On Saturday, February 7, 2009, Thomas Foley, 40, took his 10-year-old son Heath and one of Heath’s friends to a birthday party near the family’s farm in Coldwater, Michigan. He told friends there that his 41-year-old wife, Dee Dee, would arrive later. But when she did not show up after a couple of hours, Foley went home, where he discovered her nude body fatally shot in the head in a first floor shower.
Foley told police that earlier in the day, he and his wife took Heath to a basketball game in Marshall, Michigan and then went shopping in Battle Creek before returning home. Heath told police that before they went to the birthday party, he was playing with his friend when he heard a loud crash inside the house. Foley said that he had dropped a window frame that he was carrying to the family’s barn, causing the loud noise.
Foley said he cleaned up the glass and shortly before 4 p.m., he took the boys to the party, expecting that Dee Dee would arrive later. When she did not arrive, he said he went home, and after finding her body in the shower, called police.
On March 6, 2009, Foley was arrested and charged with murder and illegal use of a weapon, although the murder weapon—a shotgun—was never found.
He went on trial before a Branch County Circuit Court jury in November 2009. Prosecutors contended that Foley had killed his wife because their marriage was crumbling and because Foley, who was not employed, would receive $280,000 in life insurance.
A detective testified that Foley became a suspect almost immediately because he said that after he found his wife’s body, he turned off the shower, but in fact the shower was dry when investigators arrived.
Evidence showed that portions of the house had been ransacked and that credit cards, a video game and other items were missing—although expensive electronic items remained. A window on a back door had been broken. The credit cards were found later at a gas station in Branch County, Michigan.
The detective testified that police believed Foley killed his wife, took the boys to the party, then returned home and ransacked the home himself.
Dee Dee Foley’s brother testified that several months earlier, a shotgun had been taken from his home. He said he had not reported it to police because he believed a family member or a friend had taken it.
Police found a plastic bag containing three shotgun shells in the basement of the Foley’s home. Although there were no fingerprints on the shells, the print of Foley’s right index finger was found on the outside of the bag.
A forensic analyst testified that she identified a small stain of Dee Dee’s blood on Foley’s shirt that was not from a blood spatter, but from contact with blood. According to testimony, Dee Dee had been shot at short range, with the gun about six inches from her head when fired. However, no gunpowder, blood spatter or other physical evidence was found on Foley or his clothing as might be expected in a close-contact killing.
A teacher at a school in nearby Union City, where Dee Dee Foley also was a teacher, testified that in the months before the murder, Foley told her his marriage was troubled and he had romantic feelings for her, which she rejected. Later, she said, Foley told her that he and his wife were working things out and that he had sought counseling.
Foley testified in his own defense and denied killing his wife. He said he and his wife had ironed out their difficulties and that their marriage was solid.
The jury convicted Foley murder and use of a weapon to commit a felony on November 27, 2009. He was sentenced to life in prison.
A week later, Foley’s lawyer filed a motion for a new trial, contending that new witnesses had come forward with information. One witness said that at 4:45 p.m. she saw an older model white car coming quickly out of the Foley driveway. The driver, she said, appeared to be 18 to 20 years old. Another witness said that at 4 p.m. she noticed a white car, possibly a 1990’s model, parked in the driveway of the Foley home behind Dee Dee’s car. And the third witness said that about 3:30 p.m., he saw a dark sport utility vehicle parked near the barn and knew it was not a vehicle owned by the Foley family.
On March 24, 2010, Judge Conrad Sindt granted the motion for new trial, ruling that the new evidence could have tipped the case in favor of an acquittal.
The Court of Appeals of Michigan upheld Sindt’s ruling in January 2011 and Foley went on trial again in July 2011.
At the trial, jurors credited the witness testimony about the white vehicle at the home as well as a photograph taken by police of a shard of glass that detectives found outside the home where Foley said he had dropped the window pane. The photograph was not presented to the jury in Foley’s first trial. On July 30, 2011, after nine hours of deliberation, the jury acquitted Foley and he was released.
– Maurice Possley