|Contact Thomas Wayne Spindle|
B Unit R
Fairton, NJ 08320
|DOB: December 2, 1959|
|Thomas Wayne Spindle's case data|
|State and County||USA, Hawaii District|
|Case No.||GCM 443294|
|Crime||felony murder, premediated murder, attempted sodomy and indecent acts|
|Date of Crime||February 5, 1982|
|Date of Arrest||February 10, 1982|
|Date of Conviction||June 26, 1982|
|Sentence||Minimum/maximum life imprisonment, reduction to pay-grade E-1 and dishonorable discharge|
|Age at the Date of Crime||22|
|Contributing Factors||Official Misconduct, Perjury, Ineffectiveness of Counsel|
|Did DNA evidence contribute to the conviction?||No|
|Is there DNA evidence to test?||Yes|
On February 5, 1982, a fourteen-year-old U.S. Army dependent and his twin brother attended their usual Friday night sport of bowling at the Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Automated Bowling Lanes. Derek and Dominic Kusumoto were the adopted sons of Lieutenant Colonel Howard Kusumoto, an eye-care specialist assigned to that U.S. Army Post. Derek had asthma but did not have his medical inhaler with him that particular evening. He stepped outside of the bowling alley to smoke a marijuana cigarette with several of his own classmates at or around nine o’clock. The boys had a 9:30 p.m. curfew but Derek told Dominic to leave, and Dominic arrived home without his twin brother. The Lieutenant-Colonel said that he called the Schofield Barracks Military Police at 10: p.m., after Derek failed to arrive late. Two eye-witness accounts made by a couple of Derek’s fellow classmates, Master Stephen Savage and Miss Kim Lane, had placed Derek inside the bowling alley between 10:30 – 10:45 p.m. under his own reconnaissance that night. That was the last time Derek was seen alive.
Poorly Conducted U.S. Army Homicide Investigation Shifts Blame upon Initial Discoverer
My name is Thomas W. Spindle and, on the following day, I found Derek’s partially-clad corpse stomach-down at the foot of a steep entryway into an old World War II Munitions Bunker at or around 5:00 pm on February 6, 1982. The bunker was located in the Old Warehouse District on Schofield Barracks and the Criminal Investigations Detachment (CID) Field Office building was less than fifty yards away… Virtually placing the alleged murder site in a metaphorical “backyard view.”
I did not know the victim, nor his adoptive father or any other family member. I did have prior knowledge of the underground bunker, having daily walked up and over grassy knoll on a shortcut to and from my job in the company motor pool. I was, at the time, a U.S. Army Specialist Four (equivalent to a hard-striped corporal) and worked as a parts and logistics gopher/vehicle mechanic for Specialist Six, Rick Horton. That particular Saturday was nothing but my usual day off and I had decided to walk over to the Non-Commissions Officer (NCO) Club to look for an old friend of mine, Staff Sergeant (SSG) Ronald S. Polk. SSG Polk was my re-enlistment NCO from Fort Knox Kentucky, and had been re-assigned to a medical unit on Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. He was a familiar and friendly face from the same prior unit and, because I had never been so far away from my Home-Of-Record, I often looked for him.
My initial discovery of the victim had also caused me to unexpectantly miss a prearranged dinner-date with one of the Enlisted Men’s (EM) Club floor waitresses. Pai (last name unknown) mistakenly thought I stood her up by failing to arrive at the EM Club by seven o’clock that evening. I was, at that time, still giving my initial discovery statement at the CID field office with Special Agent (SA) Herman Glader. He later said that I had provided him with an extremely vast amount of information about the underground bunker, the victim’s appearance, and my personal history.
I had no prior negative experiences with any criminal law enforcement agency and was attempting to cooperate with SA Glader to the very best of my own abilities.
I voluntarily produced a pocket-sized instamatic camera (Kodak 110) and told Agent Glader that I had previously taken exposures of the internal bunker compartments. It was my honest intentions to help CID solve the victim’s murder by giving them a useful means to compare the surrounding debris. I had also been asked to surrender my civilian boots which I did without question. My exact mind frame was clear: I found the victim’s body and thought that I had nothing to fear. I was properly raised to believe in God- and -Country, to avoid criminal conduct, and to respect my superiors. I told Special Agent Glader the truth that evening. I had also told him that I briefly touched the victim’s bent up wrist for a pulse, however, the ice-cold flesh temperature clearly indicated death.
There were two (not three) eye-witnesses on the steps above me and I had never seen or met them before. This particular account is from my memory but I still vividly recall Sergeant White though not the other soldier. Neither of them was present for my U.S. Army General Court-Martial five months later even though personal misconceptions were inflamed by the pretrial prosecutor. Equally startled observers, whom would not have otherwise looked upon me with suspicion, were expertly convinced to change their initial recollections. A military Police (MP) Squad Vehicle driver, Corporal Lietz, had seen four soldiers running through a vacant field toward the bunker. He and his partner (no significant role) arrived shortly after Sergeants White’s driver (PFC Colte), Sergeant White and I had stepped out of the bunker. He then rushed down the entryway and searched the bunker alone.
Additional MPs were called, SA Glader arrived in the turmoil, and I was escorted to the CID field office to give my initial Discovery Statement. A Schofield Barracks Paramedical team arrived shortly after I was led off to CID. Captain Martiac, the military physician, had checked the victim for a pulse and found none. The Medical Examiner, Dr. Richard K. Wong, arrived shortly there after. Two CID Agents, James Ley and his partner, accompanied the victim’s body over to Tripler Army Medical Center once Dr. Wong had also conducted a preliminary examination of the purported murder site. Extraordinary care was taken to preserve all of the material evidence. Plastic bags encapsulated the torture victim’s bare hands and feet, and more than half-dozen CID Agents combed the murder site to gather discarded trash and debris. SA Ley found and successfully lifted some latent fingerprints off Derek’s lower back, his ribcage and the rear portion of the boy’s upper thighs. The graphite on cellophane was taped to six (6) three-by-five index cards at or around nine o’clock that evening. They were readable and were not divulged by the CID whom may have also collected the killer’s latent prints off the bunker walls and railings.
The Medical Examiner, Dr. Wong, had to conduct his preliminary review at Tripler Army Medical Center. He found numerous amounts of cuts, scrapes and contusions, a lacerated wound upon Derek’s scalp, and two deeply inflicted bite marks. Later saliva tests indicated O-Type blood and foreign epidermal tissue were scraped from beneath several of Derek’s lifeless fingernails.
I became CID’s prime suspect on the following Monday and was called back to their office. SA Glader informed me I was their prime suspect, however, he said that was perfectly normal and to be expected since I had found the victim’s body a couple of days earlier. I was very cooperative and respectful and repeated the whole circumstance that led to my initial discovery. I could not, however, recall if the victim’s white basketball-type socks were rolled up or down. I was dismissed from CID after an hour long brief interview on February 8, 1982.
I was recalled to CID on the following day to meet the Chief Homicide Investigator, Special Agent George R. Steinbarger, whom grilled me about the socks. I told him that, in all honesty, I did not remember if the victim’s white socks were up or down. He then asked me how I knew Derek wore knee-high socks, and to show him, I drew up a trouser cuff. The CID later confiscated nineteen pairs of white knee-high cotton socks that were in my personal possession because I did not wear itchy wool.
SA Steinbarger asked me if I would be willing to take a polygraph test in order to prove my actual innocence. I, of course agreed, and the CID polygrapher was brought in that morning. His name was SA Braddock and he asked me to give him adequate time to set up his machine. Mr. Steinbarger, by that point had written down the names of my alibi witnesses for the night Derek was unquestionably torture slain.
Side note: The victim’s ID card, an open-bladed lock knife and a small sandwich bag containing trace amounts of marijuana were found together in a smashed down portion outside and directly above the underground munitions bunker. No apparent saliva tests had been performed upon the empty bag. A partial thumbprint was found upon the knife and the knifes original owner claimed to have lost the knife during a nocturnal training mission a year earlier. He said that he was at the Pearl Harbor Tavern on the night of Derek’s murder with his girlfriend. Her name was never divulged. His fingerprints and dental impressions were never checked, nor did the CID collect and check her fingerprints and dental impressions.
Lieutenant Colonel Larry O’Neil a forensic odontologist, opinioned that the two human bite marks were static (stable) and similar. He said that his pioneering research led him to believe the dental impressions were capable of exact identification and that the biter was most likely of Asian heritage. He also based his expert conclusion upon the inflictor’s blood type as well as gross cuspid deformities. Dr. O’Neil’s expert opinion was later ignored by an already tainted Seven-member court-martial panel.
I will not reconstruct my full itinerary for the night of February 5, 1982, beyond a few vital mentions. There were heavy periods of rain due to the remnants of a tropical storm. And, on that particular evening, I had departed my company area long enough to sweet-talk Pai into a dinner and movie date on the following evening. She had to work the noon-til-6:00 pm shift at the EM Club on Saturday and I spent from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. that Friday at the EM Club on a bar stool in front of Keyong (last name unknown). She and I had become fast friends after my initial arrival to Schofield Barracks a few months earlier and Keyong had helped me persuade Pai into a gentleman’s date.
I was back in the barracks by 8:15 pm on the night of Derek’s violent murder. A fellow comrade as well as a fellow Ohioan, Private Second Class Joseph H. Courtney Junior, stopped by my third floor barracks room to look for my absent roommate Frank, who was out celebrating his birthday. Courtney had just completed a final night of extra duty and wanted to purchase a barracks bag of marijuana from my roommate. I did not smoke marijuana but did have a couple of beers and told Courtney that he could have one. The time was shortly after 9:00 pm. My roommate stumbled in a few minutes shy of 10:00 pm to sleep off his drunkenness. Frank told Courtney that he did not have any pot left. Another fellow soldier, PFC Dwayne Reynolds, came knocking on the door at or around 10:20 pm that same night. Frank, immediately furious and still back owed for a couple of previous barrack bags angrily slammed Reynolds back against the door. I then physically shoved myself between them and told a much shaken Reynolds to get out and leave Frank alone. The former bolted and I told the latter to get back in bed. Courtney left a few minutes behind Reynolds and I followed them onto the outer lanai (balcony).
Reynolds and I spoke for a couple of minutes and I told him that he could borrow the money from me to pay Frank. That was about 10:30 pm and I had just put a wet load of laundry in a third floor’s dryer. The only significant comrades who stopped and talked to me were PFC Thomas Wilson (about 9:30 pm and yet again at or around 10:30 pm). Specialist Four, Max Klink (shortly after 11:00 pm) and Specialist Four, Rolland Booth whom was also drunk.
The CID’s subsequent check on my alibi witnesses had obviously pleased them to learn that one particular individual; Courtney was AWOL from his mandatory drug treatment program since mid-January, 1982. A couple of Agents brought him to their field office on February 10, 1982, to ask where Courtney was and whom he was with on the night of Derek’s plausible abduction. He told them he pulled extra duty, got off work at 9:00 pm, and crawled into bed. Mr. Steinbarger asked Courtney also if he would be willing to take a polygraph test.
Side note: I had already taken three separate polygraph tests with three series of hot and cold questions apiece. Mr. Braddock, the CID polygrapher, said that he could not obtain accurate readings well enough to determine whether I was lying or telling the truth. In very plain words: he could not tell whether I practiced deception or told the honest truth about anything. Courtney, however, lied.
The inexplicable fact that Courtney’s best friend, PFC Joseph Hansen, was “coincidentally” able to leave a latent palm print on the wall above Derek’s partially-clad body was dismissed by CID after the lab results came back a month later. Courtney provided a total of five separate murder renditions to implicate me and another fellow soldier, PFC Clifford B. Hubbard, whom Courtney disliked anyway. The self-proclaimed “eye-witness” had also provided four additional recantations prior to fleeing Hawaii with his best friend PFC Hansen, in tow on June 19, 1982.
On March 16, 1982, while testifying before a UCMJ Article 32 Officer, Courtney said that he lied about the murder. He said that one of the CID Agents had placed a pre-typed confession upon the tabletop in front of him and he was told to sign the paper or face special court-martial proceedings for not attending his required drug therapy program. Courtney said that he would also be charged with the murder of Derek Kusumoto if he did not point the finger of blame at me and Hubbard. The Article 32 Officer stopped Courtney from all further self-incrimination to read the lair his Article 31 rights for lying under oath, falsifying government documents, perjury and two additional charges involving marijuana. He was advised to seek counsel and dismissed from the witness stand.
Courtney spun another “eye-witness” tale on the Eighteenth to place himself in a harmless role at the murder scene with some extra incentive from the government prosecutor. That particular claim was later reconstructed over the direct objection of my trial defense team, Captains Richard E. Fay and Byron J. Braun, so that the revised account could be read to the seven member panel. The Military Judge Colonel Ryker had appointed himself to hear the case after Lieutenant Colonel Colby had been relieved for his unwillingness to believe an obvious liar. The government trial counsels Captains Nicklaus J. Betsacon and James Lee were top-notch prosecutors able to badger witnesses and withhold key material data (i.e. the lab report, the autopsy findings and obviously conflicting field reports from the CID during their early investigation efforts) to paint a circumstantial victory.
My DNA and fingerprints
I was compelled to provide forefinger prints along with two vials of blood for the National DNA Database on December 15, 2004, at the FCI Fairton Health Clinic. My DNA Identity Number is FAI00261 and my blood type is A-positive. My forefinger prints and DNA were never found at the crime scene but….. Let the record speak for itself.
I was convicted by a two-thirds vote (two unexposed panel members found me innocent) on June 26, 1982. My alleged specifications were premeditated murder, felony murder, attempted sodomy, and lewd and indecent acts with a minor (based upon clearly unsubstantiated assumptions by the Medical Examiner who found no physical signs of trauma in or around Derek’s anal orifice). All of my original findings include the words “by other unknown means” and the Special Findings by the Military Judge (even though his 1982 and 1984 versions of the manual for General Courts-Martial preclude special findings unapproved by appointed jury) include “beating him with your fists, kicking him with your feet and biting the child’s body”.
Nothing was ever said about the actual killers, divulged fingerprints which the CID and the government had willingly pushed aside in order to win their case. One of two afore-mentioned court-members, Major David B. Norris, had inquired and was told that…. No readable fingerprints were found by CID at the crime scene… Although the Chief prosecutor lied….! Captain David Hutchinson, the only other empanelled court-member whom did not have prior knowledge about the case, had also shared a tight-lipped scowl to match the Major’s grimace while the President of the Panel, Colonel Robert Botts, proudly announced their conviction of an innocent man. Their sentence had required three-fourths approval, which, violates all common sense if one considers that two of the panel members found me “not guilty.”
And finally, the UCMJ requires a unanimous vote (seven out of seven) by the court-members in order to recommend clemency or sentence reductions that can be accepted or rejected by the Appointed Convening Authority. Lieutenant General Eugene S. Forester was the post Commander of Fort Shafner, Hawaii, where my U.S. Army General Court-martial occurred and subsequently resulted in my life-long imprisonment. I have never received a sentence reduction or a fair day in court because I will never compromise or surrender the truth of my actual innocence.
For now… All that I request is to have you stand up and count for me if there is to be any chance to find Derek’s real killer. Contact the Secretary of Defense or the Director of Homeland Security and tell them to get that killer off your streets. Derek Kusumoto deserves real justice- not the mockery it became and you have the power at your finger tips. Stand up and be counted. Thank You.
Thomas W. Spindle
Potential Suspect (other than Thomas Spindle)
(Wikipedia) Charles Ng (pronounced “ing”) is on death row in California.
Ng and Leonard Lake (Wikipedia) committed a number of extremely violent and gruesome torture-slayings in Calaveras County, California. But the State Attorney General excluded Ng as a potential suspect, because he denied killing Kusumoto.
Lake committed suizide at a police station after he had been arrested.
How you can help
Finding that cold-blooded killer is now as quick and simple as having FBI employ their automated search and scan method. They were able to check four million fingerprints in less than eight minutes to ID the Atlanta child killer. And there is no doubt, they are able to boast many more cases where criminals left readable print or two at the crime scene.
The U.S. Army CID collected “numerous prints” from the bunker walls and the railings as well as the surrounding materials (trash). They used a standard “graphit-on-cellophane” method to lift the killer’s prints off the victim’s body on the same night I found him.
My fingerprints were nowhere at the crime scene but one of the six murder suspects had a single palm print on that wall above the victim’s body. That same individual was Courtney’s best friend who also went AWOL on the June Friday before my general court martial began. The CID’s explanation of a mere “coincidence” fails to pacify me to this day.
Hawai’i Innocence Project Screening Form (pdf, 17 pages)
January 22, 2009
Investigation of Death (pdf)
Department of the Medical Examiner
Synopsis of the Record and of the Opinion and Recommendation (39 pages, pdf)
September 24, 1982
Charges, Pleas, Findings, Sentence (pdf)
Court Order, 1982
- Richard E. Fay, Attorney at Law
November 28, 1988
- Department of the Army
United States Army Criminal Investigation Command
January 6, 2005
January 14, 2005
March 29, 2005
May 25, 2005
Thomas Spindle’s Affidavit (pdf)
August 15, 1983
Motion For Leave To Proceed In Forma Pauperis & Petition For A Writ Of Certiorari (pdf, 28 pages)
United States Supreme Court
February 25, 2009
Request For Rehearing (pdf, 8 pages)
“Request For Rehearing” to the U.S. Supreme Court, May 22, 2009
“Certificate Of Party Unrepresented By Counsel”, May 22, 2009
“Proof Of Service Under 28 U.S.C. § 1746”
Correspondence with the Clerk of the Supreme Court of the United States (pdf, 4 pages)
May 22, 2009: Letter to the Clerk ( 2 pages, copy)
May 4, 2009: Letter to the Clerk ( 1 page, copy)
May 14, 2009: Letter from the Clerk (1 page, copy)
U.S. Supreme Court order (pdf)
June 29, 2009: “The petition for rehearing is denied.”
Notarized Letter to the Secretary of the U.S. Army (pdf, 16 pages)
includes an advanced presentation of four court issues, the U.S. Army C.I.D. lab report (see above), and the affidavit from Richard E. Fay (see above).
submitted on August 11, 2015
Information U.S. Armed Forces