WARRENTON, N.C. (AP) — Local police say they think state investigators dropped the ball when looking into two deaths in rural northeastern North Carolina five years ago, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Sunday.
Regina Nolan Thomas, former Warren County Deputy and lead local detective at the time, said she has always been troubled by the conclusion of veteran State Bureau of Investigation agents that 10-year-old Tyler Jones killed his mother, Glinda Pulley, before shooting himself.
The case seemed open and shut. Tyler's thumb was on the trigger and a suicide note was under the pillow under his mother's head.
Less than seven hours after police were called to Pulley's home, the SBI turned the house back over to the family.
"You don't walk into a scene and judge it right away," said Thomas, who left the sheriff's office in 2007. "You have to search every nook and cranny."
SBI spokeswoman Noelle Talley said the agency was asked for help at the crime scene and did a few interviews. The results were shared with the county prosecutor.
A recent review of the SBI lab's policies and procedures concluded that the agency's analysts frequently misstated or falsely reported blood evidence during a 16-year period ending in 2003. The review called into question some 200 cases.
In the Pulley case, agents failed to catalog many pieces of evidence, including bloodied bedsheets and carpet and a shotgun pellet lodged in the wall in Pulley's bedroom.
The suicide note had been found by the undertaker when he lifted Pulley's body and no one searched the boy's bookbag that was in his mother's car.
"The SBI really hamstrung us," said Thomas, who now works as a private investigator in Virginia. Thomas' theory was that someone else killed both mother and son.
Sheriff Johnny Williams says he gave the SBI control of the investigation and kept out of the agents' way. He said he's not sure what the SBI collected and what was tested. He said he has never seen the SBI's report to the district attorney.
Dan Jones, Tyler's father and a sheriff's deputy in Halifax County, wrote to Attorney General Roy Cooper for help. Jones insists his son wasn't a killer and that the real killer is still at-large.
"The SBI is supposed to be the best we have in the state. ... I'm not pleased with the investigation they did," Jones said. "They didn't seem to care."
Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com