I stumbled on a particularly gruesome case while doing some research for something else. This is literally the worst crime I’ve ever read or heard of in my entire life – so unbelievable, so evil that I feel sick even writing this down. I will copy and paste from the official appellate record. Those with children are advised to skip the blockquoted text.
In October of 1988, appellant raped and murdered the two-year-old child victim in a particularly gruesome fashion. Appellant scalped the child by cutting with a sharp knife from one of her ears across her front hair line to her other ear and peeling back her scalp to the nape of her neck, thereby exposing her skull. Appellant also inflicted blunt force trauma to the child’s chest and stomach which was sufficient to tear her liver and lungs. That force may also have been the cause of two feet of the child’s intestines protruding from her genital area, but it is also possible that appellant [*2] simply pulled the girl’s intestines out of her body through her genital area. Appellant ripped the child’s genital area to such an extent that there was one large bloody cavity in the area of her vaginal and anal orifices. Appellant burned the child’s body, inflicted numerous lacerations, and fractured her skull. All of these injuries occurred while this child was still alive. Appellant then took the child to an isolated area of a state forest in Cambria County where he hid her corpse. Appellant confessed his acts to the police, and drew a map for them which led to the discovery of the child’s decayed body.
Though the defendant, Stephen Rex Edmiston, confessed in 1988, he recanted, appealed and in 2009 asked asked for new DNA testing on a pair of the baby’s shorts that were found in his truck. His petition is actually getting some support. The Innocence Project is willing to pay for the DNA testing. However, prosecutors are opposed [quoted from the newspaper article linked above]:
[Prosecutor] Peterson questioned why Edmiston has waited so long to seek the DNA testing. She noted that Dunham has represented the defendant since 1996 and that the state’s law allowing post-conviction DNA testing went into effect in 2002. The defense motion was not filed until 2008, she said.
The state prosecutor said that Edmiston waived his right to seek DNA testing immediately after the trial before post-trial motions were first filed by the defense.
“He can’t come back 20 years later and ask for it. That’s contrary to our (criminal justice) system’s interest in finality and justice,” she said.
In addition, Peterson wondered why the defense was not seeking DNA testing on other blood samples, including blood found on a T-shirt and blue jeans found at Edmiston’s home.
I bolded the most intriguing line because it is causing me the most headache. I haven’t read the entire court transcript, but I believe the man is guilty. I believe that based on the fact that the baby’s bloody shorts were in his truck and he drew a map to where police would find the body (he later claimed that he and the police were having a friendly chat the night of his interrogation, and he drew the map to show them where there was some good fishin’). He also confessed but I’m willing to throw that out in an effort to be extremely fair, knowing that prosecutors can get confessions and plea deals out of the most innocent people.
However, that said, I disagree with the prosecutor’s statement that justice has an expiration date. If the man is innocent (and I’ll eat my hat if he is), every day he remains behind bars is a travesty and an atrocity. For that reason, DNA evidence should be used to the absolute maximum in every case when it could conceivably add to the body of knowledge about a case. Edmiston should get his DNA test, and then I think he should get raped, scalped, and disemboweled in the prison showers. He absolutely should die with a dick in his mouth, too. But first he should have that DNA test. There is no reason to withhold it, especially if the Innocence Project is funding it.
Knowing what I know about prosecutors, it is very difficult to look at any prosecution as completely clean. They lie, manipulate and act like douchebags just as much as the slimiest defense attorney. However, they have the sanction of the state and that is what makes them scary. The prosecution should be forced to jump through a million hoops to get its conviction. Even grotesque lives like Edmiston should be permitted to seek justice via DNA testing, no matter how much time has passed and no matter how close he is to getting a needle in his arm.
The defendant’s most recent appeal, filed in 2010, asserts that he did not get a fair trial because “new evidence” has been revealed. The “new evidence” is autopsy pictures, the same pictures that were taken in 1988. His new theory is that the baby was not raped and murdered, she was killed in a motor vehicle accident. (That still doesn’t explain the kidnapping or the fact that her bloody shorts were found in his truck.) The new trial will be denied, as it should be. That’s a desperate last-ditch effort to save his own worthless neck. But before he is put to death, I’d like to know for sure, through DNA evidence, that the state is killing the right person.
Bobbi Jo Matthew had a very short, miserable life. She was raised by her grandmother (I have not been able to find out what happened to her mother or father). The night she was kidnapped, there were several people in the house who witnessed Edmiston take the baby from her crib and walk out with her – and unbelievably, nobody said anything. My guess – based on nothing but common sense – tells me the grandmother and her friends were doing drugs. Why else would they not say anything? Why else would it be unremarkable that a strange man would walk into your house, walk into your baby’s room, and take your child?
A few years after Bobbi Jo Matthew was raped, scalped, disemboweled, burned, hit and murdered, her grandmother died. There is nobody left to mourn Bobbi Jo Matthew. Her murder has seared me to the core, and I pray that one day the prosecutors in Pennsylvania will find real justice for her.