about Samantha during Joe’s recorded interview but that conflicts with their own statement that “We informed Joe that he was discussing the murder with others…”
In a post conviction hearing, Joe testified that he received a letter from Samantha while in prison and that she apologized for what she had told police about him.
This is what Joe stated during the taped interview – remember that police said they told Joe that he was talking to others about the murder before the recorded interview began. How did they know? Because they had already coerced her!
Informants/snitches? Chris Campbell and Rose Mohr allegedly saw Joe Wilkes the evening before the murders at Carnation Mall. They told police that he was in town to do a job and that he purchased a knife at K-Mart (more about that soon).
An article was published one day after Joe’s interview. There are references to police “working their informants”. Were Rose Mohr and/or Chris Campbell informants? They are the only people I can think of that could be informants who “helped” with the investigation.
One of the police’ hand written notes has “Chris Campbell – suspect” written on it. Did this suspect turn into a witness? What did police potentially do to coerce Campbell?
Chris Campbell was allegedly witnessed by police placing his hands in his pockets and suspected of pocketing drugs. They ended up arresting him and holding him in prison until after David’s trial. This occurred two days after David and Joe were arrested. Is it possible that this was a deal? Did they hold him and threaten to keep him in prison until he testified at trial? I think it’s very likely the case.
The K-Mart murder supply shopping: Remember that police told Joe that he purchased a knife and batting gloves the night before the murder, at K-Mart. How did they know? They claim they learned of this from Chris and Rose but if that were true, shouldn’t there have been some mention of it in their hand written notes of their interview on 7/9? There isn’t one word about it.
One could say that possibly they didn’t tell police about it until their recorded interview on 7/12, but that’s impossible because police stated in their supplemental report that they visited the Comfort Inn on 7/9 to confirm that Joe Wilkes had rented a room that night. That is the date written on the hand written note above. You can see that there is no mention of the K-Mart shopping and no mention of the hotel rental. I believe they built both the K-mart shopping and the hotel stay into their story line before even speaking to Chris and Rose.
There are receipts – hotel and K-Mart receipts. The K-Mart receipts make no sense at all as the batting gloves were purchased early in the day, at approximately 2PM and the knife was purchased at 8:10PM – cutting it rather close with a planned murder for that very evening.
During Joe’s interview on 7/14, he never speaks about Chris or Rose and is never asked about them. There are several inconsistencies about this chance encounter the evening of 3/31. I don’t believe they ever saw Joe that night because I don’t believe he was in Alliance.
The phone call: Police told Joe that they had evidence that he attempted to contact David the morning of 4/1 from a payphone at the Carnation Mall. They told him they had a record indicating that a call was placed at 8:28AM. The problem is, the number of the mall phone ends in 3566 and the number on David’s phone record looks more like 3588. Was there really a call from the mall that morning? I don’t think so. If Joe needed a ride home from the mall that morning, why didn’t he call David’s pager? He never attempted to reach him that way. We never saw the Carnation Mall phone records to verify that an outgoing call was placed at 8:28 that morning.
According to the official story, Chris and Rose stated that Joe was wearing brand new Nike shoes, Nike swishy pants and a Nike jacket. They gave conflicting statements about the color but they definitely mentioned Nike. Did police weave this into the story because they had visited Dick’s Sporting Goods in an attempt to “match” the bloody footprint from the crime scene (in a very unscientific way) and the store clerk believed the murder print was produced from a Nike cross trainer? I think so.
I believe that police wanted the story to go that David gave Joe money to buy the new Nike murder outfit ahead of time to wear to the murder and that is what the witnesses described and Joe told police that he threw away the “murder” pants in a wooded area in Ravenna – over 20 miles away from the murder scene – they conveniently recovered them. There was no blood on them but that doesn’t matter because the story sounds good. I believe they planted them to go along with the Nike shoes identified by the Dick’s Sporting goods clerk.
Police wanted the story to go that the Nike outfit was purchased before the murder but Joe messed that up and stated that he shopped for new Nike clothing a week after the murder.
Photo of police “finding” the Nike swishy pants
It’s all a bit too convenient. Police also recovered the K-Mart folding knife in a storm grate two blocks from Yvonne’s home. We’re to believe that fleeing her home on a dark night, Joe noticed this flat, metal grate that is sitting well within the person’s lawn and put a knife in there?
It doesn’t matter that the knife had no blood on it, or that the blade was only 3 1/2 inches long and the cut to Yvonne’s throat was 4 inches deep. It makes for a good story – “Murder weapon recovered”! Oh! The home where the knife was found? Linda McLaughlin’s friend’s home. Coincidence? (Linda is the mother of Yvonne’s boyfriend at the time – Erick). He would have been the suspect but he was in prison at the time of the murder so the focus was all on David.
David Thorne: Police alleged that his motive was that he wanted custody of Brandon (his 2 year old son to Yvonne) and that he didn’t want to pay child support. It had recently been implemented, two months prior to the murder. The problem with that is, there are NO reports of any issues at all between Yvonne and David. Everyone police interviewed said that they got along well. It’s not logical that one would want custody so they could “save money”. How would someone save money by having full time care of a child? Ridiculous.
Additionally, it’s clear that David loved his son and cared for him. He had him at his home on weekends typically. For someone who cared for a child like this, how could he ever have possibly left this child alone in a home unattended for hours with his dead mother’s body? No way.
Based on everything described, I can’t be certain that Joe was even in Alliance that night. There is no evidence that he ran into Chris and Rose and it seems unlikely as their stories are so inconsistent with each other and from one interview to the next. There is also no evidence that Joe was at Yvonne’s that night. If he was, there should have been some physical evidence tying him to the scene. There isn’t. If police did search the hotel room for evidence, there is no record of it. For that reason, I don’t believe that he rented a room that night. Yes, there is a receipt but I believe they fabricated it.
This crime remains unsolved. This was a personal crime – someone close to the victim. Joe Wilkes was not close to the victim. I’m unsure why police would go to such great lengths to pin this on Joe and David, but like many wrongful conviction cases – they wanted to show that the crime was solved. They had it in for David because he refused to speak to them. I believe that is why they framed them for this murder.