What Tyrone’s Jury Didn’t Know
Tyrone’s jury was deprived of significant and compelling information that would have made a real difference as it considered whether Tyrone was guilty of the crimes that placed him on death row. There is key exculpatory information, which surfaced years after Tyrone’s trial, information that was hidden by the prosecution or which lay unused in Tyrone’s trial attorneys’ files. This key information includes:
- The prosecutor’s investigator coerced false statements from Tyrone’s co-defendants: Butch Wolcott, Joey Dalesandro, and Gary St. Clair.
- The crime scene points to a killer who knew the Hartigs.
- There were viable alternative suspects, not pursued by the State or the defense.
Statements Were Coerced and False
Tyrone’s jury never learned that Butch, Joey, and Gary only implicated Tyrone in the Hartigs’ murders because of threatening and coercive interrogation tactics used by the prosecutor’s investigator. For a more complete discussion of Butch, Joey, and Gary’s false confessions, please visit [link to false confession page].
The investigator told Butch that there was an eyewitness and DNA that placed him at the scene of the crime; both claims were untrue but Butch didn’t know this. Then, the investigator sent Butch to a psychologist, who told him he was repressing his memories of the crime. Scared to death, and armed with an excuse to say anything to save himself, Butch lied. Today, that state’s psychologist says he was never certain Butch was telling the truth. [link to A Simakis, Death row doubt, Lies put man on death row, men say] It didn’t matter; Butch was allowed to tell his lies on the stand.
Once Butch falsely confessed, it was easy enough to convince Joey and Gary to make up stories implicating themselves and Tyrone, to avoid a lengthy prison sentence [Joey] or the death penalty [Gary]. There were signs in the many statements given by the boys that would have alerted observant prosecutors and defense attorneys that their statements did not match the evidence. For example, Butch claimed early in the investigation that Tyrone had tied up the Hartigs in their kitchen [link to report], a fact wholly inconsistent with the crime scene. The Portage County Prosecutor’s Office has claimed the audiotapes of the boys numerous statements have been missing since Tyrone’s first post-conviction petition.
Another inconsistency, Joey claimed that Tyrone stored the murder weapon in Joey’s glove box. Joey claimed that Tyrone called him from jail, asking him to dispose of the weapon. Joey claimed he sold it to a fence, Chico Garcia. There are two problems with this. First, the police searched Joey’s car when the boys were arrested—the murder weapon wasn’t found. [link to Simakis article] The second is the fence. Garcia initially told authorities the boys sold him two guns, a shotgun and a .25 caliber handgun. That .25 was recovered and isn’t the murder weapon. [link to ballistics test] Once the prosecutor’s investigator got involved, Garcia agreed there was a second .25 caliber handgun. But then, Garcia testified before the Grand Jury that the prosecutor’s investigator threatened to fabricate a case against him. [link to Garcia Grand Jury excerpt] Unsurprisingly, the State did not call Garcia to testify at Tyrone’s trial.
The co-defendants false statements were a key piece of exculpatory evidence Tyrone’s jury never heard.
The Killer Knew the Hartigs
When the Hartigs’ bodies were found, the crime scene suggested a perpetrator who knew the Hartigs—they were seated at their kitchen table when they were shot; the shooter was seated across from them. Mr. Hartig came in from working in the yard, taking time to remove his jacket and gloves before entering the house and sitting at the kitchen table. There was no sign of a struggle. According to the Portage County Sheriff’s Department, “[t]he crime scene indicates that Bearnhardt, Cora, and the assailant were all sitting down in the dining area.” Moreover, this is where the Hartigs were shot—seated at their kitchen table with their killer seated across from them. [link to police reports] The Hartigs invited their killer into their home and sat down with him or her.
There has never been evidence, or even the barest speculation, that Tyrone knew the Hartigs. He stands convicted of a home invasion robbery, where his co-defendant claimed he forced his way into the Hartigs’ home. Given this scenario, it seems unlikely that the Hartigs would have asked Tyrone to join them at their kitchen table.
Tyrone’s jury never learned these key pieces of exculpatory evidence
There Were Viable Alternative Suspects
There were other suspects that were dismissed without explanation by the State. Tyrone’s jury didn’t hear one word about these men, from either the State or the defense.
Daniel Wilson, Executed for Another Murder in Nearby Northern Ohio
Since Tyrone’s trial, he has uncovered new evidence, unavailable to Tyrone’s trial counsel, indicating that police conducted secretor/non-secretor testing on Daniel Wilson in connection with the Hartig murders. On June 19, 1991, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation conducted a rudimentary analysis of the cigarette butt found outside of the Hartigs’ home. The butt was tested against Wilson’s saliva sample, and he could not be excluded as a possible match. [link to Wilson test results] DQ Alpha testing was conducted against Tyrone, Butch Wolcott, Joey Dalesandro and Gary St. Clair—all were excluded as the source of the genetic material found on the cigarette butt. [link to Tyrone’s test results]
Wilson lived roughly a mile from the Hartigs home. In 1991, just a year after the Hartig murders, Wilson murdered a woman in Elyria, Ohio. In 1992, Wilson was sentenced to death, and he died by lethal injection on June 3, 2009. As a youth, Wilson was convicted of a home invasion robbery that resulted in the death of his elderly victim.
When he was fourteen years old, Wilson broke into an elderly neighbor’s home. When the neighbor surprised him, Wilson struck the elderly man, causing him to fall and break his hip. Wilson then ripped the phone cord out of the wall and left. The neighbor was not found for two days and died as a result of his injuries and the lack of medical attention.
Wilson v. Mitchell, 498 F.3d 491, 496 (6th Cir. 2007).
In addition to this rudimentary saliva testing, the prosecutor failed to disclose to Tyrone’s trial attorneys statements made by Nathan Chesley in 1990. Chesley claimed that it was his “brother” who killed the Hartigs. [link to Chesley notes] At the time, Chesley lived in the foster home of Shirley Spinney. Spinney has also been a foster parent to Dan Wilson, who continued to be a frequent visitor at the Spinney home while Chesley lived there. Today, Chesley continues to maintain that Wilson confessed to him that he killed the Hartigs. [link to Brett, Nathan Chesley needs to be heard in Tyrone Noling's death row case]
The jury didn’t know that the chemical analysis testing did not exclude Wilson or that Wilson’s foster-brother had told police Wilson had committed the murders.
A Loan to the Unknown Insurance Agent
Just days before his murder, Bearnhardt Hartig told his family doctor, Dr. Cannone, that his insurance agent defaulted on a loan the Hartigs had given to him, and Mr. Hartig was going to demand immediate payment. [link to Cannone statement] In his statement to police, Dr. Cannone referenced an insurance agent who owed the Hartigs money. Notably absent from the Portage County Prosecutor’s files are the Hartigs’ phone records for April 1990 [link to phone records] and Tyrone has been unable to obtain these records through other avenues.
The Hartigs had two insurance agents. One owned a .25 Titan handgun [link to gun ownership documents], one of only four models that could have been the murder weapon. [link to BCI report re: gun types] He claimed he sold the gun years prior to an unknown person; however the Hartigs’ other insurance agent, saw the gun only 4 years before the murder. [link to ins. agent statement re: gun] And, when authorities requested, the agent refused to take a polygraph examination. [link to polygraph refusal]
The Hartigs’ other insurance agent told authorities he conducted business at the kitchen table and he was mirandized prior to questioning. Most significantly, however, a witness placed a man matching this agent’s description near the scene on the day of the murder — Jim Geib described a dark haired man, in his thirties, in a dark blue vehicle leaving the area of the Hartigs’ home at a high rate of speed around the time of the murders. [link to Geib statement] Police noted that this second insurance agent matches this description. [link to police notes re: Geib statement]
While Tyrone’s attorneys told his jury that this case was a “who done it,” neither the State nor the defense mentioned the possibility of other suspects. To this date, Tyrone has been unable to obtain a satisfactory response as to why investigation of these other suspects was dropped.