“I am here wrongfully convicted and wrongfully sentenced.”
It was the 14th of January 2014. A Tuesday. Just before noon, police went to a house in Frisco in Texas, United States to carry out a welfare check on forty three year old Anna Moses.
Anna lived alone. Her boyfriend, Michael Stodnick, initially called police as he was concerned that he hadn't heard from Anna. They were due to meet for a date the night before but when Michael arrived at Anna's house at 7.30pm, her house was dark, all the lights were off and her car was not in the driveway. That was unusual as Anna always left it in the driveway unless the weather was bad. If the weather was bad, she would leave the car in the garage. Michael rang the doorbell, called and text her but received no response.
Michael drove to a nearby Starbucks and waited there for fifteen minutes. He drove by Anna's house again after that but it looked the same so he returned home.
Michael sent Anna text messages the next morning and called her but again received no response. He asked some of her friends if they had heard from her and when they said they hadn't heard from her, Michael went to Anna's house again at 9am on the morning of the 14th of January and noticed her trash bins were still out the front and there were packages left at her front door. Michael didn't enter the house even though he had a house key as he did not know what the alarm code was. It looked as if Anna never returned home after work on the 13th.
Michael called police and asked them to carry out a welfare check. They told him to speak with the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) police as that was her last known location. Anna worked as a statistical analyst in UTD’s strategy department and she had been at work all day on the 13th of January.
Michael went to the campus and spoke to the police but they didn't seem concerned. It was only when Anna's boss reported her missing that they took the situation seriously. Anna's boss told them that she was not at work that morning, the morning of the 14th of January. A 911 call was made and police went to Anna's house. Nothing seemed unusual. There was no sign of any forced entry. They spoke to Anna's son Igor. He had a key and met them at the house. They disarmed the alarm at 12.05pm. The alarm log showed that that was the first time it had been disarmed since the morning of January 13th. So, where was Anna?
Police looked through the different rooms and found Anna in the garage. Anna had been shot dead. She was still wearing her coat and scarf. Nothing appeared to be missing apart from her car. Her purse, which still had her money inside, was beside her, and the mail was scattered around her body. There was an empty Taco Bell sack with the quesadilla wrapper on the ground near her body too.
Anna had been shot seven times. She was shot once in the neck, twice in the chest, three times in the back and one shot did not penetrate her skin, the bullet was found lodged in her clothing. Anna had abrasions on her left hand and a small abrasion on her right hand. Such marks were consistent with defensive wounds or a fall.
Police found a total of eleven cartridge cases, not seven, in the garage. There were no bullet holes in the garage. Due to that police believed that the scene may have been staged to look like a robbery had taken place.
No fingerprints were recovered from the patio door and the interior garage door. Police believed Anna was killed the evening of the 13th of January as she arrived home from her job at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Who killed Anna?
The investigation into Anna's death led to more questions than answers. Anna grew up in Russia. She moved to the United States when she met a man called Robert Moses. They married and Robert adopted Anna's son Igor. Robert and Igor were close and they were a tight family unit. Their marriage seemed good but Anna's confidence grew after she lived in the United States for a number of years and she began to do things that did not involve Robert and their relationship began to deteriorate.
Anna spent time with other men. She liked to go for afternoon tea with Dr John Wiorkowski. Dr Wiorkowski was Anna's coworker and he gave her money any time she needed it. She also spent time with another man called Jerry Caspell. She enjoyed going to the Opera and to musicals with him.
Jerry was so infatuated with Anna that he dedicated two books of poetry to her. Despite that, he said there was nothing romantic between him and Anna as he was married.
Police spoke to one of Anna's friends. Dr Zharkynay Christian worked at University of Texas at Dallas with Anna. She told police that something happened between Anna and her ex husband Robert on the 15th of December 2012. According to Dr Christian, Anna was very upset and called her. She told her she was locked inside a closet with her two dogs. The police were called but it was recorded as "a mistake." Dr Christian claimed that Anna was very afraid of Robert and she saw her almost physically shaking when she met her and she was worried "he will kill me tonight.”
Anna and Robert divorced in March 2013. Anna remained in the house and Robert moved into a house with three other divorced men. Igor remained close to both of them and visited them often.
Igor and Robert Moses
Robert helped Anna out after the divorce with any repairs she needed around the house. Anna did not confide in any friends or family that she was afraid of Robert after the divorce. She seemed to be happy. She met Michael on match.com and they had been dating for a year at the time of her death.
Police spoke to Robert. He told them that on the 13th of January he spent the day watching football at home. He then went to Twin Peaks bar. Video surveillance showed him going to the bar at 7.06 pm and leaving at 7.57 pm.
Robert had a small cut on his right hand, just above his ring finger's knuckle and police noticed the blood was coming through the bandage. When Robert was questioned, he was cooperative and agreed to provide a sample of his DNA and gave police permission to search his room.
They found several firearms in the search, including a .22 Ruger long rifle, a .22 black pocket pistol, and a .22 black Browning Buck Mark target pistol. All of these were excluded as the murder weapon through testing.
Anna's car was found the day after her body was found a couple of blocks away from her house and police observed blood on the driver’s seat. They also found a muddy footprint on the hood of the car and more footprints on top of the car. Inside the car, there was a Red Bull can on the floor of the backseat passenger side and a cigarette butt on the floorboard. Anna did not smoke or consume energy drinks. Police believed that the blood found in the car was consistent with the type of injury Robert had on his right hand.
The DNA sample from Robert matched the blood found in Anna's car.
Robert was asked about the blood and he told police he could think of no reason why it would be there. He later told police that he was in Anna’s car on the 28th of January 2015. He fixed a broken water pipe in the garage that day.
Robert was charged with murder.
It was the Prosecution's case that Robert was the only one with the motive, means and opportunity to kill Anna. The Prosecution told the Jury:
"Everything points to him. It points nowhere else."
It was their case that he killed Anna for personal monetary gain.
The Court heard that on the 13th of January, Anna left for work as normal at 8.23am. She turned on the house alarm before she left. The Court heard that Anna arrived in work that morning and spent the day there. She had tea around 2 pm with Dr Wiorkowski. Anna finished work at 5pm, which was the normal time Anna would leave at.
Video surveillance cameras captured her walking into the parking garage at work at 5.02 pm. She left the garage in her car at 5.07pm. Anna then went to a Taco Bell drive through and used her credit card to buy a chicken quesadilla.
Video surveillance outside an elementary school near Anna's house captured a car matching the description of Anna’s car passing by at 5.44 pm. So, if Anna drove home, was there someone waiting for her inside the garage?
A lot of the Prosecution case implicating Robert rested on the time of Anna's death. Police believed she was killed between 5.50pm and 5.55pm.
The Court heard that police spoke to people who lived on the street where Anna’s car was found. Stephen Brockway testified that on January 14th, he and a friend were moving a trailer out of the neighborhood between 1 pm to 1.40 pm and there were no cars parked in that location. He returned around 3 pm and at that time there was an SUV parked there. Another neighbor in the area noticed a blue Chevy truck parked on the street between 5 pm and 6 pm and due to that, police believed Anna’s car was left there sometime after 6 pm on January 14th.
The Court heard that the police spoke to the other men in Anna’s life. Michael and Jerry provided DNA samples. Michael denied owning any guns. Jerry admitted to owning a 9 millimeter Glock and a .22 target pistol but police did not retrieve the guns. Toll records revealed that Jerry left his work in Arlington around 5.18pm on January 13th, and he exited the Renner Road toll booth towards his home at 6pm. If Anna was killed when police believed she was killed, this meant that Jerry was not responsible.
The Court heard that Dr Wiorkowski was also excluded as a suspect. Toll records confirmed he was in Garland/Rowlett on his way home at 5.47pm. Dr Wiorkowski owned a .40 caliber Glock which was not the type of gun that killed Anna.
DNA testing on the Red Bull can and the cigarette butt confirmed the DNA was from an unknown male. The profile was entered into CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) but did not match any profiles in the system.
The Prosecution told the Court that Robert would gain financially if Anna was dead.
A review of his financial records indicated he had several credit cards that were nearly maxed out. The Court heard that when police spoke to him, he was more interested in Anna's finances. Michael told police that Robert asked about Anna’s finances just days after her death and he asked Anna’s mother about the location of Anna’s jewelry.
Dr Christian testified that she thought she overheard Robert say it would be good if he lived in Anna’s home so he did not have to pay for two places. Tatyana Hieber, another of Anna’s friends, testified that Robert was “very businesslike” and interested in Anna’s bank accounts, passwords, and other documents.
The Court heard that Frank Schoeberle, who was the independent executor of Anna’s will, told Igor to set up a trust but Robert told him to put the money in a bank account instead. Igor was the beneficiary of Anna’s life insurance policy worth $750,000.
The Court heard that on the 4th of February 2015, the bank account that Robert shared with Igor received a $25,000 deposit from Anna's estate. Igor said that the money was used to pay off the car he drove but Robert owned and the title of the car was then transferred to Igor. Money was also used to pay off the mortgage on Anna’s house.
It was the Defense’s case that police focused on Robert to the exclusion of all the other men in Anna’s life and they did not investigate the case thoroughly enough. The items found in Anna's car and the footprints were not found to be a match to Robert's DNA. The gun that was used to kill Anna had not been found.
The Defense argued that Robert was not in line to gain financially from Anna’s death as Igor was the beneficiary of her life insurance. According to Robert, he only moved in to the house to help Igor. Igor testified and told the Court that it was not Robert’s idea to move in. Igor told the Court that he wanted Robert to move in because he did not know anything about paying bills or taking care of a house.
The Jury heard that Anna babied Igor and did everything for him and it was not unusual that he needed help sorting out bills.
Igor testified in relation to the blood stain found in Anna’s car. He testified the stain had been there for years and was not a fresh or new stain.
The Defense also argued that the time of death may be wrong. The medical examiner testified at Trial that Anna’s stomach contents were almost completely digested. If she had eaten the quesadilla and then was killed by 6 pm, more identifiable remnants of the food would have been found in her stomach.
The Defense argued that she could have been killed later and if that was the case, Robert had an alibi and some of the other men in Anna’s life did not.
Robert was found guilty and was sentenced to life in prison. He appealed the conviction.
In the Appeal, Robert argued there was a lack of evidence and a conviction "based on nothing more than pure conjecture and speculation." The Appeal centered on a number of key pieces of evidence and in particular:
the chicken quesadilla from Taco Bell,
Anna had a large amount of money in her savings account at the time of her death which could not be explained.
In relation to the chicken quesadilla from Taco Bell, Robert’s Appeal focused on Anna’s stomach contents after her death to challenge the time of her death. Dr William Rohr testified that if Anna had eaten a chicken quesadilla on her way home around 5.45pm and was shot ten minutes later, it would be reasonable for the contents of her stomach to be partially digested. But he testified that he was unable to recognize any kind of food in the contents of her stomach.
The Appeal argued that this cast doubt on whether the State were correct to determine Anna's time of death as between 5.50pm and 5.55pm and that she in fact may have been killed after 7pm. If that was the case, then Robert had an alibi as he was in the Twin Peaks bar at that time.
The Appeal argued that Anna had a lot of money in her savings account at the time of her death. The Appeal argued that she earned a little over $3,000 a month and yet over a 23 month period, her savings account grew from $4,745 to $111,880 even though her spending records showed she spent most of her earnings. The Appeal argued that police made no effort to track down where the money came from.
The State Appeals Court rejected Robert's arguments. They said that in relation to the quesadilla, no one knows what happened to it or if Anna herself ate it.
In relation to her savings, the Court said that the Prosecutors referred to it at Trial and claimed that some of the money came from a former romantic interest who wanted to help Anna.
Robert remains incarcerated.
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