The Terrell Tribune

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

NYPD homicide expert visits Terrell

By Gary E. Lindsley

Son of Sam, the Nicole Simpson murder and the disappearance of Stacy Peterson.

These are three different high-profile cases from around the country with which a retired New York City homicide commander is familiar.

Vernon J. Geberth led a three-day homicide seminar in Terrell last week that involved about 60 law enforcement officers from four states, including the Terrell Police Department.

“It’s about truth and justice,” Geberth said during a break in the seminar. “”It’s about getting things right the first time because you only get one chance.”

Geberth also talked about the Jeffrey MacDonald case. MacDonald, who was a U.S. Army doctor at Fort Bragg, N.C., was convicted in 1979 of the Feb. 17, 1970, murders of his wife and two daughters.

MacDonald was granted a hearing two months ago so that what he claims is new evidence could be presented. The new evidence, according to the Los Angeles Times, includes DNA testing in 2006 that found several hairs in the hand of one of MacDonald’s daughters that do not match MacDonald or anyone else living in the house. The same testing also found MacDonald’s hair in his dead wife’s hand.

Geberth, though, debunks the new evidence.  “MacDonald is a psychopath,” he said. “This is not new evidence. He is getting another trial with old evidence.”

Geberth said everyone in the family had different blood types so investigators could see where each person was during the murders. “It was exquisite,” he said.

Then there is retired police Sgt. Drew Peterson, who was convicted in September of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio. His fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, has been missing since 2007.

“I show how Drew Peterson was able to manipulate the investigator,” Geberth said. “It is a perfect-storm scenario because the lead investigator was not qualified.”

He said he was a “talking head” for the Drew Peterson case and was “privy” to a number of other cases, including the murder of Jon Benet Ramsey and Nicole Simpson.

He actually worked the Son of Sam case. David Berkowitz in the mid-1970s murdered six people in New York City, claiming his neighbor’s dog commanded him to do so.

Despite some claims that more than one person was responsible for the murders, Geberth said; “One person and one person only was responsible — David Berkowitz.”

He uses real cases in his homicide seminars and has been conducting them for 32 years.

“Having all of that experience makes it unique for the class,” Geberth said. “I am a homicide guy. This is rewarding because I get to vicariously share in others’ experiences.”

He estimated about 66,000 officers have been through his program.

During last week’s three-day seminar, Geberth told participants there are five components of homicide investigation: teamwork, documentation, preservation, common sense and flexibility.

“It is important for you to document everything, including what people tell you to do,” he said. “And you have to be flexible. You have to be able to change your mind when new evidence comes in.”

Terrell Police Chief Jody L. Lay had attended one of Geberth’s seminars in the past and wanted him to come to Kaufman County.

“We were lucky to land him,” Lay said.

Geberth said he did not visit Texas last year, and when he does, it is usually in a large metropolitan area.

“The immediate benefit for Terrell is an amazing range of training,” Geberth said. “It’s win-win for them.”