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tv   Forensic Files  CNN  May 30, 2015 11:30pm-12:01am PDT

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did what he told his friend on the phone, he was going to go out and kill somebody and try to make a name for himself. >> when a victim has been murdered or is no longer alive, the only thing that's left to be able to speak for that person is the evidence itself. up next, a woman is brutally attacked. >> is she breathing? >> i don't know. i think she is. she laying on the floor and there's blood everywhere. >> but before she dies, the victim provides a clue. >> written on the wall is the word r-o-c, roc. >> the trail leads investigators to an escort service and a shoot-out between two rivals. >> it's something that you would expect out of a hollywood movie, not out of real life. >> but a tiny clue found in an unlikely place exposes the real killer. airline customer service representatives deal with
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hundreds of complaints each day. karen pannell enjoyed working for an airline, but when she learned she had multiple sclerosis, she wondered how long she could continue. >> i think karen was afraid and she would be in a situation where she couldn't enjoy life the way -- the way she did. >> one saturday morning, karen's boyfriend, tim permenter, became concerned when he couldn't get in touch with her. >> he was worried about her because she had ms in early stages, and she was prone, she could have blackouts and she wouldn't answer the phone. >> so, tim drove to karen's apartment in tampa, florida, to check up on her. >> he found the door ajar, became more concerned, went in just a few feet to where he saw her lying on the floor. >> i have paramedics on the way. what's the problem? >> i don't know. she's just laying there. >> she's what? >> she's laying there. >> is she conscious? >> i don't know.
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>> is she breathing? >> i don't know. she's laying on the floor and there's blood everywhere. >> karen was pronounced dead at the scene. inside the apartment, investigators found a pizza box on the counter. a receipt indicated it was delivered at 8:48 p.m. the night before. investigators also noticed blood on the wall next to karen's body and blood on the fingers of her right hand. >> written on the wall was three letters that spelled r-o-c. >> investigators learned that roc was karen's former live-in boyfriend, roc herpich. >> i've been reporting now for over ten years, and this is the first case i can remember of someone actually writing a name on the wall in their own blood, maybe trying to give authorities a clue. it's something you expect out of a hollywood movie, not in real life. >> karen pannell and roc herpich had a bitter breakup a year
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earlier. family members told police that herpich had at one time a serious drug addiction, which led to the breakup. >> they'd had several incidents where the sheriff's office had been called to their house for domestic-related incidents. >> they had a very rocky relationship. >> police questioned roc herpich the day after karen's body was found. >> the entire beginning of the conversation was, a friend of yours has a problem. i said, who would that be? they said karen pannell. and i said, what did she do now? they said, well, it's not what she did. she's dead. >> herpich denied any involvement in karen's murder. >> roc was surprised to see us. roc had told us he had not seen karen in six months. >> they said, we did find your name written in the kitchen in karen's blood, and that's -- it wasn't a question, it was a statement. they didn't ask for a comment.
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they didn't ask for a comment, so i gave none. >> herpich said he resented the questioning. >> and from there, it was kind of like, where were you on october 11th or -- what do you say? i don't know, well, let's see, i was -- i don't know where i was on that day. i'd have to go look at the calendar, for god sakes. >> with the lack of forced entry into karen's apartment and roc's name in blood next to karen's body, it was easy to see why police considered him a viable suspect. >> nothing was stolen inside the home. what's the motive in this case? and they figure it's got to be definite hatred towards karen. >> my prints were everywhere in there. i lived with karen pannell for a year, lived in every room together in that entire condominium, so they're going to be there. >> he knew karen, he knew what her habits would be. he would certainly know the house, would know how to get in
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the house. karen probably wouldn't be too startled to see him. so, you know, that all kind of adds up as though, okay, maybe this is somebody we would need to take a look at. ♪ color is a beautiful thing, i know, i know... ♪ ♪ color is a beautiful thing, i know, oh yes i know... ♪ ♪color is the i ching ching, for sure ding dang... ♪ ♪ color is a beautiful thing, i know, i know. ♪ if you feel it, you can find it. all new color by behr. exclusively at the home depot. if you're looking for a car that drives you... ...and takes the wheel right from your very hands... ...this isn't that car. the first and only car with direct adaptive steering.
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in the search for karen pannell's killer, investigators hoped her autopsy would shed some light on who was responsible. the medical examiner determined karen had been stabbed 17 times. the unusual level of violence pointed to a personal relationship between karen and her killer. >> stabbing is a very personal type of way of killing people that usually the stab victims, especially such a high number, it's somebody that's close to the person. >> scientists found skin cells under karen's fingernails. unfortunately, a dna test was inconclusive. karen pannell's autopsy did provide a curious inconsistency. there were three slices missing from the pizza delivered to karen's apartment the night she was murdered, but the medical examiner couldn't find them.
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>> she did not have pizza in her stomach. >> the delivery man said he handed the box to karen just before 9:00 p.m. at the door, so the killer may have been inside when the pizza was delivered or arrived shortly afterwards. karen's boyfriend, tim permenter, who discovered her body, had an alibi for this time period. he was with a friend in a cabin at moon lake, 25 miles away, an alibi that checked out. the person of most interest to police was roc herpich, whose name was written in blood next to karen's body. >> i kept my mouth shut, but it does. it's disturbing. it's very disturbing. >> but a closer look at the autopsy finding started to cast doubts on the letters written on the wall. karen had suffered a severe injury to her spinal column. >> one of the stab wounds goes
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and partially severs the spinal cord at the level of the eighth thoracic vertebral body. >> which meant she would have been partially paralyzed, and stab wounds to her pectoral muscles and her aorta led the medical examiner to conclude she was unable to write anything on the wall. >> she would not have had enough blood pressure and enough blood volume to repeatedly dip her finger in repeatedly because her fingers aren't a fountain pen. her finger wasn't bleeding. so, she was already dead when those were written. >> and blood spatter experts found evidence that whoever wrote on the wall did so long after the attack. >> there are some pieces of the letters that are actually written over impact spatter. and the impact spatter that is underneath the letters is not disturbed. >> that's because the blood which spattered on the wall during the attack was dry before
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the letters were written. and karen's family pointed out the last inconsistency. the blood was on karen's right hand. >> we found out from talking to karen's family that karen was exclusively left-handed. we did not find any blood of any volume on her left hand. >> she never would have written any clue on the wall using her right hand, and that is a big, big reason authorities know that this is a ruse. >> but if karen didn't write the name on the wall, who did? it had to be someone who knew the name of karen's ex-boyfriend and wanted to frame him. >> but to do the handwriting on the wall and to get somebody to think somebody did this, that just shows you that is not his first rodeo. >> one possible suspect was karen's ex-husband, jeff payne. karen was petitioning for higher
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alimony payments because of her recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. >> karen was concerned that her health insurance was not going to be sufficient to address all of her medical needs. >> but payne had an alibi. he was 300 miles away in miami when karen was killed. and police discovered that karen was dating a number of men at the time of her death. >> karen was seeing a british airline pilot. we learned of this pilot through some text messaging on karen's phone. >> hi, sex bomb, having a good day? miss you. just got back from rio. do i still get to see you next week? >> the pilot had an alibi for the time of the murder. he was out of the country and was not considered a suspect. but someone else karen was dating had a violent past, news karen learned just days before her murder.
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when police did a background check on the man who found karen pannell's body, 36-year-old tim permenter, they discovered he had an interesting past. karen and tim had only been dating for a couple of months.
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the two met when karen was buying a new car and tim was the salesman. >> very intelligent. he was knowledgeable on current events, history. in fact, we played several games of an online trivia and, i hate to say it, but he beat me a couple of times. >> but a few days before her death, karen told friends she learned some disturbing information about permenter. >> they're watching a tv show and it's kind of about people and their hidden past, secrets, skeletons in their closets, if you will. and while the show is on, karen says to tim, we're told, that, how can that happen, that people can keep secrets like that? >> tim turned to her and said he had been keeping a secret. he switched on his computer and went to the website for the florida department of corrections. there was his mugshot.
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he had been released from prison just a year earlier and was still on probation. >> tim says, "i'm a convicted felon." his rap sheet includes 16 felonies, including one for attempted murder. he's been involved in a shoot-out with guns. i mean, this is a bad guy. >> permenter told karen he had a criminal history going back to when he was in college. in one instance, he had been arrested for running an illegal prostitution ring. >> he supposedly was running an escort agency out of gainesville, florida, which is where the university of florida is. the escort service, obviously, was a front for prostitution. >> while running his escort service, permenter got angry when a rival escort service took some of his business. >> so, he and another gentleman went to tallahassee with guns, and they hired one of these rival escorts. and once they had her in their presence, they pulled guns on her, told her to take them to
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her boss. >> a shoot-out followed. permenter shot and wounded his rival and was himself shot twice. he went straight from the hospital to a 12-year prison sentence. >> this is not somebody that you want to be messing around with. of course, karen, when she begins dating tim, has no clue about this. >> when karen learned the truth, she ended their relationship and started dating other men. >> tim, who is a very jealous guy, begins snooping around the house, going through her trash, looking through things, looking for clues. >> according to karen's friend, tim had found a used condom in karen's trash and was furious. >> this was not the first time that karen had had problems with tim in regards to her communicating with other male friends. >> i do recall one evening we were talking and karen said that mr. permenter had tried to choke her.
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and my response was that she needed to immediately contact the police and initiate a restraining order or something. >> but permenter denied any involvement in karen's murder and he had an alibi for the night she was killed. he told investigators that he stayed overnight with a coworker at a cabin on moon lake 25 miles away. but permenter's cell phone records showed he called this co-worker at 9:32 p.m., an indication he wasn't yet there and made that call from a suspicious location. >> that cell phone call was made from a cell tower by karen pannell's apartment. he wasn't being truthful about where that call was made. >> that's impossible. i wasn't there. >> the cell tower the right off the apartment complex there. so, you know, you couldn't have gone -- you really couldn't have
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gone that early. >> it's impossible. >> but she was already -- she had been killed by 9:30. >> i don't know. i can't explain it. >> police now looked more closely at the pizza delivered to karen's apartment at 8:48 p.m. three pieces were missing, yet, no pizza was found in karen's stomach. the pizza box was sprayed with ninhydrin which reacts with amino acids and sweat and exposes fingerprints. many people had handled the box, which created potential problems. >> it's very difficult to backtrack and find everybody who had access to the pizza box when it was on the shelf, and you know, the pizza delivery boy and all these other people. >> the prints were compared to people known or thought to be involved in the case -- karen, tim permenter and karen's ex-boyfriend, roc herpich. roc's prints weren't found but
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tim permenter's were. >> we talked to roc. he was with a whole bunch of people, including his new family at the time. >> i didn't kill her. i didn't kill her. >> how does it look? you're over there, when you say you weren't? >> i don't know. >> contradicted his story simply the fact that his prints were on that box, he must have touched it after it was delivered. >> but to get a conviction, investigators needed more. >> eating pizza doesn't make him a murderer. zero heartburn! prilosec otc. the number 1 doctor-recommended frequent heartburn medicine for 9 straight years. one pill each morning. 24 hours. zero heartburn. you can now use freeze it to prevent new purchases on your account in seconds. and once you find it, you can switch it right on again. you're back! freeze it, only from discover. get it at discover.com.
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karen pannell decided to end her three-month relationship with tim permenter when she learned he had spent 12 years in prison for kidnapping and attempted murder. she started to date other men, and apparently, tim permenter found out about it. according to prosecutors, this was a possible motive. >> he's thinking to himself, there's nobody that's going to end a relationship with me, there's nobody that's going to treat me like that. >> the original dna tests of the skin cells underneath karen's fingernails were inconclusive, so scientists turned to a more sophisticated dna test, hoping it might yield results.
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a ystr dna test analyzes only male dna that's present. this time, it was successful. >> there's dna on the fingernails. it's his, it's permenter's dna. >> prosecutors think tim permenter went to karen's home and may have tried to rekindle their relationship. they ordered a pizza, which arrived shortly before 9:00 p.m. but the evidence shows karen never ate any pizza. at some point, things got violent. permenter grabbed a knife from the kitchen and stabbed her repeatedly. as karen fought for her life, she scratched him and got his skin under her fingernails. permenter probably tried to collect his thoughts and come up with an alibi while eating some pizza, leaving his fingerprint
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on the porous cardboard. by the time he decided to paint karen's ex-boyfriend's name on the wall in her blood, the blood spatter from the murder had already dried. the wet blood over the dry blood told investigators this happened much later. when he put blood on karen's right hand, he forgot she was left-handed. he then called his friend, trying to establish his alibi. his call bounced off a cell tower near karen's apartment. >> we subpoenaed the cell phone records and found that he called at 9:32, which was the first call, was made in the neighborhood of karen pannell's house. >> it was key, because it threw his whole story off. >> the next morning, tim went back to karen's house, called
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911 and put on a performance designed to throw off investigators. >> she's laying on the floor and there's blood everywhere. >> where's the blood coming from? >> i don't know. >> tim permenter was tried and convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. interestingly, he wasn't grateful that the judge spared his life. >> tim told us that he wanted to go to the electric chair, that he did not want to spend the rest of his life in prison. >> it was a textbook case of someone who thought he could outsmart investigators. but the more he tried, the more evidence he left. >> he's a guy that thinks he's sharper and smarter than everybody else. and so, he actually overdid it. >> this particular scene was a wealth of forensic evidence. however, if you don't know what to do with that forensic evidence, it's worthless.
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>> forensics pretty much saved my life. >> if it's not for that pizza box, if it's not for the dna under karen's fingernails, you have a guy who potentially is framed, and you have another guy who gets away with murder. up next, a restaurant robbery goes wrong. >> there was no reason for this to happen to stephen. >> this was a vicious, vicious attack. >> and the evidence is contradictory. there was somebody else bleeding at the scene of the crime. >> that blood and a partial fingerprint were all investigators had. >> i wasn't holding my breath for any real results. >> until the money trail provides investigators with a vital clue. jennifer holmes remembers super bowl sunday 2001 for one reason -- it was the day she first met her husband. they were both at th

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