The Murder of Ms Nobody
In , a year-old man murdered and mutilated his friends' three young children. No motive has ever been established and he has never expressed regret. Now, 45 years after being jailed, David McGreavy is due to walk the streets again. It was a crime that would destroy a family, horrify the nation and - with its gruesome details - continue to provoke furious reaction in Worcester. As far as Clive and Elsie Ralph were concerned, Friday 13 April had been unfolding like any ordinary day.
Mr Ralph was a lorry driver, Mrs Ralph was a barmaid and they lived on Gillam Street in Worcester with their children Dawn, Paul and Samantha, aged four, two and nine months. Their lodger, Mr Ralph's friend David McGreavy, was helpful to have around, as Mr Ralph's job meant he was often away from home and Mrs Ralph sometimes worked evening shifts.
McGreavy was good with the children and seemed to enjoy looking after them. That spring evening, while Mr Ralph was combining a last-orders pint with collecting his wife from work, McGreavy, having drunk between five and seven pints of beer, could not stop baby Samantha's crying. Next, McGreavy went into the room he shared with Paul, four, and strangled him with a wire. He followed this by slitting two-year-old Dawn's throat, and battering Samantha until her skull was fractured.
Then he took them into the garden, spiked their small corpses on to some iron railings between two back gardens, and walked out. When Mr and Mrs Ralph returned home, their children were missing. There was blood across their two-bedroom terraced home. Their lodger was nowhere to be seen. They called the police. PC Bob Rees was the unfortunate person to shine his torch around the garden and make the grim discovery, and within two hours McGreavy was found wandering around the nearby Lansdowne Road.
When arrested, McGreavy asked "what's all this about? But at the police station, he admitted killing the children. An old friend of Mr Ralph, McGreavy was an impulsive young man - he once proposed marriage to a girl just a week after meeting her - who tended to flare up after drinking, but he had given no indication he might kill. He grew up in an Army family, moving frequently as his father took on different posts across the UK and in Germany. He joined the Royal Navy but was dishonourably discharged after setting fire to a rubbish bin. Colleagues from those days described him as "rather arrogant" and said he always had to have the last word.
He returned from his base at RNAS Brawdy in Pembrokeshire to live in Worcester with his parents, getting short-lived employment as a labourer, a chef and a factory worker. He often lost jobs because of his drinking and cocky attitude. A year-old and her year-old sister were arrested for stabbing and shooting their mother to death — a brutal payback after they were punished for trying to run her over with the family car, neighbors and officials in Mississippi said. Emergency workers tried to resuscitate Hall, whose relatives found her bloodied outside her home just minutes earlier, but she could not be saved.
That prompted Hall to punish her daughters, leading them to respond with the fatal assault, according to investigators. So they had got it out. So I guess when they were doing all that to her, she was probably trying to get to her gun to fight for her life. Read Next. Judge: Black men are 'more effective' at killing each othe This story has been shared 66, times. Mabry didn't come home after making dinner for her boys that Saturday night in When she hadn't returned by late Sunday morning, Wilson began to worry.
She knew about her daughter's drug problem, but Mabry had of late managed to handle her addiction while still taking care of her boys and working at the Confish catfish plant. She wasn't one to disappear without a phone call. On Monday morning, Gates called Wilson to ask if she knew where Mabry was. He'd called Mabry several times over the weekend, he said, and she hadn't picked up. Until then Wilson had worried, but just assumed her daughter had been with Gates. Now she was panicked.
She called Roseman and asked him to look for Mabry in Belzoni. Roseman checked around town. No one had seen her. At the following morning, a truck driver named Junior Mitchell pulled his rig up to his house, to fill up from the diesel pump in the front yard. Mitchell had moved out of the place several months earlier to live with his girlfriend, but still came by from time to time to get gas and check on his property.
The house had been burglarized several times since he left, and on more than a few occasions he had shooed away drug addicts he found squatting inside. The vacated building had become a gathering spot for them over the winter months. That morning, March 25, Mitchell noticed that a wall panel under the carport had been kicked out.
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When he approached the front door to investigate, he saw a trail of blood. He followed the trail inside and discovered Mabry's body. The murder set the entire community on edge. Because of the closeness everybody had with Kathy's family, the whole town, both towns, well, we were all just devastated. The county coroner, Roseman and John Allen Jones, who was the Humphreys County sheriff at the time, arrived at the crime scene about an hour after Mitchell found Mabry's body. Jones called the Mississippi Highway Patrol, who sent an investigator and two inspectors from the state crime lab.
They began interviewing suspects that afternoon. Mabry's body was sent to Steven Hayne for an autopsy. Though he held no official state position, and was never board certified in forensic pathology, between the early s and the late s, Hayne performed percent of the autopsies in Mississippi, according to his own testimony in trials and depositions.
That amounted to an astonishing 1, to 1, autopsies per year.
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The National Association of Medical Examiners recommends that a single doctor perform no more than autopsies per year. The organization refuses to certify any lab where an individual doctor performs more than per year. Hayne's workload could result in some odd autopsy reports. According to a complaint filed by the Mississippi Innocence Project, in one case Hayne included in his report the weight of a man's spleen, and made comments about its appearance.
The problem: The man's spleen had been removed four years before he died. In an autopsy on a drowned infant, Hayne noted the weight of each of the child's kidneys, even though one of them had previously been removed. In another murder case, Hayne noted in his report that he had removed and examined the decedent's ovaries and uterus. The victim was a man. Mississippi's autopsy system had long been loaded with bad incentives. Because prosecutors and the elected coroners assigned autopsies on a case-by-case basis, doctors had a strong incentive to tell them what they wanted to hear so that they could benefit from future referrals.
Sometimes, critics say, pleasing prosecutors meant providing them with findings that would lead to convictions. Other times, it might mean presenting conclusions that cleared a police officer or prison guard when a suspect or inmate died under suspicious circumstances. The state has made some progress in recent years, requiring that anyone who performs an autopsy for prosecutors be board certified, and Mississippi now has a credentialed state medical examiner. But the damage from the old system is ongoing. It was a system almost designed for abuse. Hayne performed most of his autopsies not in the state-of-the-art crime lab in Jackson, but in the basement of a funeral home owned by longtime Rankin County Coroner Jimmy Roberts.
One former state official who had visited Hayne's operation on several occasions likened it to "a sausage factory. For much of his career he held two full-time jobs during the day. So he did most of his autopsies at night, giving his practice a sort of macabre mystique. One person often present at those all-night autopsy sessions was Michael West, a dentist in Hattiesburg.
West often assisted with Hayne's autopsies, and sometimes videotaped them. The two men also wrote articles together, and by the early s, West had established a reputation as either an ingenious forensic specialist far ahead of his time, or a charlatan, depending on whom you asked. The police investigating Mabry's murder rounded up about half a dozen men who'd been in or near the vacant house around the time of her death and held them for questioning.
Roseman and Jones initially focused on a man named Douglas Myers, an addict who'd been in the house and had a fresh scratch on his face the afternoon of the investigation. But the state officials seemed interested in James Earl Gates, especially after learning that he had beaten Mabry before. Despite the history of abuse between Gates and Mabry, Roseman never liked Gates for the murder.
Maybe he'd lost his temper again. Maybe he got too rough with her," Roseman says. A mean man will hit a woman he loves, but he won't cut up her face. You just don't see that. Humphreys County, Miss. Sheriff J. Roseman also says Gates wasn't defensive about Mabry's death. In fact, he seemed crushed. We had to ask him where he was. I don't think he even considered the possibility that he could have been a suspect. He'd soon become the only suspect. During the autopsy, Hayne claimed to have found bite marks on Mabry's body. As he had done in numerous other cases, Hayne then called in West, who claimed to have pioneered a new way of identifying bite marks in human skin, then matching them to one person, to the exclusion of anyone else.
He called it "The West Phenomenon. West claimed that only he could perform this method of analysis, which involved yellow goggles and ultraviolet light.
He said his method couldn't be tested by anyone else. It couldn't be photographed or recorded on video to be scrutinized by other forensic specialists. At various points in the s, West and the prosecutors who used him in their cases compared his bite-mark genius to musician Itzhak Perlman, Galileo and Jesus Christ.
The National Academy of Sciences, however, does not consider bite-mark analysis to be credible as evidence in a trial. And even within the already questionable field of bite-mark analysis, concerns about West were already mounting. On March 27, , West confirmed that what Hayne had found were indeed bite marks. He took photos of them, then drove to Belzoni to make plaster molds of the suspects' teeth.
Using only the plaster molds and the photos of the bite marks he'd brought with him, West excluded all of the men then in custody. For dramatic effect, he used the same line each time: "Sheriff, this is not your man. The police then escorted West to the home of James Earl Gates, who also allowed West to make an impression of his teeth. West then compared Gates' mold to the photos.
In his report, Jones wrote that West next "pointed out to me the similarities between the bite marks and impressions. He informed me that this was a possible suspect. West then drove back to the morgue to compare the mold of Gates' teeth directly to the marks on Mabry's body. At a. He was booked at the Humphreys County Jail. By , Mississippi officials should have known that West was less than credible. He had also been suspended by the American Board of Forensic Odontologists for testifying beyond his expertise, including in the infamous bologna sandwich case.
In that case, the defendant was convicted, but the conviction was later overturned when West admitted to disposing of the sandwich after studying it. He said that he had thrown the evidence away because, since no other forensic analyst was qualified to replicate his methods, the sandwich was no longer necessary.
Yet West remained a favorite in Mississippi courtrooms, and among law enforcement officials and prosecutors. In , the Mississippi Supreme Court considered the appeal of Kennedy Brewer, who was on death row for the rape and murder of 3-year-old Christine Jackson six years earlier.
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As in the Mabry case, Hayne had claimed to find bite marks on the victim's body. He again called in West, who again matched the marks to the dentition of the chief suspect, in this case Brewer, the boyfriend of the girl's mother.
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In light of the continuing revelations about West, Brewer's attorneys asked the court to overturn the conviction and death sentence, and to suppress West's testimony. In the court refused. A majority of the justices still believed West possessed the "knowledge, skill, experience, training and education necessary to qualify as an expert in forensic odontology. West can sound convincing to juries and to those without scientific training.
I just thought, this is what the man does every day. All these judges and crime lab folks trust him. He sounds scientific. Who am I to say he's wrong?
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Michael West. In fact, in Mabry's case West may not have been wrong, at least about the bite marks. Mabry's previous paramours told Roseman that she enjoyed rough sex, including biting. Gates himself admitted to having bitten his girlfriend a few weeks before she died. That, of course, doesn't validate West's methods. Gates may have bitten Mabry, but there was no evidence he bit her on the day she died indeed, a competent analyst should have recognized that the marks were weeks old. And old bite marks from her boyfriend certainly weren't evidence that he killed her.
In October , Gates' attorney asked Humphreys County Circuit Court Judge Jannie Lewis to suppress West's testimony, citing the mounting questions about West's credibility, and about bite mark evidence in general. Lewis ruled that there was no reason to doubt West's credibility, but he did give Gates funding to hire his own expert to examine the alleged bite marks.
At that time, DNA testing was more primitive. A test could exclude someone as a suspect, but couldn't yet match a suspect to biological evidence the way the technology can today. The tests came back a few weeks later: Kathy Mabry had scratched someone in a frantic fight to save her life, but it wasn't James Earl Gates. In fact, it wasn't any of the men the police had rounded up as suspects -- not even Douglas Myles, the man with the scratch on his cheek.
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It was now 10 months after the crime. Memories had faded. Some witnesses had left town. And Roseman and Jones were back to square one. Judy Mae Wilson was crushed when she heard the news. Her daughter's killer was still on the loose, and with so much time now passed, it seemed unlikely he'd ever be found. But she was also terrified. Gates may not have murdered Mabry, but he had shown he could be a violent man. He was now free, likely angry, and almost certainly knew that Wilson had told the police he beat her daughter, which likely made him a suspect in the first place.
Roseman and Jones told Gates he wasn't to go anywhere near Wilson, her home, or Mabry's boys without Wilson's permission. In the years that followed, Hayne and West continued to apply their questionable brand of forensic analysis to other cases. At the same time, their work also began to attract more scrutiny, though mostly from outside the state.
In , Arizona defense attorney Christopher Plourd tricked West into matching crime scene photos of a bite mark left on a murder victim's breast to a dental mold taken from the mouth of the attorney's own private investigator, who had nothing to do with the crime. After accepting a retainer fee, West confidently sent back a minute video in which he methodically explained how the bite marks in the photos could only have come from the attorney's "suspect. It was the best evidence to date that West is a charlatan. And yet Mississippi prosecutors still defended convictions won on West's testimony, and Mississippi judges still upheld them.
Warning: The video below shows includes post-mortem photographs of bite marks on a murder victim's breast. Video first appeared at Reason. The tests showed that the DNA did not belong to Brewer. But rather than release Brewer and declare him innocent, West and District Attorney Forrest Allgood insisted that while someone else may have raped the little girl, West's analysis still clearly showed that Brewer had bitten her.
They posited that perhaps Brewer had held the girl down and bitten her while someone else raped her. Brewer's conviction was overturned, but Allgood promised to try him again. So Brewer remained in prison. Brewer's attorneys next tried to get the DNA profile of Christine Jackson's killer uploaded to state and national databases to see if they could find a match. Allgood fought them every step of the way. Allgood did not respond to a request for comment.