The odds of charging and convicting a person suspected of killing one dog and wounding another last January are slim, Haines Borough interim police chief Simon Ford said this week.
Forensic test results on a bow seized from a residence and arrows removed from the dogs’ bodies came in last week, but nothing useful was found, Ford said.
Police chief Gary Lowe, who recently submitted his resignation, had requested the state crime lab test the bow – found during the execution of a search warrant on a residence – and arrows for latent fingerprints. Lowe also ordered transference tests, similar to ballistics tests on firearms, to determine whether the arrows were shot from the recovered bow.
“There’s a little rubber guide that sticks out on the bow, and when the arrow passes over that there can be a transfer of material from one to the other. So we asked that to be tested, but they couldn’t come up with anything. We were trying to get proof that this arrow was shot from this bow, and we weren’t able to prove that,” Ford said.
Police said the dogs were shot in a wooded area north of View Street, between Lynnview Drive and Fourth Avenue. One dog returned home with an arrow through its belly and later died; the other survived despite an arrow lodged into its scalp.
“To be real honest, I didn’t expect the crime lab to be able to come up with that evidence. It was kind of a shot in the dark, Hail Mary pass, hoping to come up with something,” Ford said.
During an interview Monday, Ford said he forwarded the crime lab report to district attorney Amy Williams, who already had the rest of the documents associated with the case. However, Williams said a communication mix-up must have occurred, as she never received the case report.
“(Ford) and I talked about that case. He was under the impression that I had received that case from Chief Lowe, and I haven’t... I haven’t read a word about it,” Williams said.
Williams said she usually receives a packet to review, including a police report, supplementary reports, any photos, video, or audio recordings, search warrants and the results of any forensic tests. Because Ford assumed Lowe had given Williams the case information, he only forwarded the most recent development – the crime lab test results – to Williams.
“I’ve seen the results, but I haven’t seen the rest of the report... I think (Ford) probably just assumed that because (Lowe) and I had talked about the case I had one, but I don’t,” Williams said.
Because she only knows the “bare bones” facts from verbal communications and reading the newspaper, Williams said she doesn’t have enough information to comment on whether or not there is enough evidence to press charges.
Ford said while the department collected “pretty good circumstantial evidence,” it doesn’t have anything particularly solid, like photos, video, or a witness.
“To charge somebody with a crime, that standard of proof is probable cause, which means more likely than not, looking at the evidence a reasonable person would say, ‘Yeah, this person did this crime.’ To prove it in court – to get a conviction in court – you have to have proof beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s a very, very high standard,” Ford said.
Ford said if the district attorney decides not to press charges, he will probably pursue other avenues for prosecution. “Instead of a violation of state statute, we’ll probably charge it as a violation of borough code, because we can prosecute that here in town without involving the district attorney’s office,” he said.
Even that might be a long shot, though. “With the actual evidence we have, I don’t know if we’ll get a conviction on that, either,” Ford said.
Williams said Ford is mailing her the case information and she will review it as soon as possible. Due to upcoming trials, though, it will likely take several weeks for her to review the materials and make a decision.