Vernon Kent Jones: Missing Without a Trace

 

Vernon Jones, missing person
Vernon Jones

Vernon Kent Jones was 24 years old when he went missing without a trace on January 2, 1993 from a NYC apartment. Born and raised in North Carolina and a graduate of UNC, Vernon came to New York with the hopes of becoming an actor. He lived on the Upper West Side and on the night he went missing was at a party in an apartment building on East 7th St and Ave D in what is known as Alphabet City. Vernon was partying there with three friends, two of whom he had just met.  According to their statements Vernon became ill in the apartment. Two of the individuals left and went across the street to an all night store to purchase “cleaning products. When they returned to the apartment Vernon was gone. The third individual stated he was in the bedroom, heard the door slam an assumed Vernon went outside to get some air. None of the three attempted to look for Vernon and simply continued to party. Vernon did not have his wallet or any identification in his possession at the time he disappeared. His wallet and ID were found in his apartment by his family.

Vernon’s younger brother Michael was 14 went Vernon went missing. Now 31 years old Michael contacted us and asked if we could help him find out what happened to his brother. We spoke to Michael and his mother and decided we would look into the case. After reviewing the facts, we felt compelled to take the case and told the family we would be willing to accept the case pro-bono and attempt to help them.

We have worked on this case for about a year and half. During that time we have tracked3768786245_f6e6124781_m down, located and re-interviewed the three people who were with Vernon that night. They continue to maintain they have no idea what happened to him. We were successful in creating a DNA profile of Vernon from a baby tooth that his mother had. That profile is now in the national DNA database known as CODIS. Click on this link to see a CBS News Exclusive report. http://bit.ly/cU2k0U

We have also utilized the services of a Forensic Artist to draw an age progression sketch of what Vernon would look like today. We have spoken to Psychics to see if they could assist us in any way. To date we have not been successful in locating Vernon.

We are currently researching the records at New York City’s Hart Island, (Potters Field) of all unidentified males fitting Vernon’s description buried there.

It is our hope that one day we will find out what happened to Vernon so that we may be able to bring some closure to the family.

If you or someone you know has any information regarding the whereabouts of Vernon please call us at: 800-490-2267. All information will be kept confidential.

celebratingManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey. .  Management Resources is a member of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Associated Licensed Detectives of New York, and Founding Members and Regional Directors of Investigating Innocence.

Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin are available for interviews or speaking engagements.  Contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-08509 or email contact@imaginepublicity.com 

58th Anniversary Dinner of the Society of Professional Investigators

On September 18, 2014 Management Resources principals, Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin attended the 58th Anniversary Dinner of the Society of Professional Investigators held at Giondo On The Water in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The association honored Michael Mukasey, Former Attorney General of the United States with the SPI Distinguished Career Award and awarded Kenneth Thompson, District Attorney, Kings County, New York with the SPI Person of the Year Award.

Also a special honor was given to Wounded Warriors who served in Iraq or Afghanistan

The Society of Professional Investigators was created as an organization dedicated to fostering networking between law enforcement professionals from all disciplines related to investigations and criminal justice.

Please enjoy some of the photos taken with esteemed guests and honorees:

 

Dr. Michael Baden, Kim Ankliln
Dr. Michael Baden, Kim Ankliln
Bob Rahn, Marvin Schecter, Kim Anklin
Bob Rahn, Marvin Schecter, Kim Anklin
Kim Anklin, District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, Bob Rahn
Kim Anklin, District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, Bob Rahn
Rosemarie and Jimmy Mesis
Rosemarie and Jimmy Mesis
Theresa Balfe, Bob Rahn, Kim Anklin, Gil Alba, Steve Rambam
Theresa Balfe, Bob Rahn, Kim Anklin, Gil Alba, Steve Rambam

celebratingManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey. .  Management Resources is a member of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Associated Licensed Detectives of New York, and Founding Members and Regional Directors of Investigating Innocence.

Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin are available for interviews or speaking engagements.  Contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-08509 or email contact@imaginepublicity.com 

Questions From the Class: Part #3

Management Resources principles Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin were honored to be included in Penn State’s online course, Presumed Innocent? The Social Science of Wrongful Conviction. Interviewed extensively about the wrongful conviction and exoneration of Jonathan Fleming, many questions arose from the class. Kim Anklin has been answering questions from students in the forum, “Ask Kim Anything.” Although the class is complete we are reprinting some of the general entries with the hope that readers will learn more about these types of investigations.

 

Jonathan Fleming, Kim Anklin, Bob Rahn
Jonathan Fleming, Kim Anklin, Bob Rahn

 

How many system variables influenced the wrongful conviction? How could someone be convicted without physical evidence? You mentioned that the prosecution violated the “Brady.” Clearly there was exculpatory evidence available pointing to the defendant’s exoneration. Why did the defense lawyer not ask for this evidence, witness testimony? This guy had a terrible lawyer; one who was not willing to go the extra mile to prove his client’s innocence. This was a horrible case and illustrates how one develops a distrust for the judicial process.

In this case there were multiple variables that resulted in Mr. Fleming being convicted. Mr. Fleming was convicted on the testimony of one eye witness who was intimidated into making a deal with the police and prosecutor, two additional witness that were also intimidated and provided deals, and of course the misconduct of the prosecutor. The entire criminal justice system failed him. Yes, is it a horrible case and unfortunately there are many others with similar circumstances.

As to all of the system variables that could be pointed out in this case, I’ll just briefly comment on the few below:

  1. Flawed police work and tunnel vision – The detectives conducting the investigation failed to properly follow up on the information provided to them by the witness who provided them with the names and physical description of three men who should have been considered logical suspects.
  2. Witness intimidation by the police – according to several people we spoke to, shortly after the homicide the police were literally picking up people off the street and taking them back to the precinct to try and coerce them into being witnesses, even though the majority of them did not see what had happened. Multiple people told us they had come to the scene after the police arrived to see what was going on only to get taken away as witnesses.
  3. Prosecutorial Misconduct – this variable came in the form of making deals with witnesses in exchange for their testimony, failing to disclose those deals to defense counsel, hiding the phone receipt and letter from the Orlando PD which would have corroborated Mr. Fleming’s alibi. The District Attorney’s Office also intimidated witnesses by threatening them with perjury if they tried to recant. In our opinion, we feel even the Judge that presided over the post-conviction hearing was duped by the prosecutor. The eye witness was trying to recant stating she had lied about the identification. The judge found her recantation unbelievable, because the DA’s office never disclosed to him that the witness had made a deal with them in exchange for her testimony. Any one of these acts if committed by a defense attorney would have resulted in severe consequences up to and including possible disbarment.
  4. Ineffective Counsel – Mr. Fleming’s defense attorney at the time was a young, new attorney who had never handled a homicide case before. He would eventually tell us that he thought this was a “slam dunk” because of the Florida alibi, and therefore over confident that the jury would never convict Mr. Fleming.

celebratingManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey. .  Management Resources is a member of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Associated Licensed Detectives of New York, and Founding Members and Regional Directors of Investigating Innocence.

Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin are available for interviews or speaking engagements.  Contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-08509 or email contact@imaginepublicity.com 

Questions From the Class: Part #2

Management Resources principles Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin were honored to be included in Penn State’s online course, Presumed Innocent? The Social Science of Wrongful Conviction. Interviewed extensively about the wrongful conviction and exoneration of Jonathan Fleming, many questions arose from the class. Kim Anklin has been answering questions from students in the forum, “Ask Kim Anything.” Although the class is complete we are reprinting some of the general entries with the hope that readers will learn more about these types of investigations.

Management Resources
Kim Anklin and Bob Rahn conducting investigation

I am involved in exoneration efforts for a convicted sex offender.  He was convicted on the basis of a combination of testimony generated in repressed memory therapy, changed testimony after police interrogations and perjury.  Key witnesses were eliminated by being placed in the charging process which made their testimony unavailable to the defense. A moral panic ensued in this case. The victims have since been paid millions of dollars in settlements through civil attorneys.  

The convicted has no money to hire investigators so this work must be done by amateurs.  There is a remote possibility that a key “victim” may recant.  There was no mention during the trial of the testimony being generated in therapy although the therapist himself sat next to the deputy attorney general during the trial.  Efforts to obtain information regarding the suggestive therapy which tainted the testimony failed due to confidentiality laws cited by the judge.

Is there any book, publication or whatever to help us do this investigative work?  How do we document the police interrogations of the witnesses who we believe were intimidated?  How do you interview people who know people and that sort of thing? How do we find out who the victims were in therapy with.  The civil attorneys who mandated the therapy will not reveal names, but do assert publicly that life-long therapy is a necessity for their clients.

In other words….is there a “do it yourself guide” for those who have to do this work as a volunteer?

Do you have any advice for me?

This is a difficult question to answer in a few paragraphs without knowing the details of the case, but I will try to address your points as best I can. Before I do, I must stress that anyone who wishes to do this sort of work must be EXTREMELY careful. In general, witnesses and victims can be afraid and even hostile. I would never recommend anyone attempt this work on their own. Perhaps you can find a licensed investigator, preferably armed, that may work with you if he or she believes in the case.

The first issue I see is where did this happen? Since it is a sex related case, many states have rape-shield laws that protect the identity of the victim. Also, you are up against The HIPAA Privacy Rule that protects individuals’ medical records. At the same time if this ‘key victim’ wants to recant his or her testimony voluntarily, then again I would highly recommend that a professional defense investigator be utilized to obtain a detailed, sworn, and notarized affidavit. Keep in mind that you will be asking this person to say they lied under oath which is a very difficult thing for people to do, especially to something that may have convicted an innocent person. I would look for an investigator that has experience working with sex related cases, is a notary and someone that will be compassionate towards this person.

You bring up an excellent point that the majority of the time the convicted does not have the funds to investigate their case in a meaningful way. Their money has already been spent on their defense and usually includes exhausting family resources as well.

Was there DNA obtained in this case? If so, is there a question as to its validity and have you reached out to your closest Innocence Project? If there was no physical evidence, then you are in the same boat as we were with Fleming. It will require a thorough case analysis to develop strategies and ‘boots on the ground’ investigative work.

I would recommend you register with InvestigatingInnocece.org. They are a non-profit organization, 501 (c)(3) based out of Illinois, and include attorneys and private investigators. When financially feasible, the attorneys will provide a limited number of hours of pro bono services to the organization in helping to review worthy cases that deserve further investigative work. The approved cases are then assigned a local investigator.

Ultimately, the ‘name of the game’ is to uncover and obtain newly discovered evidence. Whether you are going to work with an appellate attorney who will focus on the constitutionality of the trial, or if you have a Conviction Integrity Unit, neither will take the case seriously without new evidence. Unfortunately, even a recantation of the victim may not sway the courts to hear a new case. Fleming’s eye witness recanted only a few months after his conviction during the sentencing hearing. The judge dismissed her testimony stating she could not be believed. The precinct command logs we obtained proved her recantation was indeed the truth.

Any case has ‘known’ witnesses – those known to the police and prosecutors. Those are not exciting to defense attorneys, prosecutors and the courts. If you can develop ‘unknown’ witnesses, those who have never been spoken to by anyone in law enforcement, that can shed new light into the case, then you may peek their interest. Of course, we love high credible witnesses, however we take them for who they are if they have new and meaningful information. I would also strongly warn you that if you, or anyone who attempts to speak to a witness, refuses to speak you must cease and desist. For you yourself could face harassment charges if you do not. This is probably the best argument for using an experienced investigator. Many times we only have one shot at getting the cooperation. It had better count.

If this is a high profile case, you can use the media to generate interest. If is not, you’ll need to make it newsworthy. Start with the local papers both paper and digital.

celebratingManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey. .  Management Resources is a member of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Associated Licensed Detectives of New York, and Founding Members and Regional Directors of Investigating Innocence.

Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin are available for interviews or speaking engagements.  Contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-08509 or email contact@imaginepublicity.com 

Questions From the Class: Part #1

Management Resources principles Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin were honored to be included in Penn State’s online course, Presumed Innocent? The Social Science of Wrongful Conviction. Interviewed extensively about the wrongful conviction and exoneration of Jonathan Fleming, many questions arose from the class. Kim Anklin has been answering questions from students in the forum, “Ask Kim Anything.” Although the class is complete we are reprinting some of the general entries with the hope that readers will learn more about these types of investigations.

Bob Rahn, Kim Anklin, Management Resources LTD of NY, Wrongful conviction of Jonathan Fleming
Investigators Kim Anklin and Bob Rahn of Management Resources LTD of NY

Do you have any sense of how often cases of tunnel vision occur in homicide investigations and what factors make these more likely?

How often does tunnel vision occur in homicide investigations? While there is no way to know an actual number, it is frightening to consider even the cases we get right, tunnel vision can easily occur both internally and externally. Consider the actors and other known factors that contribute into an initial homicide investigation, particularly when the perpetrator(s) is not initially known. They include police and detectives, the crime scene techs, forensic personnel, the medical examiner, the prosecutors, all of the police bosses, the witnesses, the victim, the family members for both sides, the geography where the crime occurred, the crime rate, the culture of the law enforcement agencies, the economy, the political landscape at the time. That is only naming some of the many factors that are in play even before there is a plea offering or a trial. All along the way these factors do indeed influence whether justice will be served or denied.

We are all human beings that while we think we try our best not to, we bring our own cognitive biases into play. The goal is to counter these factors by not allowing any of them to dominate the investigation. It is not an easy undertaking; however through counter measures such as training, education, and public awareness, many can be minimized. The heavy burden cannot be solely placed on a defendant to prove his or her innocence after being indicted.

At first glance, the Fleming case appeared to have been flawed by the police. How could they not investigate the leads provided by the witness who was in close proximity to the shooting? How could they believe one eye-witness that was 427 feet away, at night, through bars on the windows, without her glasses for distance, through trees positively identify Fleming? When she tried to tell the truth and recant, how could the judge then dismiss her as not being truthful? What about all the independent witnesses Bob and I found 24 years later who were there and never spoken to by any member of the criminal justice system. How could they continue to cram Fleming into this crime when he was in Florida?

The answer is Fleming’s wrongful conviction did not happen because of detectives’ tunnel vision. This case is about the District Attorney’s ADA and staff turning away from seeking the truth towards orchestrating many lies and hiding evidence to fit their theory.

celebratingManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey. .  Management Resources is a member of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Associated Licensed Detectives of New York, and Founding Members and Regional Directors of Investigating Innocence.

Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin are available for interviews or speaking engagements.  Contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-08509 or email contact@imaginepublicity.com