At 9:40 p.m. on February 28, 1993, a man identifying himself as “Don” telephoned an order to Hungry Howie’s pizza restaurant in Livonia, Michigan, but never came to pick up the pizza.
When the restaurant workers, Anne Ledda and Paul McMurray, were closing up shortly before 10:30 p.m., a man came in with a gun demanding money, claiming he was a “Satanist” and threatening to kill them.
McMurray was herded into a walk-in cooler and Ledda directed the robber to the day’s receipts which were tucked behind a large oven. She later said the robber touched the side of the oven while retrieving the money and then left.
They described the robber as a heavy-set black man in his early 20’s, about 5’6” to 5’8” tall with bulging eyes and chubby cheeks.
When police investigated the phone number that showed up on the caller ID for the 9:40 call (a different number than the call-back number left by “Don”), they discovered it was registered to 28-year-old Kurtis DeAngelo Showers at the apartment where his ex-girlfriend lived. Ledda had called the number twice when no one came to get the pizza and both times was told by the person who answered that no one by the name of “Don” lived there and no one there had ordered a pizza.
Police put a picture of Showers in a photo array and Ledda and McMurray picked him out. At the time, Showers was 180 pounds and six feet tall.
Showers was arrested on March 1, 1993 and charged with armed robbery, carrying a firearm during a felony, and habitual offender. He had several prior convictions for theft-related crimes, but none involving the use of a firearm.
By the time Showers went on trial in March 1994, his attorney, Cynthia Hathaway, had discovered that Showers’ ex-girlfriend had a new boyfriend, Donald Booth, who often stayed at her home. She arranged for Booth to be in the courtroom in an attempt to see if Ledda or McMurray would recognize him when they testified, but Booth left before they came to the stand. Hathaway’s motion to have Booth arrested and brought back was denied.
The prosecution’s case rested on the testimony of Ledda and McMurray. An evidence technician testified that four palm prints were found on the side of the oven. Two were Ledda’s and the other two were “too smeared” to identify, he said.
On March 17, Showers was convicted of the charges and sentenced to life in prison.
While the case was on appeal, Ed Davis, a retired police forensics expert who was working at Wayne State University, re-examined the fingerprints and determined that the assessment that two were Ledda’s was correct. The two that were said to be smeared were in fact readable and matched neither Showers nor Booth.
Showers’ attorney also discovered that a few months after the Howie’s robbery, Booth had been arrested for the armed robbery of a restaurant. Victims in that case said the robbery told them he was a “satanist” and threatened to kill them.
A motion to remand the case from the Michigan Court of Appeals for a hearing on the new evidence was denied on August 21, 1995. However, on December 5, 1995, the Michigan Supreme Court granted the remand.
On February 6, 1996, a motion for new trial was filed and hearing was held in March, 1996. Despite the fingerprint evidence, the motion was denied. The Court of Appeals upheld the denial, but on July 15, 1997, the Supreme Court set aside the conviction on the basis of newly discovered evidence.
On June 26, 1998, the conviction and sentence were formally vacated. On July 20, 1998, the case was dismissed because the prosecution had failed to bring the case to trial and Showers was released.
– Maurice Possley