I have started this journal in hopes of investigating the person(s) responsible for the brutal assault of Anne Marie (AM) Kotowski on November 17, 2000; a crime in which Michael O’Laughlin (MO) was falsely accused and wrongfully convicted. This journal is based on factual information gathered from discovery and trial transcripts, as well as opinions (noted as appropriate) I have formed based on five years experience working this case. There are currently three sections associated with this journal (more may follow as this journal takes on a life of its own). The three sections to date include:
- Section I: Reasonable Doubt - what the jury missed
- Section II: The Other Suspect – a person with greater motive
- Section III: Further Points to Investigate – unanswered questions
Section I: Reasonable Doubt - what the jury missed
After nine days of trial the jury in MO’s case returned a guilty verdict in under three hours. This was a circumstantial case in which no direct/physical evidence was presented linking MO to the crime.
Following are elements I believe the jury overlooked when rendering their guilty verdict. Had they factored these elements into their deliberation it is my opinion the jury would have returned a not guilty verdict based on reasonable doubt, if not highly doubtful.
- Motive: The Commonwealth stated MO’s motive for this crime was robbery. Yet nothing in AM’s apartment was missing. There was $522.00 cash in AM’s bedroom dresser drawer, expensive jewelry on top of her dresser, and $22.00 cash in her pocketbook. All intact just as the victim had left them. The Commonwealth stated MO heard the upstairs neighbor, George Whitmore, making a 911 call, panicked and left before taking anything. In tests conducted by the police they admitted, while in AM’s apartment, they could hear a call being made from Whitmore’s apartment, but could not hear what was being said. When the police simulated their test they did so without the crying and screaming of the victim, and the noise made by wood striking wood; therefore their tests were not truly reminiscent of the actual crime environment. Plus, the police searched MO’s apartment and found money that belonged to him. Should this motive, as presented by the Commonwealth, have created at least reasonable doubt?
- Opportunity: The two arguments used by the Commonwealth to define opportunity were rebutable: 1) The Commonwealth stated Michael lied about being asleep after midnight and used phone records showing calls were made from MO's phone between midnight and 1:43 AM, seventeen minutes before George Whitmore made a 911 call to the police reporting he heard screaming in the apartment below. MO stated he was sound asleep when those phone calls to drug dealers were made. He claimed the calls were made by an acquaintance named Grover Finkle who had taken MO’s phone and made the calls from the parking lot outside MO’s and AM’s apartments. Working in MO’s favor was that none of the calls made to the drug dealers recognized MO’s name but they did know Grover Finkle; in addition many of those calls were made to Grover Finkle’s phone number where I believe he was checking his voice mail for return messages from his drug dealers. MO’s defense counsel didn’t even attempt to rebut this issue, instead he told MO to just admit he made the calls which MO refused to do; 2) The Commonwealth stated because there was no break-in to AM's apartment someone having a key let themselves in. MO did have a key to AM’s apartment but so did other maintenance and administrative personal from the complex. AM stated she never gave a spare key to anyone yet two things may dispute this (neither was brought up in trial) (a) when DK turned in keys to the management company he only turned in one key. What happened to the second key AM received upon moving into the apartment in September 2000?; (b) the discovery stated AM’s sister and boyfriend (Jim Finn) were waiting in AM’s apartment for her to return from an errand. How did they get into AM’s apartment if neither one had a key? Since MO’s trial lawyer did little to rebut these arguments and cast reasonable doubt; I believe it’s likely the jury believed MO had the opportunity to commit the crime. However, let’s look at another possibility I believe could cast doubt on MO’s opportunity to commit this crime: The Commonwealth stated MO had been drinking and drugging the night of the crime. Someone who is drunk and high on drugs is not thinking straight, acting cognizance, and making rational decisions. Yet according to the Commonwealth MO entered AM’s apartment, committed the crime, exited the apartment, and returned to his apartment—without leaving any evidence he was ever in AM’s apartment. That would appear to be quite amazing that a person drunk and high on drugs could have committed this crime without leaving a trace of evidence that he had been at the crime scene. If MO had committed this crime, while drunk and high on drugs, he would have had to wear gloves or wipe AM’s apartment clean of any of his fingerprints; remember the Commonwealth stated he exited AM’s apartment quickly as soon as he heard George Whitmore make the 911 call (the reason he didn’t take anything). He would have had to wear booties over his shoes or wipe the floor and rug clean because there wasn’t a single footprint in AM’s apartment that matched his. In addition there was no blood, hair, fiber or DNA that matched MO's and tied him to the crime scene. Here are some questions to ponder concerning MO's exit of AM’s apartment to his own. Wouldn't he have had to hug the outside walls connecting the two apartments so as not to turn on the sensor lightening system? Wouldn't he have likely left blood or some evidence on the outside walls. . .nothing found? Wouldn't there have been footprints going from AM’s apartment back to his. . .none found? The Commonwealth’s timeline showed MO had no more then 10 minutes between the 911 call and the time the Lee Police arrived on the scene. During those ten minutes MO would have had to wash any blood off his body, clean the bat so there would be no trace of blood on it, and dispose of the bloody clothes and shoes he wore while committing the crime. Yet nothing (clothes or shoes), was found in MO’s apartment or the surrounding area (remember a K-9 dog was used to search the area around the complex) that tied MO to the crime scene. How likely is it that MO. who according to the Commonwealth was high on drugs and drunk could have committed this crime and wiped away all trace of evidence tying him to the crime scene in ten minutes? Shouldn't this have created at least reasonable doubt? Yet none of this was presented at trial by MO’s defense counsel.
- Means: A bat bearing MO’s name was presented by the Commonwealth as the weapon used to commit this crime. Was that bat actually the weapon used in the crime? 1). MO’s bat was aluminum. When George Whitmore made the 911 call to the police he stated the sound he heard was wood on wood. Mr. Whitmore was a carpenter; wouldn't he know the difference of wood on wood versus aluminum on wood which would have made a pinging sound? 2) MO’s bat was 34” in length and 33 oz. in weight; in November 2000 MO stood 5’11” tall, weighed 207 pounds, was a carpenter, had thick forearms, and a powerful upper body. The surgeon, which treated AM’s injury, stated AM had been battered on the head and face up to two dozen times. Would it be reasonable to assume a person of MO’s size and strength wielding a bat that big would have easily killed AM? 3) In crime scene photos and video it shows large amounts of blood in AM’s bedroom and bathroom, also blood swipes on the bed canopy; YET. . . there was no blood on the bat. AND the police repeatedly tried to find blood on the bat that would have linked MO to the crime. Could that bat have been cleaned so thoroughly that not one drop of blood showed up in crime lab analysis? A spot of “something” was found on the tape of the handle of the bat but the crime lab analyst stated in testimony she could not claim it was blood, it could have been sweat or spit or something else. Where was the blood that should have been on the bat if it was the weapon used in the crime? Shouldn't this have created at least reasonable doubt?
- Consciousness of Guilt: The Commonwealth used three factors in determining MO’s conscious of guilt: 1) MO was discovered by police on the walkway of his apartment; when questioned by police he looked down and away from police and was hesitant in answering their questions. When the police wrote up their first report they said they arrived at the complex and that all was quiet and calm, and no one was in sight. After a while they stated they saw MO exit his apartment. Later the police changed their statement to say they saw MO on the walkway? Why did the police change their original statements? Did it allow the Commonwealth to infer MO was returning from hiding the bat, and his clothes and shoes (which were never found)? As for MO looking down and not answering the police’s questions remember he was awakening from a sound sleep and was still sleepy and possibly still drunk; 2) when the police searched MO's apartment they found a spot on the wall that appeared to be blood. The police asked to photograph and take samples of the spot at which time MO told them to leave; he then wiped the spot off the wall and let the police back in. Although this could show signs of guilt remember MO was being considered a suspect in the crime, in fact he was the prime suspect. Yes, he wiped the spot of blood off the wall but in later tests done by the crime lab it showed that the spot did not contain any of AM’s blood; and 3) The Commonwealth stated MO showed guilt because he walked away from the initial interview with the police as though he didn’t want to give a statement. Let’s address that concern. MO was working and on the clock. He couldn’t just take off from work in the middle of the day and voluntary give a statement to the police. MO went down to the police department and the officer that was to take Michael’s statement wasn’t present. The Police Chief asked him to wait; after time passed and no one showed up to take his statement he left. MO left to get his boss so he could let his boss know where he was and what he was doing. He and his boss returned to the police department where he gave his statement. Does this look like someone that acted guilty or tried to hide something? Remember all this was occurring without a lawyer present to give MO needed legal advice. He let the police search his apartment and gave the police his statement without legal representation. MO did this because he hadn't committed the crime and felt he had nothing to hide.
- Drug Connection: I believe drugs may have been the single biggest reason MO was convicted. The Commonwealth wove a story linking him to drugs and drug addiction. I believe the jurors felt because MO was a drug addict and needed a "fix" he committed this violent crime even though there was no direct evidence linking him to the crime scene. MO may have been a drug addict but that alone did not make him a violent man capable of committing this crime. This jury should have paid more attention to the evidence (or lack thereof) when weighing their decision.
- Compelling Story: At his opening statement DC stated there would be no physical or forensic evidence presented in this case linking MO to the crime. . .and there was none; his whole case was circumstantial. The case was based on inferences, innuendos, and mistruths (i.e. DC stated in his closing argument that the bloody handprint found on the pillow case was MO's even though during trial the Commonwealth's own witness stated that MO's hand print had been excluded). He presented his case with no evidence and made it sound believable. MO’s defense team did little to rebut DC’s story, did a poor job on direct and cross-examination, didn’t use expert witnesses, and didn’t hire an investigator. I believe they felt DC had no evidence and therefore had no case; they failed to see how convincing a circumstantial case could be and did little to poke holes in DC’s story.
Section II: The Other Suspect – a person with greater motive
In its decision of July 8, 2005 the Mass. Appellate Court stated "We have considered the third-party culprit evidence presented at trial, and we conclude that the introduction of substantial third-party culprit evidence detracted from the Commonwealth's case, and that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support a guilty verdict."
Who was this person the Appellate Court was referring to as the third-party culprit? That person, who for a short time was considered a suspect, was the victim’s husband. Do the motive, opportunity, means, and conscious of guilt fit DK better then MO?
- Motive: No one had a greater motive to commit this crime then DK. In September 2000 AM moved out of their house and separated from her husband (DK) of over 26 years. AM had been seeing another man Jim Finn (JF) and was questioning her feelings regarding DK. AM stated she still loved DK but wasn’t in love with him. From September through November 2000 DK tried to woo AM back with flowers and love notes while at the same time was being verbally abusive to her. DK called AM a whore, slut and other abusive terms to make her feel like trash; even his two children referred to their Mother in abusive terms. On the weekend of November 11-12, 2000 DK and AM had a discussion in which divorce was discussed. It appeared DK attempts to woo AM back was not working and instead was causing a bigger rift between them; here’s a man that had every reason to be angry, even furious with his wife for spurning him for another man. Over 80% of domestic disputes resulting in violent crimes are committed by the spouse. Based on these statistics DK would have appeared to be a more likely suspect then MO. Reviewing the crime and the type of injuries AM received show her injuries were all centered on the face and head. These types of injuries often are personal resulting in a crime of passion. Who would be more likely to commit a crime of passion, DK or MO? MO had no personal or romantic interest in AM and therefore have no reason to inflict the types of injuries AM received. Robbery, the motive the Commonwealth established, would in all probability not have resulted in these type of injuries
- Opportunity: Although AM claimed no one other then herself had a key to her apartment one might speculate that maybe there was another key out there; remember AM had been given two keys when she moved in and DK only returned one key when the apartment was turned back over to Fox Hallow Management. In addition there was discovery stating JF and AM’s sister waited inside AM’s apartment for her to return from errands. How did they get into her apartment without a key? However, a more plausible explanation is the night of the crime DK came over to AM’s apartment to make a final attempt to reconcile their marriage. AM was not mad at DK so in all likelihood she would have let him in. One could speculate that after talking for some time DK wasn’t making any headway and in a fit of rage he hit her; remember the next step after verbal abuse is physical abuse. The more DK hit AM the more outraged he became. Why then didn’t AM identify DK has the person committing this crime? Was AM in denial and repressed the thought DK would ever act that violently? Did AM have "battered wife syndrome" (verbal and physical abuse) and felt she deserved this beating for what she was doing to DK’s emotional welfare? Does AM truly not remember what happened that night because of the severity of the beating? Did DK threatened AM with further violence if she ever revealed he was the perpetrator of this crime; remember at the hospital he told a police detective he felt when AM awoke she might think he was the person who beat her?
- Means: George Whitmore, the neighbor above AM’s apartment and the person that called 911 to report the incident, stated he heard the sounds of wood striking wood. MO’s bat the police identified as the weapon was an aluminum bat. An aluminum bat makes a very distinct sound and clearly does not sound like a wooden bat striking a wooden bed frame. When searching DK’s home they found a number of wooden bats in the garage; the police did not test any of them, although in all likelihood if DK used one of these bats to commit the crime he probably would have gotten rid of it long before the police arrived. However, there is another possibility I believe needs to be considered. AM had a small 12-16 inch Souvenir bat she kept under her bed for protection (protection from what?); she had showed this bat to her boyfriend JF at one time. That bat was never found; what happened to it? Where did it go? I believe a bat of that size and weight could be more likely to inflict the type of injuries AM received then a large 34 inch, 33 ounce aluminum bat the police identified as the weapon. I believe a smaller Souvenir bat wielded by a smaller man intent on disfiguring his wife’s face seems a more likely scenario as to what really happened that night. At trial it was stated the person committing this crime was probably right-handed. MO is left-handed; DK is right-handed although he stated he swings a bat left-handed and does everything else right-handed.
- Consciousness of Guilt: DK acted far guiltier then MO. Here are four instances that reveal DK’s conscious of guilt: 1) The morning of the crime DK showed up at the local police station and stated he was fearful something awful might have happened to his wife; this before he even knew that AM had been beaten and was in the hospital. Why would DK make such a statement to the police? What did he know? 2) While in the hospital room with AM he said to a Lt. Detective he was afraid when AM awoke she might think he was the perpetuator of this crime. Why would he think such a thing? Why would he tell the detective that? Contrast this behavior with MO’s where he stated he couldn’t wait for AM to awaken because then she could state he was not the person that committed the crime; 3) DK told the hospital authorities he didn’t want anyone to enter AM’s room except himself and his two children. He wouldn’t even allow AM’s Father, Sister, and Brother to enter AM’s room. Why wouldn't DK allow AM’s family to enter her room?; 4) When searching the trunk of DK’s car the police found towels, heavily soaked in bleach, that matched towels missing from AM’s towel set. What were these towels doing in DK’s car? Why were they heavily soaked in bleach? Why didn’t the police test these towels for the presence of blood? Why did the police return these towels to DK after the trial—shouldn’t they have been kept as potential evidence in case of a second trial?
Section III: Further Points to Investigate – unanswered questions
Following are further points to be investigated in order to show MO wasn’t the guilty party in the brutal assault on AM, and to provide evidence on whom the guilty party is:
- Why did Mark Pulari and Christopher Kalacky change their original statements?
- Why did Grover Finkle and Richard O’Leary change their original statements?
- Why did police officers Bill Skowron and Officer Tierney change their original statements of having seen MO exit his apartment to seeing him on the walkway?
- How does the Commonwealth explain the discrepancy of George Whitmore, a carpenter, hearing a wood on wood sound when the weapon they claimed committed the crime was an aluminum bat?
- What happened to the little bat AM kept under her bed for protection; it was never found?
- How does the Commonwealth explain DK coming to the police station and reporting he feared something may have happened to his wife even though the police had never mentioned to him that his wife had been beaten and was in the hospital?
- Where did the blood on DK’s forearm come from? In November DK would in all probability been wearing a long sleeve shirt so he wouldn’t get it by touching AM at the hospital as DC said.
- Why did DK not allow any of AM’s family to visit her in the hospital?
- Why did DK tell police LT. Detective Scott he felt when AM awakened from the beating she might accuse him of committing the crime? Why did DK think AM might accuse him of the crime?
- Why didn’t the police demand those letters found at DK’s house be turned over as evidence in a crime; after all he was considered a suspect at that time? What was in those letters that DK didn’t want the police to see?
- How did DK happen to have bleached towels, matching AM’s towel set which were missing from her apartment, in the trunk of his car? Why didn’t the police confiscate the towels and check them for blood and DNA evidence?
- Why did Police Chief Green change his story from seeing DK’s car at the school he was principal from 6:30 AM to not being certain that was the car he saw (DK stated he never showed up to school until 7:30 AM); aren’t police officers trained to notice details like that?
- Why didn’t the police check a dumpster outside DK’s school to see if there were any bloody clothes or other evidence that might have linked DK to the crime?
- Why didn’t the police check the bats found in DK’s house for blood and/or DNA evidence?
- Why did AM and DK testify at trial that there was no abuse or animosity between them during their separation, yet both AM’s sister Nancy and best friend Esther Connelly stated AM told them there was several incidents of name calling and verbal abuse by DK? Who’s telling the truth? Why would AM’s sister and best friend lie? Did AM and DK have reason to lie?
- Why did DC feel he had to lie in his closing statement by stating the bloody handprint found on AM’s pillow case belonged to MO when in fact MO’s hand print had been excluded?