March 10th, 2006 -- The Final Chapters: Part 1 - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

A Reporter's Notebook

March 10th, 2006 -- The Final Chapters: Part 1

By James Zambroski

The Final Chapters: Part 1
Charlie McDaniel carefully opened three containers, each the size of a diamond ring jewelry box. From within each, one at a time, he carefully unwrapped a piece of misshapen metal about the size of a fingertip. Rounded on one end, flat on the other, they were clean, save the flat, brownish-bronze color that is their natural hue.

Three tiny pieces of ball ammunition, the projectiles that individually killed Kimberly, Brad and Jill Camm. They were found inside Mrs. Camm's Ford Bronco, the death chamber for her children after she'd fallen mortally wounded alongside.

Wearing latex gloves, McDaniel carefully placed the bullets one by one on top of the box from which they came, each small, cardboard container resting next to their right-sized manila envelope, scribbled over with names and identifying codes.

Spaced in a row along side their companion brass shell casings, the erstwhile rocket stage from which they were launched, the spent ammo created a row of infamy atop a glass table inside the chambers of Warrick Superior Court Judge Robert Aylsworth.

They were the engines of death in a triple murder case that has dominated the lives of many over five and a half years, reaching a crescendo last Friday when justice was finally served for three lost lives from Georgetown, Indiana.

For reasons known only to heaven above, it was at the precise moment this lethal line assembled on Thursday afternoon that I felt the full impact of these homicides, and a corresponding revulsion toward those who had committed them.

We Have A Verdict
The first indication that the jury was done came around 7:30 Boonville time last Friday, March 3, 2006.

It was a cold, blustery night, one of the chilliest of late winter we'd experienced during our two month stay in Warrick County.

The powers that be had closed the Warrick Judicial Center each afternoon at 4 pm., despite the continuing work of the 12 men and women seeking their own answer to David Ray Camm's guilt or innocence. Reporters were left to their own devices and conveyances to keep warm and occupied.

Most clustered near their station's satellite truck parked around the corner from the main entrance. I chose not to hang there, mainly because of the noise and diesel exhaust spewed by constantly running generators; partly because I was afraid to miss anything minute-by-minute and a smidgen because I tend to be anti-social, or at least, uncomfortable in a crowd.

I'd parked my four-year-old Honda CRV, with the engine running and the heat on, in the bank parking lot directly across the street from the judicial center, ignoring parallel parking lines, positioning my SUV so it was aimed toward the second floor corner windows of the judge's chambers, next door to where the jury deliberated into the night.

Sitting behind the wheel, I could look straight up and ahead without craning my neck, a righteous voyeur waiting to see any activity whatsoever in the bowels of the building above.

I watched as the jury room door opened and a half dozen jurors briefly passed the window to my world of the moment.

A colleague radioed that they'd gone outside to smoke. I resigned myself to another night at the Drury Inn East, believing the group wouldn't be taking a smoke break if they were intensely arguing a verdict.

But shortly after they returned -- about 15 minutes later -- I saw Judge Aylsworth hurry from his office, followed closely by his court reporter, Mary.

They walked with a definite purpose; this was no potty break sashay. 'Course, mind you these interpretations are based on a two or three second glance through my Peeping Tom window.

In my mind, the deal half way sealed itself when I saw a sheriff's deputy lean in the judge's office doorway. This view remained steady in front of the second story window. He was getting instructions, it seemed. Something was up.

I hurriedly dialed my secret number to reach defense attorney Katherine 'Kitty' Liell.

"Have you heard anything?" I asked her.

"What do you see?" she replied, a definite edge to her voice.

I told her more, couching the descriptions in terms that it all probably met nothing, embarrassed as I was grasping at these straws.

Then, in mid-sentence, she told me what I needed to know, without saying what.

"Oh (shoot), I have to go," she said. The line went dead.

Suddenly, the lights snapped on across the third floor, the courtroom floor, of the judicial center.

Mary was calling Liell on the other line to tell her the jury had reached a verdict.

Getting Word to You
It seemed we all found out at the same time. Instantly, the front of the judicial center became a mass of organized chaos, with dozens running to and from, dragging cables, setting up tripods, positioning lights and telephoning their respective stations.

Within five minutes, I was live on the air, WAVE 3 programmers breaking into NBC's broadcast of Las Vegas, announcing a verdict had been reached and that we'd bring it to you shortly.

Truth is, we had at least a half an hour, the previously agreed to time frame allowing Aylsworth to summon the lawyers, a security team which included the Indiana State Police and Warrick Sheriff's Office SWAT team, along with bringing Camm from the Warrick County Security Center, about three miles away.

At our station, an action plan sprung into being, with our legal analyst Bart Adams and others hurrying back to the station and getting ready.

Scott Reynolds, Dawn Gee and Adams were on the air in minutes, speaking back and forth to me while we filled time until the jury filed into the courtroom.

As a crowd gathered on the plaza outside the courthouse entrance, my colleague, Janelle MacDonald took the microphone from me so I could get my place in line.

The plan was for Janelle to stay on the air while I sat in the courtroom to hear the verdict. By prior agreement, a newspaper journalist was given permission to carry word of the verdict outside, as a pool representative to all of us, because Indiana is one of the few states in the nation that bars cameras from state court proceedings.

We waited outside almost a half an hour outside while the judge made his arrangements. Liell and Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson entered the courthouse, for the first time in this trial, via the rear entrance, away from gathering families, friends, reporters and the just plain curious.

As the crowd deepened—I was near the front along with WAVE 3 photojournalists Roger Dunaway and Scott Utterback (my partner, Rick Miller, had the presence of mind to go out back and film Henderson, Liell, et. al. as they arrived), we saw Frank and Janice Renn, Kimberly Camm's parents, standing on the top step just a few feet away.

Sam Lockhart, David Camm's uncle and chief cheerleader, was to the left of them, separated, mercifully by several others. Don Camm, the defendant's father wandered up the sidewalk opposite, his hands in his pockets. Donnie Camm, David Camm's brother, seemed near collapse, accompanied by his ex-wife Brenda, one of their children and a host of other family members.

As we prepared to enter, finally, one of the print reporters suggested we allow waiting family members to go ahead of us. When the glass doors were unlocked, the press at the front of the line parted, Red Sea style and allowed more than two dozen family members from both sides to pass to the front of the line.

On the third floor, the hallway was crowded with the electronics needed to broadcast live without the use of cables to the trucks outside; the decision made earlier that these would not be permitted.

I got a seat inside the courtroom as close to the door as I could; for one of the rare times in this trial, media seats were assigned. We had been told that only the designated pool reporter would be allowed to leave immediately when the verdict was announced. The rest of us would have to wait until the jury was dismissed; a minute or two time lapse that is an eternity in live television.

Henderson, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Steve Owen, investigator Wayne Kessinger and I.S.P.Detective Gary Gilbert, tight lipped and jaws clenching, stood near the railing that separated audience from the well of the court.

As the families filed in, filling both sections behind the respective defense and prosecution tables, many held hands or had their arms around each other.

Sam Lockhart stepped back and forth in front of his seat, his arms tightly folded, looking at everybody and nobody.

Camm, dressed in a sport coat and tie, arrived shortly thereafter, escorted from a rear holding cell by his defense team, Liell and Stacy Uliana.

He smiled briefly and nodded to his assembled family. He did not seem tense, although the guy has always been hard to read.

The judge came in --"All rise."

"Thank you, please be seated."

And then the jury was summoned by Aylsworth, using a phone off to the side and underneath his desk.

As the group came in single file a couple of minutes later, we might have had a brief indication of their verdict. None looked at Camm; none looked at Henderson, they really looked nowhere except straight ahead to their assigned seats.

In my experience, that means guilty. Jurors who acquit often smile at the defendant as they return with their verdict.

Aylsworth asked the foreperson to rise and identify himself.

It was Robert Crowell, the business executive with a law degree. He passed a white, business sized envelope to the judge.

Aylsworth ripped it open and removed six pieces of paper. After looking at each, he laid three of them aside.

"Three verdict forms are complete, three are not," he said. There were two sets of forms for the three charges—three for guilty, three for innocent.

I did not feel particularly tense as I looked around me.

Frank and Janice Renn, sitting in the front row to the right, directly behind Henderson and his team, separated as were we all by the marble topped wooden divider, clutched each other's hands. Family members in the second row rubbed their backs and shoulders with comfort.

Don Camm and his daughter, Julie Hogue, held each other, waiting for the judge to speak. Sam Lockhart and his brother, Nelson, leaned back in their seats, stoically looking ahead.

Behind me, WAVE 3 Assistant News Director Steve York waited to type out a text message with the verdict, a back up plan for the pool reporter, an electronic failsafe in case the guy couldn't get out, or, God forbid, fell over.

When the judge read the first 'guilty', a wail arose from the left side of the courtroom. Hogue and her dad hugged each other tightly, crying bitter tears.

David Camm looked down slightly, slowly shaking his head side to side.

An Associated Press reporter sitting next to me later wrote that he heard Camm say he didn't do it. I didn't hear that, but then, again, I'm old and am losing that particular sense.

More tomorrow.