Brutal murder of Dana Clair Edwards shocks tony Texas town
- Extra: Thomas Ford questioned about Dana Clair, relationship
- Extra: Prosecutors tell victim's family chances of winning are 50/50
- Extra: Defense lion worried about impact of police mistakes
- More »
Dana Clair Edwards and Grit (Edwards family)
Thomas Ford (police interview): I want you all to know that I will do everything to help out.
Detective: Did anybody else use your phone that night?
Thomas Ford No that would have been impossible.
Detective: Once you went home from the party, you went straight home?
Thomas Ford: Yeah. ... I go straight home.
Prosecutors used almost everything he told police against him. They argue, the interrogation locks Ford into a story that is a lie.
"'I was home, I was asleep, I didn't leave the bed until 7:00 a.m. the next day,'" said Kirsta Melton.
They say surveillance images prove he wasn't sleeping ... he was driving his SUV to Dana Clair's house.
"If you just looked at that tape not knowing anything, and you saw a white SUV come in, two minutes later come out, head south, come back, come in, come out, head north, your first thought is, 'What's that guy doin'? I mean, are they casin' the joint? What's goin' on here?" Catherine Babbitt told Richard Schlesinger. "When you put that with the time he says he left the party, that's when you sort of start to build that timeline."
But Ford's attorney, Dick DeGuerin says as blurry as the pictures are, nobody can tell anything about that car.
"You know, you cannot identify this car as being Thomas Ford's car," he told Schlesinger.
Prosecutors knew they needed more than that surveillance tape to make their case. And they think they found it just before trial in a pile of Ford's cell phone records, which police subpoenaed but never fully analyzed.
"When we did that, I still have chills thinking about it," said prosecutor Kathy Cunningham.
Cunningham realized what she was looking at could change everything.
Cell records have the latitude and longitude for the towers the phone is using. Prosecutors used Google Maps to locate the towers and believed they could now say where Ford went -- and when.
They called an AT&T engineer named Ken Doll.
"If you tell somebody that you were home all night long and -- and you really weren't, then -- if you took your cell phone with you -- we're liable to find that out," Doll explained.
Doll created a map showing the towers that picked up Ford's cell phone signals throughout the night.
"... we tracked the defendant's activities from 8:30 that evening until 9:00 a.m. the next morning," Babbitt explained.
Remember, Ford told police he went home from the party and was in bed before midnight and turned his phone off. But the records seem to tell a different story. At 11:45 p.m., he received a call that went straight to voice mail. Prosecutors say the signal should have bounced off the tower that serves Ford's home.
But it didn't. According to prosecutors, it bounced off a tower that serves Dana Clair's apartment in Gallery Court.
"It showed that his phone was near her apartment?" Schlesinger asked.
"Correct," Babbitt replied.
One hour later, Dana Clair's car arrives. And then a half hour after that, a text goes to Thomas Ford's phone. Once again, say prosecutors, the signal bounces off the cell tower that serves Dana Clair's condo. That means, they say, Ford's own cell phone records place him near Dana Clair's condo for 90 minutes.
"So you now know that the person that is walking into Gallery Court is John Thomas Ford," Babbitt tells the court.
"How long do you think it took to kill her?" Schlesinger asked.
"I think it took 15 to 20 minutes," said Babbitt.
Prosecutors say the cell phone records even provide evidence about what happened to Dana Clair's dog, Grit. At 1:32 a.m., Ford's phone is communicating with a tower that serves the area where Grit's body was found -- the dam, near Dana Clair's condo.
Catherine Babbitt: What would be the only reason it is pinging near the dam?
Ken Doll: That device would have had to have been near the Olmos Dam.
Prosecutors believe it was Ford who brought Grit there. But how did he get there? That same camera that showed a figure walking into the condo complex shows no one walking out before that 1:32 a.m. call.
Prosecutors have a theory. They say Ford didn't walk out of the entrance, but that he came out of the condo and jumped over a wall with Grit's body. Then he drove to the dam, disposed of Grit, drove back, and returned to the condo, jumping back over the wall.
"Think about how ridiculous that is," DeGuerin told the court.
"Thomas weighed 250 pounds at least -- when this happened," DeGuerin told Schlesinger. "... even someone ... in good physical condition would have a tough time getting over that high wall."
"-- maybe he wasn't at the Olmos Dam," Schlesinger remarked to Babbitt.
"Well, his phone sure was," she replied.
"Historical cell phone tower usage is voodoo, it's junk science," DeGuerin told Schlesinger.
The defense has found experts who insist it is not possible to pinpoint a phone's location, based on what tower it used. But DeGuerin has to get Ken Doll to concede that the cell phone records can be unreliable.
Dick DeGuerin: You cannot say to a certainty that it was actually in that sector, can you?
Ken Doll: I think you have an extremely, very high degree of accuracy on that. ... We make multibillion-dollar decisions based on what this tool tells us.
Dick DeGuerin: Sure...
Prosecutors argue jurors can believe Thomas Ford or they can believe the cell phone records, but they can't believe both.
"He had an alibi," Babbitt told Schlesinger. "The cell phone records pierced that alibi."
It's been a tough four weeks of trial. DeGuerin's last word to the jury is that the evidence leaves more than enough reasonable doubt.
Catherine Babbitt tells jurors that Ford snapped after being rejected by Dana Clair and asks them to focus on the lives that were ended that night.
"And how did he describe her? 'Full of life. Full of energy, full of joy'. And if that isn't a picture of that, I don't know what is. And so is this little guy. And how dare he," Babbitt told jurors, holding up a photo of Dana Clair and Grit.
The lawyers have done what they can do. It's all in the jury's hands now.
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