Friday, August 8, 2008

"People deserve to know"

Former Ketchum cop claims he was singled out in evidence snafu

Express Staff Writer

Key pieces of evidence for the now-dismissed Deborah A. Reimer attempted murder case were items from Bob Dreyer’s home in south Ketchum. Shown here is a bullet hole from Dreyer’s bathroom. Reimer had been accused of firing two shots at Dreyer, her former boyfriend, while he was taking a shower on July 18, 2007. Photo by Mountain Express

A former Ketchum detective says he was not pressured into resigning but left voluntarily because he lost confidence and trust in his fellow officers.

"It was big finger-pointing party," said Ken Martinez, referring to a recent Idaho Attorney General's Office investigation into evidence mishandling in the Deborah A. Reimer attempted murder case. "If I couldn't be comfortable working with them during an administrative audit, how could I be comfortable working with them in a life-and-death situation?"

Martinez, a veteran homicide detective, met Wednesday with the Idaho Mountain Express to discuss his resignation from the Ketchum Police Department, his role in evidence mishandling in the Reimer case and his personal involvement with Reimer's niece.

In spite of appearances, Martinez said there was nothing inappropriate, nor was their any conflict of interest, in his involvement with Bridgett Hollenbeck, who was then 43.

Martinez said he met Hollenbeck when he interviewed her in Claremore, Okla., in January. She hadn't seen Reimer in 20 years, didn't know anything about the case and wasn't considered a witness. Later, following an e-mail correspondence, Hollenbeck stayed with Martinez for a few days in February.

"You had two consenting adults. She was not part of the investigation," Martinez said. "We were just friends. Romantic is an exaggeration. There was just no chemistry there."

Martinez resigned in April during the attorney general's investigation. He acknowledges that he is partly to blame for the evidence handling errors, but said he was not the only one who made mistakes.

"I take some of the responsibility," he said. "I guess I left some parts out as far as the evidence. But I wasn't in charge of the evidence room."

A second-degree attempted murder charge was dismissed against Reimer in March after the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office became aware of evidence-handling problems. Reimer had been accused of firing two shots at her former boyfriend Bob Dreyer while he was taking a shower on July 18, 2007 at his home in south Ketchum.

The attorney general's investigation concluded that key pieces of collaborative evidence, a shower curtain, a bullet fragment and a piece of tile with a bullet hole in it, were improperly packaged and lacked chain-of-control documentation to show who had handled the evidence and where it had been. Furthermore, the investigation concluded that the alarm at the Ketchum Police Department evidence room had been deactivated on two occasions following the shooting and that there were 12 days in July and August of 2007 when it was impossible to know who may have had access to the evidence.

Police Chief Cory Lyman said earlier that several officers received disciplinary actions because of the evidence-handling situation but declined to give their names or discuss what measures were taken.

Evidence handling

Martinez is a 15-year veteran of the Indianapolis Police Department in Indiana. He investigated robberies, adult sex crimes and spent his last nine years as a homicide detective. But during all that time he never handled evidence. Instead, specially trained crime scene investigators were called in to collect, document and test evidence from crime scenes.

He left Indianapolis for the Ketchum job in July 2006 because his now ex-wife, a chiropractor, "wanted a slower pace, a quieter lifestyle and lots of outdoor activities," he said.

Once with the Ketchum department, he was expected to gather crime scene evidence and requested training that he said was denied.

"Even though I'm an experienced officer, it's like watching 100 open heart surgeries," Martinez said. "Does that make you qualified to do heart surgery? I know what to look for, but I had never collected evidence before."

On July 18, 2007, Martinez and Ketchum Detective R. Scott Manning were collecting evidence at Dreyer's home when both of them were called away, Manning to head up a search for the suspect and Martinez to write a probable cause affidavit.

"At that point your two investigators are no longer at the crime scene because they're called out to do other things," he said. "We could have used a couple more officers out there."

The evidence collected was never properly packaged or documented and even the attorney general's investigators were unable to determine who transported the evidence to the Ketchum Police Department. Chain-of-custody verification was compromised on the first day of the investigation.

Martinez said he should have finished the evidence paperwork, but was subsequently busy with other parts of the Reimer investigation, was swamped with other duties during the Castle Rock Fire and was even assigned to basic police work such as writing traffic tickets.

When the attorney general's investigation started, Martinez said the Police Department should have faced it honestly and openly. Instead, he said, no one wanted to admit to their mistakes, and tried to point the blame elsewhere.

"When I saw how my coworkers, how they were acting, I lost confidence in them."

Martinez said he is currently not working but is exploring several opportunities. He said he regrets ever moving to Ketchum and hopes to return to the East.

"My name is mud now in this town," he said. "I'm just telling you this now because people deserve to know what really happened."

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