Victim's Family Fights For Justice In Casey Case
Submitted by Tamela Stanford Carey
Edited by Barbara Jean McAtlin
On a rainy December 13, 1990, brothers Keith and Troy Stanford saw Eugene Casey at a phone booth and offered him a ride to wherever he wanted to go. Casey did not really know the brothers except for seeing them around town, but he knew who they were. Casey accepted the ride because it was raining. The brothers asked Casey if he could get them some marijuana. Casey could not. Troy and Keith Stanford dropped Casey off at the home of his friend, Sue Pruitt, around eight o'clock that night. At 11:00 p.m., Casey walked the half-mile home to his waiting wife. Casey did not hear from the Stanford brothers again until weeks later when he heard that Keith was asking around town if anyone had seen his brother Troy.
On January 8,1991, Keith Stanford reported his brother, Troy, missing to the Tazewell County, Virginia, authorities. Keith signed a missing person's report that said he last saw Troy on December 20, 1990, when he dropped Troy off at his home.
On January 23,1991, a decomposed body was found by a farmer who had stopped along the roadside to relieve himself. He called the authorities. The body was located in Russell County -- a mile from the Tazewell County line. The recovered body had been stabbed 117 times and also had a large hole of unknown origin in the stomach area.
After the unidentified body was found, Tazewell County authorities and the Virginia State Police immediately started to question people about it. Many of those who were questioned remember that the authorities told them that the body was that of Troy Stanford and that Eugene Casey was the man who murdered him. The authorities also told people that Eugene Casey had killed Troy Stanford at another suspect's trailer house. Unbelievably, they even said that seven other people were involved in this murder plot. The owner of the trailer house, Bryan Rowe, was listed on the autopsy reports as suspect in the murder. As the police also believed that it was Bryan Rowe's truck that had been used to haul the body to where it had been discovered, his truck was impounded for forensic testing in the early days of February 1991. The forensic tests on the truck were returned with negative results.
In June of 1991, Keith Stanford broke into Bryan Rowe's home and beat Rowe very badly to try to get him to say that he and Eugene killed Troy Stanford. Rowe has repeatedly denied being involved in the murder.
After Keith Stanford beat Rowe, Eugene Casey feared for the safety of his wife and four children. He turned to Virginia State Police Agent (S.A.) Jack Davidson for help. He asked S.A. Davidson to give him a polygraph test to clear his name in this murder. Casey was devastated when Davidson informed him that he had not passed the polygraph test.
After the polygraph test that Casey had "failed," S.A. Davidson told him to, "Help us help you. There are different degrees of murder." In reply, Casey told Davidson that he knew nothing about any murder. Davidson then told Casey that the people who helped him commit the murder were telling on him. Casey told Davidson that was impossible because nobody had helped him do anything because he had not murdered anyone. At this point, Davidson told Casey that he had heard only one other person tell him he was innocent of a crime like this. When Casey asked him who that might be, Davidson told him, "Roger Keith Coleman, but innocent men fry as good as guilty men."
On February 7, 1991, Tazewell County police released inmate Jay Stillwell (who at one time was married to Troy Stanford's aunt) from jail because he was willing to wear a wire while questioning Casey about the murder. When Casey met with Stillwell, he was visibly angry at Stillwell's line of questioning. When Casey turned to leave the vehicle, police officers rushed over and forcibly removed him. Casey was charged with possessing a firearm after a gun was discovered in the car in which Stillwell and his friends, Veronica Elswick and Debbie Keen, had picked him up.
On May 5, 1991, Casey was convicted of Grand Larceny after he had unwittingly bought, traded and sold mining supplies that turned out to have been stolen. Casey was sentenced to two years in the Buchanan County Jail. While Casey was in jail, the police continued to question people about Casey and the Stanford murder -- as well as other open cases. The police told people Casey was now locked up and they wanted to keep it that way. While Casey was in jail, the Federal Government relieved the Tazewell County authorities of the firearms charge against Casey. Casey was moved to the city jail in Bristol, Virginia. When it was shown in court that the gun belonged to Jay Stillwell, not Eugene Casey, Casey was found not guilty. Unlike Casey, Stillwell has never been charged for the possessing a weapon.
At the end of 1991, after the "not guilty" verdict on the Federal firearms charge, the Federal Government went another step and charged Casey, as well as Bryan Rowe, with Conspiracy to Sell Schedule Two Drugs. The "conspiracy" consisted of "witnesses" who said they had seen Eugene Casey and Bryan Rowe with drugs in their possession. No drugs were found and no officers witnessed any transaction. After the trial, the "witnesses" had their own drug charges and felony charges dropped because of the deals they made with the prosecutors to testify against Casey. Some of these same jailhouse snitches testified once again at Casey's murder trial. During the conspiracy trial, the jury wasn't buying the testimony of the snitches. During a trial break, the U.S. District Attorney offered the defense a deal -- plead guilty to simple possession of cocaine, a class A misdemeanor, and receive a one-year sentence. Casey didn't want to agree to this arrangement, but at the urging of his defense attorney and Bryan Rowe's father, Casey was sentenced to one year behind bars. Bryan Rowe was sentenced to three months. Casey, who was to serve only five months because of the time he had already spent in jail on the charges, served the entire one-year sentence.
After Casey's sentencing, he was returned to the Bristol City Jail. Shortly thereafter, Casey was moved to the Washington County Jail after the Bristol County Sheriff committed suicide after being indicted for possession of child pornography and stealing $700,000 from funds that were meant for housing Federal prisoners. Casey was then moved from the Washington County Jail to the Roanoke Virginia Jail; from Roanoke he was sent to the Petersburg Virginia Federal Prison. In early September of 1992, he was transported yet again back to the Abingdon County Jail where a Grand Jury indictment was handed down for the alleged December 14, 1990 Armed Robbery and Capital Murder of Troy Stanford.
After several months of inaction, Casey asked the Commonwealth of Virginia what was going on. The Commonwealth's Attorney, Mike Moore, said he had two witnesses in jail who said that Casey had confessed to the murder, but the witnesses, Ricky Fletcher and Evonne Lester, were unable to sustain their stories. Moore was planning on meeting with them and would make a decision at that point as to whether or not they would be useful in court. Fletcher and Lester lived together and had been known as informants for many years.
On April 26, 1993, the murder and armed robbery charges were dropped (not processed for lack of evidence) and Eugene was sent home with a six-month parole for the Commonwealth of Virginia and a one-year supervised Federal release.
Within days of his release, Bryan Rowe contacted Casey and said he had something to show him at his trailer, located on the main road about a mile from where the body had been discovered. When Casey met Rowe at the trailer, he saw that Rowe's trailer had been riddled with bullet holes, the back door had been torn off, the furniture stolen, and overgrown weeds choked the yard. Rowe said he had not lived in the trailer since Keith Stanford and his bunch had broken in and beat him up. Someone had tried to burn down the trailer by setting books on fire in a back bedroom. Casey and Rowe decided to start watching the trailer at night. At 3:00 a.m. one morning, the two men saw a vehicle stop on the main road in front of the trailer. The men heard someone get out of the vehicle. They saw Tazewell County Investigator Tatum sitting in the driver's seat of his maroon state-owned investigator's vehicle, but they were unable to catch a glimpse of the person who had gotten out. Investigator Tatum left the scene in a hurry and the burning attempts stopped.
On June 16, 1993, Eugene was awakened by Tazewell County Deputy Sheriffs and arrested for violation of parole. The day before, Casey had refused to let his probation officer enter his home because the officer had a gun and Casey did not want his small children to see it and become frightened. He asked his probation officer if he could sign the papers outside and away from his children. P.O. John Flynn told him he could walk to his office to meet with him from now on. Casey was not aware of what he had done to violate his parole. He asked for an attorney several times but was denied. Casey served seven months and twelve days for this violation before the parole board set a November 20, 1993 release date for him.
Casey never made it to the November 20th release date. On November 19th, Tazewell County charged him with First Degree Murder in the Stanford case. Mr. Daniel Beiger represented Casey at the January 21, 1994 preliminary hearing, the same attorney who had represented him on the same murder charges that had been dropped for lack of evidence in Russell County.
It seems that at this point the Commonwealth felt the need to fabricate a murder case against Casey. There had been no investigation of the murder. No murder weapon had ever been found. The alleged murder scene was never once investigated or even processed for evidence. Seven investigators had taken turns as the lead Investigator. Each investigator testified that there was no evidence to link Casey to the murder. The Commonwealth's case was made up of jailhouse snitches who testified that they had heard Casey say he had committed the murder. Darrell Crabtree, the key witness for the prosecution, testified that he had gone to Bryan Rowe's trailer on December 14, 1990. He said that the trailer had been covered in blood and that Casey said he had just killed Troy Stanford because he thought Stanford was a drug informant. Crabtree testified that Casey did not have any blood on him. He also testified that there were six other people at the trailer that were involved in the murder along with Casey. Crabtree said he had gone to the trailer and forced his way in. The man Crabtree says answered the door weighed almost four hundred pounds and was well over six feet tall. Crabtree is about 5 feet tall and weighs approximately 130 pounds. Yet, Crabtree said that he *forced* his way in and that all seven people had confessed to the murder for him. He said Rowe and Casey followed him down the road in Rowe's truck when he left the trailer. Crabtree noticed they turned in at a car wash. He said he thought they were going to the car wash to wash the blood out of the truck from when they had transported and dumped the victim's body. Judge Combs ruled that Crabtree's statement was enough evidence to bind the case over to the Grand Jury. On February 8, 1994, the Grand Jury indicted Casey and his trial was set for June 1, 1994.
Casey begged his attorney to investigate Troy and Keith Stanford as they were known to be involved in the illegal drug trade and they had enemies who had threatened to kill Troy. Eugene also asked his attorney to investigate Keith Stanford because Keith had told people that he had been involved in his brother's murder. To impeach the dubious testimony of Crabtree, Casey requested that his attorney have luminol testing done on the trailer where the alleged murder was to have occurred. These tests could have been used to show that the murder did not take place in Bryan Rowe's trailer as the Commonwealth contended. Instead, Attorney Beiger decided to rely on the strategy that the Commonwealth's case was weak and that Casey had a strong alibi.
Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Dennis provided Beiger with discovery evidence a scant three days before the trial for the defense. The discovery file contained many facts that were contrary to the Commonwealth's case and showed that someone else had committed the murder. In a police statement given by Darrell Crabtree in July of 1993, he said that a James Casey had committed the murder. He said he was not there but he had heard about it. He also offered to see if he could find out more information. None of the discovery evidence was presented at trial in Casey's defense. The seven investigators who had taken turns being lead investigator again testified that there was nothing to link Casey to the case. None of the investigators examined the trailer where the murder was to have taken place, nor did they attempt to test the bloody clothes found in the river along with Troy Stanford's wallet. They failed to test any of the evidence they had. The state presented nine jailhouse snitches who testified that Casey had confessed to the murder. Eugene's attorney did not know who was going to testify for the Commonwealth or what they were going to say. The attorney failed to investigate. The defense presented Sue Pruitt, Tina Pruitt and Chris Pruitt. The Pruitts testified that the Stanford brothers had dropped Eugene Casey off at their home on the evening of the murder. Marie Osborne testified that Casey had come home at 11:00 p.m. She testified that Casey had still been suffering burns to his face from a recent welding accident. Six of the seven people Crabtree incriminated in the murder testified that they had no knowledge of the murder. Only Eugene Casey was ever arrested for this murder. The Commonwealth's case stated that Troy Stanford was killed in Bryan Rowe's trailer and the victim's body was hauled in Rowe's truck. Why was Rowe never arrested? Casey testified that he had no involvement in the murder and knew nothing about it. They jury convicted Eugene of First Degree Murder and sentenced him to life in prison.
In August of 1996, Eugene contacted Tamela Stanford Carey, a family member of Troy Stanford. Ms. Carey was to testify at the trial, but she was never called. Casey contacted her with the hope that she could help prove his innocence. From what Ms. Carey already knew, she agreed to look at the court files and, from that point on, she has assisted Eugene Casey in trying to prove his innocence. The Stanford family now knows that the Commonwealth and the investigators lied to them. With the help of Ms. Carey, Eugene Casey can now unquestionably prove his innocence.
When Ms. Carey moved to Virginia in 1991, she had no idea she had moved into a home that was located between the place where the body had been found and the trailer that was said to be the murder scene. Ms. Carey had given her cousin, Keith Stanford, a place to live in the summer of 1992. After listening to Keith talk about the murder, Ms. Carey called Investigator Tatum and S.A. Davidson and asked if they would come to her home to speak with her. She told them that from the things her cousin Keith had told her, he had to have been involved in the murder of his brother Troy. She also told the investigators that Keith had told her he had tried to burn down Bryan Rowe's trailer. Keith came to her house and told her that someone had dropped him off, but he refused to give a name. Ms. Carey told the investigators that Keith had shown her places in the road where he had taken spray paint and written, "I am evil murderer."
When Keith saw his cousin at the trial, he was visibly upset. According to the affidavit that a family member has given, Keith Stanford was afraid of what his cousin was going to say. Neither Eugene Casey nor his attorney had any idea what Ms. Carey was to testify to. She was never questioned by the Commonwealth or the defense. On the first day of Casey's trial, the Commonwealth dismissed her as a witness. The defense attorney said he was not going to use her either.
At the time of the trial, the Stanford family knew only what the investigators told them. They also knew Keith Stanford was not being honest. Ms. Carey has spent the last four years reinvestigating the Commonwealth's case against Eugene Casey. She has searched files, obtained affidavits, supporting documents and statements that completely destroy the Commonwealth's case of murder against Eugene Casey.
The proven facts that Ms. Carey has found:
1. There was no blood found in Bryan Rowe's truck. Forensic reports came back negative.
2. The Commonwealth claimed there was blood in Bryan Rowe's trailer. The Stanford family learned that the trailer was never investigated.
3. The clothes that were found in the river were not Troy Stanford's. S.A. Jack Davidson held these items for two months before turning them in. They were never tested to determine whose blood was on them.
4. Darrell Crabtree, the key prosecution witness, was to be spending 18 years in prison. He was not in prison, as he should have been, in 1998. He has his own Confidential Informant number that shows that he works for the police. After pulling Crabtree's file, the Stanford family now has proof of the deals Crabtree received for lying at the trial. With the invaluable help of Attorney Louis Dene, statements have been taken from associates of Crabtree that say that he was the one who placed the dead body beside the road. The seats from Crabtree's truck were located and purchased by Ms. Carey for the purpose of DNA test. Crabtree had just purchased a truck before the murder, but he sold it a couple of months after the body was found.
5. Keith Stanford said on the missing persons report that he had dropped Troy Stanford off at his home on December 20, 1990. He said that he saw Troy walk off in an unknown direction. At the trial, he testified that he had dropped Troy off on December 13th at his grandmother's house.
6. Keith Stanford said that Dr. Lutz had paid both Troy and him $150 on December 13th for painting and carpentry work they had done. However, when Dr. Lutz pulled his records, they showed that Troy Stanford had not received any payment from him after October 1990. The only payment that had been made was for $30 to Keith Stanford. Keith had tried to make it sound like Troy had much more money then he did. Ms. Carey has additional evidence that Keith lied at the trial.
7. Keith testified that Troy had a $100 money order in his wallet that he was going to use to pay fines he owed at the courthouse. According to court records, Troy had no fines to pay. Troy had completed his community service and his fines were paid in full on December 20, 1990, the same date Keith had put on the missing persons report, not December 13, 1990, the date to which he testified at the Casey trial. A $100 money order was found in the wallet in the river along with the bloody clothes.
8. Keith testified that he threw his knife away when his "brother's" body was found.
Throughout the trial, Keith Stanford lied.
9. After reviewing the autopsy reports, Ms. Carey and the Stanford family do not believe the body was that of Troy Stanford. Troy was 5'7" with blond hair and blue eyes. The body that was found was 5'11" with dark brown hair and brown eyes. The reports also say that the ABO blood type was inconclusive with Troy Stanford. Doctor Massello, who performed the autopsy, testified that the body was identified by fingerprints. This doctor was not qualified to testify to this, as he did not perform the fingerprinting. Dr. Massello allowed Ms. Carey to tape a conversation with him and also allowed her to view his files. He said he has no copy of anything that says that the fingerprints of the corpse were matched with those of Troy Stanford. He also says that even if the prints could have been taken from the decomposed body, the process would have taken 10 to 14 days. The doctor said that *if* there would have been any dental records, they could have been used to help identify the body. When Ms. Carey questioned Troy's dentist, he said that investigators had taken Troy's dental records and had since refused to give them back. Dr. Massello said that the Virginia State Police told him to cut all the fingers off of both hands. There are no pictures of these fingers. The decomposed body was sent to Roanoke, Virginia Lab for the autopsy on January 24,1991. It was returned to the funeral home on that same day. Roanoke is about three hours away from the funeral home. The body was sent back from Roanoke and it was called Troy Stanford. The Stanford family said there are scars on the body that Troy did not have. Ms. Carey questioned the doctor about why there was no blood on the light colored blue jeans or the new white tennis shoes that were on the body. This seemed odd for a body that had been stabbed 117 times. The doctor had no explanation. It is also odd that when Troy was last seen he was wearing cowboy boots. One of Troy's cowboy boots was found in the river along with his wallet and the unidentified bloody clothes. Investigators did not note the sizes of the shoes or clothing.
10. Ms. Carey has questioned all the officers who were involved in this case as well as the Commonwealth and the judge who presided over the trial. She asked the judge why the Commonwealth's key witness said there were seven people involved in the murder, but only Eugene Casey was arrested and convicted. Judge Mullins told her, "Well, let me put it this way, Ms. Carey, we just didn't have no evidence against anybody but if we feel like somebody done something, we can get them on that." Mullins also told Ms. Carey, "You better watch out the questions you are asking, it could cause Casey to get out." When confronted with the questions about why the alleged murder scene was never investigated, which the Stanford family was made to believe had been done, and why the jury was told there was blood in Bryan Rowe's trailer, the Commonwealth's Attorney, Mike Dennis, said, "We have that covered." Judge Mullins and Commonwealth Attorneys, Mike Dennis and Dennis Lee, have refused to talk to Ms. Carey again.
11. Ms. Carey also talked to Officer Parker, one of the first officers on the scene, about why he did not do a venue measurement from the body to the Tazewell County line at the time the body was found. The officer told her it was none of her or her family's business and that if she wanted a venue measurement done to do it herself. She had the venue measurement done. The venue measurement shows that the body was located a little over a mile from the Tazewell County line on the Russell County side. Parker was not dispatched to the scene when the body was found, he showed up on his own. When asked on the stand why he did not do a venue measurement, his answer was, "I already knew the distance from the body to the trailer." Now, how did this officer know that when the decomposed body was found, it was going to be said that it was murdered in a trailer, Bryan Rowe's trailer? Parker also took the evidence pictures of the body. These pictures prove that officers had found a jacket on the ground and put it on the body. The jacket was turned in for forensic testing but the tests were later terminated. Ms. Carey told S.A. Jack Davidson that Keith had lied at the trial. Davidson's reply was, "So what if Keith lied, haven't you ever lied before?"
12. Jeannie Asbury, who lives beside Troy's grandmother's home, told investigators that she saw Troy Stanford in front of his grandmother's home at 11:00 p.m. on December 14th, 1990. Investigator Tatum told her, "No, it was the night of December 13, 1990." Ms. Asbury said, "No, it was December 14, 1990. Are you trying to get me to lie?" She was to testify at the trial but was never called to the stand. Casey's attorney had failed to question any of the witnesses even though this statement alone showed that Crabtree was lying.
13. The Virginia State Police have taken many statements that say Keith Stanford was involved in his brother's murder. These statements were all kept out of the trial. The forensic reports that prove there was no blood in the truck were kept out of the trial. Anything of an exculpatory nature was kept out of the trial. The defense attorney did nothing about it.
14. The body was found in Russell County -- the alleged murder scene was in Tazewell County. With no murder scene ever being investigated, the case belongs to Russell County. The Commonwealth knows this. If the Commonwealth had actually investigated the alleged murder scene, it would not have even had a case because the murder did not happen there.
Ms. Carey, with the generous help of Attorney Louis Dene, has taken affidavits from some of the convicted felons who testified at the trial. These affidavits tell why they lied and who had them lie. All the convicted felons' files have been pulled and the papers have been copied. These papers show the deals they received for testifying as well as the dates they received their deals.
The Virginia State Police have set up numerous meetings with Ms. Carey to discuss this case, but the day before the meetings are to take place they back out by giving the excuses of, "Our lawyer advised against it," and, "Let the courts handle it."
A note from Ms. Carey: The United States Supreme Court has just denied Eugene Casey's petition filed on the grounds that the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of his Constitutional Rights have been violated. Without the help of an attorney (he cannot afford one), Casey is now trying to prepare a Successive Petition in The Fourth Circuit Court on the grounds of actual innocence, miscarriage of justice, and ineffective assistance of counsel. Eugene Casey is in Red Onion State Prison and has no access to a law library. In this case, the victims' family needs help getting someone to listen and help getting an innocent man released from prison. The right person needs to be behind bars. Law enforcement officers, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the trial judge, knowingly allowed false evidence to be used to convict an innocent man. Together -- in a fight for justice, a fight to give an innocent man his life back -- the victim's family and the wrongly convicted ask for your help. Everything needed to prove Eugene Casey's innocence is now in our hands. We need someone to hear us. We need someone who cares and can make a difference. This sounds like a work of fiction, but it's very real, very true. I have been threatened by Keith Stanford. I have received threatening phone calls. No one would give a name. Police officers told me that if I did not back off, they could get rid of Casey while he is in prison. It has been a very rough road, but it is nothing compared to the hell that this innocent man has been facing in prison -- a man in prison for a crime that my own family member is more than likely to have committed. The evidence proves this.
Please help Eugene Casey get his life back. He is innocent.
Tamela Stanford Carey
Rt. 1 Box 196A
Cedar Bluff, Virginia 24609
Louis Dene, Esquire
Freddie Eugene Casey #218207
Wallens Ridge Correctional Center
PO Box 759
Big Stone Gap, VA 24219