The Trail of a Thousand Footprints

Much has been made of the footprints found in the sand.  Importantly, they connect the crime scene to a piece of debris found two football fields away.  Or at least we are meant to believe they do…

The idea is that that there are wheelbarrow tracks, and accompanying footprints, that lead from the all-important business card to the wheelbarrow’s location. Apparently, at least 200 (maybe 800) yards away, there is a patch of ‘disturbed earth’ where, it is speculated, there is a ‘scene of a struggle’.  Forty-five feet further away was the card, the only piece of even-remotely related trace evidence that links to the defendants.

The Theory

Investigators postulate that the following scenario played out that night: Three people (Robert, Cristin, and Becky) get together to discuss Robert and Becky’s relationship status. Somehow they end up at least 200 yards from the house. In a fit of rage, Robert kills Becky.  A patch of earth is disturbed where this struggle took place. Cristin sees all this and is willing to help Robert cover it up.

Lifeguards, Protectors

Conveniently, there is a wheelbarrow right there, where they happened to be, out in the vast expansive desert behind her house. Cristin helps Robert load Becky’s body into the wheelbarrow.  Ironically, a crumpled pro-life business card falls out of his pocket and tumbles for 45 feet.  They wheel her body back near the house, trading off along the way.  Then, 67 feet from the house, they set her body on fire.

Presumably, somewhere along the timeline, they go to their car and get their guns out.  They go into the house and execute the occupants to cover up the crime. Then they set the house on fire and flee. They drive extremely fast down the hill and check their voice mail as soon as humanly possible.

The Tracks

So, lets do some forensic analysis.  Three people walk, or run, 200 yards into the desert, supposedly straight to the wheelbarrow. The normal stride expected from an average height human should be no more than 3 feet.  One yard. So, 3 people x 200 steps (yards) = 600 steps.

Then, they struggle, kill, load the wheelbarrow. There should be several footprints created here.  Then, two people walk back 200 yards with one body in the wheelbarrow.  2 people x 200 steps = 400 steps.  We are to at least 1,000 steps now.

Any other variation to the story, such as going to fetch a wheelbarrow from somewhere else, would add steps. Footprints.  So how many footprints did they find?  A total of only 5 footprints were entered into evidence.  Five footprints over 200 yards!  When pressed for details under cross examination, they say there were more, but they didn’t document them.

Now, they document everything.  Or at least they should.  They were asked if they had digital cameras.  They did. They were asked if the had video cameras. They did. They were asked if they walked along the path with the video camera to document the continuity of the trail. They didn’t.

So, it could be assumed that they really didn’t have this trail at all, they just said they did.

Of the 5 footprints found, three were clearly Vans shoes, and two were DVS.  Which, if any, apply to the defendants?  In October of 2007, they searched the houses where the Pape and Smith lived.  At Robert Pape’s house a pair of Vans shoes were found.  At trial, it was left for the jury to connect the dots: Vans footprints, Vans shoes, must match, right?

In an act of brazen omission, the prosecution conveniently left out the screaming fact that the sole patterns were different!  It is here their actions betray their real motives: It is not about justice. It’s about winning!

A New Angle

In addition to only having five footprints, investigators were asked if the wheelbarrow track was continuous.  “No” was the answer.  It stopped and started. How much? We’ll never know. They didn’t use their video camera to document the path.

What’s more, at ‘placard A’ there is a clear footprint on top of a wheelbarrow track.  The investigators surmise that whoever made the footprint was pushing the wheelbarrow.  But a thoughtful eye would notice that the footprint, on top of the track, was at an approximate 30 to 40 degree angle to the track.  So, on top of it, and at an angle.  Anybody who has ever used a loaded wheelbarrow and turned it sharply enough to change direction by 30 degrees, quickly enough to step on the track, would know that the wheelbarrow will immediately start to fall over. Corrective action to stop it from falling would create a distorted footprint in the soft sand.  This was a clean print over a clean track.  An experienced eye would see that the footprint was made later. Someone stepped on the wheel mark. At an angle.

The End of the Rainbow

There were a number of items that would concern the average citizen about the quality of the crime scene investigation. The sum total of the documentation of this so-called trail was a single page from a steno pad that had a curved line drawn on it, with the letters A,B, C, D, E spaced along the line.  At the top, indicating where the wheelbarrow was located, was the phrase ‘The End of the Rainbow’.

In 2006, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department owned GPS tracking devices to help them document precise locations at crime scenes.  They had one there that day. They used it. Five years later, they realized no one had downloaded, or otherwise noted, the data from the scene.  They had no idea precisely where any of this took place. In fact, one investigator testified that the business card was 800 yards from the scene.  Another guessed at 200 yards.  No measurement, by wheel or tape or pace or anything, was ever taken.

In Summary

The business card was of dubious evidentiary value already.  The rainbow trail, as you can see here, is also dubious, at best.  This leads to the double conclusion that the unrelated piece of evidence was disconnected from the crime scene.

Comments 2

  1. Though this next is not directly related to the footprints, there is also the matter of the “small red pick-up truck” (like a Nissan or Toyota) that as it drives in the direction of Highway 74, almost collides with Captain Jeff William’s Fire truck. The fire truck at this time had turned off Highway 74 and was traversing one of the three dirt roads that will lead to the Friedli home. (Captain Jeff Williams seemed uncertain as to which of the roads he was on at that time, but it would seem that the following day this could have been discerned, simply by tracks on the road. Or a neighbor might have witnessed something.)

    Given that the fire truck could only have been coming from one of two places: 1) the Pinyon Pines/Mountain Center community, or 2) from some place on Dunn Road (this road leads to Mike Dunn Desert Rider’s Oasis-Mountain Bike trials), or if one travels farther-is an hour and a half’s drive to Cathedral City from the Friedli home. The chances that the driver of this truck was either part of this crime, or witness to it, seems probable.

    I fail to see how this truck is a red herring. It seems to be just one more incredibly important piece of evidence, never followed up on by investigators on this case.

  2. Pingback: A Tragedy compounded by a Wrongful Conviction | Pinyon Pines Murders

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