Free Michael Clark - an innocent man serving LWOP
BACKGROUND

It is highly reasonable in police investigations to expect that the police spend vast amounts of time investigating clearly innocent people. Police investigators often appear to make decisions regarding which person would be their main suspect, and then, rather than continuing to look at all the evidence rationally, begin to selectively collect or discard evidence according to their theory of the crime and who committed the crime. What is most alarming is that, once the decision has been made about the person(s) committing the crime, the investigators cling to it tenaciously, even in the face of evidence which is clearly to the contrary; this is known as tunnel vision which result in flawed investigations, with many cases of people being falsely arrested and later on being wrongfully convicted by prosecutors who buy into the tunnel vision of the police's wrongful theory of the crime.

PRIMARY SUSPECT

From the very start of the police investigation of the murder of Marty Grisham, on November 1, 1994 Michael Clark became the primary suspect the police focused their sight on. But because there was not enough evidence (no witnesses, no murder weapon, no fingerprints, footprints, etc. no confession) to arrest Michael the case was terminated in October 1995 and went cold. In 2009 under the direction of Det. Chuck Heidel of the Cold Case Unit of the Boulder Police Department the case was reopened and like in 1994 the primary focus of the investigation was Michael Clark, even though there were other SUSPECTS that had the motive, means and opportunity to commit the murder of Marty Grisham. But as was described in the Background section above the police developed "tunnel vision" and choose to ignore and discard all evidence that didn't fit their theory of how the crime occurred. 

The police focused on Michael Clark because they believed because he was caught with stealing, forging and cashing checks of Marty Grisham that if caught he would be denied his dream of joining the Marine Corps, so his only option was to kill Marty Grisham. But let's look more carefully at this motive. Once Michael Clark was caught with the bad checks he immediately admitted to the crime and received punishment for his crime. Although the police tried to get Michael to confess to the murder of Marty Grisham he maintained his innocence and has always maintained his innocence to this day. As for his not being able to join the Marine Corps, Sgt. Weyer, Marine Recruiter stated that because Mike had received a stolen motorcycle he had already ruined his chances of joining the Marine Corps so being caught with stolen checks was not the reason Mike would have been denied entry into the Marine Corps.One other thing to carefully consider is that it is one thing to steal checks, it is quite another thing to commit 1st degree murder as the police speculated.

Looking at two of the other potential suspects the twin children of Marty Grisham, Kristen and Loren, their motives to kill their father was much more meaningful than Mike's motive. Their motive was an insurance policy that expired at midnight the day of the murder leaving both Kristen and Loren as beneficieries. In addition they both received the money that was in their father's retirement fund. Kristen and Loren both took lie detector tests and both either failed or tried to disrupt the results of the test. Loren failed the test when he was asked if he had anything to do with the planning of his father's murder and he replied NO. Kristen  engaged in purposeful non-cooperation measures indicating that she wanted to avoid detection of deception in one or more of the areas under investigation and tried to defeat the test. 

With the police's tunnel vision and their laser beam focus that Michael Clark killed Marty Grisham they didn't do a thorough investigation of other POSSIBLE SUSPECTS that could have been behind the murder of Marty Grisham.


THE INTERROGATIONS

On April 15, 2011 two federal agents working with the Boulder cold case unit paid Michael Clark a surprise visit at work and questioned him for close to an hour, ostensibly about an investigation into a gun-trafficking ring and a former acquaintance of Mike's. Mike voluntarily participated in a second interview on April 20, 2011, with the federal agents. The agents attempted to get Mike to confess to Marty Grisham’s murder by lying to him about the ability of new forensic science to prove that a gun he had in 1994 was the murder weapon. The agents claimed, in fact, that they knew Mike’s gun had done the murder and they had narrowed the possibilities down to either Mike or Kristen Grisham as the shooter. Mike repeatedly maintained his innocence in the face of these deceptive allegations. Almost an hour into the interview, Det. Heidel came into the room and changed its tone, accusing Mike in a pointed, confrontational manner of murdering Grisham. Mike yet again maintained his innocence. 

Thus, the reopening of the investigation, which solely focused on Mike, did not result in a witness to the shooting, the murder weapon, or a confession. Nonetheless, on January 5, 2012, more than seventeen years after Grisham’s death, a warrant was 
issued for Mike's arrest.  


FAMILY HARASSMENT 

The months and weeks leading up to Mike’s arrest were excruciating for him and for his family. The stress was compounded by the way that the police handled the situation, and by the interactions that they had with his family. The police had tunnel vision, they knew that they wanted to arrest Mike for this crime, and they stopped at nothing to make this happen. Sadly most of what they did was legal, and even commonplace. 

After the case was reopened in 2009, Detective Chuck Heidel zeroed in on Mike. Even though there was NO evidence to place him at the crime scene, NO witnesses, NO murder weapon, NO confession, and NO new evidence since 1994, he decided that Mike was his guy. It didn’t matter that Mike HAD an alibi, or that Mike had never been in trouble with the law since the case had closed in 1994, and he had no history of violence of any kind, something you'd expect a cold blooded murderer would have. It didn’t matter that Mike, in no way, fit the profile of a cold blooded killer (or the only description that they had). He decided that Mike was his guy. 

He was not interested in finding out who killed Marty Grisham. He was interested in “solving” a cold case, and moving his career forward. Once he set his sights on Mike he began pulling out all the stops to find a way to make a case against him. Making a case against Mike was not easy, because there was no evidence against him. Still, Heidel proceeded. 

The police and the FBI began to question Mike’s family members. Mike was living in Colorado at the time. Amy’s sister Heidi lived in Boston with her husband and baby. Agents showed up at their door, uninvited, to question Heidi and her husband Ian about Mike’s past and about his character. Not sure how they felt this would be relevant, because nothing about his real character was discussed or allowed in court. This was unnecessary and unwarranted, and got them nowhere because they said nothing but nice things about Mike.

Mike’s mother in-law mailed packages (after Christmas) to Amy’s brother and sister. Heidi received no package, but a torn up label that the post office could never find a package for. Jeremy received a package that was nearly in shreds. We believe that these (odd shaped packages) were confiscated by police, torn up, and then discarded when they didn’t’ produce anything that had to do with Mike. The timing of these occurrences made everyone leery.

The police also showed up to Mike’s in-laws house, and questioned them about his character. During this interview the police lied to them and told them that they had found evidence that had been conclusively tied to Mike and enlisting their help to get him to admit to the crime. This was all part of a rouse, as Mike did not have anything to admit to.

The reality was that the police interviewed them by phone, and in person, and lied to them outright in hopes of getting them to say something bad about Mike, They did not have anything bad to say about Mike. The police also bugged the phones at Mike’s in-laws house where Mike and Amy were living at the time with their 3 kids. These invasive acts led to nothing. 

The police continued to talk to just about everyone who knew Mike. They called Amy’s brother in Texas, went to Mike’s parents house in Loveland, CO, contacted his brother and sister, and on and on. Not one person had anything bad to say about Mike and could only reject their hypothesis and be surprised by the venom with which they were pursuing Mike.

During this same time, the police bugged Mike’s cell phone, they interviewed him at his place of work (another rouse). During this interview they told Mike that the interview was not being recorded (it was), they told him they were looking for Dion Moore for gun trafficking (they were not). The interview was also un-mirandized. The police then took his jeep from his place of work (to bug it) in hopes that he would get nervous and lead them to something. This never happened. But, he did have to file a police report to find his missing car and get Amy to come pick him up at work. His car was found one town over weeks later by local police. 

When Mike was finally arrested, it was done while he was dropping his kids (ages 2, 4, and 6) off at daycare. His children were left strapped into the running car while he was handcuffed and taken away. The children were terrified, and still have visions of this fearful occurrence that they could not begin to comprehend. This was very traumatic, and completely unnecessary. He posed no flight risk, and he showed up every day for work and he would never leave his family (who he lived for). They could have waited 5 minutes longer, and saved the kids from a very difficult situation. 

After his initial arrest, Mike was released on bail. The judge did not see Mike as a flight risk. The judge heard from nearly 50 dedicated family and friends who attested to his character, and his love for his family. After he was released on bail he came home to his family and his job waiting for his name to be cleared. When he was convicted, the nightmare got much worse. He is missed every day by his wife and his children, who really just want their daddy back.

This harassment to Mike's family was brutal, totally un-necesary and produced nothing incriminating or negative about Mike's character which the police were hoping for; on the contrary everyone interviewed by the police had nothing but good things to say about Mike's character.


THE GUN

Because there was no murder weapon found there was nothing to positively identify the gun used to murder Marty Grisham, and nothing that tied the gun that Michael Clark once owned, a Bryco Jenning revolver to Mike as the weapon used to kill Marty Grisham. In 1994 a police gun expert searched the GRC database and could not come up with anything conclusive that linked Mike's gun to the crime; another reason for the case going cold in 1995. However, when Det. Chuck Heidel opened the cold case in 2009 the GRC database was expanded and the Bryco Jennings gun was found to fit the profile of the weapon used to murder Marty Grisham. Needless to say the police jumped all over this. BUT the results of that GRC data base search also produced fifty nine other gun manufacturers having guns fitting that profile. Assuming five models+ per each of the fifty nine manufactures, that meant at least three hundred guns fit that profile, of which the Bryco Jennings was just one of those guns that could have been used to commit the crime.

In summary the results showing the Bryco Jennings gun was the murder weapon was inconclusive, speculative, circumstantial, and leaving much doubt, showing that the police had NOT been able to positively identify the gun used as the murder weapon. For more detailed information click on the Missing Gun


THE BULLETS

The bullets found at the crime scene of the murder of Marty Grisham were four full metal jacketed round bullets. Marine recruiter Sgt. Weyer stated when he saw Mike Clark's gun on October 25, 1994 that the gun was loaded with full metal jacketed round bullets. This was what the police focused on when they tried to tie Michael Clark's gun and bullets to the murder of Marty Grisham while ignoring other evidence that showed Mike's gun was not loaded with full metal jacketed round bullets. On October 26, 1994, a day after Sgt. Weyer saw Mike's gun and bullets, Jamie Uhlir testified at trial he saw hallow point bullets in the gun Mike showed him. Furthermore in a police report dated March 16, 2010 prosecution witness Dion Moore stated that Mike had returned the full metal jacketed round bullets to him and that he noticed Mike had hallow point bullets loaded in his gun. This is just another indication of police ignoring evidence that took the focus off their primary suspect Michael Clark.


THE TIMELINE

In 1994 Michael Clark had an alibi that showed he could not have been at the crime scene at the time Marty Grisham was murdered. This added to the reasons the case went cold in 1995. But in 2009 the police attempted to disprove Mike's alibi and tried to show that after Mike left Jamie Uhlir's apartment he could have just made it to the crime scene in time to commit the murder. The police drove two different routes that they speculated Mike could have used to reach Marty Grisham's house in time to commit the murder. Although the police tried to recreate the environment Mike was supposed to have driven the night of November 1, 1994 it was pretty certain all things were not equal. Remember Mike would have driven that route in 1994 and the police drove their two routes in 2011 seventeen years later. Driving the two different routes each of the police cars would arrive at Marty Grisham's parking lot at 9:32 PM. Allowing about one minute to walk from the parking lot to Marty Grisham's apartment it would have left one minute for Mike to get set up, knock on the door and kill Marty Grisham at 9:34 PM. There was only one problem (probably more than one) wrong with this scenario. The police stated the shooting occurred at 9:34 PM. That is not correct. The 911 call was made at 9:34 PM meaning the actual shooting had to have occurred earlier than 9:34 PM. Barbara Burger, Marty's girlfriend was there when Marty was shot. When he was shot he was not dead immediately, and he was trying to say something to Barbara Burger, probably trying to tell her who shot him. Barbara Burger was also holding Marty's head and one can only assume that she must have been in somewhat of a state of shock before she called 911 at 9:34 PM it is pretty safe to assume that Marty was actually shot somewhere between 9:29 and 9:32 PM, or even earlier. The police by their own admission had a very tight time line and subtracting two to five minutes or more from that time line would NOT have placed Mike at the crime scene in time to shoot and kill Marty Grisham.

Just another flaw in the police's already flawed investigation.


THE DNA

The only piece of direct evidence the police were able to come up with that supposedly placed Michael Clark at the crime was a Carmex (lip balm) container found in an inconspicuous spot underneath a stairwell outside Marty Grisham’s apartment the morning after the murder. There was no way to determine when that Carmex container was placed there; it could have been there days, weeks or longer before the crime. 

There was no testing done, that we could determine on the Carmex container in the 1994/95 time frame.

Once the case was reopened in 2009, testing in 2011 revealed at the completion of the DNA analysis on the outside of the Carmex container that two partials were obtained. Testing could not determine who the partials belonged to, if they came from the same or different persons, and did NOT link them to Mike. It was determined that nothing else at that time could be done further.

In August 2011 it was decided to do testing on the interior of the Carmex container. The interior produced an inhibited mixed sample, which when compared to Mike’s DNA matched 4 out of 16 loci, meaning Mike’s paternal lineage could not be excluded.The mixed sample, however, contained DNA from at least one other male, and could have contained DNA from more than two other males. Testing also couldn't be certain that there was no woman in the autosomal because the testing did not get a result as the contributor. When testing the inside of the Carmax container that out of the 17 potential locations, testing came up with only types at 5 of the 17 locations, a very low percentage when testing for DNA. Testing showed that because of the minor contributor that there is someone else's DNA on that lip balm that is not Mike's. Testing the interior could not determine who the other person's DNA belonged to. Just another indication of the police's focus on Mike as the primary, and only suspect they were looking at. If the investigation hadn't been flawed and the police were so certain Mike was the person committing the crime wouldn't they have tested the other potential suspects for their DNA to determine if they produceed a match?

Click for more detailed information of the DNA testing.


THE INFORMANTS

The police knew they had less than a solid case against Mike. Fact is the police's case was circumstantial, had no direct evidence and was quite weak. When the police are sure of their case but have little evidence to back up their theory and who committed the crime it is not unusual for them to turn to informants. They know that even though informants are not truthful, want some type of deal and often are very despicable people, they also know it is difficult for juries to ignore testimony from an informant when they testify on the stand that the defendant "told me they did it." 

So the police turned to Walter Stackhouse a jailhouse snitch, cocaine addict, probation violator, and six-time felon on temporary release from a California state prison. Stackhouse’s prior crimes included false information to a police officer, fraud, forgery, and false reporting. Stackhouse’s rap sheet included several crimes involving fraud and lying to police and was so long it was difficult to keep track of his previous convictions. He admitted to diluting his urine while on probation to pass urine tests. In exchange for bringing his information to police he requested release from jail to a work release program to prevent appliance stores he owned from “going under.” He understood from the police in 1994 that he could make things “look better” for his work release prospects by agreeing to testify against Michael. An interesting sidelight regarding Stackhouse was on November 5, 1994 Lead Detective Trujillo writes in his notes that Stackhouse is untrustworthy, needs a polygraph, and goes as far as to call him a “psychopath. Sadly the new lead detective in the 2011 case, Chuck Heidel chose to ignore his predecessors notes about Stackhouse.

In addition to Walter Stackhouse the police also used Dion Moore an acquaintance of Mike's, who was a multiple time felon, drug user, and interstate trafficker in illegal guns between Colorado and Chicago. Moore in 1995 negotiated a deal to testify against Mike in exchange for dismissal of pending cases against him. 

Although both of these informants were career criminals, both received deals, and both statements were highly suspect the police now felt much more comfortable with their case moving forward.

Click for more details on The Informants.


CONCLUSION

  • Police, because of their tunnel vision and laser beam focus on Michael Clark ignored evidence that could have pointed to a more viable suspect.
  • Even with deceptive measures used by police to get Michael Clark to confess to the murder of Marty Grisham they were unsuccessful because Mike was innocent of the crime and has consistently maintained that innocence.
  • Family harassment to Mike's family, by the police was brutal and totally un-necesary all under the premise to get someone (family members and friends) to say something incriminating or bad about Mike; no one did and in fact everyone had nothing but good things to say about Mike's character.
  • Police did NOT prove that the Bryco Jennings hand gun once owned by Michael Clark was the gun that killed Marty Grisham; in fact they DON'T really know what was the murder weapon used to kill Grisham.
  • The bullets that killed Marty Grisham were NOT the bullets that were last seen loaded into the gun once owned by Michael Clark.
  • The police's own timeline, when looked at from the CORRECT time of Marty Grisham's murder show that Michael Clark was NOT at the crime scene at the time of the murder.
  • Police were NOT able to prove conclusively, through DNA testing that the Carmex container found at the crime scene belonged to Michael Clark.
  • Police were forced into using career criminal informants with less than honorable backgrounds to obtain an arrest of Michael Clark.


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