News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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April 23, 2014

Justice system questioned

Former state trooper speaks on trials, conviction, time behind bars, acquittal

TERRE HAUTE — David Camm says that when he looks critically at the Indiana State Police today, he sees arrogance, ego and the desire for personal — even monetary — gain.

An Indiana State Police trooper, himself, for 10 years before retiring in his late 30s to enter a family business,. Camm, now 50, said he was naive at the time of the investigation into the September 2000 slaying of his wife, Kim, and their two children: 7-year-old Brad and 5-year-old Jill.

When he called the Indiana State Police Post at Sellersburg to request help after finding his family murdered in the garage of its southern Indiana home, Camm said he expected the killer to be found and brought to justice. He didn’t expect to become the only suspect less than 72 hours later — and to be convicted and spend 13 years behind bars.

“I wish I hadn’t been so naive,” Camm told the Tribune-Star on Tuesday, just minutes before his first public talk about his personal experience with Indiana’s criminal justice system. Camm spoke at Indiana State University to a criminology class that also heard from Randy Steidl, a Paris, Ill., man who had his double-murder conviction overturned after 27 years in prison.

Camm was arrested just days after the killings and charged in  the triple homicide. He maintained his innocence through two jury convictions that were overturned on appeal, and he was found not guilty at the end of a third jury trial last October.

Since his release, Camm told he Tribune-Star that he has spoken with his uncle — also a retired police officer — about his experience and his frustration with the criminal justice system. Though he was not a detective who handled murder cases, Camm made plenty of arrests that resulted in prison sentences.

“We both have thought, ‘Good God, I hope I never did anything like this to anyone,” Camm said of his perception of the dogged determination of his former colleagues to prove his guilt. “The individuals who investigated wouldn’t allow the possibility of being wrong.”

Both Camm and Steidl were accompanied at ISU by Bill Clutter, a private investigator from Springfield, Ill., who founded a national organization called Investigating Innocence in January 2013 after working with the Camm defense team.

Clutter said Camm’s first two trials were plagued by local prejudice from the prosecution and law enforcement, and it took the unbiased review of a federal judge as “the arbitrator of truth” to get a third trial in which the jury saw the introduction of new DNA evidence that put another man at the crime scene.

Camm began telling his story on Tuesday by recalling the night he arrived home to find his family dead. He said up to that point, his life was going well, and his family was enjoying a new life that started after he went to work at United Dynamics.

He had been at work that day, he told the ISU audience, and had gone out to play basketball as he usually did on a Thursday evening, but he was later than usual coming home.

He said that as he pulled into the driveway at about 9:20 p.m., he was thinking that his wife would have already readied the children for bed and that she would be upset that he was late.

But as the garage door rose, he said, his life changed in a fraction of a second. He saw his wife lying on the floor, shot dead, in a pool of blood. He found their children inside his wife’s Ford Bronco. His daughter was still strapped into her seat, and was dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

His son had also been shot, and Camm said he reached over his daughter to get his son out of the vehicle to attempt to revive the boy. That was when blood from his daughter transferred onto the shirt he was wearing, he said, and that is the “evidence” that the defense team used against him in three trials.

“To say I was clear of thought was untrue,” Camm said of his reactions that evening. “But I had to do something. I grabbed Brad around Jill and laid him down and started giving CPR to my 7-year-old son. It was a bit overwhelming.”

Eventually, Camm said, he called the state police, screaming, “Send everybody. My family’s dead.”

Camm said he ran to get help across the road at his grandfather’s house, where his uncle also lived. His uncle ran with him back to the garage. Police arrived, he said, and then began what he called, “a travesty on top of the deaths” of his family.

Camm said he knew that police almost always assumed that the husband or wife was the prime suspect in family violence crimes. But he didn’t realize how bad his situation was until after the arrival of the investigator, who Camm believes made up his mind about Camm’s guilt within 5 minutes.

The investigator was presented at trial as a “blood spatter expert” who could prove that Camm was the trigger man in the shootings. Camm said it was later revealed that the expert, Rob Stites, did not have the training or credentials that he claimed.

Camm credited his defense team with pushing for additional DNA testing that led to the arrest of Charles Boney, whose discarded sweatshirt was found at the Camm crime scene. Though Boney at first denied his involvement, a handprint on Kim Camm’s vehicle was connected to Boney, who was then arrested in 2005.

At a second trial, Boney and Camm both were convicted in the killings, but Camm was acquitted of conspiracy on a directed verdict when the judge declared that the prosecution had put on no evidence of a conspiracy. Camm was returned to prison at Michigan City, but he filed another direct appeal of his conviction.

“I don’t know how bad hell’s gonna be,” Camm said of his time served at the Indiana State Prison, “but that was bad.”

In the third trial by a different prosecutor, the prosecution “held to the level of the law,” Camm said.

In response to a student question on what it was like to hear the verdict of the third jury, Camm said he had already heard the word “guilty” six times from the previous juries, but he felt good about the potential outcome as the third jury returned to the courtroom. Some jury members were looking at him and smiling.

Camm said he was waiting to hear the “n” sound of the “not guilty” verdicts, rather than “guilty.”

“It wasn’t until the third ‘not’ came out that I realized it was over,” he said.

Surprising his audience, Camm said that during his prison incarceration, he never had any problems or threats from other inmates. The roughest times came on the basketball court during recreation, he said.

What kept him going during his 13 years behind bars, he said, was his religious faith.

“I relied a lot on my faith,” Camm said. “Where else are you gonna go?”

Camm said that while he sat in his jail cell, he would receive letters of encouragement and hear news of his appeal process, and all he could do was hope for a good outcome.

“Sometimes, it’s just about hoping to have hope,” he said of his days in prison.

Since his release, Camm has returned to the small Floyd County community of Georgetown where his relatives still reside. He said he sees individuals who were involved in the investigation and his trials, and he goes out of his way to say hello to those people. He said he usually gets a shocked look in response.

“I’m just moving forward,” he said.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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