Greensboro Police address homicide investigation deficiencies
GREENSBORO, NC – In a press release issued late Friday night, the Greensboro Police Department addresses the investigation of the 2008 homicide of William Hobbs and the decision by the District Attorney to release the lead suspect, Michael Slagle.
Here is the press release in its entirety:
Senior leaders of the Greensboro Police Department, in coordination with the District Attorney’s office, reviewed the strengths and weakness of the case associated with the 2008 homicide of William Hobbs, Jr., and attempted first degree murder of Deborah Moy. The lead suspect in the case, Michael Slagle, was released from custody yesterday afternoon after the District Attorney dismissed the charges against him due to administrative and documentation shortfalls with the investigation that could impair the trial.
“One of our roles in the judicial process is to provide solid investigations that support the chances for a successful prosecution,” explained Chief of Police Ken Miller. “In our review of this investigation, the District Attorney felt – and we agreed – that the case preparation was clearly sufficient to establish probable cause to arrest Mr. Slagle, but insufficient to bring to trial.”
Miller stressed that the case is not closed. “We will continue to work this case until we have exhausted every investigative avenue. We owe our very best efforts to the Hobbs and Moy families.”
Because this remains an active and ongoing criminal investigation, police can speak only in general terms about the historical aspects of the case that led to the decision to suspend prosecution:
• In 2008, the case presented several significant forensic and investigative challenges and that little progress had been made in solving the case over several years.
• When the initial investigator assigned to the case retired in October 2010, it was re-assigned to Detective A.R. Hinson as a cold-case.
• During his review of the case, Hinson discovered some shortfalls in documentation of investigative efforts; however, these errors did not prevent the case from further investigation.
• Hinson’s renewed investigative efforts established sufficient probable cause to bring criminal charges against Slagle. Slagle was ultimately indicted by the Grand Jury for murder.
• However, during the normal case review and trial preparation with the District Attorney’s office, it was determined the number of administrative and documentation shortfalls would hinder the prosecution’s efforts. Based on this review, the District Attorney’s office dismissed the charges in order for the investigation to continue in an effort to build a prosecutable case.
“While there were deficiencies in the processing and documentation of the early stages of the initial investigation, these shortfalls rest primarily with the detective assigned at the time, and are not indicative of the professional manner that our homicide detectives conduct their investigations,” said Miller. “Most all of our detectives’ cases are thorough, progress through the judicial system uneventfully and are prosecuted successfully.”
The Greensboro Police Department has made several procedural changes to the way it conducts homicide investigations during the last two years. Beginning April 2011, two homicide detectives were assigned to each case. Prior to that, cases were assigned to only one detective. An additional detective on each case serves not only to aid in the investigation, but also as a check and balance to ensure processes are followed and documented.
“We are always looking for ways to provide better service to the public,” said Miller. “Our police department, like many other professional organizations, continually seeks to improve the way we work. When we identify a better way of doing business, we implement it.”
Other enhancements include:
Having the Homicide Squad supervisor inside all crime scenes to assess and provide direction as needed. This enables the supervisor to more appropriately guide detectives in the initial phases of the investigation. It also provides the supervisor a first-hand perspective of facts and circumstances to consider as he reviews the case investigations and updated supplemental reports.
Formal weekly homicide case reviews among peers and supervisors.
In addition to other professional development seminars and training received, sending all homicide detectives to the nationally- recognized Southern Police Institute Homicide Investigation Course. All but two homicide detectives have received this additional training. The remaining two detectives have been, for some time, scheduled to attend the training in July.
Assigning junior detectives to work directly with a senior detective who reviews case documentation, case management, investigative follow-up, and case progression, in addition to supervisory review.