SUNDAY EDITION | Questions linger as 'horrendous' murder of 7-year-old heads to trial
Defense attorney Travis Lock claims police, desperate to solve a horrific, high-profile case quickly as possible, focused on Timothy Madden – a former construction worker with no history of violence or sexual misconduct -- at the exclusion of more likely suspects.
SCOTTSVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – From the time 7-year-old Gabriella “Gabbi” Doolin’s body was found -- raped, strangled, left face down in a creek behind a high school -- it took Kentucky State Police only about four hours to arrive at Timothy Madden’s front door.
And it looked like police had the right suspect.
Several items of clothing he wore that night to his son’s youth football game appeared to be stained with blood. State police also said “several people” at the game either gave a description of Madden or identified him by name as looking suspicious.
And just six days after the Nov. 14, 2015 murder, tests results showed Madden’s DNA was on Gabbi’s body, and her DNA on Madden’s clothing.
Indeed, Madden’s guilt seems a foregone conclusion in the small western Kentucky town of Scottsville. A telephone survey showed 75 percent of the residents of Allen County think he committed the murder, prompting a judge to move the trial.
But, five months before Madden is scheduled to face a jury and a potential death penalty, his attorney said the case is not as open-and-shut as it might appear.
Defense attorney Travis Lock claims police, desperate to solve a horrific, high-profile case quickly as possible, focused on Madden – a former construction worker with no history of violence or sexual misconduct -- at the exclusion of more likely suspects.
For starters, Lock said in a court hearing that, despite what police said, there is no evidence that Madden’s jeans, jacket, belt and boots were stained with blood.
In addition, Lock said in an interview, the clothing Madden wore that night did not appear dirty or damp even though Gabbi’s body was found in a creek, in a wooded area wet with mud and leaves.
“Whoever committed this crime was on the forest floor, in November at night, committing heinous acts on a child,” Lock said in an interview.
No witnesses say they saw Madden with Gabbi and some people identified a different man with a long beard and brown coat as acting suspicious and being “out of place.”
Some of the children with Gabbi that night described seeing the same man, according to a court document.
One child told police she saw a little girl wearing pink being carried off by the man, according to the document.
Some of these witnesses were shown a photo of Madden but did not identify him as being the man they saw, Lock said.
And during part of the time Gabbi was missing, Madden sent several text messages with pictures of the game to his wife and the mother of his child who was playing, Lock said. He also made a phone call during that time.
The evidence in Allen County cases is not made available to the public or media.
Madden, whose criminal record does not extend beyond some minor theft cases, has denied any wrongdoing from the start, telling police they were mistaken when they arrived at his home.
“You guys are at the wrong place,” Madden, 40, told police, according to a transcript of the interview read aloud in court last month. “You need to talk to somebody else.”
In his only interview after his arrest, Madden told WDRB News in November 2015 that the charges were “bogus” and he is an “innocent man. You can ask anybody that knows me.”
But what about the damning DNA evidence?
Lock said police had a two-page DNA report in less than a week incriminating Madden, but have yet to turn over the comprehensive electronic data that his experts can review – an analysis he said that could take several months.
“Almost two years into this case, we still don’t have the basic DNA evidence, materials that we need in order to prepare and complete a meaningful defense,” Lock told Allen Circuit Court Judge Janet Crocker at an Aug. 31 hearing.
A forensic scientist retained by the defense told Lock she has done numerous DNA reviews of KSP lab electronic evidence generated from the police analysis, and this is the first time the state has not turned that information over, Lock said in court.
Lock argued he has made repeated request for the DNA evidence in the last year or so and the prosecution has consistently ignored him.
“It’s certainly odd to me,” Lock said in an interview.
Allen County Commonwealth’s Attorney Clint Willis told the judge prosecutors have asked the KSP lab for all their reports and materials and he is not sure the data the defense is asking for exists.
Willis did not return a phone message seeking comment.
But he said in court that, if there is more comprehensive DNA evidence, it will be turned over to the defense.
“If Mr. Lock says they (the KSP lab) have it, then it shouldn’t be a problem,” Willis told the judge last month.
At the hearing, Judge Crocker said if there was important evidence not yet turned over, she should have been made aware of it months ago and called it “ridiculous” to expect the trial to be delayed for another year.
Crocker ordered prosecutors to address Lock’s complaints about the allegedly missing lab information.
The electronic data should show the defense how strong the DNA evidence is and whether it was properly handled in the lab, Lock said.
It could also sink his case.
“Until I get the electronic data, I cannot say what our thoughts are on the strength of the DNA results,” Lock said.
During one court hearing, Judge Crocker called this case “the most horrendous crime that has ever occurred in Allen County.”
Dressed in all pink, towheaded Gabbi was last seen playing hide-and-seek around the bleachers with friends while her older brother played nearby in a youth football game at Allen County-Scottsville High School.
“Her little friend came down there and said, ‘Amy, have you seen Gabbi? I can’t find her,’” Amy Doolin, Gabbi’s mother, told Bowling Green TV station WBKO in December 2015.
When her mother reported the child could not be found, the game was stopped and police and spectators combed the area.
The second-grader’s body was discovered 18 minutes later, around 8 p.m. She had been raped, strangled and left face-down in a creek.
Police asked everyone to go to the high school gym and provide any information they may have about the crime.
Madden’s name, or description, was mentioned several times, police have said. Video shows Madden was in the gym, but it is unclear if police talked with him at that time.
State police arrived at his house about 12:30 a.m.
There is no indication that Madden was under the influence of alcohol or drugs that evening – a nonissue in the case.
“He was very compliant,” state police Capt. Steve Adams testified in the Aug. 31 court hearing.
Madden, the officer said, agreed to an interview and to provide the clothing he had been wearing earlier that night. He also allowed police to take DNA buccal swabs from him.
“He never gave any backlash whatsoever,” Adams testified, according to a video of the hearing.
After Madden retrieved the clothing, Adams testified he told him there appeared to be blood “around your genital area on your zipper and pants” and underwear.
Madden, according to police, grew agitated at the accusation – at one point telling officers they were “crazy” -- and said he didn’t know what was on his clothes.
“He denied there was any blood on his clothing,” Lt. Jeremy Smith testified at the hearing. State police have not offered specifics on the DNA evidence.
Madden, a former construction worker and father of five, maintained his innocence in an interview that night with state police.
Immediately after his arrest, he told WDRB News he knows the Doolin family and cooperated with police “every way they wanted me to cooperate.”
He said he saw Gabbi that night playing with a couple of other girls who ran by him while he was smoking a cigarette near the bleachers, about 30 minutes before she disappeared.
“That’s all I know,” he told WDRB.
If state police have DNA, “it ain’t mine,” Madden said in the interview.
Madden faces charges of murder, kidnapping, first-degree sodomy and first-degree rape, with prosecutors seeking the death penalty.
The location of his trial, scheduled for Feb. 26, has not yet been determined.
Judge Crocker ruled last month that the trial should be moved out of the county, based on the survey showing that most of the 256 residents polled thought Madden was “definitely” guilty, according to court records.
Prosecutors argue for a neighboring county, but Lock wants the trial held farther away to find non-biased jurors.
The Doolin family did not respond to a request for comment.
Gabbi’s mother, Amy, told WBKO in 2015 that her child was on a cheerleading team with Madden’s daughter and “she would’ve trusted him just enough. She was around him at all the practices and the games.”
Lock declined to let WDRB interview Madden again. But in the 2015 interview, Madden said the Doolin family is mistaken about him.
“I feel sorry for them, but it wasn’t me,” he said.
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