Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

April 25, 2014

TBI: Defendant wasn’t where he said

Internet rape porn pictures kept from jury

By Michael R. Moser

CROSSVILLE — Prosecutors admitted from the start their case was more like a jigsaw puzzle of circumstantial evidence and that, when all the pieces fell into place, the jury would see the full picture of what happened the day Kimberly Ann Batty of Fairfield Glade was killed.

Defense attorneys countered none of the pieces led to the defendant, John Russell Giles, and challenged state attorneys by asking where was the proof leading to the state’s conclusion that their client was her killer?

The state was dealt a blow to their case Wednesday afternoon when Criminal Court Judge Leon Burns barred the showing of a series of staged rape pornography pictures they claim were found on Giles’ computer by a TBI forensic scientist.

With the stage set to show the pictures — another key piece to the state’s evidentiary puzzle — defense attorneys Randal Boston and Kevin Bryant of Crossville were successful in arguing the Internet images of rape would be prejudicial to the jury since it has never been alleged that Giles raped Batty.

Assistant District Attorney Philip Hatch countered the state was not saying Giles raped the victim. The state’s purpose in showing the images to the jury was to prove he had researched the topic of rape on his home computer days before the slaying so he could stage the scene to look like the killing took place during a violent rape.

Searches about rape were found on Giles’ computer as far back as October, TBI Agent Douglas Williams, a computer forensic specialist, testified. These searches continued up to Nov. 6, 2012.

Specifically, the state wanted to show one image that showed a rape “victim” with clothes cut away and positioned as the body of Batty was found by investigators when they arrived at her Dovenshire home Nov. 7, 2012.

Burns agreed with the defense, stating the prejudicial nature of the photo outweighed the value of supporting the murder charge Giles is facing.

The computer search and results are just one piece of the state’s case.

One key witness was 85-year-old Joy Miller of Bridgeport, WV, and a former resident and neighbor of Batty. She testified that she saw Giles drive up to the residence shortly after 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 7 in his white van. They briefly spoke — the first and only time they spoke — before Giles entered Batty’s house.

She was certain of the time because her favorite soap opera, “The Young and the Restless,” was on television from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. She walked to the mailbox after that day’s episode ended.

She also recognized Giles — a gray-haired man — as the one who often visited Batty, traveling in the van or a slate-gray Volkswagen convertible with a red top.

Another key witness for the state was William Ross Crabtree, who was arrested in March 2013 for failure to pay child support. By chance, he was placed in the same cell with Giles.

On the first night, Giles asked Crabtree what he was incarcerated for and then told Crabtree he was being held for murder.

The next morning, Giles was talkative about his circumstances, Crabtree testified. He quoted Giles as calling Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Dan Friel and Sheriff’s Department Chief Investigator Casey Cox “butt holes.” Crabtree said Giles then told him, “I didn’t mean to kill her but I did.”

Later, Crabtree said Giles told him he had said too much in front of him and that if he repeated the confession, “he would have to kill me.”

Crabtree asked to be moved to another cell and contacted Friel to tell him of the incident.

Tuesday the trial opened with Fairfield Glade Public Safety Officer Sgt. Charles Laxton testifying he received a call around 6:10 p.m. Nov. 7, 2012, of a possible death at a Dovenshire Dr. residence and that he assisted an ambulance in finding the address.

When he arrived, he noted that another FFG safety officer escorted Giles from the residence and placed him in Giles’ white van. Laxton stated he stayed with Giles outside the residence as Giles asked him several times, “Is she dead?”

Laxton added it was his opinion that Giles had “no emotional attachment” and seemed “obsessed with wiping blood” with a paper towel from a finger. He also observed blood on Giles’ cheek and shirt.

When neighbors arrived and started talking to Giles, Laxton testified he entered the house and observed Batty’s body lying on the floor in a pool of blood between a couch and coffee table.

Next, the jury heard an audio playing of Giles’ E-911 call reporting his discovery of the body. Donald Buttram, Cumberland County 911 director, explained the technical aspects of the emergency center’s taping system.

On the CD, a dispatcher can be heard asking Giles questions about Batty’s condition and then instructing Giles on how to start CPR procedures. Giles told the dispatcher, “She’s not moving,” that she was cold to the touch and that there was a lot of blood on the floor beneath her head and on the couch.

“Oh, God, help her,” Giles is heard saying at one point. At another point he said, “Oh, God, I know she’s dead ... something has happened...she’s all naked.”

At that point the dispatcher instructed Giles to leave Batty’s body alone and soon ambulance and security personnel arrived.

Cumberland County Sheriff’s Investigator Jerry Jackson testified about photos and videos of the scene that were taken that night.

His testimony included photos of a blood splatter on the blinds and windowsill behind the couch, the large amount of blood on the couch and sofa, a blood smear on a door leading to a portion of the garage that had been turned into a den, a blood smear on the kitchen counter and a tissue that appeared to have blood found on the floor between the kitchen and den.

Also introduced was a photo showing scratch marks on Giles’ face.

Jackson testified Batty’s glasses were found in the den area partially under a clothing rack.

With most of the house intact, jewelry on the bedroom dresser and no signs of forced entry, Jackson stated he soon concluded that Batty’s death did not relate to an home invasion crime.

Giles “tried to act upset” but did not appear sincere when Jackson talked to Giles as he sat in his van outside the Batty home, Jackson testified.

Giles stated he left and Batty traveled to Crossville that morning, but she received a phone call from an exterminating company and had to return to her home to wait for an exterminator to arrive. Jackson added that when investigators checked with the company, they said they had not called Batty.

Giles told Jackson the two met July 4 at a Fairfield Glade singles club event and had been dating regularly since. They had just returned from a golf outing with other couples to Gulf Shores, AL, just days before Batty’s death.

He said on Nov. 7, 2012, he left her at home around 11 a.m. and kept a doctor’s appointment, went to Rite Aid Pharmacy, Walgreen’s and Wal-Mart before returning to Batty’s home and discovering the body around 6 p.m. that day.

In a statement the next morning, Giles reportedly told investigators that Batty “flirted a lot, wore tight clothing and enjoyed having sex.” He went on to describe sex acts that Batty enjoyed.

Four days later, Giles voluntarily went to the sheriff’s office and asked to speak to investigators, telling them they might find some of his DNA underneath Batty’s fingernails because she had scratched him when she fell while standing on the coffee table, changing a light bulb.

Through Jackson, voicemails on Batty’s phone were introduced and played for the jury. They included several — two of Giles singing to the victim — one received around 4:03 p.m. with Giles telling Batty, “I wish you’d call me. Love you.”

Jackson — and later, Friel — testified that Giles said he never went to the residence on the afternoon of Nov. 7, 2012.

Under cross examination, Jackson answered questions from Boston, admitting that investigators did not find the object used to cut the victim’s clothing from her body, and did not find a weapon used to beat the victim.

“What evidence connects him (Giles) to that home,” Boston asked Jackson.

“DNA, fingerprints, hair ... he was the last one to see her,” Jackson replied.

With Hatch getting another chance to question the investigator, Jackson testified it was investigators’ belief that the altercation occurred in the den area, where the victim’s glasses were found, and continued into the kitchen.

Investigators believe the body was then placed on the couch, and later on the floor, her clothing cut away after she was dead, and the body staged to look like Batty was the victim of a violent attack and rape.

Most of Wednesday morning was bogged down in testimony from Verizon representative John Rowe, who testified about calls and texts recorded by the company between Giles’ phone and Batty’s phone, and the vicinity of where the two phones were when those calls were made and texts sent.

The tedious task of presenting this information to the jury fell on Assistant District Attorney Caroline Knight, and the purpose was to show Giles was not where he said he was during the series of conflicting statements.

Towers that reported phone activity included those on Old Mail Rd. and Rock Quarry Rd. in Crossville, and Druid Circle and Stonehenge Dr. in Fairfield Glade.

Bryant had Rowe read a series of texts between the two that were sent between 11:02 p.m. and 11:16 p.m. Nov. 6 where the two tell each other good night.

Rowe also agreed with Bryant that if cell phone activity was high on one tower, calls or texts would be transferred to a second tower.

Robert Rosenblatt, an analyst with the Regional Organized Crime Information Center, then testified as to a series of 11 maps he created through computer programs that show the location of towers used during key phone activity between the victim’s and the defendant’s cell phones.

He admitted that he had made a sector error on first maps provided and that the error had not been discovered or corrected until this week. This has caused defense attorneys during pretrial motions to repeatedly ask, “What else is wrong with the maps?”

Friel testified that, when he arrived on the scene and viewed the body, two things came to his mind: it was either a rape scene or a staged rape scene. All the victim’s clothing had been cut off the body, but the body bore no signs of trauma.

He concluded that clothing had been cut from the body “as she lies there deceased.”

The TBI agent testified that inconsistencies, including Giles’ failure to tell him that he had returned to the Batty home at 12:30 p.m., claiming to be somewhere else, that caused investigators to focus on Giles.

TBI Special Agent Jennifer Shipman, a forensic science expert, testified that she found no signs of semen on Batty’s body or on her clothing. Blood found on the kitchen floor and on a tissue found nearby belonged to Batty, Shipman said.

She did find DNA from a second person beneath the victim’s fingernails on the left hand, and a mixture of DNA under fingernails on the right hand. There was not enough to match a DNA sample obtained from Giles, or to match it to anyone else, Shipman testified.

When Williams testified as to the searches that had been made on Giles’ computer for pornography sites dealing with rape scenarios, the agent testified there were numerous searches about the death of Batty and Internet searches titled, “Kimberly Batty cremated.”

This set the stage for Boston’s and Bryant’s arguments that led to the banning of the showing of images found on the computer.

As the Chronicle deadline on Thursday arrived, a state medical examiner was to testify about his findings before state prosecutors ended their presentation and turned over the case to defense attorneys.