Detective's Faux Pas Scuttles Dishon Murder Trial

James Zambroski
James Zambroski
By James Zambroski
WAVE3-Snitch Reporter
Jan. 29, 2003

In an explosive development in the murder trial of David "Bucky" Brooks, Bullitt County Circuit Judge Thomas Waller declared a mistrial late Tuesday afternoon.

Forty-five minutes into the testimony of Bullitt County Detective Charles Mann, defense attorney Vince Yustas asked him why Brooks was a suspect in the Sept. 10, 1999, killing of 17-year-old Jessica Dishon.

Mann replied that the FBI had identified Brooks as the last person to see the Bullitt Central High senior alive, then added, "He failed a polygraph, I think, they issued."

Yustas immediately asked for a mistrial.

Waller and prosecution and defense attorneys promptly retired to the judge's chambers for an hour. When they returned, Waller said that he had no choice but to declare the trial at an end.

A hearing set for Wednesday in Circuit Court will determine if Mann's verbal miscue was intentional.

Brooks alleged through his attorney that he overheard Mann say that he knew he shouldn't have said anything about a polygraph but did so anyway. Results of polygraph tests are inadmissible in Kentucky.

Before adjourning court, Waller apologized to the families of both Jessica Dishon and David Brooks.

John Spainhour, another of Brooks's attorneys, said it was too early to determine whether his client would remain in jail. Brooks, 43, has been held in Bullitt County Jail since he was indicted on Jan. 18, 2001.

Commonwealth Attorney Mike Mann said little after the court was adjourned, physically escorting Edna Dishon and her family through a crowd of reporters and spectators to her car in the lot outside the courthouse.

Edna Dishon had no comment, but wept and hugged her family.

Mann said he was disappointed and will wait for the outcome of Wednesday's hearing before commenting.


Week two of the trial was notable for what the jury didn't hear as much as for the evidence pointing to him as the man who killed Jessica.

Jim Adams, the former Bullitt County sheriff's detective who led the murder investigation, along with Charles Mann, was in the courtroom last week only long enough to tell the jury he couldn't remember much about the work he did that resulted in Brooks being indicted two years ago and charged with her strangulation.

In another odd twist, Bullitt County Coroner Tommy Kappel did not testify - considered unusual in a capital murder case - denying the jury an explanation as to why he led police during a search of a burn pile and an office at the Brooks farm.

Kappel found a pair of work gloves that state forensic anthropologist Dr. Emily Craig testified "smelled like human decomposition," but the dark brown, jersey-cloth gloves, stored in a can from the medical examiner's office, haven't been formally introduced as evidence, probably because an analysis by the Kentucky State Police crime lab discovered nothing human staining them.

And Brooks, on trial for his life, but more concerned with the sport coat and tie he wears to court every day, has become the forgotten man in the Shepherdsville courtroom drama. His name has rarely been mentioned in connection with the circumstantial evidence against him.

Adams, a former Navy SEAL, is now a petroleum worker in Southern Indiana. He resigned from the sheriff's office in September 2000, a year after Dishon's murder and four months before Brooks was indicted. While subpoenaed to testify, neither he nor Charles Mann have sat with Commonwealth Attorney Mike Mann in the courtroom during the prosecution of the case.

Dishon was last seen on the morning of Sept. 10, 1999, shortly before she left her family's Deatsville Road home for Bullitt Central High School. When her body was found Sept. 27, in woods off Greenwell Ford Road about eight miles from her home, Adams testified that he and uniformed deputies spent the night near the site until teams from the Kentucky medical examiner's office and the FBI arrived at daybreak.

Jessica's parents, Mike and Edna Dishon, had called the FBI two days after Jessica disappeared. When her body was found, agents turned over all evidence they obtained - primarily synopses of interviews - to the sheriff's department. Adams testified that he and Mann became co-lead investigators on the case, but said such division of duties was "not normal" policy in the office.

Sporting a braided ponytail and full beard, dressed in blue jeans and long-sleeved, blue cotton work shirt sans necktie, Adams testified that he could remember little as defense lawyer Vince Yustas repeatedly asked him to explain why Brooks was his only suspect and where documentation of the police investigation could be found.

"Where will we find the records to show where evidence came from, who collected it and gave it to you, who took it to the lab?" Yustas asked.
"I have no idea," Adams responded.

Adams testified that he made personal notes documenting his investigation and left them in the case file when he resigned from the sheriff's office. He said he didn't know what became of them after that.

"Why was the Kentucky State Police not called in?" Yustas asked.
"I have no idea," Adams answered.

"Do you know of any witness that saw Bucky with Jessica Dishon that Friday?" Yustas queried.

"No," Adams said.

"Is there any physical evidence that would link Bucky to the crime?" Yustas asked.

"Not that I'm aware of," Adams answered.

During direct testimony last week, Adams told prosecutor Mann, who is distantly related to Detective Mann, that he visited the Brooks family farm on Deatsville Road, next to the Dishon residence, and obtained evidence during two searches.

The majority of Adams's testimony for the prosecution centered on various items he took to the state police crime labs on Chamberlain Lane and in Frankfort. Among exhibits entered into evidence were a paint can, a stirring stick, a paint sprayer, two lengths of rope, including one looped around Dishon's ankle, and several paint scrapings taken from vehicles owned by the Brooks family.

But when Yustas later questioned Adams in depth about the evidence, the former detective's memory was thin on details.

"Why was there no fingerprint analysis of prints lifted from various places?" Yustas inquired.

"I can't answer that," Adams responded.

Adams said he "didn't know" why fingerprints, DNA, hair and blood samples weren't gathered from anyone but Brooks and his brothers, David "Tommy" Brooks and Herbert "Three Fingers" Brooks, also known as "Junior."

He said he didn't remember testifying before the January 2001 grand jury that indicted Brooks about witnesses who claimed they saw Dishon at a party the night before she disappeared. He did not deny giving such testimony, however.
"If I said that, I'm sure that's what I meant," he testified.

Concerning Edna Dishon's testimony that she saw Bucky Brooks cutting cattails growing around a pond near the Dishon home the day Jessica disappeared, Yustas asked who verified that the plants grew there and that they'd been cut.
"I don't know," Adams testified.

The gloves were found in an ordinary plastic bag under a sofa in a trailer next to the office of the water service run by the Brooks family on their farm. Craig testified that Dishon was moved about 10 feet several days after her remains were originally left in the woods and said whatever touched the body would have been contaminated with the odor of human decomposition.

Even though the gloves are not direct evidence, Yustas called his own expert witness to explain why they might have smelled as Craig testified.

Dr. Elizabeth Murray, a forensic anthropologist on the faculty of the College of Mount St. Joseph and the University of Cincinnati Medical School, testified that a protein found in all living tissue causes the odiferous smell present during decay.

Amino acids called putracene and cadavarene, building blocks of proteins, emit the stench as they rot, she testified. Proteins are the major component of all animal flesh, she said.

"The odor is the same, no matter what kind of flesh it is," she said. As long as the amino acids are present on a surface, the smell will be present. Ordinary clothes-washing or prolonged exposure to the air can cause the amino acid molecules to dissipate and eliminate the smell, she told the jury.

Jerry Whitworth, a farmer who lives near both families on Deatsville Road, testified that the rope said to have encircled Dishon's leg "looks to me like an old clothesline rope."

Another cord in evidence, found in the woods near her body, was common to farming, he said.

"That's what they used years ago when you pulled a rope to raise up a plow," he said.

Whitworth testified that the red paint in evidence looked the same as the color used by farmers to paint Massey Ferguson tractors and other pieces of equipment, calling it "very common paint."

"That paint looks like the paint on my truck and my tractor," he said.
Under cross-examination by Mann, Whitworth admitted that the only thing he could testify to is that he'd seen similar rope and paint before.

"You can't tell us that's the same paint, can you?" Mann asked.

"Not unless I see the can," Whitworth answered.

Yustas continued attacking the primary evidence against Brooks - contradictory statements he gave the FBI - by calling a clinical psychologist who testified about the limitations of Brooks's intelligence and the impact it might have had during his interrogation.

When FBI agents asked Brooks what he would say if they told him they'd found his fingerprints on Dishon's body, Brooks said he would probably have to confess to her killing.

"He was lost in the question," said Dr. Philip Wayne Johnson, a clinical psychologist at the Kentucky State Reformatory.

"The importance of the question and the subtle way it was asked was lost on him … he didn't understand the question," Johnson testified.

Mann asked what effect limited intelligence had on basic truthfulness. During his first interview with the FBI, Brooks denied seeing Dishon the morning she disappeared. He later changed his story, saying they'd waved to each other.

Johnson said Brooks may not have understood the context of "seeing" Dishon, perhaps thinking that "seeing" was the same as "speaking with," which Brooks has consistently denied doing.

"Someone with a lower IQ is going to have different versions of their story," he said.

Barbara Young, a health worker, testified that she'd seen Dishon in a car northbound on Interstate 65 late on the morning she disappeared. Dishon and three men were in a black Camaro that tailgated Young's car as she merged onto I-65 from the Watterson Expressway.

Dishon, sitting in the back seat, "was very serious" but the three men were laughing, Young said. She gave the information in person at the FBI field office in downtown Louisville but heard nothing more from investigators.

"I told everybody but the president. Nobody would listen to me," she said.
Yustas continued going after the police investigation into Dishon's disappearance when he called Bullitt County Sheriff's Deputy David Greenwell to the stand. Greenwell took the initial report at the Dishon home.

He told the jury that he was concerned when he saw Dishon's car keys, purse and shoes in her car and that he called Detective Mann, asking him to come to the Deatsville Road address, but that he declined.

"I wasn't comfortable leaving it the way it was," Greenwell said. "He wasn't coming out. I can't remember the reason."