By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org
The arrest of Jerry Frank Townsend on Sept. 5, 1979 ended the hunt for a brutal serial killer and rapist who had terrorized a predominantly African-American neighborhood in northwest Fort Lauderdale.
But it began an enduring miscarriage of justice.
Townsend spent 22 years of his life in prison until he was exonerated by DNA tests that did not exist when he was arrested. Eddie Lee Mosley remained free to continue to rape and kill until his 1987 arrest and confinement in a state hospital for the criminally insane.
The deaths of 10 women and children who were murdered after Townsend’s wrongful arrest have been linked to Mosley by DNA testing or other evidence.
Now, relatives of three of those victims are calling on longtime Broward State Attorney Mike Satz – who is up for re-election – to finally investigate the actions of police detectives whose testimony convicted Townsend.
“It matters a hell of a lot,” said Clarice Tukes, 72, whose 20-year-old daughter, Arnette, was raped and strangled five months after Townsend’s arrest. “My daughter would still be alive if they hadn’t arrested the wrong man.”
“I want this reopened,” said Jacquelyn D. Miller, the daughter of Geraldine Barfield, whose body was found in a field adjacent to the Immanuel Church of God in Christ near Sunland Park on Dec. 19, 1983. She was 35.
“I’ve carried this with me 28 years. I want Michael Satz to tell me why he allowed this to happen, why a killer was allowed to remain on the streets,” she said.
COMPARED TO JACK THE RIPPER
Satz was in his first term as Broward’s top prosecutor when Townsend was arrested.
The case captured the public’s imagination. A black serial killer police compared to Jack the Ripper. Townsend, they said, had admitted to wanting to “rid the world of prostitutes.”
The victims, however, were not prostitutes.
Townsend, a grown man with the mental capacity of a child, was led by detectives to confess to a string of rapes and murders he did not do. He was convicted of six murders and a rape in 1980 and sent to prison for life.
In 2009, eight years after DNA proved his innocence, the Broward Sheriff’s Office agreed to pay $2 million over five years to settle a civil rights lawsuit alleging that its detectives fabricated evidence, concealed exculpatory evidence, tampered with witnesses and coerced false confessions out of Townsend.
Miami, where city detectives were accused of similar wrongdoing against Townsend, paid $2.2 million to end another suit before trial in 2008. Taxpayers spent at least $1 million more to pay lawyers to defend the police.
Broward Bulldog reported in 2009that transcripts of Townsend’s Broward trial and hearings contain disturbing evidence of crimes like perjury and the falsification of police reports by BSO detectives and other officers. Several relatives recently saw the story.
For example, BSO detectives testified that Townsend led them to the scene of four Broward murders, and provided them with details only the killer would have known.
But Townsend wasn’t the killer. So the detectives’ damning testimony takes on new meaning.
There is no statute of limitations on perjury in an official proceeding that relates to the prosecution of a capital felony. Whether the law could be enforced regarding original police testimony against Townsend is unclear because today’s statute is somewhat different than what was on the books in the 1980s.
Nevertheless, neither Satz, Broward’s state attorney since 1976, nor the Broward Sheriff’s Office has investigated the actions of the BSO detectives whose testimony sent Townsend to prison, Mark Schlein and Anthony Fantigrassi.
The settled lawsuit contended those detectives framed Townsend to advance their careers. Schlein has declined to discuss the case. Fantigrassi has said he never lied to convict Townsend.
Fantigrassi retired as head of BSO’s Criminal Investigations Unit in 2005. Schlein retired in 1993 as a lieutenant colonel, later worked for the state and is today an attorney in private practice in Tallahassee.
The lawsuit said Mosley is believed to be responsible for 41 rapes and 17 murders between 1973 and 1987, when he was declared incompetent to stand trial for the 1983 Christmas Eve rape-murder of Emma Cook, 54.
VICTIMS AND THEIR FAMILIES
Katrenna Bentley, a hedge fund accountant, was 11 years old the day her grandmother died. She still vividly recalls seeing her battered body on a slab at the Mizell Funeral Home.
“I remember her laying on the table and seeing skin under her nails and hair in her mouth. They said she fought back, bit him in the head,” Bentley said. DNA from that trace evidence was matched two decades later to Mosley.
Katrenna and her mother, Mary Bentley, Emma Cook’s daughter, both said they want the state to investigate the actions of the police who handled the Townsend case.
“Every Christmas I relive this and get a sick feeling in the bottom of my stomach,” said Mary Bentley, 61. “If they had investigated it properly from the beginning they could have caught Mosley earlier and he wouldn’t have ended up killing my mom or the other people. They should pay.”
“I would love to see that happen,” said Calvin Sapp, 68, a semi-retired construction worker and older brother of victim Geraldine Barfield. “It seems like very seldom that people of color get the type of justice that they give everybody else.”
The victims’ relatives are not alone in wanting an investigation.
Broward’s elected public defender, Howard Finkelstein, said, “The fact that these officers were allowed to lie and cheat to frame an innocent man, and then were allowed to go on with their lives as though they did nothing wrong and nothing happened is not only illegal, it’s a sin.”
Finkelstein said Townsend’s case is “the best example” of a local criminal justice system where authorities have for decades often ignored the crimes of police officers that plant evidence or commit perjury to make cases against suspects.
“That they turned a blind eye to such a heinous crime is the exact reason that most minorities in Broward feel they don’t get a fair shake – and they’re right,” said Finkelstein said.
Satz, who rarely talks to reporters, referred a request for comment to a subordinate who said prosecutors reviewed the Townsend case before the DNA tests were done and found insufficient evidence of perjury.
“In regards to the officers involved in that case, we know what it takes to charge someone with perjury,” said Assistant State Attorney Carolyn McCann. “People on the outside don’t know about the elements of the crime. They just think that if it smells bad and looks bad it’s a crime. In a perfect world, that would work. But we have to follow the law and can’t just harass people.”
Broward prosecutors, however, have made little effort to actually make such a case. Asked if her office ever confronted Fantigrassi or Schlein about their graphic testimony at Townsend’s trial, McCann said, “ Not that I’m aware of.”
A study released in May by the National Registry of Exonerations showed that Broward accounted for nine of Florida’s 32 exonerations since 1989 – more than twice as many as any other county in the state. Most of those exonerated defendants were black.
Townsend, who lived in Hallandale Beach at the time of his arrest, is one of two Broward men cleared of murders now attributed to Mosley. Frank Lee Smith spent 14 years on Death Row for raping and killing 8-year-old Shandra Whitehead in her bed in 1985. He died of cancer on January 30, 2000, less than a year before DNA tests identified Mosley as the girl’s killer.
Three weeks before Townsend’s 1979 arrest, Fort Lauderdale Detective Doug Evans identified Mosley – known around his northwest area neighborhood as “The Rape Man” – as the prime suspect in the rape-murders in his jurisdiction. Evans based his case on eyewitness testimony and physical evidence, but the BSO detectives blew him off.
Evans later helped catch Mosley and free Townsend. Before his death in January 2011, Evans told Broward Bulldog that he was disappointed authorities had never investigated police misconduct that had caused Townsend’s wrongful arrest and conviction.
Evans’ friend and colleague, ex-Fort Lauderdale Detective Roy Brown, said, “Doug always pushed for an investigation, always wanted one, but it’s been a hard rock. They let it sleep, they let it lay and they moved on and there’s no justice and nobody is held accountable for it. You’ve got to want to pursue them.
“The public should have a right to know this stuff. A serial killer running around killing people and nobody cared,” said Brown.
Clarice Tukes, whose daughter Arnette was murdered not long after Townsend’s arrest, was Doug Evans’ cousin.
“They knew who it was that did it. They knew Townsend didn’t do it, Mosley did. Doug told the whole family he did it. He said he didn’t know why they won’t take his word. That hurts,” said Tukes.
Her grandson, Dominick Richardson, was three years old when his mother died. He’s grown now, with three children of his own. His daughter Arnette is named in his mother’s honor, Tukes said.
Get rid of him / July 26, 2012 10:59 am
Dirty Cops are Mike Satz’s best friend.
They help make him look competent.
Satz's Office is active in lots of Police Cover Ups / July 27, 2012 11:39 am
Satz’s and his Office of Public Corruption is well aware of and complicit in lot of other police involved cover ups. Just recently as exposed on this website, Satz’s office covered up for Ft. Lauderdale IA Captain Rick Maglione’s concealment of a FLPD’s Sgt. Arrest. The Fort Lauderdale Captain did so by clearly altering official documents to falsely represent that there was no records of the officer’s arrest in NY. When in fact Captain Rick Maglione knew full well the officer had in fact been arrested. As evidenced by his own prior official reports. Satz’s office used creative writing and utter lunicy to justify his decision to not take action against this politically protected friendly.
Satz’s office knows firsthand that Ft. Lauderdale Police Internal Affairs Division under the leadership of Chief Bruce Roberts and Chief Frank Adderely are and were corrupt and routinely and repeatedly cover, conceal and refuse to investigate legitimate and documented reports of police wrongdoing and illegality— Their conduct allows such perjurous, illegal dishonest and untrustworthy conduct by Broward County’s Sworn Law Enforcement Community to continue unabated, unreported and condoned.
Thanks to Satz’s inaction, there are many in Broward County that are above the law and accountability.
Jacquelyn Miller / August 8, 2012 9:47 pm
We have begun to ask for justice for Jeraldine Barfield. It has taken a very long time for me to come to grips with my mother’s death, but the fight begins now. If a new State Attorney is elected, he will have to speak to me about all the injustices of Broward County. If Michael Satz is still there, he will have to meet with me and tell me why my mother was murdered and two men were wrongly convicted. Why is Eddie Lee Mosley still here, breathing!
I want answers. Thank you Dan and Broward Bulldog for all you have done.
Patti Lynn / August 9, 2012 5:28 pm
The late Detective Doug Evans did his best to get anybody to look at Mosely. Many of his fellow officers knew that Doug had done his homework and that the info was good. Perhaps it was easier to try a case where the defendant wasn’t too bright and didn’t have the financial resources that the true killer did. RIP Doug Evans. You did good.
Ron / January 12, 2013 2:35 pm
We had a man locally here that served over 25 years for a murder he didn’t commit, poor guy lost his whole adult life behind bars.
Ami / July 15, 2013 11:00 pm
Michael Satz is a DISGRACE and should be ousted from office!
After reading (and seeing “In the Blink of an Eye”) about his incompetence & deceit in the Jesse Tafero and Sonia Jacobs case, that resulted in an innocent man (Jesse Tafero) being executed and an innocent mother of 2 (Sonia Jacobs) losing 17 years in prison with her children having to grow up alone with no mother or father. Meanwhile thanks to a plea deal in exchange for testimony against the INNOCENT Tafero & Jacobs, the REAL killer got out on parole after serving just 18 years — only to be re-arrested after violating his parole!
Michael Satz and the Tafero/Jacobs case, along with the more recent Trayvon Martin & George Zimmerman case is one of the many reasons why will not set foot in Florida anytime soon!
Donna / October 8, 2013 4:28 pm
This is a fucked up country that allows idiots and crooks to practice law and to work in the police forces. And most of them are running for office and winning, too! It’s disgusting! It’s not about innocence or guilt. It’s about which side can win and that is unnerving.