The FAQ: The Murder of Anastasia WitbolsFeugen
Was Jackson County (either the Sheriff's Department
or Prosecutor) particularly anxious to close this case?
Since the arrest of Byron Case for murder, one of the arguments put forward by his supporters has been that the Jackson County Prosecutor and Sheriff's Departments were particularly anxious to close the case, and may have railroaded him in their efforts to get a quick conviction.Top of page
They have, however, failed to produce any evidence to back up this claim. Case's supporters cannot provide any believable reason why he would have been a target for railroading, or why this case might have been considered high-profile. There are a number of open murder investigations in Jackson County at any moment, and many of them are much older than five years. There was no particular over-eagerness on the part of either police or prosecution to solve this case as opposed to any of the others that were open at the time.
The state's eyewitness came forward to the Prosecutor's Office in September 2000; Byron Case was arrested nine months later in June 2001, and his trial did not begin for another ten months, in April 2002; from all appearances, this proceeded at a deliberate pace.
Anastasia's family had no political influence with which to force action from the Sheriff's Department, and the Sheriff's Department actually showed little interest in closing the case, especially after a complaint was filed by the family and a parent of one of Anastasia's friends regarding one of the detectives working on it. 1
The Sheriff's Department always had an easy solution to close the case had they wanted one: they could have blamed Justin Bruton, and Case and his friends had even provided subtle hints for them ("Justin bought a gun at least once. Justin kept coming up with wild schemes. Justin was acting suicidal. Justin was taking LSD and hallucinating."). Police occasionally mentioned that they considered it a murder-suicide.2 Despite a few statements to the contrary by Case supporters, police could have closed the case simply by declaring they believed Justin the killer and could have closed the case without a trial. We believe that there were basically two reasons they did not: one was the fact that the family was seeking answers, and declaring the case closed would have forced them to open all their files to the family, risking a full-blown lawsuit; a second (and even more important) reason was that there was still strong suspicion about Case's guilt, though JCSD could not publicly admit that.
Case once argued on his own web site that police could not have placed blame on Justin "because no one was implicating [Justin]"; this shows a gross (and likely deliberate) misunderstanding of police work, as well as a cynical spin on the truth. Both Justin Bruton and Case were considered persons of interest immediately after Anastasia's death; Case already admitted that he knew he was a suspect in private emails to Anastasia's family.3 In summary, there is no evidence that either the Prosecutor's Office or JCSD were particularly interested in closing the case of Anastasia's murder in a hurry, there is no reason to believe they wanted to railroad her killer. When he was arrested and charged, it was because the Prosecutor 's Office felt that it had sufficient evidence to charge him and gain a conviction; he was convicted because the Prosecutor's Office presented a compelling case and convinced a jury of his peers of the fact.