On February 13, 1987, a burglary alarm was triggered at Hoefer's Drug Store in Cleveland, Ohio. Two security officers arrived and one went inside, where he saw a figure climb back up through a hole that had been cut in the roof.
The second guard, who remained outside, said he saw a man jump from the roof and run toward some nearby homes. Both guards said they had seen this man, and that he was wearing overalls and a knit hat.
About the same time, two Cleveland Police Department Strike Force Detectives, Thomas Scharf and Gary Dzik, arrived and began searching for the burglar. Scharf later testified that he saw a man wearing overalls and a knit cap on the roof and ordered him to “freeze.” The man ignored him and began firing a gun, he said.
Scharf said he fired back and the suspect jumped from the roof and escaped.
Police discovered that the store’s pharmaceutical department had been ransacked. Drugs were found on the roof, along with tools apparently used to cut through the roof.
Investigators checked hospitals in the area in hopes that the perpetrator might have injured himself while jumping from the roof of the building. Records at St. John's Hospital showed that 41-year-old George Seiber had received treatment two days after the incident for a skull fracture and fractures of his left heel and right middle toe.
A composite sketch was made of the perpetrator and published in the local newspapers and two informants came forward and implicated Seiber in the crime.
Seiber, a roofer by trade, had an extensive prior record of convictions for breaking and entering, theft and possession of burglary tools. He was arrested on February 26, 1987. During a search of his apartment, police found two pairs of heavy work overalls, a pry bar, and two .357-caliber magnum bullets. Subsequent testing could not link either the clothing or the bullets to the crime.
In June 1987, Seiber went on trial before a jury in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. Detective Scharf identified Seiber as the man with whom he exchanged gunfire.
A nurse at St. John's Hospital testified that Seiber was wearing overalls and a knit hat the day of his treatment—two days after the break-in—and that his injuries appeared to be 20 to 30 hours old.
Edward Parker, an inmate at the county jail, said that in the past he had sold drugs that Seiber had stolen in pharmacy burglaries and that he had seen tools, similar to those found on the roof, at Seiber’s apartment.
Seiber denied involvement in the crime and said he did not own or wear the overalls found in his apartment. His neighbor testified that Seiber had injured himself falling from his apartment building. The neighbor said that Seiber was locked out of his apartment and attempted to enter his second floor apartment window, approximately fourteen feet from the ground, when he fell and was injured.
On June 17, 1987, Seiber was convicted of assault on a police officer, theft of drugs and possession of criminal tools. He was sentenced to 10 to 25 years in prison.
After his conviction was upheld on appeal, Seiber filed a motion for a new trial. The motion alleged that the prosecution had failed to disclose a police report indicating that the suspect seen on the roof was half the petitioner's age, and that nothing else was known about his physical features. The motion also said the prosecution failed to disclose that they had promised to transfer Parker’s probation out of state in return for his testimony.
At an evidentiary hearing, Parker testified that he had lied at the trial when he said Seiber had burgled pharmacies with his roofing tools.
Parker testified that a detective showed the tools to him, and he realized that if he could place the tools in Seiber’s hands, he might get help in forgery, uttering and drug charges that were pending against him. Parker said he was high on drugs at the time of the interview and that the officer told him that he would help him if he could.
Parker said that after implicating Seiber, he was placed on probation. He also testified that he spoke with a prosecutor who said he would get his probation transferred.
The prosecutor testified that he did ask Parker’s probation officer to transfer the probation, and it was transferred. The prosecutor conceded he had not disclosed this to Seiber’s defense attorney.
Following the hearing, Seiber was granted a new trial. The state appealed and the conviction was reinstated by the Court of Appeals for Cuyahoga County.
Denied review by the Ohio Supreme Court, Seiber then filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. A U.S. District Court judge rejected the petition, but in July 1998, the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed and ordered a new trial.
The court held that the prosecution’s promise to help Parker transfer his probation was relevant to his credibility and should have been disclosed to the defense. The failure to disclose the police report prevented the defense from confronting the detective about the man he saw on the roof of the pharmacy, the court ruled.
On June 14, 1999, the case was dismissed and Seiber was released.
– Maurice Possley