"We're still missing Michelle just like the day it happened. It's very frustrating that the focus turned to the man that was accused and not the victim."
-Jennifer Schneider, Michelle's Sister
It was the 29th of May 2012. A Tuesday. Forty two year old Michelle Mockbee was at work that day. She worked at Thermo Fisher Scientific in an industrial park near Florence, Kentucky, United States. Michelle had worked at the company for 16 years. She was well liked and brought a positive presence to the workforce. Michelle met her husband , Dan Mockbee, at Thermo Fisher Scientific. He worked there too.
Michelle and Dan Mockbee
Michelle and Dan had two young daughters, Madelyn and Carli, and they loved to spend time with them and their families and friends. That morning, the morning of the 29th of May, Michelle arrived at work at 5.53am. Dan had the day off.
Michelle worked as a logistics representative and did payroll. Every other week, Michelle would process the payroll on Mondays. On those Mondays, she would start work at 6am so that it could be sent to the home office in Pittsburgh by 8 am. On the days when she wasn't doing the payroll, she would start work around 7am. That day, the 29th of May, was a Tuesday and normally on a Tuesday Michelle would start at 7am. But the day before, Monday the 28th, was Memorial day so she started work early on the Tuesday instead so that she could do the payroll.
Around an hour after Michelle arrived at work, the Operations Manager, went to the floor where Michelle's office was. He noticed a stain on the carpet outside her office. It looked like blood. He tried to enter Michelle's office but it was locked so he looked around the area to see if anything was out of place. He found Michelle around the corner from her office lying face down. She had been badly beaten, tied up, her hands were tied behind her back and she was gagged. There was a plastic bag over her head. There was a lot of blood spatter and a trail of blood from her office to where her body was found. Her body was found 40 feet from her office and from the blood trail, it looked like she had been dragged the entire way. Michelle had been savagely murdered.
Michelle Mockbee - Evidence Photo of blood outside her office
The Operations Manger called the police. Due to where the stain was, police believed Michelle was attacked outside her office and dragged around the corner. Her office was locked but it looked like an attempt had been made to force the door open as there were marks beside the handle.
Evidence Photo of the marks beside the door handle
Coworkers notified Dan of the situation as it was unfolding at the office. He immediately drove there and police told him Michelle was dead. They asked Dan where he was that morning. He told them that he was asleep in bed. Due to the savage nature of the attack, police asked Dan to take a polygraph test. He agreed and passed it.
Police knew that at the time of Michelle's murder, there were 13 employees on the premises.The office and warehouse had high level security and due to that police believed that whoever attacked Michelle must have had access to the office that morning. One thing troubled them though. When they searched the offices, warehouses and cars, they did not find any murder weapon or clothing that had blood stains on them. Due to that, they believed somebody must have left at some point during the morning in order to dispose of the murder weapon and clothing.
They viewed the surveillance footage and saw that one truck left at 6.31am. It returned at 7am. The truck belonged to David Dooley. He worked as a janitor at Thermo Fisher. His wife also worked there as a janitor. But when police initially spoke to him, he didn't tell them that he went home that morning. When they spoke to him again, he told police that he went back to the apartment to check on his wife as he was worried that she was unwell. According to police, Janet told them that he didn't go home that morning. But Janet insisted later on that he did return home to change ripped pants.
The inconsistencies in statements led police to really focus on David. He told them that he did not go home to change pants and his pants were not ripped. Janet later stated that she may have just thought that's why he returned home as she saw ripped pants in the home and she told police that she was deaf.
While police believed inconsistent statements were made, they had no idea why David would want to attack Michelle in such a brutal manner.
During the course of their investigation, police believed that they found a motive. They believed that David was trying to gain access into Michelle's office that morning, the morning of the 29th of May. Michelle would not normally be in so early on the Tuesday. They believed she saw him and startled him, causing him to beat her. They became aware that David and his wife were triple dipping when getting paid. They would clock in for each other, even though only one was working. To do that, they had to falsify the time cards and the time cards for that week were missing. Police believed that as Michelle looked after payroll, she discovered what they were doing.
David was charged with murder, kidnapping and tampering with evidence.
It was the Prosecution's case that David killed Michelle because she discovered what he was up to and threatened to expose him. The Prosecution claimed that David and Janet were triple dipping at the company since they were being paid a contract wage for cleaning offices. David was clocking Janet in to be paid for cleaning the warehouse when she wasn’t even there. Due to that, it was their case that he beat Michelle over the head with an industrial tape dispenser.
The Autopsy revealed that Michelle had suffered at least four devastating blows to the head.Michelle's arm was broken. This may have happened when she was unconscious and as she was dragged 40 feet to where her body was found.
Dr Gregory Wanger, a Medical Examiner who carried out Michelle's Autopsy, said that Michelle died as a result of blunt force injuries. There were a number of sharp force injuries found too. But she did not die instantly. He said that there were four distinct impacts but they may have overlapped. The impact of the blows fractured Michelle's skull and left her with serious brain bruising. The damage to her brain was so significant that it was torn. There were large cuts to both of Michelle's wrists, cuts to her ear and abrasions on her feet. He testified that the pattern of the head wounds were consistent with a tape dispenser.
Michelle and Dan Mockbee
It was Dr Wanger's testimony that he believed that Michelle was struck and then dragged by her right arm, causing the arm to break. Bruising found to her liver was likely caused when she fell to the floor.
The Jury heard from the Prosecution that no murder weapon was found and no bloody clothing was found either. Due to that, it was the Prosecution's case that these were removed from the office that morning. And the only person who left the office that morning was David Dooley. David was required to wear steel-toe boots when he cleaned the office. David left the company that morning and returned wearing gym shoes.
David was found guilty of murder and tampering with evidence but not guilty of kidnapping. He was sentenced to life in prison for murder and five years for tampering with evidence. At the sentencing hearing, David said:
"I've been railroaded. It's totally unfair how I've been treated. I wasn't afforded the time to defend myself properly, I feel cheated out of that as well. All I know is I did not kill Michelle Mockbee. I stand by that. I will continue to fight."
The guilty verdict was short lived. A new Trial was ordered.
In 2016, just two years after David's Trial, a law clerk in Boone County Commonwealth's Attorney Linda Tally Smith's office downloaded 12 gigabytes of information onto a thumb drive off the servers in the commonwealth's attorney's office.
Linda was the lead Prosecutor in David's case and the thumb drive was given to the Kentucky Attorney General's office. That thumb drive led to the discovery of surveillance footage that had not been shared with the Defense. The footage showed that an unidentified person tried to enter the building where Michelle worked just ten hours before Michelle was murdered.
Surveillance Footage of an Unidentified Person outside the office
Furthermore, the thumb drive revealed further details. Allegations were made that the lead detective in the case, Bruce McVay, of the Boone County Sheriff's Office, may have lied at David's Trial. He retired and the internal investigation into the allegations was closed. It emerged that Bruce and Linda were having an affair. But they claimed it only began after the Trial ended.
A Judge concluded that the surveillance video was crucial evidence that had been withheld from the Defense and as such, a new Trial was ordered.
The Prosecution relied on the same evidence they had at the first Trial. The Defense had a slightly different strategy. At David's second Trial, they focused on highlighting that the case against David was purely circumstantial and that anyone else could have murdered Michelle. They told the Jury that they should look at the possibility that Dan was involved. He had a motive. Money. It was the Defense's case that Dan hired someone to kill Michelle.
After Michelle's death, Dan received more than $700,000 in life insurance and made $400,000 in cash withdrawals. The Defense asked him about one payment in particular. Dan gave a $10,000 check to Chris Black. Chris was Dan's friend and he also worked at Thermo Fischer Scientific. The check was given to him a few months after Michelle's death.
The Defense asked Dan why he gave Chris a check for $10,000 and he claimed that he couldn't remember.
The Defense claimed that Dan had a possible motive and Joe Siegert, a Thermo Fischer Scientific employee, had a possible opportunity to kill Michelle.
Michelle Mockbee with her two daughters
Joe testified that he saw Michelle and David on the morning of the 29th of May. The Defense claimed that his statements surrounding that morning were inconsistent. In previous testimony,he said it took him 40 minutes to unload one of the delivery trucks but at the second Trial, he said it only took him 20 minutes. That meant there were 20 minutes unaccounted for around the time of Michelle's death.
DNA experts at an independent crime lab compared the male DNA found on items collected from the crime scene to DNA of Dan, David and Joe. An expert testified that Dan's DNA profile could not be excluded from Michelle's shirt as a major contributor. David's DNA profile could not be excluded as a minor contributor. He testified that one in seven caucasian American men could also not be excluded, due to having a similar profile.
The Defense also told the Jury there was a huge amount of blood in the office and yet no blood was found in David's truck.
It was the Defense's case that there were plenty of other people with the opportunity and motive to kill Michelle. They claimed the problem was that they weren't fully investigated. In closing, the Defense attorney,Deanna Dennison, told the Jury:
"It's not a question of 'Did he maybe do it, did he probably do it, could he have done it, by process of elimination did he do it?' That's not the standard. The standard is reasonable doubt, and they did not show it."
They said that the evidence did not connect David to Michelle's death and on that basis, he should be found not guilty.
The Prosecution disagreed. During closing arguments, Assistant Attorney General,Jon Heck, said that there were too many coincidences to ignore:
"This is a circumstantial case, but as with any circumstantial case, when you bring the constellation of evidence together, you can render your verdict."
David was found guilty for a second time. He was sentenced to 38 years in prison.
Michelle's family were relieved. Her sister, Jennifer Schneider said:
"Having them found him guilty twice now puts to rest some of those naysayers out there who think he was innocent, you know, all the finger-pointing at other people, the finger-pointing at my brother-in-law. To know what type of person he was, it was extremely frustrating.”
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"But I'm a woman, and as the great poet so cleverly wrote, hell hath no fury as a woman scorned. Consider me your personal hell."
"Trust your hunches. They're usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level."
-Dr Joyce Brothers
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