LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The family of 1996 murder victim Tyrone Camp has asked the Louisville Metro Police Department to hand its investigation of the case over to Kentucky State Police, arguing that instead of trying to find the killer, LMPD is “more concerned with protecting its image” after helping to convict the wrong man two decades ago.
On Tuesday, Jerome Camp and his family sent a letter to Chief Steve Conrad, saying they do not have confidence LMPD has conducted a proper investigation since Kerry Porter was exonerated in 2011 after spending 15 years in prison.
“I think it’s a cover-up,” Camp said in an interview Friday. “You can clearly see that Porter was set up.”
The letter was also sent to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Gov. Matt Bevin, Metro Councilman David James and media outlets, among others.
It comes days after WDRB News reported that a federal judge found there is enough evidence against the city and three Louisville police officers to send Porter’s wrongful conviction lawsuit to trial.
From the beginning, the Camp family, witnesses in the case and even a fellow police officer have told investigators that the people responsible for the slaying were Camp’s wife and a man she was having an affair with, according to court testimony and other documents.
Had information given to investigators been turned over to Porter’s defense team before trial, it could have provided “compelling evidence, rather than mere speculation, that another person committed the crime,” said U.S. District Court Judge Charles Simpson, in his May 2 ruling. “Together, the evidence very likely could have changed the jury’s decision.”
The judge’s order -- sealed until last month -- dropped a handful of other officers from the lawsuit but said “evidence indicates that Porter’s rights might have been violated” and that the three officers and the city could be found “negligent” for not preventing him from being prosecuted. A trial date has not been scheduled.
Jerome Camp said in the letter to Conrad that his family does “not have confidence in your department’s handling of the investigation. Since Mr. Porter’s exoneration, I have been asking for an investigation into my brother’s murder and have not succeeded.”
“It appears to me and my family that there is a clear and present conflict with LMPD handling our loved ones’ murder while trying to defend their own actions against a federal lawsuit,” Camp wrote. “This is unacceptable.”
Alicia Smiley, a spokeswoman for police, said Conrad is out of the office this week and had likely not yet seen the letter. She declined to comment further. The city has declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Last week, Elliot Slosar, one of Porter’s attorneys, told WDRB News that the evidence discovered in the civil lawsuit “will prove to a jury that this wrongful conviction was not an accident.”
“I think the amount of misconduct in this case is shocking,” Slosar said.
Hardin Commonwealth’s Attorney Shane Young has said that while it’s an open case, he is unsure how much time LMPD is devoting to the investigation, given the high number of current murders police are trying to solve.
In February, Louisville police publicly acknowledged for the first time that Camp’s former wife, Cecilia Sanders, and her current husband, Juan Sanders, are now “persons of interest” in his murder.
But in recent weeks, police would only say that the investigation into Camp’s murder “remains open.”
Jerome Camp said he has repeatedly met with police and prosecutors and that, “I don’t think they are even looking at it. I think they are more concerned about paying out a lawsuit than investigating Tyrone’s murder.”
Similar wrongful conviction lawsuits against the city have ended up in multi-million dollar settlements, including $8.5 million in 2012 to Edwin Chandler, who spent nine years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit.
Camp was shot in the early dawn hours of Dec. 27, 1996, behind his semi-truck where he worked at Active Transportation, Inc.
Jerome Camp said only someone close to his brother would have known where he was at that particular time.
“How would (Kerry Porter) be given that knowledge of Tyrone’s truck number, (if he) was going to be in town that morning, where he was parked at or even where he worked?” Camp asked.
Witnesses told police Cecilia was having an affair with Juan Sanders and the murder was to get her husband’s life insurance policy money. Both Cecilia and Juan Sanders have denied any involvement in the murder.
At the time of the murder, a background check of Tyrone Camp by police revealed he and Cecilia had once been held hostage by Porter, an ex-boyfriend of Cecilia’s. When police subsequently interviewed Porter, he offered an alibi, saying he was at a woman’s home at the time of the shooting.
But the woman denied she had been with Porter. And while Porter claimed he later remembered he was actually at somebody else’s home, he didn’t tell police about his mistaken alibi.
An employee near the murder scene, Kenneth Brown, heard two gunshots and drove after a man he saw fleeing from the scene.
It was dark, and Brown only caught a brief glimpse of the side of a person’s face, telling investigators he probably would not be able to identify the man, according to court records.
In a deposition for the lawsuit, Brown testified that police showed him photographs of possible suspects after the murder, but he could not identify anyone. Police denied showing Brown a photo pack at that time.
Brown later identified Porter in a police photo pack, but only after Cecilia had Jerome Camp show the eyewitness a picture of Porter – and tell him the victim’s family believed Porter was the killer, tainting the identification process.
Jerome Camp said on Friday he was used by Cecilia. And he said he also later showed Brown a picture of Juan Sanders and “he said that’s the same clothing outfit the man had on running from the scene.”
From the moment he was arrested and then convicted, Porter has also maintained that Sanders was responsible for Camp’s slaying, writing letters to the media and court officials asking for help, filing multiple appeals and waiting for an opportunity to clear his name.
In March of 2010, at the end of a lengthy interview in an unrelated case, a cooperating government witness told police key details about Camp’s murder and claimed it was Sanders, not Porter, who was responsible.
At the same time, Sgt. Denny Butler, then the head of the police department’s cold case squad, began reviewing the Camp murder at the request of the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy.
Butler discovered the taped statement by the witness, Francois Cunningham, a convicted killer who had been in a gang with Sanders, and interviewed him.
As part of the civil suit, Cunningham testified in a deposition that he first provided this information to police in 1997 or 1998.
In addition, testing showed Porter’s DNA was not on the duct tape used to make a silencer left at the crime scene that was used in the murder.
Porter’s conviction and 60-year prison sentence was thrown out Dec. 19, 2011, and his wrongful conviction lawsuit was filed a year later.
“Everybody knows who did it, but nobody is doing anything about it,” Jerome Camp said.
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