Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Shame Of Lorain, Ohio - Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen Convicted Of Non-Existent Crimes

The Shame Of Lorain, Ohio - Nancy Smith And Joseph Allen Convicted Of Non-Existent Crimes
By Lona Manning
Justice Denied

Margie Grover brought her 4- year-old daughter Nicole to a Lorain, Ohio hospital on May 7, 1993. She claimed that her daughter, who attended the Lorain Head Start had come home and said, “We didn’t go to school today.” Furthermore the anxious mother said that Nicole told her that the bus driver, Nancy Smith, had taken the children to see a man named “Joseph,” who tied her up, taped her eyes, and molested her with a stick. Grover said she found a piece of a branch in the girl’s clothing.

Officers attending at the hospital noted that most of the information was provided by the mother and the attending nurse, not by the little girl herself. The officers reported that Nicole was physically unharmed. The case was assigned to Detective Tom Cantu of Lorain’s Youth and Gang unit. Cantu, a 20+ year veteran of the Lorain PD and an ex-Marine, was named 1992’s Ohio “Policemen of the Year” by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

When Cantu started the investigation, he had an accused person, her unknown accomplice by the name of “Joseph,” an unknown crime scene location, and a definite date. It was clear to Cantu that the incident couldn’t have happened as Nicole (or was it her mother?) described.

Smith’s bus log and the odometer readings confirmed that she had driven her usual route on May 7, and Nicole’s teacher had marked Nicole “present.” Sherry Hagerman, the aide on Smith’s bus that week, confirmed that nothing had happened. At the time of the incident Smith had gone to her second job, driving for the YMCA Meals-onWheels program. Her supervisor confirmed that Smith was a reliable driver and she had shown up for work as usual that day. Cantu spoke to Smith’s co-workers, neighbors, and friends. They scoffed at the idea that Smith was a child molester. She was a single mother with four teenage children and she had three part-time jobs that often kept her working for 12 hours a day.

Cantu interviewed Nicole on May 13, but most of the information came from her mother, who insisted that her daughter was telling her a lot of details at home.

In front of Cantu, however, Nicole hesitated, saying, “I forgot,” “I don’t remember that,” and “Can we go home now?” After repeated questioning she finally agreed that she had seen ““Joseph’s” pee pee.”

Cantu went to the Head Start school on May 25 and questioned 11 children, aged 3 to 5 who were on Smith’s bus route. His police report for that day notes, “The children were questioned if Nancy had ever touched them in a bad way, or in any way which would hurt, or upset them, and each one stated that she has never touched them. The children were asked if they knew anyone named “Joseph,” and they all indicated that they did not. All of the children stated that they liked Nancy and that she was nice.”

Nicole’s mother had been spreading alarm to other Head Start parents who then questioned their children. Had they heard of “Joseph”? Had they been taken to “Joseph’s” house? Cantu said that from the jumbled descriptions of “Joseph,” he couldn’t tell “if the guy was white, black, or a white guy with black spots, or a white guy with black spots” One child said “Joseph” was a white man who painted his head and hands black. Several others said “Joseph” had blue eyes.

Cantu suspected that parents heavily influenced the children’s testimony. “One day they tell you one story, then they go home, and all of a sudden they have the same story.” Cantu recalled, “I took the kids to different houses where they said this thing happened and none of it panned out.

The kids gave descriptions of the interior of the house and different pictures that might have been in the house, [but] any house we went into, nothing matched anything the children stated.” He canvassed the neighborhood and asked if anyone had seen a bright yellow school bus parked there all afternoon. No one had.

Less than two weeks into the investigation the mayor summoned Cantu to his office and when he arrived Grover was already there complaining that no arrest had been made. Cantu got “into a tiff” with her, but he recommended proper police procedure. “I even told the mayor, ‘just because somebody accuses, they say Nancy Smith did it, I have to prove she did it, I can’t arrest her on your say-so.’” Cantu concluded, “There is no proof that a male suspect named “Joseph” exists at the present.” The Head Start semester ended on May 27 with a picnic in the park.

The day afterwards, Grover, who had her identity concealed, appeared on a local newscast with the dramatic claim that a molester was stalking the Head Start kids — and nobody was doing anything about it. She said she wanted, “someone to do something about this case and get the ball rolling.”

She named a suspect, a white man her daughter had pointed out when he was cutting the grass outside his house. (He was soon cleared.)

After the accusations became public, Cantu took Smith for a lie detector test , which showed “she didn’t do that crime any more than me or the guy that gave the test.” Cantu concluded that there was no case against Smith, “There is no proof that a male suspect named “Joseph” exists.... all of the victims in the case have been interviewed with much inconsistency and lack of good evidence.” Shortly after Cantu made his recommendation that the investigation against Smith be concluded, he was promoted to sergeant and transferred out of the Youth/Gang unit.

The Lorain PD then assigned five officers to a special Head Start task force. The questioning of the children began again. One of those police reports states, “Amy was asked, did Joseph make you touch him? Amy stated, ‘No.’”

When Child Protective Services interviewed Nicole in May, she denied that anyone had touched her. After several months and more interviews, she agreed with detective Eladio Andujar that Nancy and “Joseph” had molested her.

Preschooler Johnny Givens got involved in the case at the end of May. His mother had seen the news reports and she remembered that her son had complained of a sore bottom the previous winter. The police report states, “[Johnny] was questioned if Nancy ever did anything to him, or if she had ever touched him, or ever touched his penis... [Johnny] stated that she had never done anything to him, and had never touched him in any way...”

Two weeks after Grover appeared on the local news, 4-year-old Jason Andrews’s mother reported that her son had told her he’d been molested right on the bus by someone named Alan. The police report notes: “He also stated that Alan looked like...Story continued HERE.)

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