According to police, Connie Wagner was murdered in the morning hours on June 20th, 1997. However, at the time the crime occurred, Joe was not in the neighborhood. That morning, he had ridden with his mother and sister to the train station, where they parked and boarded a train together heading downtown. He rode with them for at least 15 minutes before getting off as they continued on about their day. Joe was at least 15 miles from the crime scene and without a car at the time the killing supposedly occurred. He could not have walked there, and police checked into transportation records and routes of taxis, buses, and other trains. Nothing connected to Joe could be found or had a schedule or route that could have gotten him to the scene or even near the scene within the appropriate time line.
Police were never able to discredit this alibi. There was no reasonable opportunity for him to have gotten to Connie's house within their timeline, and no physical or testified evidence from the crime scene that could directly implicate him.
Connie Wagner's murder was brutal, the scene was covered in blood from floor to ceiling, and blood was also tracked into other parts of the house. Blood was found mingled with fingerprints on a phone and notepad upstairs in her brother's room as well as on a plastic bag left in a sink and a newspaper clipping between couch cushions, both believed to be left by the attacker(s). There was also a clear bloody shoe print left on a blanket. It would have been impossible for the attacker or attackers to have come out of that scene clean.
Police confirmed that the bloody shoe print was left by gym shoes, and Joe willingly gave them the ones he had worn the day of the crime. He left the police station in only his socks, with an $80 payment to buy a new pair. Police followed Joe and his mother back to their house where they asked for any other gym shoes they had for in their possession to be investigated. Joe gave them his other 2-3 pairs, and was told that, if they tested negatively, they would be returned to him. He never got them back, and none of them were found to have any connection with the crime. The shoes were all completely deconstructed and destroyed as they were thoroughly searched for any blood evidence, not a trace was found. Even so, prosecutors still took the deconstructed shoes and paraded them around the courtroom as though they were incriminating evidence. This was done in spite of them already having been proven not being tied to the crime. Police never publicly confirmed the size, make, or any other forensic details about the shoe print; they simply said it was a gym shoe, and confiscated his.
Connie's Toyota was missing after her murder, and police searched tirelessly for it, hoping to search it for clues. The police story was that whoever had killed Connie and then used her car for his getaway vehicle. As this search went on on June 21st, 1997, the day after the crime, Joe had willingly gone with police and spent the day being interviewed at the station. That morning, while he was at the station, police had thoroughly searched most of the surrounding areas for the car, including the nearby Baldwin Green apartments. The car was nowhere to be found. Later that same day, and again, while Joe was still in custody, the car was found abandoned at those same apartments. Police Commander John Koziol on the scene insisted, “That area was checked [earlier]. The car had to have been deposited since.”
The car was evidently on the move and was parked and abandoned in a location already checked by police while Joe was at the police station all day being interviewed and interrogated. Still, the police theory was that he had left the scene in that car. How could he have had it, driven it there, and parked it from a closed interrogation room, while under the watchful eyes of authorities?
When Connie's car was searched, the police found no trace of her blood in in it. Given the brutality of the crime, it would have been impossible not to track something into the vehicle. Not only did the car have no trace of usable DNA evidence or fibers, but bear in mind that this was barely 24 hours after Connie's murder. For this car to have been the getaway vehicle as police say, how could the killer have committed such a savage attack, and not tracked anything into it; or managed to clean it so thoroughly that not even trace evidence remained? It doesn't even seem plausible.
Fingerprints were discovered throughout the house by investigators on the scene. There was the newspaper and a plastic bag believed to have been left by the assailant(s) that both bore prints. Additional fingerprints were found on the screen door of Connie's home and on an upstairs notepad and phone.
All of these prints were run and were found to not belong to Joe or anyone in the Wagner household, again pointing away from him as a potential suspect. However, police never identified who may have left these prints, and in fact never confirmed or showed any record of them ever being fully investigated. They confirmed they did not belong to Joe, glossed over it, and continued to pursue him anyway.
The bloody scene, bruising where Connie's hands were bound, and hair found under her fingernails pointed to a struggle between the victim and her attacker, and suggested she had most likely inflicted some defensive wounds on them. This was also testified to by the state pathologist.
Joe willingly went with police the day after the murder, and allowed them to thoroughly check and photograph his body. He was noted to have no scrapes, cuts, or other marks. Indeed there were no signs whatsoever that he was involved in any sort of fight. The hairs under Connie's fingernails were not fully tested before his trial but testing that was done excluded Joe from being the source. The hair was found to be human, but long and grey, which did not match him.
By their own admission, the only “evidence” the state had against Joe was a statement composed by a prosecutor that Alfonso Najera signed, claiming that Joe had confessed committing the murder to him. He was asked to confirm the supposed confession on a taped call but did not, instead Joe continued to maintain his innocence during that call, with Najera not disputing, and generally stating he was in agreement with Joe's statements. That transcript was deemed inadmissible as evidence at the request of prosecution, leaving themselves with the written and signed statement as their highest implication of Joe's guilt.
Some key exchanges noted by Joe's defense team in that conversation were as follows:
[Joe]: I mean shit—you still believe me, don’t you?
[Alfonso]: Yeah, I believe you, dude. I believe you, man. I just want to make sure that you didn’t say something to anybody else and they come to court and then.
[Joe]: That what. . . It’s a bunch of shit man. They ain’t got nothing. I didn’t do nothing—you know that.
[Alfonso]: Yeah I know.
[Joe]: It’s a bunch of shit. You know and I know that—what do you call it?—my ass would have been in jail a long time if I was guilty. You know what I’m saying.
[Alfonso]: It’s just bullshit, man, you know. I got to miss work and shit.
[Joe]: All it comes down to is you know and I know I didn’t do this. You know and I know that I don’t know who did, or have any knowledge about the whole damn thing, and they just want to make a bust on somebody to make themselves look good. You know. All they’re going to try to do is intimidate you and all that kind of bullshit.
[Alfonso]: You know?
[Joe]: But then that is going to turn into a while another thing because first off you’d be lying if you said...any kind of negative thing regarding me— you know what I mean. Because I didn’t do nothing and I don’t know who did. So.
[Alfonso]: Hey man, I got to get back to work dude.
[Joe]: And look at it that way. It’s been over a year. I haven’t run. I got nothing to run from. I didn’t move. I didn’t all of sudden disappear. You know what I mean? If I was guilty, my ass would have took off. And I’m just sitting here waiting for them to find out what the deal is, because I want to know who’s responsible myself. Do you think I don’t want to know? That’s it.
[Alfonso]: Well I have to get back to business you know.
Joe had no idea the call was recorded and stated his innocence specifically, continually insisting he had done nothing wrong. On the contrary, he willing worked with and cooperated with authorities at any time he could, whenever they asked. As stated, he didn't hide or run, he never acted guilty, because he is not. He has never changed his statements. Alfonso was instructed to, and could have refuted any of what Joe said and brought up his alleged confession at any time, but instead, he agreed with Joe's statements, or didn't answer at all. Prosecutors argued that Alfonso made statements that “implied” that he was talking about the confession even if he didn't say so directly. They were allowed to enter specific statements of the transcript based on these supposed implications into their court arguments. For example, at one point Alfonso said, out of context, "You didn't tell anybody else?" to which Joe immediately asked in confusion, "Tell anybody what?". Prosecution could use Alfonso's statement, however defense was not allowed to bring up Joe's responses. So prosecuting attorneys could shape Alfonso's words in any way they wanted with Joe's defense team being virtually unable to question or rebut it, leading to a very one-sided argument that gave a clear advantage to the state.
This all leaves us with many unanswered questions that need to be addressed. The fingerprints didn't match Joe – who did they belong to? The DNA evidence didn't match Joe – Who did it belong to? The shoes did not match Joe's – who did they belong to? You can see where this is going right?
How can he have been convicted of the crime when he can't even be placed at the scene? He had an alibi and no way to travel there. Connie was murdered in an extremely violent way, blood was everywhere, and the state said there was a struggle that would have left both parties injured in some way. Joe had no trace of blood on him or anything he wore, not a single cut or scratch on him. How would that be possible?
When it comes to the testing of evidence, much of the DNA testing, including some blood evidence, and the hair and tissues in Connie's fingernails was not even fully tested before Joe's trial. That seems very strange. The eventual test results on the hair confirmed that it was human, but was long and grey, which did not match Joe. At one point during trial, the prosecution tried to backpedal this test result on the hair, claiming the hair was actually a dog hair. Questioning under oath, however, brought back the original conclusion that the hair was in fact human according to laboratory results. Who did that hair belong to? Why would they cover up and try and change their record if not to draw attention away from a glaring loose end, one of many clear cut facts that point away from Joe?
The fingerprints found on the plastic bag and newspaper clipping on Connie's couch, as well as around the home did not seem to be tested much at all beyond determining that they simply did not belong to Joe or Connie's family. Clearly they belong to someone. WHO? Any blood at the crime scene other than Connie's that was tested could not be conclusively linked to anyone either.
The morning Joe willingly went into police custody, police searched the Baldwin Green Apartments for Connie's car and did not find it. While Joe was still in custody, the car was found at those apartments later that day. Wouldn't it be safe to assume someone else had the car? Who drove it there? Coincidentally, the apartments where the car was found happened to be the location where Connie would often meet her drug dealers, to whom she owed several debts. Why wasn't that investigated more? Police say Joe planted the car there, but he was in the station with them at the time.
There is not even any circumstantial evidence that could implicate Joe. There is nothing but a statement prepared by a prosecutor and a phone call that was deemed inadmissible when it was not convenient to that statement. Evidence at every turn and on all levels, excludes Joe, yet police were determined to go after him anyway. It is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, and all evidence here suggests innocence, but these investigators seemed hell-bent on proving the evidence wrong and and finding Joe guilty anyway. How, with all of these facts, could he have been convicted “without a shadow of a doubt,” as required by law? Evidence suggesting someone other than Joe was generally ignored at every turn in favor of pushing cops' existing theory that it had to be the ex-boyfriend, no matter what contradictory facts were found.
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