Post by Joanna on Oct 7, 2013 2:26:41 GMT -5
Family still seeking answers in murder of Jessica Dishon
SHEPHERDSVILLE, Ky. – The files detailing the investigation of the murder of Jessica Dishon (above) sit in neat piles in a cinder-block room at the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office. On a recent day, there was a note atop the files – a new tip. “I can’t say the leads have run out,” said Larry Carroll, a former homicide detective who is a part-time consultant on the case for the sheriff’s office. “But the investigation is very slow at this point.” He then picked up the note, declining to discuss its contents.
Thursday, September 10, marks the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of 17-year-old Jessica, who was later found dead not far from her home – but despite the many years, Jessica’s family, as well as David “Bucky” Brooks, the neighbor once charged with her murder, say they are still hungry for a resolution. “It’s just like a standstill,” said Jessica’s mother, Edna Dishon. “I think it would be easier if there was justice done.”
Jessica’s family and friends gathered for a candlelight vigil by her grave on the anniversary of her death. Her grave lists her date of death as September 10, 1999, but her mother acknowledged they can’t definitively know when she died without a finished investigation. “It is an unsolved case, but God says it’s not going to be,” Larry Cobb, Jessica’s great uncle, said at the vigil. “He said what is done in secret will be revealed. I pray the truth will come forth.”
Jessica was last seen at the family’s Shepherdsville home as she was preparing to go to school. Her body was found 17 days later, about seven miles from her home, in a dumping ground known as the Salt River bottoms. The sheriff’s office identified Brooks, who lived next door, as the prime suspect and arrested him January 18, 2001. He was freed more than two years later after a judge declared a mistrial – because a detective testified that Brooks had failed a lie-detector test, which is not admissible. The charges were dismissed.
Elements of mystery. The case drew attention far beyond Bullitt County, with such mysterious elements as initial allegations that Jessica disappeared with two men in a black Camaro and the eventual discovery by police that her body had been moved from the first place it was dumped.
In a recent interview, Brooks, who maintains his innocence, said there was a point when he didn’t think he would be free today. “I thought it would be a quick trial and a guilty verdict,” he admitted.
Edna Dishon said the family still suspects Brooks and thinks if he wasn’t the person responsible, he was connected to the crime in some way. Though their families haven’t spoken to each other in years, both the Brooks and the Dishon families say they believe the sheriff’s office mishandled the case from the beginning. “They should have looked at more leads instead of just me all the time,” Brooks said.
“They just butchered it up from the beginning,” said Edna Dishon, criticizing the office’s professionalism during the initial investigation. She added that her daughter “can’t rest in peace.”
Carroll, a retired Louisville Metro Police detective who was hired by the sheriff’s office in 2007, believes justice eventually will be done, even if it takes another decade. “I’m still very confident,” he said. “Ten years later, we’re still following up on leads. We’re still working hard on this case.”
Families remain scarred. On the day Jessica vanished, Edna Dishon returned home from work about 1:30 p.m. to find her daughter’s red Pontiac Sunfire in the driveway. The teen’s cell phone, purse, keys and backpack were in the car and a piece of plastic was lying loose, broken off from the bottom of the driver’s seat. The sheriff’s office initially thought it was dealing with a runaway and told the Dishons to wait for her to call. But when Jessica didn’t show up, Edna Dishon and her husband, Mike, called the FBI. A massive search ensued. When Jessica’s body was found more than two weeks later, authorities determined she had been beaten and strangled. “We had come home from work that day and Jessica was gone,” Mike Dishon said. “We’ve been through a lot since then. Me and Edna, we really miss her.”
Edna Dishon said Jessica, who would be 27 now, “would probably be doing something exciting” had she not been slain. She added that she’s not sure if Jessica, who worked after school at Hardee’s and was a member of Bullitt Central High School’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, would be married or have kids. She was always good with kids, a “mother hen” to her two younger brothers, Michael and Chris, who are now 23 and 22, Dishon remembered. Michael was the closest to Jessica. “He would just stay to himself” after her death, she said.
The Dishons still live on Deatsville Road, next door to where some members of Brooks family still live. Edna Dishon, 44, admitted her family has considered moving but doesn’t see the point. Jessica’s death and its aftermath are “still going to be with us.”
Charges against Brooks. David Brooks was charged with kidnaping and murder, and his brother Joseph “Tommy” Brooks was charged with complicity and tampering with evidence. Those charges also were dismissed.
In 2004, another brother, Herbert Brooks, pleaded guilty to charges that he fired a handgun 12 to 15 times in 2000 toward the Dishon home, where about 40 relatives were gathered.
David Brooks, his wife, Irene, and their children – they now have four – have moved several times since his release from jail in February 2003. They now live in Bardstown; he said he is currently unemployed and seeking disability benefits for breathing problems and arthritis. Two years after the trial, Brooks was again in the limelight, when he was lauded for pulling two neighbor children from a mobile home fire in Okolona, where his family lived at the time. The children later died. “I think about that all the time,” said Brooks, 50, who revealed that he is considering starting a ministry. “I just get up in the middle of the night and check on our kids.”
Being away from his children was the hardest part about being in jail, he said. While he was incarcerated, the Brookses told their children he worked in the jail. “They would bring the kids to see me,” he recalled. “I just got to missing them after they left.”
There are other worries, too. The kidnaping and murder charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning Brooks could be charged again if prosecutors decide they have a stronger case. “If whoever did it doesn’t get caught, I think it would just keep going on and on,” asserted Irene Brooks, 36, who is pregnant.
The investigation. Throughout the investigation of Jessica’s death and the subsequent trial of Brooks, the sheriff’s office was criticized for several things, including the loss of evidence, reports, notes and photos and the contamination of evidence. Then, Detective Charles Mann, a 13-year veteran of the sheriff’s office who has since died, told the jury in Brooks’ case that the defendant had failed a lie-detector test, which prompted the mistrial. The FBI also was criticized for not recording its interviews with Brooks and not taking notes verbatim.
Paul Parsley, who was sheriff during the investigation and is now retired, said if he had it to do again, he would ask the Kentucky State Police for help because of the case’s difficulty. “I had seen this little girl growing up,” said Parsley, 67, who also knew Brooks before the murder. “It hurts your heart.” Parsley, who lives in Shepherdsville, admitted the case remains the worst he worked during his career with the sheriff’s office, which started in 1978. “That’s the first one we couldn’t solve,” he continued, adding that he and his deputies often worked late into the night on the case. “I would love to see it solved. Let the family have closure.”
J. “Mac” McAuliffe, former Bullitt Sheriff’s chief deputy, and Mike Mann, Bullitt commonwealth’s attorney, wish the same. “It’s something all of Bullitt County thinks of,” said McAuliffe, who urged the murderer to come forward in a public plea that appeared in The Courier-Journal in 2005. He thinks the case-breaking tip might come from a death-bed confession. “Whoever killed her is still lurking,” he said.
Mann still thinks of the murder when working on other cases. “We used everything we had,” he said of the Brooks trial. “It’s not that I would hope to try it again. I would hope it will be resolved.”
Bullitt County has changed a lot in the decade since Jessica’s death. The county’s population has grown by more than 23 percent, to 75,028 in 2008 from 60,955 in 1999, and the Hardee’s Jessica worked at is gone, replaced for a while by a Bootleg Bar-B-Q before it also closed. Salt River bottoms, where her body was found, has been filled in, making it more difficult to investigate, said Carroll, who is also a deputy coroner with the Jefferson County coroner’s office. Carroll believes the key to finding the murderer could be in finding out who moved her body at the dump site. Evidence suggests her body was moved about 15 feet within 24 hours of the time it was found – and police believe it was done so her body would be found. Carroll wonders, “Why would someone go back and pick Jessica up and move her so that somebody would find her?”
Slow flow of tips a decade later. Before receiving the new tip, he said he hadn’t worked actively on the case since April – the leads have temporarily run out. He has exhausted clues from forensic evidence, some of which was compromised by previous investigators. Several people claimed that they had seen Jessica after her disappearance with Jason Dunford and James Coulter in Dunford’s black Camaro. Dunford died in a car accident in 2006, and neither man was charged. Attempts to reach Coulter were unsuccessful, but he and Dunford both denied any involvement in Jessica’s death in 2002. Carroll would not say whether authorities had any suspects in the case.
When Jessica was murdered, Carroll and Bullitt’s current sheriff, Donnie Tinnell, worked for Louisville Metro Police. Tinnell, who was elected in 2006, said there were problems with the case’s initial handling. “It was hard to undo the mistakes,” Tinnell said. “Once you lose custody of evidence, it will never be admissible in a court of law.”
Working the cold case. But he said Carroll is the office’s best chance of solving the murder. “He’s as good as it gets,” Tinnell added.
Carroll worked on cold cases for the Louisville police, including the disappearance of 12-year-old Ann Gotlib, who went missing on the first day of her summer break in 1983. In December – 25 years after that crime – police announced that they believe she was abducted and killed by Gregory Oakley, a child abuser who died in 2002.
Edna Dishon hopes it won’t take that long for her to know what happened to Jessica. “My mom went to the grave not knowing. My dad went to the grave not knowing,” she said. “Are my husband and I going to die not knowing what happened too?”
Uncle Charged in Jessica Dishon Murder
A Kentucky man has been charged with kidnaping and killing his niece, Jessica Dishon, who vanished from her driveway 14 years ago. Stanley Dishon (pictured above), 55, was charged in October 2013 with the murder and kidnaping of 17-year-old Jessica Dishon. The teen was last seen outside her home in Bullit County, about 20 miles south of Louisville, on September 10, 1999. Dishon’s indictment is the second in the case. The trial of a neighbor, David “Bucky” Brooks, ended in 2003 in a mistrial.
Bullitt County Sheriff Dave Greenwell said a series of tips over the last five to six months and a reinvestigation of all of the evidence in the case led to the indictment of Dishon. “It’s a major relief for me to see something from that long ago move toward a resolution,” said Greenwell, who dropped his head into his hands and cried for a moment. “For years, you felt like you never did enough.”
After Jessica Dishon disappeared, authorities mounted a massive search for her. Her beaten and strangled body turned up 17 days later in a wooded area seven miles from her home. Since then, the unresolved case has hung over the county of 74,000 people in the Knobs area of Kentucky.
Jessica’s case has lingered as an unsolved mystery after Brooks’ mistrial, but law enforcement officials would periodically talk of new leads and possible breakthroughs. Greenwell wouldn’t discuss the evidence against Stanley Dishon or give specifics of what led to him. Greenwell also wouldn’t say if the suspect was cooperating with investigators. Dishon most recently served eight years and eight months in state prison after being convicted of sodomy in 2005. He was due to be released from prison on September 6, but was rearrested on an indictment charging him with sexually abusing a girl who was less than 12-years-old in 1982. Dishon has pleaded not guilty in that case and asked for a public defender. As of Wednesday afternoon, no defense attorney was listed in the court file. Stanley Dishon has a criminal history of being charged with sex acts with young girls.
Greenwell, who was the first investigator on the scene when Jessica Dishon disappeared, cleared Brooks of any connection to her death. “As far as I’m concerned, we indicted the wrong person,” Greenwell said. “I don’t look at Brooks as a suspect in any way.”
John Spainhour Jr., a Shepherdsville attorney who represents Brooks, said the indictment comes as a relief to his client. Spainhour said he turned over his old defense files to the sheriff’s office to assist with the investigation, but was unaware of who they were focusing on. He said the indictment gives Brooks “some vindication,” but a conviction of Stanley Dishon would clear his client’s name. “I have a certain degree of satisfaction that justice for Ms. Dishon will finally be meted out,” Spainhour added. “Mr. Brooks’ only poor fate in life was to be a neighbor in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Sources: Emily Hagedorn, The Courier-Journal, September 11, 2009, and CBS News, October 3, 2013.