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David Faulkner

Other Maryland Murder Exonerations
At about 3:00 p.m. on January 5, 1987, a neighbor discovered the body of 64-year-old Adeline Wilford in the kitchen of Wilford’s farmhouse off Kingston Road near Easton, Maryland. She had been stabbed to death.

When Maryland State Police arrived, they found Wilford’s car parked in the driveway. There was enough space between her car and the porch for another car to have parked there. The officers found Wilford lying face up on the kitchen floor, wearing a blue wool coat. She had a pair of glasses on a cord around her neck. Her keys hung in the lock of the back door leading into the kitchen, and bags of groceries were on the kitchen table. She had numerous stab wounds to her arms and hands—apparently defensive wounds—and face, and a large butcher knife was embedded in her face. Her fingernails were scraped at the autopsy, and the scrapings were preserved.

A ground-floor window that led to a utility room was propped open with a stick. Given that it was a cold day in January, officers suspected this was the entry point for whoever committed the murder.

The home had been ransacked. Dressers had been opened and contents scattered about. Wilford’s tan pocketbook was missing, as was her diamond and sapphire ring, and her wallet containing credit cards and an unknown amount of cash. The officers lifted latent fingerprints and palm prints from various places in the home, including the exterior of the utility room window and a washing machine in the utility room.

Police discovered that at 2:10 p.m. that day, a bank security system photographed Wilford as she drove her car through the drive-through lane. Police believed that Wilford returned home while the home was being burglarized and was stabbed to death after she entered.

There were no suspects. The police were unable to determine who had left the latent palm prints on the exterior of the utility room window and on the washing machine in the utility room. The Maryland Automated Fingerprint Identification System (“MAFIS”) did not exist in 1987. Thus, the only way to search the latent prints at that time was by manually comparing them with prints known to belong to specific people of interest. The palm prints found on the exterior of the utility room window and on the washing machine did not belong to Wilford or to any of the 300 other individuals whose prints were checked. Moreover, none of the stolen items turned up in pawnshops.

Among those police interviewed immediately following the murder was Danny Keene, who reported that, on the day of the murder, he saw a silver Oldsmobile Cutlass backed up against Wilford’s home at approximately 2:00 p.m. The car Keene said he saw was a different make and model than Wilford’s car that was present when police arrived on the day of the crime. The police officer who prepared a written report of Keene’s interview did not include the time of the sighting in the report. The time at which Keene spotted the Oldsmobile Cutlass was a critical detail never disclosed by the prosecution.

A $10,000 reward for information was offered two days after the murder and later increased to $25,000. However, no information of value came forth.

More than four years later, on August 6, 1991, an article in the Easton Star-Democrat quoted police saying that they were at the crime scene within minutes after the murder and still had found nothing. The article mentioned the $25,000 reward.

The following day, August 7, 1991, James Brooks contacted police. He said that his friend, William “Boozie” Thomas, had told him that Thomas and Ty Brooks (who were not related to James Brooks) burglarized Wilford’s home and that Thomas stabbed Wilford to death with a butcher knife. James Brooks gave a handwritten statement in February 1992 stating:

“One summer evening of the year 1990 I was out on a drinking binge. I met up with Boozie Thomas…. [H]e asked me if I knew Adaline [sic] C Woolford [sic] the lady that was murdered in her house… [H]e asked me what did I know about it. I said that from what I heard she knew a little self-defense so who ever killed her had to be either real strong or caught her by surprise. [H]e told me he did it and I called him a liar. I laughed for a while then he said that he was going to tell me something and that I was to tell no one for if I did and he found out then he would know that I told so I agreed. [H]e said that him and a guy named Ty Brooks were in her house stealing and the lady came home early on them[.] [H]e had borrowed his sister’s car[.] [Ms. Wilford] noticed the car parked near her house and wrote the tag # of the car down before she entered the house. [H]e took a butcher knife I believed hid behind the kitchen door when she came in he stabbed her to death and left her for dead.”

Police learned that both Thomas and Ty Brooks fit a psychological profile that police had created, and that both were physically capable of committing the crime in the manner that James Brooks had described. In addition, police learned that Thomas, who had a prior conviction for armed robbery, and Ty Brooks were involved in burglaries during the time period when Wilford was killed. Both were also abusing drugs and alcohol at the time of the murder.

James Brooks took a polygraph examination on February 10, 1992. The administering officers “felt that [James Brooks] might have been more directly involved in the crime” than he had reported. Police wanted James Brooks to take another polygraph, but they could not find him. The officers believed they needed to get additional information from James Brooks before they approached William Thomas and Ty Brooks.

However, no such information was obtained, and police never questioned Thomas or Ty Brooks. There was no attempt to compare palm prints from Thomas or Ty Brooks with the palm prints found on the window and the washing machine.

The murder was still unsolved on December 30, 1999, when Wilford’s son, Charles Curry Wilford, asked state police Corporal John Bollinger to reopen the investigation. Wilford told Bollinger that a retired state police officer said “information existed from a potential witness which indicated possible suspects in this case.”

On January 14, 2000, Bollinger contacted that potential witness—Beverly Haddaway—who, it turned out, had spoken to police on two prior occasions about the murder. In September 1987, she had told an Easton police officer that she had information about the murder, but she did not name any suspects. In 1994, after her son Shawn Haddaway was charged with criminal offenses, Beverly Haddaway spoke with state Trooper Roger Layton and claimed that she saw three men—David Faulkner, Jonathan Smith, and Ray Andrews—in the area of the Wilford home on the day of the murder. Apparently, police had not investigated Haddaway’s allegations.

During the meeting with Bollinger, Haddaway said that she was driving with a friend, Thomas Marshall, near the intersection of Black Dog Alley and Kingston Road when she saw Smith, her then-17-year-old nephew. She said he was with then-22-year-old David Faulkner and Ray Andrews. Wilford’s home was about 2½ to three miles from the intersection.

Haddaway claimed that she saw the three walking out of a corn field onto Black Dog Alley. She said she stopped and spoke with them. She said that Smith’s shirt had blood splatters on it, and he had blood smears on both arms. When she asked Smith where the blood on him had come from, Smith said a dog had tried to bite him, and he had killed the dog. According to Haddaway, a pickup truck approached from behind her. She said Smith, Faulkner, and Andrews got into the truck and left.

Haddaway said she resumed driving on Black Dog Alley, and moments later heard sirens. She said she saw several police vehicles and an ambulance turn onto Kingston Road, the road on which Wilford lived.

Following this interview, Haddaway agreed to surreptitiously record a conversation with Smith on April 11, 2000. In that conversation, Haddaway said she had heard “something in the wind.”

She asked, “You know that day I seen you on Kingston Road when that old woman got murdered and you told me the dog bit you and you stabbed it. Who killed the old woman, you? You told me you did.”

“I don’t know,” Smith replied.

“I think David [Faulkner] done it,” Haddaway said. “Why was he wearing your coat?”

“I don’t know,” Smith said.

“You’re laughing,” Haddaway said. “Why did he?”

Smith again said, “I don’t know.”

Haddaway pressed him. “I just wanted to know before I died. I always think that David done it. You? You said you did. Why are you laughing?”

“I didn’t do nothing like that,” Smith replied.

“Why were you in that field with blood all over you and no coat?” Haddaway asked. “You said that blood come off of a dog, but I think that you held her and David killed her. Or one of you three done it.”

“They never found out yet have they?” Smith said.

Haddaway responded, “I know. That’s why I want to know before I die. I seen you, did I ever tell anybody? You know I ain’t going to tell, God damn you’re my blood. I just wanted to know if you done it. I didn’t really think you did. I think crazy David did.

“They could of,” Smith said. “It’s a secret when one person knows it. Ain’t a secret when two people know.”

“Well, all three of you know,” Haddaway said.

“What? There’s only two of us,” Smith said.

“It was you and Ray and David,” Haddaway said.

“Ray wasn’t there until after it was over,” Smith said.

“Where was he?” Haddaway asked.

“Down the road,” Smith said.

“Ray was right with you in the Goddamn field,” Haddaway retorted.

“That was after it was all done with,” Smith said.

Haddaway asked why Wilford was killed and Smith said, “I don’t know. I can’t remember.”

Haddaway said, “Jonathan you’re lying because you’re laughing.”

Smith said, "I can’t remember."

“I ain’t never told nobody in 12 God damn years,” Haddaway said. “I just wanted to know.”

“She had money,” Smith said. He added, “That was a long time, I don’t even remember it no more.”

“You done it,” Haddaway said. “You said you did before. Why did you kill her?”

“I knew she had money,” Smith said.

“Well, what the hell did you do with it Jonathan?” Haddaway asked. “It must not have been much because you still walk to Cambridge or hitchhiked or went with David.”

“You can’t spend it all in one pile,” Smith said. “It’s gone now. Spend a little bit here and a little bit there. You can’t spend that much, that's how people will talk. I figured it was enough to buy two Ford Explorers.”

“Did they get any?” Haddaway asked.

“We split it three ways,” Smith said.

Asked how much he got, Smith said his share was $60,000.

Smith went on to say that he had given his coat to Faulkner to wear and that it had blood on it because he had cut himself.

“He cut his own self?” Haddaway asked.

“Just about,” Smith said. “That’s what it looked like. She was asleep…she woke up”

“So you both stabbed her?” Haddaway asked.

“Uh-huh,” Smith said.

On April 25, 2000, police brought Smith, Faulkner, and Andrews in for questioning and to execute search warrants for hair and saliva samples and palm prints. Faulkner made no admissions of involvement in the crime.

According to a report of Andrews’s interrogation, Andrews, during questioning by Bollinger and another officer, said that he, Faulkner, and Smith walked from Smith’s house in Easton, up Matthewstown Road to a friend’s home at Swann Haven Trailer Park. Upon arrival, Smith and Faulkner said something to the friend about “rob or robbing.” According to Andrews, the three men left the friend’s residence and walked several miles: first down Black Dog Alley, then they turned onto Kingston Road and walked down that road past the Wilford farmhouse down to the bridge over King’s Creek. The three then turned around and walked back toward Wilford’s house. Andrews said he waited at the edge of woods off Kingston Road, while Smith and Faulkner walked across a field to the farmhouse. Andrews said that he saw Smith and Faulkner go around to the back of the house, then he lost sight of them.

Andrews then saw a vehicle pull up the driveway of the residence. Approximately 20 minutes later, according to Andrews, he saw Smith and Faulkner running from the house toward the woods. Once at the woods, Smith and Faulkner told Andrews to run. Andrews saw blood on Smith’s shirt. The three made their way back to Black Dog Alley, where they came upon Haddaway. Andrews said he heard Smith tell Haddaway that he had been attacked by a dog. After the conversation with Haddaway, according to Andrews, the three walked back to Matthewstown Road and then to Smith’s house in Easton. Andrews said he did not recall if they were picked up on Matthewstown Road by anyone or not. Once at Smith’s house, according to Andrews, Smith changed his bloody shirt. Smith and Faulkner then pulled money from their pockets, which Andrews estimated to be approximately $300-$400. Andrews reported that the next day, when news broke of the murder, Smith told Andrews to keep his mouth shut about what had happened.

Smith was questioned by two teams of officers over a period of approximately six to seven hours. Starting at about 1:15 p.m., Smith was questioned for approximately two hours. He denied any involvement in the crime. Smith then sat in the lockup for several hours. At about 6:45 p.m., Bollinger and another officer began interrogating Smith. They tried to get Smith to hear the recording of his conversation with Haddaway, but Smith was unable to hear it due a serious hearing impairment.

According to a two-page report that Bollinger wrote, “[u]pon further questioning,” Smith confessed to having broken into Wilford’s home with Faulkner, while Andrews waited outside. Bollinger said Smith said Wilford came home while he and Faulkner were in the house. At that point, according to Bollinger’s report, Smith saw Faulkner stab Wilford several times. Bollinger said Smith claimed that Wilford fell into him during the attack, causing blood to get on his shirt.

None of the latent prints found at the scene – including the palm prints on the utility room window and washing machine – were associated with Smith, Faulkner, or Andrews.

All three were charged with burglary and murder that same day—April 25, 2000.

After the charges were filed, DNA testing was performed on the fingernail scrapings taken from Wilford. All three and Wilford were excluded as sources of the DNA found in the scrapings.

All three were ordered to stand trial separately. Andrews was scheduled to go first. However, on February 13, 2001, he entered an Alford plea to a charge of involuntary manslaughter—meaning he did not admit guilt, but only that the prosecution had evidence sufficient to obtain a conviction. Andrews also agreed to testify for the prosecution.

On February 27, 2001, Smith went to trial in Talbot County Circuit Court. The prosecution presented testimony from a fingerprint expert who said he was unable to connect any of the prints found at the scene of the murder with anyone.

Andrews testified similarly to the report of his interrogation. Haddaway testified that she was driving with Susan Fitzhugh—not Thomas Marshall, as she had said earlier—on Black Dog Alley when she saw Smith, Faulkner and Andrews walk out of the corn field.

She said Faulkner’s glasses were broken, and she saw drops of blood on Smith’s shirt. She said Smith told her they had killed a dog. She noted that Faulkner was wearing Smith’s coat, and because Smith was much taller than Faulkner, the sleeves covered Faulkner’s hands.

She admitted that she had received $10,000 of the reward, which she called a deposit toward the full $25,000 reward.

The jurors heard the surreptitious recording of Haddaway’s conversation with Smith, and Bollinger and other officers testified about Smith’s statements during interrogation.

Michael Snow, a jailhouse informant, testified that when he was housed with Smith, he asked Smith if he had killed Wilford. Snow said Smith looked at him and said, “Uh-hum.” Snow said that “sent chills down my back.” Snow said Smith told him that Wilford startled him when she came into the house. “[H]e was fighting with her trying to get away and then she bit him,” Snow testified. “He said when she bit him…he went crazy.” Snow admitted that he was awaiting sentencing on federal bank robbery charges.

Smith testified and denied making any incriminating statements to Snow. He admitted making inculpatory statements to Haddaway and Bollinger, but said the statements were false. Smith said he made false admissions to Bollinger after an officer threatened him with lethal injection during his initial interrogation, and Bollinger told him he would never see his family again unless he confessed.

Bollinger and Trooper Jack McCauley, who conducted the initial interrogation, denied they threatened Smith.

On March 1, 2001, the jury convicted Smith of burglary and murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.

On April 3, 2001, Faulkner went to trial in Talbot County Circuit Court. For the first time, Susan Fitzhugh testified that she was riding with Haddaway on Black Dog Alley when they saw Smith, Faulkner and Andrews walk out of a corn field. She said that Faulkner had blood on his pants, and that Smith had blood on his shirt, pants and boots. Fitzhugh said that during their conversation, Smith showed her a hunting knife and said they had just killed a deer. Smith said they were heading to town to get a friend to come back and get the deer.

She said she saw nothing unusual and that later that night, at Smith’s grandmother’s house, she saw Smith and Faulkner “fighting and arguing and wrestling” with each other.

Haddaway again testified and added significant new details. For the first time, she said she saw blood on Faulkner’s pants from his kneecaps “down over his white tennis shoes and all over his tennis shoes.” Blood also was smeared on his face, she said.

At Smith’s trial, she had said Faulkner’s hands were covered by Smith’s oversized coat. Now she said that she saw Faulkner was wearing black gloves. She also testified that she was at her mother’s home later that evening where she saw Smith, Faulkner and Andrews. She also said she saw money and a piece of jewelry on the dining room table, and that she heard Faulkner say that Smith and Andrews were not going to get any money.

Andrews again testified and provided the same account he had given to police and at Smith’s trial.

Another jailhouse informant, Norman Jacobs, testified that he was housed with Smith and Faulkner at the Talbot County Detention Center. Jacobs was awaiting trial on federal drug charges. Jacobs said Faulkner told him that he and Smith had stabbed “the lady” after she came into the house. Jacobs said he heard Smith and Faulkner arguing over who “did the most stabbing.” Jacobs said that Faulkner said the woman bit Smith on the finger during the struggle and that Faulkner left no evidence because he had worn gloves. Jacobs admitted that in return for his testimony, he had pled guilty to the robbery charges and received a lenient sentence.

The jury was informed that none of the palm prints or fingerprints were linked to any of the defendants and that the DNA found in the fingernail scrapings did not come from any of the defendants or from Wilford.

The defense presented records showing that Faulkner was paid for 46 hours of work for the week that included Monday, January 5, 1987, the day of the crime. He worked at Tidewater Publishing Corporation in Centreville, Maryland, about a 30-minute drive from Wilford’s home. There were no time cards still available. He was not marked absent on January 5, 1987, although other employees had been, which the defense suggested was evidence that Faulkner was at work that day.

On April 6, 2001, the jury convicted Faulkner of burglary and murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Smith’s and Faulkner’s convictions were upheld on appeal.

In 2011 and 2012, the Innocence Project and the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project filed public information act requests on behalf of Smith and Faulkner. In response, the state police turned over several previously undisclosed recorded conversations between Bollinger and Haddaway in February 2001. During the conversations, Haddaway threatened to testify favorably for Smith and Faulkner unless the prosecution dismissed drug charges pending against her grandson, Landon Janda. The defense learned for the first time that the prosecution had indeed dismissed the drug charges on February 9, 2001, just days before Andrews’s trial was scheduled to begin. The defense also learned of the previously undisclosed statement by Danny Keene that he had seen an Oldsmobile at Wilford’s house at about 2 p.m. on the day of the murder.

Motions were filed to reopen post-conviction proceedings for Faulkner and Smith. In addition, Faulkner, whose legal team was led by attorney John Chesley, and Smith filed a motion requesting that the latent prints be submitted to MAFIS. After first opposing this motion, the prosecution, in October 2013, asked that the prints be submitted. Alexander Mankevich, a Maryland State Police latent print examiner, who had testified at Smith’s and Faulkner’s trials, entered the palm prints into the system. After receiving a computer-generated list of potential suspects, Mankevich concluded that Ty Brooks—who had been first implicated in 1997—was the source of the palm print on the window and the washing machine at Wilford’s home.

In the summer of 2015, Smith and Faulkner filed petitions for writs of actual innocence. The petitions were based on the identification of Ty Brooks as the source of the fingerprints, the previously undisclosed conversations between Haddaway and Bollinger, and the previously undisclosed statement by Danny Keene.

A hearing was held over seven days in April 2016 in Talbot County Circuit Court. James Brooks testified that in 1991 he told police about his conversation with William Thomas during which Thomas claimed that Thomas and Ty Brooks had committed the crime.

When ssked where Thomas said he stabbed Wilford, James Brooks said, “It might have been in the back.”

A state police officer testified that an investigation had found no connection between Smith and Faulkner and either Thomas or Ty Brooks.

Thomas was called as a witness, but he refused to testify, and invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The defense presented the palmprint evidence as well as evidence that Ty Brooks had pled guilty in May 1987—four months after the murder—to charges of burglary, theft and battery arising from incidents in Easton in October 1986, February 1987 and March 1987. Records showed that when arrested in March 1987, Ty Brooks was in an Oldsmobile. In some of the burglaries, he entered through windows.

The defense presented evidence that over time, Haddaway and Bollinger had spoken several hundred times. Bollinger began secretly recording some of their conversations. During one recording, Haddaway told Bollinger that unless her grandson’s charges were dismissed, she would testify for the defendants. “You can go get the newspaper to start printing: Three People Found Innocent,” she declared.

Danny Keene testified that he saw an Oldsmobile parked next to Wilford’s home around 2 p.m. on the day of the crime. He said he gave the time to the police officer who took his statement. The defense noted that the time was in the officer’s notes, but was not in the report that was turned over to the defense prior to trial.

On June 21, 2016, Judge Stephen Kehoe denied the petitions. Judge Kehoe ruled Smith and Faulkner had not proved their innocence.

In 2017, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed that ruling and held that the Ty Brooks palm print evidence, the Haddaway-Bollinger records, and the Keene evidence all “speak to” their innocence. The case was remanded and a three-day hearing was held in January 2018. Ty Brooks was called to testify. He refused to answer questions and asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

A state police officer testified that she interviewed Ty Brooks in February 2015. Brooks denied breaking into Wilford’s house. He did admit to committing multiple burglaries in Easton around the time of the murder, saying he had “terrorized Easton.”

Ultimately, In May 2018, the petitions were denied a second time. The judge concluded that Ty Brooks was lying when he said he had never been in Wilford’s house, but also concluded that James Brooks’s account of the confession by “Boozie” Thomas that Thomas and Ty Brooks had committed the crime had holes that rendered it unreliable. The judge also concluded that Keene’s testimony would not have been valuable to the defense. The judge reasoned that there was no car parked outside when Wilford got home because no person would walk in and put groceries down on the kitchen table if there was any hint of an intruder inside.

Faulkner and Smith appealed. In June 2019, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the denial of the petitions.

Faulkner and Smith both filed petitions asking the Court of Special Appeals to take another look at the case. In September 2019, the petitions were granted and the case was re-argued. In April 2020, the Court of Special Appeals granted the petitions for a writ of actual innocence, vacated Smith’s and Faulkner’s convictions, and ordered a new trial.

“[W]e conclude that the Ty Brooks palm print match and related evidence warrant the granting of Smith’s and Faulkner’s actual innocence petitions,” the court declared.

On February 3, 2021, the prosecution decided not to retry the case against Faulkner and agreed to dismiss the charges if Faulkner remained arrest-free for one year.

The prosecution said it intended to retry Smith. On April 21, 2021, Smith entered an Alford plea to first-degree felony murder and burglary. In return, his sentence was suspended, and he was released on five years of probation.

On February 3, 2022, because Faulkner had remained arrest-free, the charges against him were dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/15/2022
Last Updated: 3/15/2022
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Burglary/Unlawful Entry
Reported Crime Date:1987
Sentence:Life without parole
Age at the date of reported crime:22
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No