tv Forensic Files CNN May 31, 2015 12:00am-12:31am PDT
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 the same super
bowl party. >> i saw him sitting there with the perfect hair and his leather jacket, perfect smile. so we stood there, and he's like, "hi, i'm stephen. hi, i'm jen." >> a year later, the two were married, and 29-year-old stephen became a father to jennifer's young son. they also had plans to have children of their own. >> as far as his career, he was -- i noticed this about him. he was always happiest when he was working in a restaurant. >> stephen was an assistant manager of a steakhouse in st. petersburg, florida. he often worked long hours and some nights were longer than others. >> he called me at 10:18 and said, i'm just letting you know i'm going to be later tonight because we had a late party and i just closed up. i just let everyone out and locked the door. >> around midnight, an exterminator entered the restaurant with his own key.
>> that is when he saw all the bloody footprints and he saw and found mr. holmes' lifeless body. >> stephen holmes had been stabbed to death. >> i've never seen a crime scene this horrific. it was a pretty bad scene. >> in a clear case of overkill, stephen was stabbed more than 40 times. >> when you think of a murder, you sometimes think, okay, somebody is shot or stabbed. this was a vicious, vicious attack. he was almost decapitated. >> robbery appeared to be the motive. about $8,000 was missing from the safe in the manager's office. this was much more than usual, because the restaurant had been promoting $100 gift certificates as christmas presents that evening. >> it's at a restaurant. you're in the month of december. generally speaking, a fairly busy time of the year.
so we had all pieced together that that's what the motive was. >> the exterminator who found the body was the first and most obvious suspect, but was quickly written off. >> due to his demeanor, how he looked and not having any signs of violence or blood on his person, they could see that he was nowhere near involved in this case. >> fortunately for police, the restaurant had several surveillance cameras. >> when we saw the camera was present in the hallway, our initial reaction was that we may very well have not only the attack on video, but at least a starting point of how the suspect was built and his race. >> but there was an immediate setback. all the cameras were hooked to a single video recorder, and it was gone. >> the entire vcr, the cords were actually cut and removed from the office. >> there were no signs of forced
entry. was it possible that a customer hid in the restaurant until closing time in preparation for the robbery? >> there's no reason to believe that the criminal might not have gone back to the restroom and hid in the bathroom until after they closed. you know, close the stall, hid on top of the toilet, that sort of thing. >> if the killer was a customer, that meant dozens, if not hundreds of potential suspects. it's so shiny. i know, mommy, but it's time to let the new kitchen get some sleep. if you want beautiful results, you know where to go - angie's list. now everyone can get highly rated service even without a membership. you can shop special offers or just tell us what you need, and we'll help you find a local company to take care of it. angie's list is there for all your projects, big and small. pretty. come see what the new angie's list can do for you.
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friends, family and co-workers had difficulty understanding why stephen holmes had been murdered. the restaurant had never been robbed before, and was located in a low crime area. >> robberies usually don't result in this type of repeated violence. very rarely in armed robberies does a victim sustain this many injuries. >> stephen's best friend and co-worker, wilson saintil, was among the first to offer condolences. >> i heard wailing. i came inside and it was wilson in the living room crying. my wife consoled him and grabbed
his shoulders and just said, think about stephen's smile and he would forgive whoever did this and i think he started wailing more. >> the day after stephen holmes' murder, a man working across the street from the crime scene contacted police. >> this individual indicated that a white pickup truck with a horizontal stripe alongside of it raced out of the durango's parking lot prior to the police arriving. >> the witness said this happened at about 11:00, just after the time police believe stephen was killed. >> the description was so detailed. i mean, a loud muffler, stripes on the side, you know, a small pickup, white. it was a very clear description of what type of a vehicle it was. >> for two days, police officers stopped dozens of trucks that fit the description, checking the interiors for blood and drivers for any fresh wounds.
then, they got a devastating setback. the witness now said he made the whole thing up. >> he was trying to score points with his girlfriend is what it basically boiled down to. that's a week's worth of work and it's down the tubes and it's very disappointing. >> as family and friends mourned stephen holmes, police wondered who would want him dead. >> nobody who knew him, as far as i was concerned at that time, could have hurt him, especially like that. >> we interviewed a lot of his friends, a lot of family members, co-workers. you could not find a single person that would say anything bad about him. >> defensive wounds showed stephen fought his attacker to the end. >> he had over 24 defensive wounds, i believe, and 20 wounds to his neck and his face. it was obvious it was a very big struggle. >> part of the struggle started inside the kitchen area and made
its way down that small hallway into the door of the office and then right there in the office is where the final struggle took place. >> it appeared stephen tried to make it into his office and shut the door. there were actually stab marks on the door. >> there was a large concentration of blood on that door. there was a huge amount of blood on the floor. the victim very well may have slipped on his own blood. >> there were dozens of foot prints made by the killer. unfortunately, there were no clear impressions for comparison. >> it was someone that may have had a pair of galoshes or boots, clean-up type boots handy, or had them on at the time they left the murder scene. >> but it appeared the killer left evidence as he removed the surveillance equipment. >> the suspect had to actually step over the victim that he had just killed.
the vcr was up off -- up off the counter area of the desk. i believe the suspect utilized part of that desk to reach up to get the vcr and cut the cord and take the vcr. >> on the floor underneath that shelf, investigators saw a manila folder. when they turned it over, they found something. >> we looked at it closer and we actually noticed the fingerprint in blood. myself and mr. carlisle looked at each other and said, "we've got him." >> was it possible the killer accidently knocked it onto the floor as he was stealing the security system vcr? >> the folder, the fingerprint wasn't face up, so the person who, as they were leaving, probably wouldn't have known that they left that essential piece of evidence. >> but it was a partial print and badly smudged. >> the technician and i were going back and forth and i'm like, well, i think i can use it, but let's see if we can make it a little better. i handed it back to him.
>> but enhancing it would come at a price. >> that would destroy the dna profile of the blood the fingerprint was left in. >> investigators decided the risk was worth it. the print was sprayed with amino black, a chemical dye that reacts with the proteins in blood. >> we worked on it a little bit more and we decided that was as good as the print was going to get. >> the result was a partial print of a fingertip. investigators entered the print into the nationwide fingerprint database of known criminal offenders and the result was bad news. >> i was not able to come up with a match. >> that's because the print didn't have enough points of comparison for the computer to process. with no print match, and now no dna, investigators were no closer to solving this murder.
kitchen. >> it was obviously close to the crime scene, but far enough away that we were hoping that was, in fact, the suspect's blood. >> blood tests revealed it did not belong to the victim, stephen holmes. >> somebody had to be standing over that table and blood dripped off of them onto the table. >> but if the blood was the perpetrator's, why was it there and why didn't he clean it up? these almost perfectly round blood drops, called passive drops, were made by someone standing still, possibly while washing his hands at the sink. >> a lot of times in a knife fight like that, the knife may slip out of his hand and cut his finger, or something similar to that effect. >> the blood dna was possible evidence, but investigators had no one to compare it to. with no sign of forced entry, the killer could have been an
employee. so investigators asked restaurant employees for dna samples and their fingerprints. they also wanted to see if anyone had cuts or bruises on their hands. >> they say, you know what? let's bring all the employees in and let's fingerprint everybody. at least if we do that, maybe we can rule everybody out with the fingerprint that we've got now. >> but as police were fingerprinting the employees, they didn't notice any with visible injuries. >> authorities are thinking, the killer is probably not here. he's probably not an employee. >> nevertheless, each employee was fingerprinted carefully. >> this will be the front of the finger, but the print i have is more off to the side. so in order to make sure i got the area i needed, i had to fully roll each and every finger of each and every employee. >> in a stunning development,
the print on the manila folder matched the last person anyone expected, especially stephen holmes' family. it belonged to wilson saintil, stephen's best friend, the restaurant's maintenance man and prep cook. stephen's family couldn't believe it since the two often worked late together. >> stephen would bring in cds specifically that he knew was the type of music that wilson liked so that they could put it in and it would go through the whole store and they could be listening to that music while they were working. >> wilson saintil went to the ceremonies to honor the deceased, hugged family members, cried when it was appropriate. there was no flight issues. there was no obvious signs that we needed to suspect him of anything. >> but investigators naturally went further, comparing saintil's dna to the blood droplets on the kitchen counter
and faucet. >> those six foreign male dna profiles found at the scene did match the suspect in the case. >> the 51-year-old haitian national was arrested on suspicion of murder. >> do you have anything to say at all? >> they've got the wrong guy. >> they got the wrong guy? >> yes. >> you didn't kill stephen holmes? >> no. >> you don't know anything about it? >> stephen was my good friend. >> although his blood and fingerprint were both at the scene, police had a problem. there was a plausible explanation for his blood to be at the sink in the kitchen. >> the defense is clear, he's a maintenance worker. he's a prep cook. people cut themselves all the time. >> and there was no proof his fingerprint was in stephen's blood. it could have been there previously. >> so you find a fingerprint of my client here, wilson saintil, inside the restaurant. what's the big deal? >> needing more, investigators looked into a possible motive.
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>> yes, he's my best friend. >> wilson saintil insisted he had nothing to do with stephen holmes' murder. the father of three was active in his church, and well liked by his co-workers. he even considered the victim his best friend. but a background check revealed saintil had a violent past. 20 years earlier, saintil served four years in prison for aggravated assault and concealing a weapon. and despite working three jobs, he had money problems. >> he was paying child support, from what i understand, for two different children, and the amount, when i add it up now, the amount's probably about $700, $800 a month. it was quite a large sum of money. >> the forensic evidence clearly pointed to wilson saintil as the man who killed stephen holmes inside the steak restaurant. but investigators wanted to know what happened to the $8,000
missing from the restaurant's safe? that's when they learned that saintil visited a local furniture store the day after the murder. the furniture store had a security camera in the office, which showed saintil paying off a $1,200 debt in cash with $100 bills. much of the money stolen from the restaurant was in $100 bills, from the gift certificates they had been selling on the night of the murder. >> the fact that he pays off his debt at the furniture rental company so quickly after the murder is -- it's just bizarre. >> and forensic testing found a connection between saintil's fingerprint in stephen's office and his blood drops near the sink. >> you had feet print leading to the manager's office and shoe
prints leading from the office to the kitchen. >> now the case is coming full circle. >> prosecutors believe wilson saintil was desperate for money, and believed his only recourse was to rob the restaurant where he worked. as the maintenance man, he stopped by after hours, knowing the cash receipts would be in the safe. saintil probably made some noise in the kitchen. stephen walked out of his office to see who was there. >> hello? >> that's when stephen saw the knife. stephen ran to his office and tried to close the door, but saintil was still able to get inside. stephen was stabbed more than 40 times and died in his office. as saintil washed his hands and the knife, his blood, possibly from a bloody nose from the
fight, dropped onto the kitchen counter and faucet. saintil took the $8,000 from the safe. since he knew the surveillance cameras had captured the fight, he cut the cables and removed the video recorder. but as he did, he left his partial fingerprint on the manila folder, which fell to the floor upside down. saintil left the restaurant with the murder weapon, video recorder, and his bloody clothes. prosecutors believe he returned later to clean up the blood. but his plan fell apart when he saw the exterminator was there on an unscheduled visit. >> nobody knew he was coming by that night, except for stephen. i feel that was a godsend. >> stephen's the only person that knows this guy is showing up. and thank god he shows up on that night, because that narrows the timeline, that preserves the
crime scene at that point, and that prevents wilson saintil from coming back and cleaning up the crime scene. >> when we found out later it was him, it's a weird feeling that he had the nerve to come here to our home the see -- it's still hard to comprehend that. >> wilson saintil was tried and convicted of first-degree murder. he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. saintil left evidence behind, some he might have explained, having worked there as an employee. but not all of it. >> i think forensic science is amazing. that's what solved the case. it just puts that much more of my faith in the system. i'm glad it's progressed to where it has and i hope it continues to do so. >> forensic science in this particular case is 110%.
it's the reason wilson saintil is in prison, and without it, he would be a free man today. up next, the murder of a convenience store employee goes unsolved for years. >> the case always bugged me. we wanted to find the clown that did that. >> police couldn't understand why the victim's husband didn't report her missing. >> every time i hear i didn't call it in because we had an argument, i always wonder how could anybody believe this? >> could new forensic testing solve a 20-year-old case? >> you've got to treat every single case like it's the crime of the century. >> when rod and julie estes started their life together in jacksonville, florida, as husband and wife, they had to figure out, like most couples, how to support themselves. rod drove a truc