|Contact William Darin Irvan|
|William D. Irvan
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351
|DOB: July 11, 1966|
|William Darin Irvan's case data|
|State and County||Texas, Harris County|
|Crime||One (1) Count of Capital Murder|
|Date of Crime||February 14, 1987|
|Date of Arrest||January 2001|
|Date of Conviction||December 5, 2003|
|Age at the Date of Crime||20|
|Contributing Factors||Perjury, Official Misconduct, Misleading Forensic Evidence|
|Did DNA evidence contribute to the conviction?||Yes|
|Is there DNA evidence to test?||Yes|
William Irvan’s letter to You
William Irvan asks you to read his letter (pdf) before you proceed with his case.
The only evidence linking Irvan to the then cold capital case of 1987 is the perjured testimony by a federal prisoner with four (4) life sentences, who lied in order to get her daughter’s incarcerated father moved closer to her family. Even family members of the false informant testified that she was not credible. There is no physical evidence that proves Irvan’s guilt and the suspected perpetrator’s DNA was not tested. It is not clear why the jury convicted Irvan, and why they sent him on death row.
Course of Proceedings
On January 3, 2001, William Darin Irvan was charged by indictment with the offense of murder of Michelle Shadbolt on or about February 14, 1987, by stabbing her with a knife during the commission or attempt to commit aggravated sexual assault, in violation of Tex. Penal Code Secs. 19.02(b)(1) and 19.03(a)(2). Approximately three years later and sixteen (16) years after her death, Irvan was convicted by a jury of the offense of capital murder, as charged in the indictment. The jury then answered three statutory special issues, “Yes,” “Yes,” and “No,” resulting in the mandatory imposition of the death penalty.
A direct appeal of Irvan’s conviction and sentence followed in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeal. On appeal, Irvan challenged the sufficiency of the evidence against him. On June 7, 2006 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Irvan’s conviction and sentence. William Darin Irvan v. State of Texas, No. AP-74,853, WL (Delivered, June 7, 2006) (unpublished).
Statement of Facts – The Trial
Kathy Masters is the victim’s stepmother. She testified that on February 14, 1987, the victim, Michelle Shadbolt, who had been married to Jack Shadbolt, was living alone with her young daughter, Ashley. Michelle and her husband had been separated for approximately six (6) weeks. She had brought her daughter to Master’s home at approximately 5:30 p.m. on February 13, 1987 and had agreed to return the next morning at 7:00 a.m. to pick up her daughter. Masters became concerned when Michelle did not arrive at her home as agreed and went to Michelle’s home to check up on her stepdaughter. Masters discovered that the front door was unlocked and observed Michelle with her throat cut lying on the floor.
Deputy William Hilden, of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department (HCSD) was dispatched to Michelle’s home. The deceased was lying on her left side wearing only a T-shirt which had been pulled over her shoulders. There appeared to be blood everywhere. Hilden spoke with Masters, secured the scene, and made a phone call to Mary Sengbusch, a friend of Michelle, who had spent the previous evening with her, playing bingo. Sengbusch had last seen and talked to Michelle around 2:50 a.m. on February 14, as she returned to her home following the bingo game.
Michael Masters is the victim’s brother. He testified that he had known Irvan since the age of three as they had grown up in the same neighorhood; Irvan’s house was “catty-corner across the street,” from Michelle, Master’s sister. After arriving at her home, upon request of the police, Masters saw Irvan outside. At the time, Irvan was wearing a long-sleeved shirt. Irvan tried to comfort Masters, and cried along with him as they sat on the curb.
Masters also observed Jack Shadbolt, Michelle’s estranged husband, at the scene “at some point that same morning,” and also heard Jack crying. Masters testified that before that morning he had not known that his sister and Jack had separated and were living apart.
Masters testified that Irvan was a pallbearer at Shadbolt’s funeral, several days following her death. Additionally, Masters stated that “after the DNA come back on Jack [Shadbolt] and cleared Jack,” Irvan broke down and cried, “I didn’t do it or have anything to do with it.” Masters admitted that he had always suspected Jack Shadbolt, Michelle’s husband, as her killer “prior to the time that he was cleared.”
Jacqueline Barrett, Michelle’s biological mother, testified that her daughter married Jack Shadbolt in April, 1983 and the couple produced a daughter, Ashley. Barrett stated that because of Jack’s “drinking problems,” her daughter had been separated from her husband prior to her death for approximately six weeks. Barrett also testified that Michelle had remained in the home on Doverfield with Ashley, while her husband had moved out to his mother’s home. Barrett recounted that she had last spoken to Michelle on February 11, 1987 and it was her belief that at the time of her death, her daughter did not have any interest in dating other men.
Barrett had known Irvan since 1970; he had grown up in the neighborhood with her own children. Irvan was “compassionate” to her son Michael. Barrett also noted that, upon request, she had provided police with the names of possible suspects, Irvan and Tim Darden, “he was always kind of what I would call unsavory.” Darden hung out with Irvan and appeared “real sneaky”. “I saw him [Darden] up until she was killed and then he disappeared.”
Barrett explained that she had also provided Irvan’s name to police because she knew “he had been around my kids as they were growing up, and I knew that he had been in trouble before.”
Barrett admitted that she had also suspected that Jack Shadbolt was the person who had killed her daughter. At the time of Michelle’s death, Barrett asserted that Michelle and Jack had not reconciled.
Detective Anthony Rossi testified that in 1987 he had been the lead detective in the investigation. Walking into the house of the deceased, Rossi observed the foyer floor heavily stained with blood, and immediately noticed that there was a shoe print in the blood, possibly from a tennis shoe. When he closed the front door Rossi noticed blood on the lower area of the door. The foyer, or entryway was open to the living room, and as he walked in, Rossi observed the body of Michelle lying on her left side on the floor, somewhat in the middle of the living room. There was blood everywhere and Rossi could see that the body had multiple stab wounds and a large laceration on the neck. Next to Shadbolt, was a vacuum cleaner weighing approximately 20 pounds and some “wadded up newspaper.” The vacuum cord appeared to have been “tangled up” around the body; the back of the vacuum cleaner bag was somewhat covering the top of her head and was up against her forehead. Additionally, close to Michelle’s body, Rossi observed a bloodied trophy, bloodied sofa pillow, a pair of panties, a two-hole white button on a cushion, a child’s patent leather shoe, a pair of orchid colored shorts, and a butcher knife with a handle of approximately five inches and an 8-inch blade underneath the shorts, within two feet of the body.
While Rossi testified that there did not appear to be any signs of forced entry into Michelle’s home, it was apparent that a serious scuffle or struggle had occurred. Michelle appeared to exhibit a carpet burn on her right shoulder; her T-shirt had been pulled off her torso and lay around her neck exposing her breasts. There was blood on her fingers. Rossi thought that the trophy, with its bloodiest base, had possibly been used to bludgeon Michelle. Such use was consistent with Michelle’s apparent head wounds. Rossi also noted that the televisiion was on when he entered the home; its volume was very high.
Rossi explained that the clothes Michelle had worn earlier in the day were piled on the floor of her bedroom. Thus, she had disrobed immediately upon her return home and had put on her night clothes, panties, a red shirt and no bra. Additionally, Michelle was still wearing her jewelry, earrings and a gold ring.
Rossi observed a butcher block with “a big-bladed knife missing” in the kitchen. On the counter, Rossi also found Michelle’s purse with a checkbook and $23.50 in currency, as well as a pledge sheet and currency in the amount of $34.65 with approximately 21 checks to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Thus, Rossi did not believe that Michelle had been killed during the course of a robbery or burglary. Rossi noted that there did not appear to be any blood in the bedroom or in the kitchen.
In response to questions regarding blood found along the ring of the toilet bowl in Michelle’s bathroom, Rossi opined that her killer may have used the toilet bowl to wash off any blood. When the prosecutor pressed him for additional speculation, asking “what else?” if a sexual assault had occurred, Rossi answered, “Oh, semen.”
Rossi interviewed neighbors and potential witnesses, canvassing the neighborhood for clues. These included Sam and Brenda Farquhar, Robert White, Pauline Shadbolt, Michelle’s mother-in-law, and Jack Shadbolt (Michelle’s estranged husband), as well as Mary Sengbusch, Michelle’s co-worker at Shell Oil Co. who had played bingo with Michelle on the night of her death.
Within a week of the killing, on February 21, 1987, Rossi called Jack Shadbolt, Michelle’s estranged husband, to the Sheriff’s Office, so that he could interview him and “check his alibi” Jack, an alcoholic, was Rossi’s prime suspect. While Jack Shadbolt did answer Rossi’s questions at first, he appeared “very nervous” and his breath reeked of alcohol. Rossi noted that Shadhold had a “hickey” on his neck at this interview and asked Jack “who his girlfriend was”. Shadbolt did not provide an answer or respond at all.
On this same occassion, Rossi secured Jack Shadholt’s signed consent for the taking of his saliva, head and pubic hair, and blood, as well as his fingerprints. However, when Rossi attempted to get a written statement from Jack about where he was and what he was doing in the early morning hours of February 14, Jack only provided about a page and a half of information. Even during that time, Rossi stated that the latter appeared very nervous; he kept jumping out of his chair and walking away without saying anything. Then, Jack Shadbolt abruptly left the interview, excusing himself to “use the restroom.”
When Jack had not returned after 15 minutes or so, Rossi went looking for him. Rossi found him in the lobby of the building. Jack informed Rossi that he had telephoned an attorney and was awaiting his arrival. When the attorney arrived, he spoke briefly with Rossi and departed with Jack. Rossi understood that both would return and make “a fresh start” on the uncompleted statement. However, that did not happen. Rossi could not “clear” Jack Shadbolt as the prime suspect in the case.
Rossi testified that on May 27, 1987, he returned to the scene, accompanied by a private investigator, hired by Michelle’s family to see, if they could find anything the Sheriff’s Office had “missed”. Rossi walked through the scene again, took some blood scrapings from the bathroom vanity and dining room wall, and submitted them to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) laboratory for blood typing. Additionally, Rossi requested that possible latent fingerprint samples, also submitted to the DPS, be compared with those of Jack Shadbolt.
By August 13, 1987, Jack Shadbolt was still a prime suspect in this case. On that date, Rossi arrested Jack Shadbolt pursuant to a misdemeanor hot check warrant, as a ruse, to question him further in this murder case. Jack refused to answer any questions. Shortly thereafter, Rossi was transferred to the Internal Affairs Division and did not continue his investigation in this case. Rossi admitted that he was never able to “clear” Jack Shadbolt as the perpetrator in the case.
Rossi admitted that while Jack Shadbolt had claimed to be together with neighbors, the Farquahrs and the Whites, throughout the evening of Michelle’s death, Rossi discovered that Shadbolt had parted from their company at 9:30 p.m. There were no witnesses to corroborate Jack Shadbolt’s alibi on the night in question except his mother who admitted that she could hear her son in the shower on the morning of February 14, 1987. (Mrs. Shadbolt was not called as a witness in this trial.)
Upon cross-examination, Rossi admitted that he knew that complainant and Jack Shadbolt had separated and that the latter was not living in the home. There was no evidence of forced entry into the house which indicated to Rossi that Michelle knew her killer. Rossi also stated that he had learned in the course of his investigation that Jack Shadbolt was alcoholic and remained a prime suspect in this case. (Over the State’s hearsay objection regarding the basis of Rossi’s ongoing investigation and consideration of Shadbolt as a prime suspect, Irvan was precluded from asking Rossi whether he had discovered that Michelle had informed Shadbolt two (2) days prior to her death that “they would never get back together.”)
Rossi also admitted that while he had observed the bloody shoe print in the foyer of the crime site, he was unaware of any attempt by personnel at the scene to preserve or “collect” the print for later comparison with the shoes of any other person. As far as he knew, no one ever attempted to determine the size of the shoe that would have made the bloody print. While Rossi testified that Deputy Schield assisted in processing the evidence at the scene, he was unsure whether multiple “blood spots” observed on the front door were actually tested to determine whether they were, in fact, human blood. Rossi opined that based upon the location of possible blood on the door, it was possible that a scuffle had occurred with the door open.
Rossi also admitted he did not know whether Schield had attempted to collect any fingerprints from the trophy at the scene. Moreover, while the vacuum cleaner cord found draped around Michelle’s body might have been used to subdue her, Rossi did not see any ligature marks on Michelle’s body or any knots in the vacuum cleaner cord. Rossi said he did not believe that the vacuum cleaner was used in Michelle’s homicide. Rossi also noted that a “wadded newspaper” at the scene contained blood and he deduced that “the assailant or the assailants” had attempted to wipe the blood off their hands during or immediately after the crime had been committed. Rossi was unsure whether any attempt had been made to lift fingerprints from the newspaper or any other newspapers at the scene for identification of possible suspects. While Rossi testified that a butcher knife was “probably the murder weapon”, he was unaware of any attempts made to locate and/or lift fingerprints therefrom.
Rossi stated that Michelle’s bedcovers had been collected by investigators for possible evidence including blood, semen, pubic hair, head hair, and foreign hair. Rossi testified that based upon the absence of blood evidence in Michelle’s bedroom, it was possible that sexual intercourse had occurred in Michelle’s bedroom and that her killing had occurred in another room. Rossi admitted that he did not know whether a sexual assault of the complainant had, in fact, occurred. (While he noted that semen was recovered from Michelle during her autopsy, he agreed that this finding was solely evidence of the act of sexual intercourse and not necessarily evidence of a sexual assault.) Rossi did not observe any bruises on complainant and explained that the allegation of an underlying possible sexual assault of Michelle was “just a theory”.
Upon redirect examination and over objection, Rossi testified that he “could not separate out the sexual assault [of Michelle] from [her] killing, that Michelle’s shirt wound around her neck was moved either during a struggle or in an attempt to subdue her, while the removal of her underwear was not necessary to commit her killing.”
While Rossi agreed that the bloody commode in Michelle’s bathroom may have been used to wash off the assailant’s groin area and that the toilet seat was found up, he acknowledged that there was no evidence of blood splashed on the floor surrounding the commode, which would likely have been there if the assailant had been a rapist and had washed himself in the commode.
Peter F. Schroedter, HCSD civil administrator of the automated fingerprint identification system (A.F.I.S.), testified that in April, 1987, he undertook fingerprint work in this case, No. 87-027084, to test a knife and three pieces of a trophy received from Deputy Schield. “The only thing that was found on that particular object was just essentially smudges, a print lacking any detail for identification purposes.” Schroedter also analyzed a trophy, which he received in three cylindrical pieces. Schroedter developed one print, a portion of a palm, containing ridge detail with seven or eight characteristics. Schroedter stated that based upon the number of characteristics, he was not comfortable making an identification.
Schroedter also testified that post-1987, other print enhancing techniques had been developed including “the amino black system,” although he did not employ them in this case. Thus, Schroedter chose to send the “unidentifiable” print to the FBI for possible identification and comparison with known prints belonging to Jack Shadbolt. While no identification of the holder of the print could be made by the FBI despite the fact that the FBI “recovered” two latent prints, and the print submitted had remained “unidentified”, the FBI examiner was able to employ the recovered print to eliminate Jack Shadbolt as the person who had left the print on the trophy. Thus, Schroedter conceded that the print/prints recovered were good enough to compare with Irvan’s, Timothy Darden’s or anybody else’s for elimination purposes.
Maurita Howarth, former DPS criminalist, testified that in 1987 she was asked to perform forensic serology analysis on hair and fluid samples belonging to Jack Shadbolt. On February 25, 1987, Howarth received five separate evidence submissions from Rossi of hair and fluid samples belonging to Jack Shadbolt including a tube of blood, a saliva sample, and four hair samples. Of the latter, two were pulled known hairs and tow were combings of loose hairs.
On the following day, Howarth received for analysis a fitted sheet, a flat sheet, a pillow and pillowcase, fingernail scrapings from Michelle as well as a pulled pubic hair and a pulled head hair sample, a packet marked foreign body material, and six cigarette butts. While Howarth tested the bed sheet provided, she testified that the testing was solely for the presence of semen. There was none! No other testing of the sheet was undertaken.
On March 5, 1987, Howarth received for analysis additional samples recovered from Michelle in the course of the performance of her autopsy, including a blood sample, vaginal, oral and anal swabs. Additionally, on March 12, 1987, Howarth received a sample from a stain from a knife, a sample of a stain from a piece of trophy, a control sample, a vial of hair from a knife, and from the wall of Michelle’s dining room area and a scaping from the face of the bathroom vanity. All of these items were analyzed for body fluids to determine some of the genetic markers that might have been present.
Howarth determined that the blood sample from Jack Shadbolt revealed that he was a “secretor”. While Howarth’s analysis of the anal swab from Michelle revealed the presence of semen, Howarth determined that the semen was that of a “nonsecretor” and/or was in insufficient quantity to be tested for genetic markers. Howarth also determined that there was no semen on the oral swab taken from Michelle. Nor was any semen detected on the vaginal swab or the bedspread.
Howarth’s analysis of fingernail scrapings from the complainant and scrapings from a knife, trophy, and sample from the bathroom sink, respectively, revealed the presence of human blood. However, a vaginal swab from complainant was found to be inconclusive for the presence of human blood.
On cross-examination, Howarth admitted that while she had undertaken comparison of Jack Shadbolt’s blood, semen, etc., with samples from other known individuals. Moreover, her analysis above “did not exclude Jack Shadbolt as a contributor to what was found on the anal swab.” Howarth also noted that while the analysis of Michelle’s fingernail scrapings revealed the presence of hairs, no analysis was undertaken to determine who the possible contributor might have been.
Randy Schield, HCSD, Identification Division, testified that on February 14, 1987, he was dispatched to collect evidence in this case. Schield photographed the scene and collected evidence, including a vacuum cleaner, one trophy, one pair of purple shorts, one knife located under the shorts, a button, several pieces of crumpled paper, one pair of panties lying under Michelle, one pair of panties from the couch, one handwritten note from the bathroom, a sheet and blankets from the bedroom, and some clothing from the floor next to the bed. Schield documented the scene and collected some of the blood evidence.
Schield also attended complainant’s autopsy, took additional photographs, and documented her injuries as follows:”there were numerous stab wounds. There was a cut across the throat area and the right shoulder or something. There was a gib scrape. There were some wounds to the top of the head and I believe one to the back of the neck.” Shield noted bruises and abrasions. Schield also recovered fingernail scrapings from the complainant, pulled head hair, pulled pubic hair, a vial of blood, and foreign material from her body. This evidence was sent for analysis to DPS.
Schield testified that he processed a vacuum cleaner and crumpled newspapers, recovered from the scene, for any latent prints. While Schield recovered two latent prints from the vacuum cleaner which he believed were of a nature that could not be identified, Schield nevertheless compared them to those of Jack Shadbolt, Irvan, Michelle and Timothy Darden, respectively. Schield testified that the prints recovered from the vacuum cleaner “did not match” those of Jack Shadbolt, that is, they were not his prints or there were not enough characteristics with which to compare to the latter’s prints, “not enough to make a comparison or exclusion.” Similarly, Schield asserted that the prints recovered from the vacuum cleaner also “did not match” those of Michelle or anyone else as they were “just not good enough”.
Schield testified that he recovered three prints from the crumpled newspapers “next to the green chair in the living room,” which “were good enough for comparison” and were also compared with those prints belonging to Jack Shadbolt, Irvan, Michelle, and Timothy Darden, respectively. They did not match those of Michelle, Irvan, Jack Shadbolt, or Tim Darden.
Schield recounted that he processed a note found in Michelle’s bathroom (between the commode and the wastepaper basket) for identifiable prints. A print processed from the note was compared with those belonging to Jack Shadbolt, Irvan, Michelle, and Timothy Darden, respectively. It matched those of Michelle.
Schield stated that he was asked to analyze a knife and a trophy, previously processed by Schroedter, above, for possible prints. Schield could not recover any prints from the knife but recovered one “poor quality” partial palm print from the trophy. It was then compared to those prints belonging to Jack Shadbolt, Irvan, Michelle, and Timothy Darden, respectively. However, Schield explained that he was unable to effect any identification as to those known prints. “It just wasn’t sufficient enough of a print.”
Upon cross-examination, Schield admitted that on June 21, 1991, Det. Dionn provided him with a known set of Irvan’s palm prints and he was asked to compare those prints to the partial print recovered from the trophy at the scene. “They did not match.” Additionally, on May 17, 2000, several months after Irvan had been indicted in this case, Schield again compared Irvan’s prints with the recovered latent print on file. “They still did not match.”
Upon cross-examination, Schield admitted that he had not recognized a possible bloody shoe print in the foyer of complainant’s home and did not attempt to search or locate any shoes in complainant’s home which have been consistent with the print left in the foyer. Additionally, while photographs depicting the entryway as well as a table with three drink glasses and a can of Coke, close to complainant’s body, no mention of these objects was made in his report. Schield did not attempt to process any of these items for possible fingerprints.
Schield also admitted that he had not attempted to process the butcher block in Michelle’s kitchen for possible fingerprints, despite the fact that he believed the butcher knife used by the killer came from the butcher block. Schield stated that he did not attempt to dust the kitchen area or countertop for possible fingerprints nor had attempted to process the doorknob or the inside of complainant’s entryway door for any possible fingerprints. Similarly, Schield testified that he did not attempt to process Michelle’s bathroom for possible prints until May, 1987, at the request of a private investigator.
Marcel Dionn, testified that in 1989, he replaced Rossi in this investigation. Dionn spoke with Rossi and Jackie Barrett, Michelle’s mother. Dionn started investigating and following Jack Shadbolt. He also contacted and interviewed Irvan on May 17, 1989, together with Det. Bruce Johnson, in his office. Dionn obtained a one-paged, typed statement from Irvan. Over Irvan’s objections, his statement was admitted into evidence and read before the jury. Over Irvan’s objections, Dionn told the jury that Irvan had denied having any romantic relationship with Michelle, stated that they were “just friends”, and said that he had last seen Michelle Shadbolt, two or three months prior to the Wednesday or Thursday (February 11 or 12, 1987).
Dionn confirmed that during this investigation, he had requested fingerprint comparisons between Irvan’s known fingerprints and any prints recovered from Michelle’s home.
Dr. Dwayne Wolf, a medical examiner with the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office (herinafter M.E.) testified that he reviewed the autopsy report and photographs in this case, No. 87-997, performed by Dr. Espinola on February 14, 1987. Additionally, in anticipation of trial, Wolf prepared several diagrams reflecting Michelle’s wounds, including several superficial bruises and abrasions on her face and lips, (consistent with a struggle); carpet burns on her knees, a wound on her thigh, and blunt force injuries, bruises or abrasions on her arms and hands (defensive injuries), and a scrape or abrasion on Michelle’s shoulder (consistent with a carpet burn – a superficial injury).
Wolf listed several “lethal” stab wounds or injuries which pierced Michelle’s heart and lungs, perforated the chest cavity and the diaphragm, a stab wound to the upper right quadrant of the abdomen from a single-edged knife, a stab wound which penetrated complainant’s liver in the upper quadrant of the abdomen, as well as stab wounds to the upper right back and the lower back. There were also four wounds to the left side of Michelle’s flank (none penetrated the peritoneal cavity), and stab wounds to the back of the neck. Wolf stated that the injuries or lacerations to the back of Michelle’s head as well as the angular and parallel linear abrasions to her arm could have been caused by being struck with the edge of the trophy. Wolf noted that Michelle sustained a total of twenty (20) knife wounds to her body, including stab or incised wounds to her neck and four lacerations.
Wolf stated that Michelle’s death was caused specifically by two sharp force injuries to the chest, three to the abdomen, and an incised wound to the neck. Wolf admitted that he could not determine whether Michelle’s stab wounds and lacerations were caused by a single knife or different knives nor whether her injuries were caused by one assailant or multiple assailants. Wolf conceded that there was no evidence of ligature marks on complainant’s body nor evidence of trauma to Michelle’s genitalia, “nor to the vagina or the rectrum,” nor to the anal-rectal area or Michelle’s vulva.
Thus, Wolf admitted that Michelle may have engaged in consensual sexual intercourse while her death may have occurred later. Wolf could not confirm that Michelle had been sexually assaulted nor whether any sexual assault, if it had occurred, preceded or followed Michelle’s death. Wolf also opined that Michelle may have engaged in sexual intercourse the day before her death.
Roger Wedgeworth, HCSD, cold case squad, testified that in October, 1998, he and his partner began to reinvestigate this cold case with the following assumptions: the murder weapon(s) consisted of a knife with a 13 inch blade and a trophy, also located at the scene; the “window of opportunity” was between 3:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. when Michelle’s body was discovered. Wedgeworth still considered Jack Shadbolt as the prime suspect. As stated: “[The intent] …was either to rule him in as the actual murderer or rule him out, clear him, if we could do that either way.”
Wedgeworth secured all the physical evidence from the property room as well as the scene photographs and autopsy photos. Wedgeworth also determined that evidence still remained in the medical examiner’s office, including tissue blocks, hair samples, and a rectal, vaginal, and oral slide, labeled No. 87-997. Wedgeworth obtained all the evidence previously sent to DPS laboratory, including a tube of blood and a sample of saliva belonging to Jack Shadbolt, a tube of Michelle’s blood, six (6) cigarette butt cuttings, an envelope with a vaginal and rectal swab, a piece of oral swab, a cutting from the bloody gauze from the knife, two cuttings from blood gauze from the trophy, and scrapings from the bathroom vanity.
On November 13, 1998, Wedgeworth submitted evidence, including Michelle’s hair standards, Jack Shadbolt’s hair standards, blood, and saliva, Michelle’s vaginal, anal, and oral swabs and slides, empty envelopes of vaginal, anal, and oral swabs, pieces of oral swab, mucous-like substances from Michelle’s hair, a bloody knife, blood scrapings from a vanity, a knife, as well as trophy, and cigarette butt cuttings, to GeneScreen, now Orchid Cellmark for DNA analysis and processing, specifically, to determine whether there was DNA present and to compare the DNA with that of Jack Shadbolt.
Over Irvan’s objection, Wedgeworth informed the jury that as a result of DNA testing and analysis, Jack Shadbolt was ruled out as a semen donor. Thereafter, pursuant to conversation with Jackie Barrett, Wedgeworth focused his attention on Irvan and Timothy Darden, respectively.
Wedgeworth contacted Dionn who provided him with Irvan’s date of birth, social security number, address, and a copy of his statement, dated May 17, 1989. Wedgeworth learned that while fingerprints previously recovered from the scene had been compared to those of Irvan and Darden, none of the prints recovered had matched those of Irvan, Darden or Jack Shadbolt. On February 3, 2000, along with his partner, Harry Fikaris, Wedgeworth met Irvan who was informed of the renewed investigation and was asked for a DNA sample. Irvan provided a buccal swab, after signing and initialing a written consent form. On March 3, 2000, he and Fikaris traveled to a prison unit in Texas to interview a prisoner, Timothy Darden, who also provided a buccual swab for DNA testing.
On May 1, 2000, Wedgeworth spoke with Bill Watson at GeneScreen and over Irvan’s objections, testified that Watson had ruled out Darden as a donor of the suspect DNA in this case. Additonally, Irvan’s DNA “matched the suspect DNA that they had extracted from the anal slide of the victim.”
Thereafter, Wedgeworth asked Watson to compare all the evidence recovered in this case, including the knife, trophy, evidence recovered from the scene, blood-stained newspapers, cigarette butts, fingernail scrapings, foreign blody material, hair slides, hair mounts, as well as evidence recovered from the autopsy, with DNA obtained from Irvan. On May 17, 2000, Wedgeworth submitted more evidence to GeneScreen which had been previously stored in HCSD’s property room.
On May 26, 2000, Wedgeworth interviewed Jack Shadbolt, accompanied by his attorney. Wedgeworth tried to obtain a statement from Shadbolt regarding his activities immediately prior to the homicide. Shadbolt appeared to be very nervous and anxious despite Wedgeworth’s reassurances that “he had been cleared by the DNA processing.” Shadbolt provided a written statement in which he considered himself “still married” to Michelle.
On July 24, 2000, Wedgeworth re-interviewed Timothy Darden to establish a relationship history as it existed in 1987 between Darden and Irvan. Other family members and friends of Michelle were also interviewed in order to determine the relationship between Irvan and Michelle. Then, on January 3, 2001, Irvan was charged with capital murder of Michelle Shadbolt.
On January 25, 2001, Wedgeworth and Fikaris interviewed a federal prisoner, Tamara LLamas, at the request of her friend, Rhonda Reiner, who said that Llamas had information in this case. Llamas was serving four federal life sentences for solicitation of capital murder, capital murder of a government witness, and interstate trafficking of marijuana. Llamas provided Wedgeworth with a sworn statement, handwritten by Fikaris, in which she asserted that she and Irvan had been “boyfriend girlfriend” for a period of time.
On January 20, 1999, Wedgeworth resubmitted all recovered fingerprints to Danny Rinehart, a fingerprint analyst, and requested a comparison between the fingerprints recovered from the crime scene and those of Irvan and Timothy Darden, (but not Jack Shadbolt). “None of the recovered prints were the same as the defendant’s [Irvan] or Timothy Darden.”
While Wedgeworth conceded that Jack Shadbolt was ruled out as a murderer in this case solely because “he was not the person who had sex” with Michelle, Wedgeworth conceded that this finding did not necessarily rule him out as a murderer. Notably, Wedgeworth admitted that he had considered Jack Shadbolt as a prime suspect.
William Joseph Watson, director of Orchid Cellmark, Nashville, Tenn., formerly, GeneScreen, testified that known samples of DNA obtained from suspects, from the crime scene, and samples obtained at autopsy, had been tested and retested at his facility several times. Watson summarized test results obtained at various times. He recounted that in 1999, a limited DNA profile obtained from the male fraction of the sperm cells recovered, excluded Jack Shadbolt as the contributor of the stains on the rectal swab, rectal smear, vaginal swab and vaginal smear. On April 3, 2002, testing of “additional evidence”: a pubic hair fixed to a slide from a fingernail scraping of Michelle, was not a match to either Michelle, Irvan, or Timothy Darden. Watson confessed that no attempt was made to compare the DNA in the pubic hair with the sample obtained from Jack Shadbolt. “I don’t recall why we didn’t compare it. My guess is we conferred with the Sheriff’s Department and decided not to test it.”
Additionally, in February and March, 2000, Watson stated that testing was undertaken of blood stains from a knife recovered at the scene, of vaginal swabs and slides, of anal swabs and slides, a mucous-like substance on hair, fingernail scrapings, and several hairs, obtained at autopsy, as well as stains from newspaper, and buccal swabs obtained from Irvan and Timothy Darden. The tests revealed that only one blood stain sample of three recovered from the knife, above, matched Michelle’s; the other two samples contained “insufficient” DNA for testing. Additionally, the female fraction of the rectal and vaginal swabs matched Michelle’s.
Watson testified that Timothy Darden was excluded as the contributor of the male fraction of the sperm found in the vaginal and rectal specimens. Inconclusive results were obtained in testing the stains on the knife, the male fraction of the vaginal smear, the mucous-like substance on hair, and the stains on the newspapers. Watson explained that only a partial profile was obtained from the rectal smear obtained at autopsy which was “consistent” with Irvan’s profile as the male contributor of the male fraction of the rectal smear. Similarly, while Irvan was “included” as a potential contributor of the male fraction of the vaginal swab, the male fraction of the vaginal smear was inconclusiv. Its statistical significance could not be determined.
While Watson testified that DNA testing in this case was completed in 2000, the report was not completed until 2002. Upon cross-examination, Watson admitted that no DNA testing was undertaken of the blood stain gauze swab obtained from the trophy at the scene, Item No. 12, report of March 23, 1999.
Katherine Long, a scientist at Orchid Cellmark, formerly GeneScreen, testified that several weeks prior to trial, she was asked to re-analyze and retest most of the evidence in this case, including paint scapings, a knife, a rectal swab, a vaginal swab, an oral swab, hair with a mucous-like substance, a tube of Jack Shadbolt’s blood, cigarette cuttings, empty bindles from the vaginal and anal swabs, a portion of an oral swab from Michelle, a gauze blood sample from a trophy, gauze from a knife, a scraping from a vanity, buccual swabs from Michelle, fingernail scrapings from Michelle’s left and right hand, hair slides from the fingernail scrapings, hair from the left hand fingernail scrapings, hair from the right hand fingernail scrapings, foreign body material, a newspaper with blood, a piece of newspaper with blood, a scraping from the west wall of the dining area, a scraping from the vanity of the hall bedroom, a trophy and a vacuum cleaner, and a tissue block from Michelle. Long stated that she employed thirteen (13) loci for her comparisons, more than the eight previously employed by Watson. Over Irvan’s renewed objections, Long’s report was admitted into evidence.
Long explained her test results, as follows: of the listed items tested, five had never previously been tested or analyzed. These included paint scrapings from the west wall of the dining area, from the vanity, the bathroom, the trophy and the vacuum cleaner, respectively. The DNA profile obtained from the scrapings of the bathroom vanity, from the stain of the trophy base, and from the vacuum cleaner, respectively, matched Michelle’s. Long also testified that her analyses of the sperm recovered from the rectal and vaginal swab sticks at autopsy, “included” Irvan as a contributor. Long stated that her analyses resulted as well in two exclusions: the paint scrapings and the hair from the wheel of the vacuum cleaner served to exclude both Irvan and Michelle as contributors.
Long noted that the stains recovered from the base of the trophy were consistent with Michelle’s DNA profile while the stains throughout the trophy were insufficient to produce a genetic profile. The fingernail scrapings and the hair slides of the fingernail scrapings were also consistent with Michelle’s profile. [Note: The hair slides were not tested. Only one hair from Michelle’s fingernail was tested and it did not match, or was not similar to William Irvan nor Michelle.]
Long testified that in her discretion, she chose not to test certain items, including the hairs recovered from beneath Michelle’s fingernails (left and right hands). Long chose not to perform mitochondrial testing of these hairs. Long simply ignored the items not previously tested by Watson, including the hairs recovered from beneath Michelle’s fingernails. Thus, any question regarding Jack Shadbolt’s role as a suspect in this homicide was never investigated, once he had been excluded as a sperm donor!
Similarly, Long also never tested the trophy recovered from the scene for DNA, other than that present in the bloodstains, although it was clear from Watson’s testimony, that an individual, “slugging away and aggressively holding the trophy could cause deposits of DNA and a lot of cellular material” which could have been genetically tested.
William Irvan testified outside the presence of the jury solely to invoke the confidential marital communication privilege. Irvan stated that he was married to Shanna Irvan Stryjek from December 4, 1987 until September 9, 1995. Irvan advised that he wished to assert the confidential communication privilege regarding utterances made to Shanna Stryjek during their marriage. The court denied Irvan’s motion to invoke the marital communication privilege.
Tamara Dayton Llamas, a federal prisoner, in continuous custody since 1996, was the key witness linking William Irvan to the crime. The informant testified that pursuant to her pleas of “guilty” in an agreement with federal prosecutors to avoid a death penalty, she was serving four (4) life sentences for her convictions for interstate travel with intent to commit murder for hire, use of a firearm during and relating to a drug crime death, tampering with a witness by killing her, and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana. Llamas also admitted she had been previously convicted of theft and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. Still, Llamas told the jury that she had not been promised anything by prosecutors, sheriffs or investigators, in return for her testimony.
LLamas said that she had known Irvan, “Diggy,” for approximately 23 years and with Michelle, who had lived “catty corner” from Irvan’s house. Shortly after giving birth to her daughter, Llamas became Irvan’s girlfriend. Llamas and Irvan lived together for approximately four or five months. Llamas admitted that while Irvan was a “nice person”, he was also jealous and possessive of her.
Llamas testified that in 1985, while pregnant with her second child, fathered by Shane Hughes, she moved to Maryland with Hughes and resided there for approximately three years. During this time, she visited her family in Houston and maintained contact with Irvan. In 1986, during a visit to Houston which lasted approximately “four or five” months, she dated Irvan; they would consume alcohol together and “partied”. In the “middle of the latest of March, ” 1987, Llamas accompanied Irvan to Galveston. They remained on the beach overnight, drinking alcohol and having sex. Although both were intoxicated, Irvan “admitted” that he had raped and killed Michelle.
Llamas could not recall details of the conversation, but noted that Irvan also told her that on the night of Michelle’s death, while sitting in his driveway drinking, he watched Michelle as she returned home, and went to her house to have sex with her. “He said that he tried and that she didn’t want to, …that he got carried away, …that he killed her, …that he stabbed her.” Llamas recounted that Irvan told her that he returned home though his bedroom window. Llamas did not believe Irvan nor gave police or Michelle’s family this information.
Llamas explained that in 2000, while incarcerated in the federal penitentiary, her mother told her that Irvan had been charged in this case and that she then contacted the detectives, Wedgeworth and Fikaris. Llamas provided investigators with a statement. Llamas reiterated that she did not have anything to gain by testifying and had not been promised anything by the prosecutors in this case in exchange for her testimony, nor that there was any “bad blood” between herself and Irvan.
Llamas conceded that Irvan had admitted raping and killing Michelle during their very first trip to Galveston, within an hour or two of their arrival, while drinking, talking and sleeping on the ground. Llamas added that Irvan had also admitted that he had taken jewelry, including a baby ring, from Michelle’s home, that Michelle had fought hard and had scratched him. Llamas admitted that following Irvan’s admissions of rape and murder, they had engaged in sexual intercourse; she did not see any scratches on Irvan’s body.
Llamas denied seeking any benefit from the government for this testimony. However, opined that she believed that the prosecutors in this case could contact the federal authorities in her own case regarding a possible reduction in her sentence. Llamas also confessed that prior to her plea bargain agreements with the federal prosecutors in 1998, she had made no effort to “trade” information Irvan for a sentence reduction because at that time, she “still did not believe that Irvan had killed Michelle Shadbolt.”
While Irvan’s counsel attempted to impeach Llamas’ veracity with her reputation for lying and her well-established character traits of manipulating the criminal justice system to her advantage, that is, with specific acts of misconduct including making and attempting to file false accusations against others, kidnapping and assault, soliciting and orchestrating the murder of a government witness to avoid the witness’s testimony at her own trial, attempting to hire others to murder the husband of a witness against her, as well as her own sister, employing minors to traffic marijuana and arms, the trial court sustained the State’s objections and precluded counsel from presenting this evidence to the jury.
Similarly, while Irvan’s counsel attempted to cross-examine Llamas regarding her plea-bargain agreements with the federal prosecutors to avoid a death penalty, counsel was not permitted to ask about other federal felony offenses which had been dismissed as part of her plea bargain agreement, including her employing minors to traffic and transport marijuana and weapons across state lines, nor her activities in orchestrating and hiring hitmen to kill witnesses against her, specifically, Christi Edwards, killed in the presence of her 8 and 11 year old children by Llamas’ nephew whom she paid $260.00 for this contract; and her making false criminal accusations against others, including family members. (Bill of Exception).
Shanna Stryjek, Irvan’s ex-wife, testified that they had been married for seven years, December 4, 1987 to September 1, 1995, when they divorced. They had three children together, legally adopted by her present husband, Wayne Stryjek, upon terminating Irvan’s parental rights. Stryjek first met Irvan in June, 1987, several months after Michelle’s death, and had last seen him in 1997-1998. Stryek was contacted by investigators in this case in 1999-2000. Stryek asserted that while married, Irvan attempted unsuccessfully to engage in anal intercourse with her on two separate occassions. At the second time, despite her refusal, Irvan “just tried to do it anyway… I had to kind of force him to stop.” Stryek also testified that she always refused Irvan’s “regular” sexual requests and he would become enraged; “he would start hitting things, breaking things, calling me names.” Over Irvan’s continued objections, Stryek repeated the names, including: “bitch, slut, whore,” and “cunt.”
Additionally, Stryjek repeated that Irvan hated Michelle, that while he had informed the police that he had been home on the night of Michelle’s death, that he had been out with a friend, George, and had returned to his parents’ home between 1:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m., but had not seen anything and first became aware that something unusual had occurred, the next morning, as there was yellow tape around Michelle’s home. Stryjek explained that Irvan had been living with his parents in a home directly across the street from Michelle’s. As Irvan could not smoke within his parents’ home, he would climb up to the top of a brick extension, of his parents’ home, with a view of the neighborhood, to smoke. Irvan could see Michelle’s front door from this location. Thereupon, the State rested its case. Irvan’s motion for an instructed verdict, based upon the State’s failure to prove that he had killed Michelle Shadbolt during the course of committing or attempting to commit aggravated sexual assault, was denied.
Roger Wedgeworth, again informed the jury that based upon Llamas’ statements, he tested paint around the designated window sill of Irvan’s home. DNA testing revealed that neither Irvan nor Michelle were contributors of the genetic profiles contained within the paint scrapings from the window sill.
Daniel Rinehart, assisted Wedgeworth and Fikaris in their investigation and identified two items of evidence that required additional fingerprint processing, notably, a knife and a trophy. In 1999, following the application of an “amido black” staining process for fingerprints to the knife and trophy, Rinehart eliminated Jack Shadbolt and Irvan from the list of suspects who had left their fingerprints on these items. Rinehart could not eliminate Timothy Darden from the list of suspects.
Connie Summers testified that she was acquainted with Llamas and had known her for approximately 20 to 25 years. Summers stated that she was familiar with Llamas’ family and friends; and knew her reputation for truthfulness and veracity. Summers testified that Llamas’ reputation for truthfulness was “very bad”.
Darlene Hughes, a.k.a. “Deedee,” testified that she was a younger sister of Tamara Llamas who had previously testified. Hughes had personally known Llamas all her life, was familiar with other family members and friends, and knew Llamas’ reputation for truthfulness and veracity. Hughes stated that Llamas’ reputation for truthfulness was “bad”. Llamas was not worthy of belief under oath.
Hughes testified that she had known Irvan for approximately 22-23 years. She explained that she had met Irvan together with Michelle in a Stop-N-Go shop in the spring, 1987: some time after January 1, 1987 and prior to Michelle’s death. Hughes spoke to both. Over the State’s objection, Hughes was precluded from telling the jury that Michelle and Irvan had instructed her not to tell anyone that she had seen them together.
Marylou Brady testified that she was the mother of Billy Joe Brady and the grandmother of Tamara Llamas’ daughter. Brady stated that she had known Llamas for approximately 20 years, was acquainted with Llamas’s friends, family and associates, and knew her reputation for truthfulness and veracity. As stated: “Tamara has never been truthful to no one, no one. [Her reputation] is very bad.”
Irvan did not testify at trial. The jury convicted Irvan of the offense of capital murder, as charged in the indictment.
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Application for Post-Conviction Writ of Habeas Corpus (28 pages, pdf)
Art. 11.071 V.A.C.C.P.
180th Judicial District Court of Harris County
Introduction and Contents
- Claim for Relief No.46 (7 pages, pdf)
- Appendix List
William Irvan’s pro se motion (pdf, 48 pages)
Appellant’s pro-se motion per C.C.P.Art.64.00 – 64.05 to have DNA tested
and to have the fingerprints looked at by an expert.
in the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
on Application for Writ of Habeas Corpus
ordered on June 8, 2011:
Angie Sanchez’s obituary. She was one of informant Tamara Llama’s children.