tv Forensic Files CNN April 18, 2015 11:30pm-12:01am PDT
>> there were no independent witnesses other than the sdeevi the murderer. >> with the physical evidence we have, once we developed it and analyzed it and had it in its final form, it revealed that justin barber was a liar. >> a small texas community mourned the tragic death of an outstanding high school athlete and scholar. at first there was not much hope that the killer would be apprehended but tiny paint chips and bits of plastic provided evidence far more accurate than an eyewitness. san antonio is one of the fastest-growing cities in texas, which in turn required the
construction of one of the most sophisticated systems of state highways in the country. unfortunately increased traffic often means increased fatalities. one of those tragic cases was that of a teenage boy found one morning near highway 281. >> nobody deserves to die on the side of the road alone, even if their last breaths are shared with a stranger. >> looked like he was hit head-on by a motor vehicle. >> abrasions to the person, the absence of socks on the feet appeared to have rolled down the roadway. >> the boy's shoes were discovered up the hill on highway 281. along with a sock and a broken neck chain but there was no evidence to show how fast the vehicle was going. >> cannot tell by the force of the impact the individuals
knocked out of the shoes. for some reason it is a common occurrence with motor vehicle and pedestrian accidents. >> police identified the victim as rafeal garcia, a football player and outstanding student in southcentral texas. >> i was shocked. i thought it was just a dream that i would wake up from. you talked to the person the day before. he said i will be there at football practice and this and that. all of a sudden he is gone. >> rafeal was one of six children raised by a single mother. his family was poor. rafeal worked weekends to help to support his family. mike harrison was rafeal's football coach. he broke the news of rafeal's death to the rest of the team. >> one of the hardest jobs is to look at a group of young men that you have grown close to and
tell them one of their teammates will not be there anymore. they cried so hard. it was pure emotion for them. >> from body temperature investigators estimated rafeal was killed around midnight. since nobody reported the accident, it was officially listed as a hit-and-run fatality. on the highway evidence found evidence of where rafeal was standing when hit. >> it was clear from the debris field that rafeal was in fact on the side of that road. there is no evidence at all rafeal was walking in the lane or close to the lane of travel. >> there were no skid marks kae indicating the driver did not try to stop before or after the
crash. they did find broken pieces of plastic and glass and paint chips on the road and in the grass and also found a broken side view mirror. >> all of the deposited parts were clean. they did not have a lot of dust on them and did not have rain on them. we believe they were linked to the same crash. >> to find these at a busy road intersection of where the crime was committed is a task in itself. >> but investigators were not optimistic since most hit-and-run accidents go unsolved. >> almost everybody owns a motor vehicle. it is almost like finding a needle in a haystack.
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hundreds of people turned out for rafeal garcia's funeral. he was remembered as an athlete that put his studies before sports. >> even before football i remember there was a time he did not go to practice because he had a late assignment. there are a lot of people here. we are go to miss him. >> we want to know the person that did this is facing the
consequences and not just getting away with taking a life. >> the autopsy revealed rafeal suffered a fractured skull and other blunt force trauma to the head suggested that he was facing on coming traffic when he was hit. the medical examine found large bar-shaped bruises on rafeal's thighs looking like they came from the front grill of a truck or suv. >> part of the grill hit the right thigh and he was wrapped around the side of the truck and the other part of the grill hit the left thigh. >> toxicology tests for drugs and alcohol were all negative. why was rafeal walking along highway 281 late at night?
investigators discovered that rafeal's friend dropped him off at home around 10:00 p.m. but he started to talk towards highway 281. he was known to walk down to as the corner score, a ways down. he was usually walking out there. >> rafeal was hit and killed on highway 281 a quarter mile from his home. the only clues to the driver's identity were tiny bits of glass, plastic and red paint, presumably from the vehicle's front head light and turn signal. detective jose trevino worked in the auto industry before law
enforcement. he was interested in the passenger side mirror with a heating element found near rafeal's body. >> i recognized it as a chrysler emblem. investigators learn it came from a large ram pickup truck manufactured between 1999-2002. >> to most people outside the auto industries those numbers would not mean much. but they are like your social security number or d.n.a. >> these trucks were extremely popular. >> seemed like a needle in a haystack. now it is a dodge pickup truck. there are so many.
investigators knew the dodge ram pickup truck was red. police asked citizens and body shops to be on the look out for a red pickup truck with damage to the front end. police issued a bulletin in an effort to find the red truck. but the first tip that came in was from one of rafeal's classmates. >> he said that his mother's boyfriend came home that night of the accident, of the crash and had said he hit a deer on the highway and that the police were going to get him and he took off and hasn't been seen since.
>> the man's flame was robert huff man, a 49-year-old construction worker. vehicle records indicated huff man drove a red dodge pickup truck made in the year 2000. he disappeared the morning following the accident and the girlfriend had no idea where he went. >> time is of the essence when you are trying to solve these crimes. knowing the truck is out there driving around in the evidence. >> making matters worse, huffman did not have any credit cards or an atm card and police could not track his whereabouts. >> we should never lose hope because you never know what information may come forward and who may call in and what can be found. even years later.
two-year sentence for a weapons offense. the media attention prompted an anonymous tip. someone told huffman was at a local bar the night of the death. >> she phoned in and said she knew he had been at the bar that night and left between 10:30 and 11:00 and he was driving this huge red truck in the direction from rafeal garcia was ultimately killed. >> huffman left town immediately following the accident and his whereabouts were unknown. >> it is kind of heartless, you know. knowing that you killed someone he didn't look at the fact that there was a family involved. >> for weeks there was no progress. and then almost three months later investigators got another
team. this time from a police officer a thousand miles away in sumner county, tennessee. a red pickup truck with texas plates in the parking lot of a seedy motel. a man matching huffman's description was registered in the hotel under a different name. >> he gave the name of robert holcombe. initially they detained him for providing a false name. >> huffman denied any involvement and claimed he hit a deer. when police looked at his vehicle they noticed the passenger side headlight was intact. >> after all of this time that passed the trip to tennessee
yielded no evidence. but seven trips of red paint from the crime scene. it was possible they were from huffman's truck. each one was approximately a half inch in length. martinez and his colleagues noticed something. places on the front bumper that the paint was missing and martinez started the painstaking process of trying to match the paint chips to the truck scratches. >> i wasn't sure where it would match up specifically. trying to put it back to match that area that it came from on the vehicle.
unbelievable martinez discovered the paint chips did come from huffman's truck. they fit perfectly. >> a physical fit is the only sure thing in forensic science. there are no statistics that can duplicate that. that is the only thing in forensic that is a sure thing and better than dna. >> here is a paint chip that plugs in perfectly. that is hitting a home run in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded. >> investigators wondered, if huffman's vehicle hit garcia, why was there no damage to the headlight and turn signal. they found the answer to that question in his storage shed back in texas. >> i went to robert huffman's
house. in the back shed we saw a 1995 maroon dodge truck that was missing the passenger side turn signal light. >> huffman owned a second pickup truck. a 1995 dodge ram. interestingly the 1995 model was similar to his red 2000 model. so much so that the headlamps on both trucks were dimensionally identical. >> the length, width, depth, the mounting points are all in the same location. we took a 2000 truck, removed the headlamp module. and the two fit perfectly. >> but even with this evidence, the case was not over. prosecutors now had to prove to the jury that huffman was the driver. >> with hit-and-run crashes, you
are able to locate the vehicle, that is just half the battle. now we have to prove who this person is that was driving at the time because it might not necessarily be the owner of the vehicle. meet the world's newest energy superpower. surprised? in fact, america is now the world's number one natural gas producer... and we could soon become number one in oil. because hydraulic fracturing technology is safely recovering lots more oil and natural gas.
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prove that robert huffman's red truck was the vehicle that killed rafeal garcia, they still needed to prove to a jury that huffman was driving the vehicle. to do that investigators had to tie huffman's whereabouts on the night of the crash to rafeal garcia's. rafeal's friend said she dropped him off at home around 10:00 p.m. rafeal did not go inside. instead he walked back towards highway 281, presumably headed to the country store a short distance away. patrons of a local bar indicated huffman was there drinking and left between 10:30 to 11:00 p.m.
a patron said huffman headed south on route 281 towards his home. rafeal was walking north on route 281 at approximately the same time. the forensic evidence proved huffman's truck swerved on to the shoulder and hit rafeal sending him flying 40 feet down the embankment killing him instantly. there were no skid marks. prosecutors say that huffman kept driving. tiny pieces of glass, plastic and paint were left behind identifying the make, model and color of the truck. when he got home he told his girlfriend he had hit a deer and removed the broken headlight and
replaced it with the headlight from his other truck. he fled the state the next day, driving a thousand miles to tennessee, hoping the case would blow over and be forgotten. but by this time too many law enforcement agencies were looking for him. >> all of the planets were aligned, because it was every single little piece of evidence together that made this such a strong case. and everything fell in to place. >> the paint chips at the scene fit perfectly to huffman's truck and the truck's grill also matched rafeal's injuries. >> you can compare the height of the grill on the truck to rafeal and matched up almost perfectly.
>> in february 2006, robert huffman was tried and convicted of failure to stop and render aid after an accident. because of his previous drunk driving offenses he was sentenced to the maximum. investigators say that without the science, this case, like most hit-and-run accidents, would probably have gone unsolved. >> to be able to establish a physical match is a rare find. to be able to solve a case and obtain a conviction is even rarer. >> it just, to me, shows the determination of law enforcement to leave no stone unturned and to really look at the scene. they did a great job, obviously, of evidence collection in this
case and it really, really helped this case along. >> it is one in a million. like i said, it is a miracle. by the grace of god they found him. a murder in australia had everyone shaking their head. a bizarre twist, but items in the victim's body made forensic history. tasmania is a tiny island off the coast of australia, considered to be one of the most unspoiled and remote spots in the world. in the city of