LOST REPORTS RUIN WOMAN’S QUEST

 

By Joline Gutierrez Krueger

Albuquerque 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.

 

Sherman was 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.

 

Sherman's son, 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.

 

Sandoval County 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 much television.'"

 

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 November.

 

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 said.

 

Sherman's 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 said.

 

"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."