LOST REPORTS RUIN WOMAN’S QUEST
By Joline Gutierrez Krueger
Tribune, Jan. 22, 2004
Rosemary Sherman thought she had gotten a second chance at
finally learning who killed her son. But
because of lost reports and lost opportunities, that chance is over.
among the members of 24 families who gathered in Albuquerque
on Wednesday to demand accountability from law enforcement in investigating the
deaths of their loved ones.
John, was found dead Dec. 27, 1998,
in his van parked on a remote mesa near Rio Rancho. An autopsy report said his
jugular vein was cut and he had gashes on his forearms. He was 41.
sheriff's investigators told her he had committed suicide. But she didn't buy it.
Sherman said she
uncovered plenty of discrepancies, including how her son's body had been
improperly moved, how blood was found outside the van and how her son's teeth
had been broken and his lips bruised.
"They laughed at me," Sherman
said of investigators in her son's case. "They told me, `You watch too
In 2003, Sandoval County Sheriff John Paul Trujillo took
office, and gave Sherman his word
he would reopen her son's case. But when
he took possession of his office after a bitter election in which incumbent sheriff Rey Rivera was defeated, Trujillo
said he found the office had been stripped, along with any necessary
information on the case.
"All I can say is when I came into the office all that
was here was empty file cabinets and the computers were down," he said.
"It shouldn't have been that way."
The lead detective in the case had also left the department by that
time, he said. Sandoval County
court records indicated that the detective was indicted in August 2002 on 21
charges, including criminal sexual contact of a minor. He was acquitted in
Neither Rivera or the former
detective could be reached for comment.
Rosemary Sherman was able to hand Trujillo
a 3-inch binder of reports on the case.
"It's embarrassing when a family member has to provide
evidence that I should already have," he said.
But investigative procedures that the previous detectives
should have conducted, including checking for fingerprints off the box cutter
used to inflict death, were not done, he said.
"You can't get that chance back," Trujillo
information and what Trujillo could
scratch up from his detectives were presented in April to the Vidocq Society,
an internationally known forensic organization that investigates previously
unsolved cases at the request of the investigative agency.
But the Philadelphia-based group concluded that it could
neither prove nor disprove that John Sherman's death was a homicide, Trujillo
"We just didn't have enough evidence," he said. Unless new evidence or a witness comes forward,
John Sherman's death will stay listed as a suicide.
"I'm willing to reopen the case if new information
comes up," Trujillo said.
"I really feel for Mrs. Sherman. Her little boy is no longer with us, and
there's some doubt as to what may have happened."