(Scroll down for the original report)
November 11, 2019 update: It’s been a few weeks since we started working on the recent developments with the .32 Rossi mentioned in October Surprise and the new evidence found in a Law Enforcement Center locker discussed in Cutting the Lock. Rest assured, we are still working to discover more, but as of today, the Greenville Police Department is offering no further information about what we’ve discovered.
Today, we updated our list of questions to the Greenville Police Department, but spokesman Donald Porter wrote in an email, “…the review of the Looper investigation continues. As such, the Department is still unable to respond to your inquires at this time. Hopefully at some point in the future, the Department will be able to discuss this case with you.”
We will continue to work with our sources to discover what we can in the meantime. If you know something or know someone who does, please make use of our secure tips page.
Below are the questions we have most recently asked of the GPD.
- What is the current status of the .32 Rossi recovered from Don McIntyre?
- Has it been test-fired, and if so, by what agency?
- Are the lead slugs that killed the Loopers available to test against the gun?
- Have any potential tests revealed any results?
- If the gun has not been tested, are there plans to do so, and if so, when?
THE EVIDENCE FROM THE LOCKER
- To whom was the locker assigned prior to the lock being cut?
- What efforts are currently being made to investigate what was alleged in the letter?
- Is the person who wrote/signed the letter still alive?
- Who is currently in possession of the evidence?
- What month and year was the evidence recovered?
- What other items/documents/letters/photos were in the locker?
- Will Chief Miller sit down for a recorded on-the-record discussion?
- Has the police department been contacted by any representative of Charles Wakefield, Jr.?
- In what month and year was the review of the Looper murder case started?
- What is the current timeline for the ongoing review?
The original report is below.
call to ORDER
Greenville, South Carolina Police Chief Ken Miller told a city citizen review board his officers found previously unrevealed evidence in the Rufus and Frank Looper murder case that had the potential to clear Charles Wakefield, Jr.’s name. Miller revealed the discovery during the July 15, 2019 meeting of the Greenville Public Safety Citizen Review Board, but said no one outside the police department and citizen board was aware of what officers had found. The evidence, Miller said, implicated a former Greenville County lawman in the Looper murders.
Murder, etc., acting on information from sources, filed a Freedom of Information request for the Minutes and audio recording of that meeting and a subsequent board meeting in October. The city responded to that request November 6, 2019, providing the minutes and two audio files that documented the two meetings.
Chief Miller’s revelation came at the end of the July board meeting, just as Chairwoman Dorothy Dowe was preparing to adjourn.
When Dowe asked if anyone else had anything they wanted to talk about, Miller said, “I do have one thing I just want to share.”
Miller then told the board members about the evidence, saying, “I can tell you that there is some question about (Wakefield’s) conviction based on documents that surfaced over the past couple of years.”
Miller said his detectives were studying the new evidence and the original police file to determine importance and relevance of the new information.
“It may result in the decision that the conviction is the conviction. It may result in our ability to identify that something else took place,” he said.
Dorothy Dowe called the meeting to order at 5:33pm on July 15, 2019. According to the minutes of the meeting, four other board members were present: Nelson Arrington, Osa Benson, Charles Hinton, and David Ledbetter. Two other board members, Delores Durham and Carlo White, were out of town.
The minutes indicate several city employees attended, including Staff Liaison and Secretary Athena Miller, Assistant City Attorney John Garza, Chief Miller, Greenville Police Officer Jessica Crawford, Greenville PD Internal Affairs head Captain Stacey Owens, and Greenville Fire Department representative Eric Eubanks.
According to the minutes, no citizens signed up to speak to the board and no news reporters attended.
While the minutes detailed several of the discussion points from the meeting, there was no mention of Miller’s nearly-ten-minute discussion of the Looper murders and the new evidence.
Miller told the board that police had discovered the evidence in the Law Enforcement Center locker room in “a locker that probably hadn’t seen daylight in two or more decades.”
Miller said the department was clearing out lockers no one had claimed, first cutting the locks, and then inventorying what was inside.
According to Miller, one of those lockers contained a small box with folders inside, and inside one of those folders was a letter implicating 1975 Sheriff Cash Williams in the Looper murders.
Miller said the letter was written by one of Sheriff Williams’ mistresses who wrote, according to Miller, “(Sheriff Williams) and some of his team members may have been involved and framed (Wakefield).”
Miller said the police department had no way of knowing at that time who the locker belonged to or whether the allegation in the letter was true.
Regardless, Miller, who had worked in North Carolina to exonerate a wrongly-convicted man, said the new evidence was convincing enough to launch a new investigation. In a follow-up meeting in October, Miller said he had assigned three detectives to the case.
“(The letter) concerns me enough in and of itself to warrant a look, because it wasn’t in the case file,” Miller told the board.
Miller’s assertion backs up Murder, etc. sources’ claims that the police file on the Looper murders didn’t contain the letter. The letter was also not included in the Freedom of Information request response to Wakefield’s attorney Eric Gottlieb in 2001.
Sheriff Cash Williams took office in 1972 after a contentious race in which longtime sheriff Bob Martin had been accused of corruption and investigated by a grand jury.
Williams, who had been a trucking company dispatcher prior to his election, had no law enforcement experience and almost immediately faced accusations of corruption and incompetence.
During his term, Williams spent months fighting off allegations he’d tried to hire people to kill his rivals, including an opposing candidate, Leonard Brown, and Reverend Larry Atkins, the publisher of a local newspaper that often accused the sheriff of corruption. Atkins filed a lawsuit against Williams claiming that the sheriff had tried to have him killed.
Atkins alleged Williams hired a one-time agent of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division for the job. In 2019, Leonard Brown said Williams was terrified Atkins would reveal the sheriff’s infidelity and embarrassing photos the sheriff had given his mistress.
The community assault on Williams lasted for his entire term, and in 1976 Johnny Mack Brown won the sheriff’s election. Brown served as sheriff through 2000 when he retired. Brown later became South Carolina’s U.S. Marshal and most recently has served as interim sheriff while Sheriff Will Lewis awaited trial on misconduct charges.
A jury convicted Lewis of misconduct in October 2019, and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster removed Lewis from office. Greenville County will hold a special election in 2020 to elect a sheriff to serve until the November 2020 election.
Last month, Murder, etc. reported that its sources were aware of the evidence officers found in the Law Enforcement Center locker. It wasn’t until the City of Greenville released the audio recordings of the citizen board’s meeting that Murder, etc. could confirm the sources’ claims.
During that special report, October Surprise, Murder, etc. also revealed it had discovered a gun of the same make, model, and caliber of the suspected Looper murder weapon in the possession of the son of a woman who served as the key witness against Wakefield.
Don McIntyre told Murder, etc.‘s Brad Willis and Andy Ethridge he found the pistol in a shoebox among his mother’s belongings. McIntyre’s mother, Dora Mae McIntyre, came forward more than eight months after the murders to tell police she was at the scene of the crime just before the murders and saw Wakefield walking toward the garage where someone shot the Looper men.
Don McIntyre told Willis and Ethridge he believes his mother didn’t tell the truth when she testified at trial. Don McIntyre said he believed his sister, Dianne McIntyre Cowart, had “programmed” their mother to lie in an effort to arrange a reduced sentence for Dianne’s husband, Mike Cowart. A judge had sentenced Mike Cowart to 24 years in prison for a string of burglaries in Greenville.
In the October meeting of the citizen board, Chairwoman Dowe asked Chief Miller for an update on the investigation into the new evidence.
Despite having told the board in July that he was eager to work with an advocacy group on behalf of Charles Wakefield, Jr., the chief said in October that the effort was “on hold” as his three detectives continued to dig into the case.
Murder, etc. has repeatedly reached out to Chief Miller through the department’s spokesman, but other than acknowledging that police had recovered the gun from Don McIntyre, the police department has offered no other formal response.
After receiving the recording of the meeting, Murder, etc. contacted Dowe for comment, but Dowe has not yet responded.
The next meeting of the Greenville Public Safety Citizen Review Board is in January.
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Cutting the Lock is a special report that includes bombshell audio of the current Greenville Police Chief telling a Greenville citizen’s board about previously unrevealed evidence in the Rufus and Frank Looper murders.
After filing a Freedom of Information request, Murder, etc. producer Brad Willis received the minutes and audio recordings of two meetings in which Chief Miller revealed what his officers found and where they found it.