Friday, March 10, 2006

A Crumbling Case?

Is the NYPD case against Darryl Littlejohn crumbling? A police source tells the Boston Herald that investigators are still confident they have their man and intend to prove it with science. However, recent revelations appear to indicate that science might be exonerating, rather than implicating, the prime suspect in the brutal assault and murder of John Jay College graduate student, Imette St. Gillen.

An apparent semen stain on a blanket failed to provide a DNA match to Littlejohn. Police now believe that it came from an earlier sexual encounter unrelated to Imette's murder. Media reports about this blanket are a bit confusing. Most indicate that the blanket tested is the Springmaid floral print bedspread that enveloped Imette's corpse when police found her remains in a remote Brooklyn lot on Foutain Avenue. However, earlier reports mentioned only cat hairs and packaging tape as items of forensic interest regarding that bedspread. A March 6, New York Daily News article implied that there were two bed covers being examined by investigators.

Detectives also were examining possible genetic material found on a white blanket in The Falls, the SoHo bar where the 41-year-old bouncer works and was seen leaving with St. Guillen, 24, sources said.
This seems in contradiction to the most recent report from the Daily News.

Police have held off on charging Littlejohn because semen stains on the floral blanket wrapped around St. Guillen's naked body apparently do not trace back to the convicted bank robber.
At this point, it's unclear whether there was a second blanket. It's possible that the authors of the earlier article misunderstood information provided by their source. Perhaps, police, believing that cat hairs found on the bedspread (also described as white with a floral print) linked it to the basement of The Falls, later revealed that a semen stain found on the bedspread was being tested for DNA; and there was no second blanket.

Tissue samples taken from Imette's broken fingernails do not match Littlejohn; rather the scrapings appear to have come from a woman -- possibly Imette herself. Further tests are being done to determine the source. Meanwhile, Newsday is reporting:

Detectives still have not ruled out the possibility that Imette St. Guillen's killer had an accomplice and were focusing on a female customer who was in the SoHo bar at the same time as the John Jay College student, police sources said yesterday. The woman's story has a number of discrepanices, according to the sources, who said the woman was seen leaving The Falls when a seemingly inebriated St. Guillen was escorted out of the bar by bouncer Darryl Littlejohn. Police sources said Littlejohn is the prime suspect in St. Guillen's Feb. 25 rape and murder.
Yesterday, one of three victims of a suspected serial rapist failed to pick Littlejohn out of a lineup, after having previously identified him, in a photo array, as her attacker.

The Forest Hill rape occurred Oct. 16, when a man posing as an immigration officer abducted the victim, throwing her into a dark van, where he handcuffed and blindfolded her, police said. The woman was later raped in a basement.

The next incident occurred three days later, when a 19-year-old York College student was abducted in Jamaica by a man wearing a "Fugitive Agency" cap. The student was handcuffed and thrown into a van, but she managed to escape a half-mile away, according to police.

The third incident occurred on Long Island on Nov. 9 when a 15-year-old girl was kidnapped at gunpoint and thrown into a black van. The attacker covered her head with a coat or cloth that he secured with packing tape, then raped her in a basement before dropping her off on an Elmont street, police said.
The 22-year-old, petite Japanese woman told police that the man who raped her was bigger than Littlejohn. Though her failure to identify Darryl Littlejohn as her attacker prevents police from charging him thus far, he has not been ruled out as a suspect in that rape or the others. Police hope that DNA results may yet conclusively tie him to those cases. The victim's memory may be unreliable because of the trauma inflicted on her and the fact that her head was quickly covered by the perpetrator.

What evidence possibly implicating Darryl Littlejohn remains?
  • Police are still awaiting results on cat hairs found on the floral bedspread, used to wrap Imette's remains, in comparison to cats that live in The Falls basement.
  • Bar manager Danny Dorrian and at least one other bar employee claim to have last seen Imette in the company of Littlejohn.
  • Cell-phone records place Littlejohn near the Fountain Ave crime scene about two hours before Imette's body was found there by police.
  • Tape matching that used to bind Imette's head was found in Littlejohn's home.
  • Fibers found on the tape covering Imette's face match carpet fibers from Littlejohn's house. Similar fibers were also found on the bedspread that held Imette's nude body.
  • Casts of shoe prints were taken from dirt portions of Mr. Littlejohn's driveway. The significance of those tracks is unclear.
Law enforcement sources have indicated that there is other forensic evidence unknown to the public. Rear seats from a van were found in the basement of Littlejohn's Jamaica, Queens home. A Ford Windstar van with the rear seats missing was found a couple of blocks away. Both are being examined and tested. Police removed numerous items from both Littlejohn's residence and the Lafayette street building that houses The Falls. It's unknown if any of Imette's clothing or personal property, such as her cell phone, have been recovered; she received a call from her friend, Claire Higgins, about ten minutes before closing time at the bar. Imette suffered numerous wounds at the hands of her attacker, and her long, dark hair was chopped off by the killer. Police have yet to reveal whether the victim's blood or hair has been found in Littlejohn's home, the bar, or either of the impounded vans.

Darryl Littlejohn remains jailed on Rikers Island for a parole violation related to his employment at The Falls. According to his attorney, Kevin O'Donnell, he maintains his innocence in all four cases and sees himself as a scapegoat for the murder of Imette St. Guillen. O'Donnell indicated his client was confident he would not be identified as the perpetrator in the Forest Hill rape case, blurting out, "I told you so," after the woman failed to finger him.

I am particularly bothered by the changing stories put forth by The Falls staff -- most specifically Daniel Dorrian, the manager -- regarding Imette's behavior and departure. Dorrian originally told the Globe that "he had not been working the night of St. Guillen's disappearance and did not know whether anyone had seen her at the bar." He later acknowledged to police that he had served Ms. St. Guillen two drinks over the short period of time that she was there before closing time, stating that she left alone and of her own accord after glancing at a note pulled from her purse. His latest rendition of events is that he ordered bouncer Darryl Littlejohn to remove a drunken and displeased Ms. St. Guillen from the bar shortly after closing time. Littlejohn took her out through a side door, while Dorrian went downstairs. The sounds of a brief verbal altercation and a muffled scream followed, but Dorrian did nothing in response. Another employee states that he assisted Littlejohn in escorting Imette from the bar, and that he last saw her outside the establishment in the company of Darry Littlejohn. One account has her standing on the sidewalk as the bouncer sat in the driver's seat of a van. Another places St. Guillen in the van with Littlejohn, but seemingly untroubled. There are also variations of the events that led up to Ms. St. Guillen's ousting. One account is that, displeased about not being given time to finish her drink, Imette became belligerent, prompting Dorrian to order her removal. A Newsday article portrays the situation differently:
As closing time approached, she was offered another drink, which she refused."I don't need another drink from you people," witnesses remembered her saying, sources said.At that point, sources said, Littlejohn moved in, possibly in an effort to calm matters down, though some accounts describe him as seeming to be attracted to her."Leave me the -- alone," St. Guillen is quoted as saying, police sources said. "I'm a FBI agent."Littlejohn, who was known to walk his South Jamaica neighborhood pretending to be a federal agent, had a quick retort, police said."Oh yeah?" he said. "I'm a U.S. marshal."St. Guillen then made the comment about blacks ["That's why all you black people are in jail."] sources said, prompting Littlejohn's boss to order him to escort her out of the bar.
Were the lies told by Dorrian and other employees aimed at protecting the bar's liquor license and guarding against an inevitable civil suit, or is there a more sinister implication? The New York Post reports that Daniel Dorrian's attorney refused to comment when asked why his client had changed his story and whether he had submitted a DNA sample to investigators. Was Imette really seen outside the establishment after Littlejohn escorted her through a side door into a corridor, or is that just another lie? Did Imette really leave 218 Lafayette alive? All these accounts from various unnamed witnesses are befuddling. I want to know who said what and how each stands to benefit from his or her own version of events. Whatever forensic evidence police have managed to accumulate will speak for itself.