William Darin Irvan possibly innocent in Texas
Innocent in Prison Project International - iippi.org
Case No: 864,928
Date of the Crime: February 14, 1987
Date of Conviction: December 5, 2003
Sentence: Death Penalty
for one count of capital murder.
Course of Proceedings
On January 3, 2001, William Darin Irvan was
charged by indictment with the offense of murder of Michelle
Shadbolt on or about February 14, 1987, by stabbing her with a
knife during the commission or attempt to commit aggravated
sexual assault, in violation of Tex. Penal Code Secs.
19.02(b)(1) and 19.03(a)(2). Approximately three years later and
sixteen (16) years after her death, Irvan was convicted by a
jury of the offense of capital murder, as charged in the
indictment. The jury then answered three statutory special
issues, "Yes," "Yes," and "No," resulting in the mandatory
imposition of the death penalty.
A direct appeal of Irvan's conviction and
sentence followed in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeal. On
appeal, Mr. Irvan challenged the sufficiency of the evidence
against him. On June 7, 2006 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
affirmed Mr. Irvan's conviction and sentence. William Darin
Irvan v. State of Texas, No. AP-74,853, WL (Delivered, June
7, 2006) (unpublished).
Statement of Facts - The Trial
Kathy Masters testified that on
February 14, 1987, the victim, Michelle Shadbolt, who had been
married to Jack Shadbolt, was living alone with her young
daughter, Ashley. Michelle and her husband had been separated
for approximately six weeks. She had brought her daughter to
Master's home at approximately 5:30 p.m. on February 13, 1987
and had agreed to return the next morning at 7:00 a.m. to pick
up her daughter. Masters became concerned when Michelle did not
arrive at her home as agreed and went to Michelle's home to
check up on her stepdaughter. Masters discovered that the front
door was unlocked and observed Michelle with her throat cut
lying on the floor.
Deputy William Hilden, of the Harris
County Sheriff's Department (HCSD) was dispatched to
Michelle's home. The deceased was lying on her left side wearing
only a T-shirt which had been pulled over her shoulders. There
appeared to be blood everywhere. Hilden spoke with Masters,
secured the scene, and made a phone call to Mary Sengbusch, a
friend of Michelle, who had spent the previous evening with her,
playing bingo. Sengbusch had last seen and talked to Michelle
around 2:50 a.m. on February 14, as she returned to her home
following the bingo game.
Michael Masters testified that he had
known Mr. Irvan since the age of three as they had grown up in
the same neighorhood; Irvan's house was "catty-corner across the
street," from Michelle, Master's sister. After arriving at her
home, upon request of the police, Masters saw Irvan outside. At
the time, Irvan was wearing a long-sleeved shirt. Irvan tried to
comfort Masters, and cried along with him as they sat on the
Masters also observed Jack Shadbolt,
Michelle's estranged husband, at the scene "at some point that
same morning," and also heard Jack crying. Masters testified
that before that morning he had not known that his sister and
Jack had separated and were living apart.
Masters testified that Irvan was a pallbearer
at Shadbolt's funeral, several days following her death.
Additionally, Masters stated that "after the DNA come back on
Jack [Shadbolt] and cleared Jack," Irvan broke down and cried,
"I didn't do it or have anything to do with it." Masters
admitted that he had always suspected Jack Shadbolt, Michelle's
husband, as her killer "prior to the time that he was cleared."
Jacqueline Barrett, Michelle's biological
mother, testified that her daughter married Jack Shadbolt in
April, 1983 and the couple produced a daughter, Ashley. Barrett
stated that because of Jack's "drinking problems," her daughter
had been separated from her husband prior to her death for
approximately six weeks. Barrett also testified that Michelle
had remained in the home on Doverfield with Ashley, while her
husband had moved out to his mother's home. Barrett recounted
that she had last spoken to Michelle on February 11, 1987 and it
was her belief that at the time of her death, her daughter did
not have any interest in dating other men.
Barrett had known Irvan since 1970; he had
grown up in the neighborhood with her own children. Irvan was "compassionate"
to her son Michael. Barrett also noted that, upon request, she
had provided police with the names of possible suspects, Irvan
and Tim Darden, "he was always kind of what I would call
unsavory." Darden hung out with Irvan and appeared "real sneaky".
"I saw him [Darden] up until she was killed and then he
Barrett explained that she had also provided
Irvan's name to police because she knew "he had been around my
kids as they were growing up, and I knew that he had been in
Barrett admitted that she had also suspected
that Jack Shadbolt was the person who had killed her daughter.
At the time of Michelle's death, Barrett asserted that Michelle
and Jack had not reconciled.
Detective Anthony Rossi testified that
in 1987 he had been the lead detective in the investigation.
Walking into the house of the deceased, Rossi observed the foyer
floor heavily stained with blood, and immediately noticed that
there was a shoe print in the blood, possibly from a tennis shoe.
When he closed the front door Rossi noticed blood on the lower
area of the door. The foyer, or entryway was open to the living
room, and as he walked in, Rossi observed the body of Michelle
lying on her left side on the floor, somewhat in the middle of
the living room.
There was blood everywhere and Rossi could
see that the body had multiple stab wounds and a large
laceration on the neck. Next to Shadbolt, was a vacuum cleaner
weighing approximately 20 pounds and some "wadded up newspaper."
The vacuum cord appeared to have been "tangled up" around the
body; the back of the vacuum cleaner bag was somewhat covering
the top of her head and was up against her forehead.
Additionally, close to Michelle's body, Rossi
observed a bloodied trophy, bloodied sofa pillow, a pair of
panties, a two-hole white button on a cushion, a child's patent
leather shoe, a pair of orchid colored shorts, and a butcher
knife with a handle of approximately five inches and an 8-inch
blade underneath the shorts, within two feet of the body.
While Rossi testified that there did not
appear to be any signs of forced entry into Michelle's home, it
was apparent that a serious scuffle or struggle had occurred.
Michelle appeared to exhibit a carpet burn on her right shoulder;
her T-shirt had been pulled off her torso and lay around her
neck exposing her breasts. There was blood on her fingers. Rossi
thought that the trophy, with its bloodiest base, had possibly
been used to bludgeon Michelle. Such use was consistent with
Michelle's apparent head wounds. Rossi also noted that the
televisiion was on when he entered the home; its volume was very
Rossi explained that the clothes Michelle had
worn earlier in the day were piled on the floor of her bedroom.
Thus, she had disrobed immediately upon her return home and had
put on her night clothes, panties, a red shirt and no bra.
Additionally, Michelle was still wearing her jewelry, earrings
and a gold ring.
Rossi observed a butcher block with "a big-bladed
knife missing" in the kitchen. On the counter, Rossi also found
Michelle's purse with a checkbook and $23.50 in currency, as
well as a pledge sheet and currency in the amount of $34.65 with
approximately 21 checks to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Thus,
Rossi did not believe that Michelle had been killed during the
course of a robbery or burglary. Rossi noted that there did not
appear to be any blood in the bedroom or in the kitchen.
In response to questions regarding blood
found along the ring of the toilet bowl in Michelle's bathroom,
Rossi opined that her killer may have used the toilet bowl to
wash off any blood. When the prosecutor pressed him for
additional speculation, asking "what else?" if a sexual assault
had occurred, Rossi answered, "Oh, semen."
Rossi interviewed neighbors and potential
witnesses, canvassing the neighborhood for clues. These included
Sam and Brenda Farquhar, Robert White, Pauline Shadbolt,
Michelle's mother-in-law, and Jack Shadbolt (Michelle's
estranged husband), as well as Mary Sengbusch, Michelle's co-worker
at Shell Oil Co. who had played bingo with Michelle on the night
of her death.
Within a week of the killing, on February 21,
1987, Rossi called Jack Shadbolt, Michelle's estranged husband,
to the Sheriff's Office, so that he could interview him and
"check his alibi" Jack, an alcoholic, was Rossi's prime suspect.
While Jack Shadbolt did answer Rossi's questions at first, he
appeared "very nervous" and his breath reeked of alcohol. Rossi
noted that Shadhold had a "hickey" on his neck at this interview
and asked Jack "who his girlfriend was". Shadbolt did not
provide an answer or respond at all.
On this same occassion, Rossi secured Jack
Shadholt's signed consent for the taking of his saliva, head and
pubic hair, and blood, as well as his fingerprints. However,
when Rossi attempted to get a written statement from Jack about
where he was and what he was doing in the early morning hours of
February 14, Jack only provided about a page and a half of
information. Even during that time, Rossi stated that the latter
appeared very nervous; he kept jumping out of his chair and
walking away without saying anything. Then, Jack Shadbolt
abruptly left the interview, excusing himself to "use the
When Jack had not returned after 15 minutes
or so, Rossi went looking for him. Rossi found him in the lobby
of the building. Jack informed Rossi that he had telephoned an
attorney and was awaiting his arrival. When the attorney arrived,
he spoke briefly with Rossi and departed with Jack. Rossi
understood that both would return and make "a fresh start" on
the uncompleted statement. However, that did not happen. Rossi
could not "clear" Jack Shadbolt as the prime suspect in the
Rossi testified that on May 27, 1987, he
returned to the scene, accompanied by a private investigator,
hired by Michelle's family to see, if they could find anything
the Sheriff's Office had "missed". Rossi walked through the
scene again, took some blood scrapings from the bathroom vanity
and dining room wall, and submitted them to the Texas Department
of Public Safety (DPS) laboratory for blood typing. Additionally,
Rossi requested that possible latent fingerprint samples, also
submitted to the DPS, be compared with those of Jack Shadbolt.
By August 13, 1987, Jack Shadbolt was still a
prime suspect in this case. On that date, Rossi arrested Jack
Shadbolt pursuant to a misdemeanor hot check warrant, as a ruse,
to question him further in this murder case. Jack refused to
answer any questions. Shortly thereafter, Rossi was transferred
to the Internal Affairs Division and did not continue his
investigation in this case. Rossi admitted taht he was never
able to "clear" Jack Shadbolt as the perpetrator in the case.
Rossi admitted that while Jack Shadbolt had
claimed to be together with neighbors, the Farquahrs and the
Whites, throughout the evening of Michelle's death, Rossi
discovered that Shadbolt had parted from their company at 9:30
p.m. There were no witnesses to corroborate Jack Shadbolt's
alibi on the night in question except his mother who admitted
that she could hear her son in the shower on the morning of
February 14, 1987. (Mrs. Shadbolt was not called as a witness in
Upon cross-examination, Rossi admitted that
he knew that complainant and Jack Shadbolt had separated and
that the latter was not living in the home. There was no
evidence of forced entry into the home which indicated to Rossi
that Michelle knew her killer. Rossi also stated that he had
learned in the course of his investigation that Jack Shadbolt
was alcoholic and remained a prime suspect in this case. (Over
the State's hearsay objection regarding the basis of Rossi's
ongoing investigation and consideration of Shadbolt as a prime
suspect, Irvan was precluded from asking Rossi whether he had
discovered that Michelle had informed Shadbolt two (2) days
prior to her death that "they would never get back together.")
Rossi also admitted that while he had
observed the bloody shoe print in the foyer of the crime site,
he was unaware of any attempt by personnel at the scene to
preserve or "collect" the print for later comparison with the
shoes of any other person. As far as he knew, no one ever
attempted to determine the size of the shoe that would have made
the bloody print. While Rossi testified that Deputy Schield
assisted in processing the evidence at the scene, he was unsure
whether multiple "blood spots" observed on the front door were
actually tested to determine whether they were, in fact, human
blood. Rossi opined that based upon the location of possible
blood on the door, it was possible that a scuffle had occurred
with the door open.
Rossi also admitted he did not know whether
Schield had attempted to collect any fingerprints from the
trophy at the scene. Moreover, while the vacuum cleaner cord
found draped around Michelle's body might have been used to
subdue her, Rossi did not see any ligature marks on Michelle's
body or any knots in the vacuum cleaner cord. Rossi said he did
not believe that the vacuum cleaner was used in Michelle's
homicide. Rossi also noted that a "wadded newspaper" at the
scene contained blood and he deduced that "the assailant or the
assailants" had attempted to wipe the blood off their hands
during or immediately after the crime had been committed.
Rossi was unsure whether any attempt had been
made to lift fingerprints from the newspaper or any other
newspapers at the scene for identification of possible suspects.
While Rossi testified that a butcher knife was "probably the
murder weapon", he was unaware of any attempts made to locate
and/or lift fingerprints therefrom.
Rossi stated that Michelle's bedcovers had
been collected by investigators for possible evidence including
blood, semen, pubic hair, head hair, and foreign hair. Rossi
testified that based upon the absence of blood evidence in
Michelle's bedroom, it was possible that sexual intercourse had
occurred in Michelle's bedroom and that her killing had occurred
in another room. Rossi admitted that he did not know whether
a sexual assault of the complainant had, in fact, occurred.
(While he noted that semen was recovered from Michelle during
her autopsy, he agreed that this finding was solely evidence of
the act of sexual intercourse and not necessarily evidence of a
sexual assault.) Rossi did not observe any bruises on
complainant and explained that the allegation of an underlying
possible sexual assault of Michelle was "just a theory".
Upon redirect examination and over objection,
Rossi testified that he "could not separate out the sexual
assault [of Michelle] from [her] killing, that Michelle's shirt
wound around her neck was moved either during a struggle or in
an attempt to subdue her, while the removal of her underwear was
not necessary to commit her killing."
While Rossi agreed that the bloody commode in
Michelle's bathroom may have been used to wash off the
assailant's groin area and that the toilet seat was found up, he
acknowledged that there was no evidence of blood splashed on the
floor surrounding the commode, which would likely have been
there if the assailant had been a rapist and had washed himself
in the commode.
Peter F. Schroedter, HCSD civil
administrator of the automated fingerprint identification system
(A.F.I.S.), testified that in April, 1987, he undertook
fingerprint work in this case, No. 87-027084, to test a knife
and three pieces of a trophy received from Deputy Schield. "The
only thing that was found on that particular object was just
essentially smudges, a print lacking any detail for
identification purposes." Schroedter also analyzed a trophy,
which he received in three cylindrical pieces. Schroedter
developed one print, a portion of a palm, containing ridge
detail with seven or eight characteristics. Schroedter stated
that based upon the number of characteristics, he was not
comfortable making an identification.
Schroedter also testified that post-1987,
other print enhancing techniques had been developed including "the
amino black system," although he did not employ them in this
case. Thus, Schroedter chose to send the "unidentifiable" print
to the FBI for possible identification and comparison with known
prints belonging to Jack Shadbolt. While no identification of
the holder of the print could be made by the FBI despite the
fact that the FBI "recovered" two latent prints, and the print
submitted had remained "unidentified", the FBI examiner was able
to employ the recovered print to eliminate Jack Shadbolt as the
person who had left the print on the trophy. Thus, Schroedter
conceded that the print/prints recovered were good enough to
compare with Irvan's, Timothy Darden's or anybody else's for
Maurita Howarth, former DPS criminalist,
testified that in 1987 she was asked to perform forensic
serology analysis on hair and fluid samples belonging to Jack
Shadbolt. On February 25, 1987, Howarth received five separate
evidence submissions from Rossi of hair and fluid samples
belonging to Jack Shadbolt including a tube of blood, a saliva
sample, and four hair samples. Of the latter, two were pulled
known hairs and tow were combings of loose hairs.
On the following day, Howarth received for
analysis a fitted sheet, a flat sheet, a pillow and pillowcase,
fingernail scrapings from Michelle as well as a pulled pubic
hair and a pulled head hair sample, a packet marked foreign body
material, and six cigarette butts. While Howarth tested the bed
sheet provided, she testified that the testing was solely for
the presence of semen. There was none! No other testing of the
sheet was undertaken.
On March 5, 1987, Howarth received for
analysis additional samples recovered from Michelle in the
course of the performance of her autopsy, including a blood
sample, vaginal, oral and anal swabs. Additionally, on March 12,
1987, Howarth received a sample from a stain from a knife, a
sample of a stain from a piece of trophy, a control sample, a
vial of hair from a knife, and from the wall of Michelle's
dining room area and a scaping from the face of the bathroom
vanity. All of these items were analyzed for body fluids to
determine some of the genetic markers that might have been
Howarth determined that the blood sample from
Jack Shadbolt revealed that he was a "secretor". While Howarth's
analysis of the anal swab from Michelle revealed the presence of
semen, Howarth determined that the semen was that of a "nonsecretor"
and/or was in insufficient quantity to be tested for genetic
markers. Howarth also determined that there was no semen on the
oral swab taken from Michelle. Nor was any semen detected on the
vaginal swab or the bedspread.
Howarth's analysis of fingernail scrapings
from the complainant and scrapings from a knife, trophy, and
sample from the bathroom sink, respectively, revealed the
presence of human blood. However, a vaginal swab from
complainant was found to be inconclusive for the presence of
On cross-examination, Howarth admitted that
while she had undertaken comparison of Jack Shadbolt's blood,
semen, etc., with samples from other known individuals. Moreover,
her analysis above "did not exclude Jack Shadbolt as a
contributor to what was found on the anal swab." Howarth also
noted that while the analysis of Michelle's fingernail scrapings
revealed the presence of hairs, no analysis was undertaken to
determine who the possible contributor might have been.
Randy Schield, HCSD, Identification
Division, testified that on February 14, 1987, he was
dispatched to collect evidence in this case. Schield
photographed the scene and collected evidence, including a
vacuum cleaner, one trophy, one pair of purple shorts, one knife
located under the shorts, a button, several pieces of crumpled
paper, one pair of panties lying under Michelle, one pair of
panties from the couch, one handwritten note from the bathroom,
a sheet and blankets from the bedroom, and some clothing from
the floor next to the bed. Schield documented the scene and
collected some of the blood evidence.
Schield also attended complainant's autopsy,
took additional photographs, and documented her injuries as
follows:"there were numerous stab wounds. There was a cut across
the throat area and the right shoulder or something. There was a
gib scrape. There were some wounds to the top of the head and I
believe one to the back of the neck." Shield noted bruises and
abrasions. Schield also recovered fingernail scrapings from the
complainant, pulled head hair, pulled pubic hair, a vial of
blood, and foreign material from her body. This evidence was
sent for analysis to DPS.
Schield testified that he processed a vacuum
cleaner and crumpled newspapers, recovered from the scene, for
any latent prints. While Schield recovered two latent prints
from the vacuum cleaner which he believed were of a nature that
could not be identified, Schield nevertheless compared them to
those of Jack Shadbolt, Irvan, Michelle and Timothy Darden,
respectively. Schield testified that the prints recovered from
the vacuum cleaner "did not match" those of Jack Shadbolt, that
is, they were not his prints or there were not enough
characteristics with which to compare to the latter's prints, "not
enough to make a comparison or exclusion." Similarly, Schield
asserted that the prints recovered from the vacuum cleaner also
"did not match" those of Michelle or anyone else as they were
not "just not good enough".
Schield testified that he recovered three
prints from the crumpled newspapers "next to the green chair in
the living room," which "were good enough for comparison" and
were also compared with those prints belonging to Jack Shadbolt,
Irvan, Michelle, and Timothy Darden, respectively. They did not
match those of Michelle, Irvan, Jack Shadbolt, or Tim Darden.
Schield recounted that he processed a note
found in Michelle's bathroom (between the commode and the
wastepaper basket) for identifiable prints. A print processed
from the note was compared with those belonging to Jack Shadbolt,
Irvan, Michelle, and Timothy Darden, respectively. It matched
those of Michelle.
Schield stated that he was asked to analyze a
knife and a trophy, previously processed by Schroedter, above,
for possible prints. Schield could not recover any prints from
the knife but recovered one "poor quality" partial palm print
from the trophy. It was then compared to those prints belonging
to Jack Shadbolt, Irvan, Michelle, and Timothy Darden,
respectively. However, Schield explained that he was unable to
effect any identification as to those known prints. "It just
wasn't sufficient enough of a print."
Upon cross-examination, Schield admitted that
on June 21, 1991, Det. Dionn provided him with a known set of
Irvan's palm prints and he was asked to compare those prints to
the partial print recovered from the trophy at the scene. "They
did not match." Additionally, on May 17, 2000, several months
after Irvan had been indicted in this case, Schield again
compared Irvan's prints with the recovered latent print on file.
"They still did not match."
Upon cross-examination, Schield admitted that
he had not recognized a possible bloody shoe print in the foyer
of complainant's home and did not attempt to search or locate
any shoes in complainant's home which have been consistent with
the print left in the foyer. Additionally, while photographs
depicting the entryway as well as a table with three drink
glasses and a can of Coke, close to complainant's body, no
mention of these objects was made in his report. Schield did not
attempt to process any of these items for possible fingerprints.
Schield also admitted that he had not
attempted to process the butcher block in Michelle's kitchen for
possible fingerprints, despite the fact that he believed the
butcher knife used by the killer came from the butcher block.
Schield stated that he did not attempt to dust the kitchen area
or countertop for possible fingerprints nor had attempted to
process the doorknob or the inside of complainant's entryway
door for any possible fingerprints. Similarly, Schield testified
that he did not attempt to process Michelle's bathroom for
possible prints until May, 1987, at the request of a private
Marcel Dionn, testified that in 1989,
he replaced Rossi in this investigation. Dionn spoke with
Rossi and Jackie Barrett, Michelle's mother. Dionn started
investigating and following Jack Shadbolt. He also contacted and
interviewed Irvan on May 17, 1989, together with Det. Bruce
Johnson, in his office. Dionn obtained a one-paged, typed
statement from Irvan. Over Irvan's objections, his statement was
admitted into evidence and read before the jury. Over Irvan's
objections, Dionn told the jury that Irvan had denied having any
romantic relationship with Michelle, stated that they were "just
friends", and said that he had last seen Michelle Shadbolt, two
or three months prior to the Wednesday or Thursday (February 11
or 12, 1987).
Dionn confirmed that during this
investigation, he had requested fingerprint comparisons between
Irvan's known fingerprints and any prints recovered from
Dr. Dwayne Wolf, a medical examiner with
the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office (herinafter
M.E.) testified that he reviewed the autopsy report and
photographs in this case, No. 87-997, performed by Dr. Espinola
on February 14, 1987. Additionally, in anticipation of trial,
Wolf prepared several diagrams reflecting Michelle's wounds,
including several superficial bruises and abrasions on her face
and lips, (consistent with a struggle); carpet burns on her
knees, a wound on her thigh, and blunt force injuries, bruises
or abrasions on her arms and hands (defensive injuries), and a
scrape or abrasion on Michelle's shoulder (consistent with a
carpet burn - a superficial injury).
Wolf listed several "lethal" stab wounds or
injuries which pierced Michelle's heart and lungs, perforated
the chest cavity and the diaphragm, a stab wound to the upper
right quadrant of the abdomen from a single-edged knife, a stab
wound which penetrated complainant's liver in the upper quadrant
of the abdomen, as well as stab wounds to the upper right back
and the lower back.
There were also four wounds to the left side
of Michelle's flank (none penetrated the peritoneal cavity), and
stab wounds to the back of the neck. Wolf stated that the
injuries or lacerations to the back of Michelle's head as well
as the angular and parallel linear abrasions to her arm could
have been caused by being struck with the edge of the trophy.
Wolf noted that Michelle sustained a total of twenty (20) knife
wounds to her body, including stab or incised wounds to her neck
and four lacerations.
Wolf stated that Michelle's death was caused
specifically by two sharp force injuries to the chest, three to
the abdomen, and an incised wound to the neck. Wolf admitted
that he could not determine whether Michelle's stab wounds and
lacerations were caused by a single knife or different knives
nor whether her injuries were caused by one assailant or
multiple assailants. Wolf conceded that there was no evidence of
ligature marks on complainant's body nor evidence of trauma to
Michelle's genitalia, "nor to the vagina or the rectrum," nor to
the anal-rectal area or Michelle's vulva.
Thus, Wolf admitted that Michelle may have
engaged in consensual sexual intercourse while her death may
have occurred later. Wolf could not confirm that Michelle had
been sexually assaulted nor whether any sexual assault, if it
had occurred, preceded or followed Michelle's death. Wolf also
opined that Michelle may have engaged in sexual intercourse the
day before her death.
Roger Wedgeworth, HCSD, cold case squad,
testified that in October, 1998, he and his partner began to
reinvestigate this case with the following assumptions: the
murder weapon(s) consisted of a knife with a 13 inch blade and a
trophy, also located at the scene; the "window of opportunity"
was between 3:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. when Michelle's body was
discovered. Wedgeworth still considered Jack Shadbolt as the
prime suspect. As stated: "[The intent] ...was either to rule
him in as the actual murderer or rule him out, clear him, if we
could do that either way."
Wedgeworth secured all the physical evidence
from the property room as well as the scene photographs and
autopsy photos. Wedgeworth also determined that evidence still
remained in the medical examiner's office, including tissue
blocks, hair samples, and a rectal, vaginal, and oral slide,
labeled No. 87-997. Wedgeworth obtained all the evidence
previously sent to DPS laboratory, including a tube of blood and
a sample of saliva belonging to Jack Shadbolt, a tube of
Michelle's blood, six (6) cigarette butt cuttings, an envelope
with a vaginal and rectal swab, a piece of oral swab, a cutting
from the bloody gauze from the knife, two cuttings from blood
gauze from the trophy, and scrapings from the bathroom vanity.
On November 13, 1998, Wedgeworth submitted
evidence, including Michelle's hair standards, Jack Shadbolt's
hair standards, blood, and saliva, Michelle's vaginal, anal, and
oral swabs and slides, empty envelopes of vaginal, anal, and
oral swabs, pieces of oral swab, mucous-like substances from
Michelle's hair, a bloody knife, blood scrapings from a vanity,
a knife, as well as trophy, and cigarette butt cuttings, to
GeneScreen, now Orchid Cellmark for DNA analysis and processing,
specifically, to determine whether there was DNA present and to
compare the DNA with that of Jack Shadbolt.
Over Irvan's objection, Wedgeworth informed
the jury that as a result of DNA testing and analysis, Jack
Shadbolt was ruled out as a semen donor. Thereafter, pursuant to
conversation with Jackie Barrett, Wedgeworth focused his
attention on Irvan and Timothy Darden, respectively.
Wedgeworth contacted Dionn who provided him
with Irvan's date of birth, social security number, address, and
a copy of his statement, dated May 17, 1989. Wedgeworth learned
that while fingerprints previously recovered from the scene had
been compared to those of Irvan and Darden, none of the prints
recovered had matched those of Irvan, Darden or Jack Shadbolt.
On February 3, 2000, along with his partner,
Harry Fikaris, Wedgeworth met Irvan who was informed of the
renewed investigation and was asked for a DNA sample. Irvan
provided a buccal swab, after signing and initialing a written
consent form. On March 3, 2000, he and Fikaris traveled to a
prison unit in Texas to interview a prisoner, Timothy Darden,
who also provided a buccual swab for DNA testing.
On May 1, 2000, Wedgeworth spoke with Bill
Watson at GeneScreen and over Irvan's objections, testified that
Watson had ruled out Darden as a donor of the suspect DNA in
this case. Additonally, Irvan's DNA "matched the suspect DNA
that they had extracted from the anal slide of the victim."
Thereafter, Wedgeworth asked Watson to
compare all the evidence recovered in this case, including the
knife, trophy, evidence recovered from the scene, blood-stained
newspapers, cigarette butts, fingernail scrapings, foreign blody
material, hair slides, hair mounts, as well as evidence
recovered from the autopsy, with DNA obtained from Irvan. On May
17, 2000, Wedgeworth submitted more evidence to GeneScreen which
had been previously stored in HCSD's property room.
On May 26, 2000, Wedgeworth interviewed Jack
Shadbolt, accompanied by his attorney. Wedgeworth tried to
obtain a statement from Shadbolt regarding his activities
immediately prior to the homicide. Shadbolt appeared to be very
nervous and anxious despite Wedgeworth's reassurances that "he
had been cleared by the DNA processing." Shadbolt provided a
written statement in which he considered himself "still married"
On July 24, 2000, Wedgeworth re-interviewed
Timothy Darden to establish a relationship history as it existed
in 1987 between Darden and Irvan. Other family members and
friends of Michelle were also interviewed in order to determine
the relationship between Irvan and Michelle. Then, on January 3,
2001, Irvan was charged with capital murder of Michelle
On January 25, 2001, Wedgeworth and Fikaris
interviewed a federal prisoner, Tamara LLamas, at the
request of her friend, Rhonda Reiner, who said that Llamas had
information in this case. Llamas was serving four federal life
sentences for solicitation of capital murder, capital murder of
a government witness, and interstate trafficking of marijuana.
Llamas provided Wedgeworth with a sworn statement, handwritten
by Fikaris, in which she asserted that she and Irvan had been "boyfriend
girlfriend" for a period of time.
On January 20, 1999, Wedgeworth resubmitted
all recovered fingerprints to Danny Rinehart, a fingerprint
analyst, and requested a comparison between the fingerprints
recovered from the crime scene and those of Irvan and Timothy
Darden, (but not Jack Shadbolt). "None of the recovered prints
were the same as the defendant's [Irvan] or Timothy Darden."
While Wedgeworth conceded that Jack Shadbolt
was ruled out as a murderer in this case solely because "he was
not the person who had sex" with Michelle, Wedgeworth conceded
that this finding did not necessarily rule him out as a murderer.
Notably, Wedgeworth admitted that he had considered Jack
Shadbolt as a prime suspect.
William Joseph Watson, director of Orchid
Cellmark, Nashville, Tenn., formerly, GeneScreen, testified that
known samples of DNA obtained from suspects, from the crime
scene, and samples obtained at autopsy, had been tested and
retested at his facility several times. Watson summarized test
results obtained at various times. He recounted that in 1999, a
limited DNA profile obtained from the male fraction of the sperm
cells recovered, excluded Jack Shadbolt as the contributor of
the stains on the rectal swab, rectal smear, vaginal swab and
On April 3, 2002, testing of "additional
evidence": a pubic hair fixed to a slide from a fingernail
scraping of Michelle, was not a match to either Michelle, Irvan,
or Timothy Darden. Watson confessed that no attempt was made to
compare the DNA in the pubic hair with the sample obtained from
Jack Shadbolt. "I don't recall why we didn't compare it. My
guess is we conferred with the Sheriff's Department and decided
not to test it."
Additionally, in February and March, 2000,
Watson stated that testing was undertaken of blood stains from a
knife recovered at the scene, of vaginal swabs and slides, of
anal swabs and slides, a mucous-like substance on hair,
fingernail scrapings, and several hairs, obtained at autopsy, as
well as stains from newspaper, and buccal swabs obtained from
Irvan and Timothy Darden. The tests revealed that only one blood
stain sample of three recovered from the knife, above, matched
Michelle's; the other two samples contained "insufficient" DNA
for testing. Additionally, the female fraction of the rectal and
vaginal swabs matched Michelle's.
Watson testified that Timothy Darden was
excluded as the contributor of the male fraction of the sperm
found in the vaginal and rectal specimens. Inconclusive results
were obtained in testing the stains on the knife, the male
fraction of the vaginal smear, the mucous-like substance on hair,
and the stains on the newspapers. Watson explained that only a
partial profile was obtained from the rectal smear obtained at
autopsy which was "consistent" with Irvan's profile as the male
contributor of the male fraction of the rectal smear. Similarly,
while Irvan was "included" as a potential contributor of the
male fraction of the vaginal swab, the male fraction of the
vaginal smear was inconclusiv. Its statistical significance
could not be determined.
While Watson testified that DNA testing in
this case was completed in 2000, the report was not completed
until 2002. Upon cross-examination, Watson admitted that no DNA
testing was undertaken of the blood stain gauze swab obtained
from the trophy at the scene, Item No. 12, report of March 23,
Katherine Long, a scientist at Orchid
Cellmark, formerly GeneScreen, testified that several weeks
prior to trial, she was asked to re-analyze and retest most of
the evidence in this case, including paint scapings, a knife, a
rectal swab, a vaginal swab, an oral swab, hair with a mucous-like
substance, a tube of Jack Shadbolt's blood, cigarette cuttings,
empty bindles from the vaginal and anal swabs, a portion of an
oral swab from Michelle, a gauze blood sample from a trophy,
gauze from a knife, a scraping from a vanity, buccual swabs from
Michelle, fingernail scrapings from Michelle's left and right
hand, hair slides from the fingernail scrapings, hair from the
left hand fingernail scrapings, hair from the right hand
fingernail scrapings, foreign body material, a newspaper with
blood, a piece of newspaper with blood, a scraping from the west
wall of the dining area, a scraping from the vanity of the hall
bedroom, a trophy and a vacuum cleaner, and a tissue block from
Michelle. Long stated that she employed thirteen (13) loci for
her comparisons, more than the eight previously employed by
Watson. Over Irvan's renewed objections, Long's report was
admitted into evidence.
Long explained her test results, as follows:
of the listed itmes tested, five had never previously been
tested or analyzed. These included paint scrapings from the west
wall of the dining area, from the vanity, the bathroom, the
trophy and the vacuum cleaner, respectively. The DNA profile
obtained from the scrapings of the bathroom vanity, from the
stain of the trophy base, and from the vacuum cleaner,
respectively, matched Michelle's. Long also testified that her
analyses of the sperm recovered from the rectal and vaginal swab
sticks at autopsy, "included" Irvan as a contributor. Long
stated that her analyses resulted as well in two exclusions: the
paint scrapings and the hair from the wheel of the vacuum
cleaner served to exclude both Irvan and Michelle as
Long noted that the stains recovered from the
base of the trophy were consistent with Michelle's DNA profile
while the stains throughout the trophy were insufficient to
produce a genetic profile. The fingernail scrapings and the hair
slides of the fingernail scrapings were also consistent with
Michelle's profile. [Note: The hair slides were not tested. Only
one hair from Michelle's fingernail was tested and it did not
match, or was not similar to William Irvan nor Michelle.]
Long testified that in her discretion, she
chose not to test certain items, including the hairs recovered
from beneath Michelle's fingernails (left and right hands). Long
chose not to perform mitochondrial testing of these hairs. Long
simply ignored the items not previously tested by Watson,
including the hairs recovered from beneath Michelle's
fingernails. Thus, any question regarding Jack Shadbolt's role
as a suspect in this homicide was never investigated, once he
had been excluded as a sperm donor!
Similarly, Long also never tested the trophy
recovered from the scene for DNA, other than that present in the
bloodstains, although it was clear from Watson's testimony, that
an individual, "slugging away and aggressively holding the
trophy could cause deposits of DNA and a lot of cellular
material" which could have been genetically tested.
William Irvan testified outside the
presence of the jury solely to invoke the confidential marital
communication privilege. Irvan stated that he was married to
Shanna Irvan Stryjek from December 4, 1987 until September 9,
1995. Irvan advised that he wished to assert the confidential
communication privilege regarding utterances made to Shanna
Stryjek during their marriage. The court denied Irvan's motion
to invoke the marital communication privilege.
Tamara Dayton Llamas, a federal prisoner,
in continuous custody since 1996, testified that pursuant to her
pleas of "guilty" in an agreement with federal prosecutors to
avoid a death penalty, she was serving four (4) life sentences
for her convictions for interstate travel with intent to commit
murder for hire, use of a firearm during and relating to a drug
crime death, tampering with a witness by killing her, and
conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute
marijuana. Llamas also admitted she had been previously
convicted of theft and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
Still, Llamas told the jury that she had not been promised
anything by prosecutors, sheriffs or investigators, in return
for her testimony.
LLamas said that she had known Irvan, "Diggy,"
for approximately 23 years and with Michelle, who had lived "catty
corner" from Irvan's house. Shortly after giving birth to her
daughter, Llamas became Irvan's girlfriend. Llamas and Irvan
lived together for approximately four or five months. Llamas
admitted that while Irvan was a "nice person", he was also
jealous and possessive of her.
Llamas testified that in 1985, while pregnant
with her second child, fathered by Shane Hughes, she moved to
Maryland with Hughes and resided there for approximately three
years. During this time, she visited her family in Houston and
maintained contact with Irvan. In 1986, during a visit to
Houston which lasted approximately "four or five" months, she
dated Irvan; they would consume alcohol together and "partied".
In the "middle of the latest of March, " 1987, Llamas
accompanied Irvan to Galveston. They remained on the beach
overnight, drinking alcohol and having sex. Although both were
intoxicated, Irvan "admitted" that he had raped and killed
Llamas could not recall details of the
conversation, but noted that Irvan also told her that on the
night of Michelle's death, while sitting in his driveway
drinking, he watched Michelle as she returned home, and went to
her house to have sex with her. "He said that he tried and that
she didn't want to, ...that he got carried away, ...that he
killed her, ...that he stabbed her." Llamas recounted that Irvan
told her that he returned home though his bedroom window. Llamas
did not believe Irvan nor gave police or Michelle's family this
Llamas explained that in 2000, while
incarcerated in the federal penitentiary, her mother told her
that Irvan had been charged in this case and that she then
contacted the detectives, Wedgeworth and Fikaris. Llamas
provided investigators with a statement. Llamas reiterated that
she did not have anything tho gain by testifying and had not
been promised anything by the prosecutors in this case in
exchange for her testimony, nor that there was any "bad blood"
between herself and Irvan.
Llamas conceded that Irvan had admitted
raping and killing Michelle during their very first trip to
Galveston, within an hour or two of their arrival, while
drinking, talking and sleeping on the ground. Llamas added that
Irvan had also admitted that he had taken jewelry, including a
baby ring, from Michelle's home, that Michelle had fought hard
and had scratched him. Llamas admitted that following Irvan's
admissions of rape and murder, they had engaged in sexual
intercourse; she did not see any scratches on Irvan's body.
Llamas denied seeking any benefit from the
government for this testimony. However, opined that she believed
that the prosecutors in this case could contact the federal
authorities in her own case regarding a possible reduction in
her sentence. Llamas also confessed that prior to her plea
bargain agreements with the federal prosecutors in 1998, she had
made no effort to "trade" information Irvan for a sentence
reduction because at that time, she "still did not believe that
Irvan had killed Michelle Shadbolt."
While Irvan's counsel attempted to impeach
Llamas' veracity with her reputation for lying and her well-established
character traits of manipulating the criminal justice system to
her advantage, that is, with specific acts of misconduct
including making and attempting to file false accusations
against others, kidnapping and assault, soliciting and
orchestrating the murder of a government witness to avoid the
witness's testimony at her own trial, attempting to hire others
to murder the husband of a witness against her, as well as her
own sister, employing minors to traffic marijuana and arms, the
trial court sustained the State's objections and precluded
counsel from presenting this evidence to the jury.
Similarly, while Irvan's counsel attempted to
cross-examine Llamas regarding her plea-bargain agreements with
the federal prosecutors to avoid a death penalty, counsel was
not permitted to ask about other federal felony offenses which
had been dismissed as part of her plea bargain agreement,
including her employing minors to traffic and transport
marijuana and weapons across state lines, nor her activities in
orchestrating and hiring hitmen to kill witnesses against her,
specifically, Christi Edwards, killed in the presence of her 8
and 11 year old children by Llamas' nephew whom she paid $260.00
for this contract; and her making false criminal accusations
against others, including family members. (Bill of Exception).
Shanna Stryjek, Irvan's ex-wife,
testified that they had been married for seven years, December
4, 1987 to September 1, 1995, when they divorced. They had three
children together, legally adopted by her present husband, Wayne
Stryjek, upon terminating Irvan's parental rights. Stryjek first
met Irvan in June, 1987, several months after Michelle's death,
and had last seen him in 1997-1998. Stryek was contacted by
investigators in this case in 1999-2000.
Stryek asserted that while married, Irvan
attempted unsuccessfully to engage in anal intercourse with her
on two separate occassions. At the second time, despite her
refusal, Irvan "just tried to do it anyway... I had to kind of
force him to stop." Stryek also testified that she always
refused Irvan's "regular" sexual requests and he would become
enraged; "he would start hitting things, breaking things,
calling me names." Over Irvan's continued objections, Stryek
repeated the names, including: "bitch, slut, whore," and "cunt."
Additionally, Stryjek repeated that Irvan
hated Michelle, that while he had informed the police that he
had been home on the night of Michelle's death, that he had been
out with a friend, George, and had returned to his parents' home
between 1:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m., but had not seen anything and
first becamse aware that something unusual had occurred, the
next morning, as there was yellow tape around Michelle's home.
Stryjek explained that Irvan had been living with his parents in
a home directly across the street from Michelle's.
As Irvan could not smoke within his parents'
home, he would climb up to the top of a brick extension, of his
parents' home, with a view of the neighborhood, to smoke. Irvan
could see Michelle's front door from this location. Thereupon,
the State rested its case. Irvan's motion fro an instructed
verdict, based upon the State's failure to prove tat he had
killed Michelle Shadbolt during the course of committing or
attempting to commit aggravated sexual assault, was denied.
Roger Wedgeworth, again informed the jury
that based upon Llamas' statements, he tested paint around the
designated window sill of Irvan's home. DNA testing revealed
that neither Irvan nor Michelle were contributors of the genetic
profiles contained within the paint scrapings from the window
Daniel Rinehart, assisted Wedgeworth and
Fikaris in their investigation and identified two items of
evidence that required additional fingerprint processing,
notably, a knife and a trophy. In 1999, following the
application of an "amido black" staining process for
fingerprints to the knife and trophy, Rinehart eliminated Jack
Shadbolt and Irvan from the list of suspects who had left their
fingerprints on these items. Rinehart could not eliminate
Timothy Darden from the list of suspects.
Connie Summers testified that she was
acquainted with Llamas and had known her for approximately 20 to
25 years. Summers stated that she was familiar with Llamas'
family and friends; and knew her reputation for truthfulness and
veracity. Summers testified that Llamas' reputation for
truthfulness was "very bad".
Darlene Hughes, a.k.a. "Dede," testified
that she was a younger sister of Tamara Llamas who had
previously testified. Hughes had personally known Llamas all her
life, was familiar with other family members and friends, and
knew Llamas' reputation for truthfulness and veracity. Hughes
stated that Llamas' reputation for truthfulness was "bad".
Llamas was not worthy of belief under oath.
Hughes testified that she had known Irvan for
approximately 22-23 years. She explained that she had met Irvan
together with Michelle in a Stop-N-Go shop in the spring, 1987:
some time after January 1, 1987 and prior to Michelle's death.
Hughes spoke to both. Over the State's objection, Hughes was
precluded from telling the jury that Michelle and Irvan had
instructed her not to tell anyone that she had seen them
Marylou Brady testified that she was the
mother of Billy Joe Brady and the grandmother of Tamara Llamas'
daughter. Brady stated that she had known Llamas for
approximately 20 years, was acquainted with Llamas's friends,
family and associates, and knew her reputation for truthfulness
and veracity. As stated: "Tamara has never been truthful to no
one, no one. [Her reputation] is very bad."
Irvan did not testify at trial. The jury
convicted Irvan of the offense of capital murder, as charged in