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The Yogurt Shop Murders
Classification: Homicide?
Characteristics: Juvenile (17) - Robbery - Rape
Number of victims: 4 ?
Date of murders: December 6, 1991
Date of arrest: October 6, 1999 (8 years later)
Date of birth: November 26, 1974
Victims profile: Eliza Thomas, 17; Amy Ayers, 13; and sisters Jennifer, 17, and Sarah Harbison, 15
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Austin, Travis County, Texas, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on June 21, 2001. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his conviction on the basis of an unfair trial in 2006. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to reinstate the conviction in February 2007. Released on June 24, 2009. On October 28, 2009 all charges were dismissed

photo gallery

Name TDCJ Number Date of Birth
Springsteen, Robert IV 999389 11/26/1974
Date Received Age (when Received) Education Level
06/21/2001 26 11
Date of Offense Age (at the Offense) County
12/06/1991 17 Travis
Race Gender Hair Color
white male brown
Height Weight Eye Color
5 ft 11 in 237 hazel
Native County Native State Prior Occupation
Cook Illinois drywall, food service, laborer
Prior Prison Record
Summary of incident

On 12/06/1991, Springsteen participated in a robbery at a yogurt shop in Austin.  Four teenage girls, who working at the shop, were shot to death and strangled in the incident.  The yogurt shop was set on fire before the assailant(s) fled the scene.


The following names were listed as co-defendant's on Springsteen's indictment, but those named here have not been convicted of any offense relating to this incident:
Marcus Pierce
Mike Scott
Forrest Wellburn

Race and Gender of Victim
white female

Yogurt Shop Murders refers to the deaths of four teenage girls in a yogurt shop in Austin, Texas on the night of Friday 6 December 1991, after which the yogurt shop they were in was set aflame. The bodies of 13-year-old Amy Ayers (sometimes spelled Ayres), 17-year-old Jennifer Harbison, 15-year-old Sarah Harbison, and 17-year-old Eliza Thomas were discovered later that night.

The initial investigation spanned nearly eight years; trials and local media coverage remain ongoing.


Shortly before midnight on Friday December 6, 1991, a patrolling Austin police officer noticed a fire coming from an I Can't Believe It's Yogurt! shop and reported it to the officer's dispatcher. After the fire was extinguished, the firefighters discovered four bodies, all of which were bound and gagged, with three stacked on top of one another. Each victim had been shot in the head, thus leading police to determine that they likely had died before the fire was started.

Just before the murders, the girls had been seen alive at the yogurt shop as late as 10:00 pm. They had planned a sleepover for that very night.

Subsequent events

At the time of the murders, a known serial killer, Kenneth Allen McDuff, was in the area. McDuff had a history of multiple murders involving teenagers, but Austin Police said he had been ruled out of the Yogurt Shop Murders. McDuff was later convicted of and executed for the abduction and murder of Colleen Reed from a West 5th St. car wash on Sunday 29 December 1991.

False confessions

Austin police admit that over fifty people, including Kenneth McDuff (on the day of his execution) have confessed to the Yogurt Shop Murders. A confession in 1992 by two Mexican nationals, held by Mexican authorities, was soon disputed and finally ruled false.

1999 suspects arrested

On Wednesday 6 October 1999, police in Texas and West Virginia arrested four suspects in connection with the murders. Robert Burns Springsteen Jr., 24, was arrested in Charleston, West Virginia. Michael James Scott, 25, of Buda, Texas was arrested in the Austin area. Maurice Pierce, 24, was arrested in Lewisville, north of Dallas, and Forrest Wellborn, 23, was picked up in Lockhart, Texas, southeast of Austin.

The prosecution stated at one hearing that DNA evidence in the case had been tested against more than seventy people (including Robert Springsteen, Michael Scott, Maurice Pierce, and Forrest Wellborn) and failed to match. Charges against Forrest Wellborn were dropped when an Austin Grand Jury failed to indict him. Charges were later dropped against Maurice Pierce. Only the cases against Scott and Springsteen went to trial.

The investigation was complicated by matters internal to the Austin police department. Detective Hector Polanco was fired from the department for allegedly coercing confessions. A relationship between Springsteen's father and Austin police data processing employee Karen Huntley prompted her transfer.

2006 Springsteen conviction overturned

In 2006, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Robert Springsteen's conviction on the basis of an unfair trial. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to reinstate the conviction in February 2007.

2008 Scott and Springsteen request DNA tests

On Wednesday 20 August 2008, the defense lawyers for Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen requested DNA testing of alternative suspects. No matches against evidence found earlier that year were able to be found. Seven jurors from the trials have stated they would not have convicted the men had this evidence been available at the time.

2009 Scott and Springsteen release

On Wednesday 24 June 2009, Judge Mike Lynch decided, in response to the Travis County district attorney asking that one of the trials be continued, that defendants Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott be freed on bond pending their upcoming trials. At 2:50 PM on that day, both Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott walked out of the Travis County Jail with their attorneys.

Also on Wednesday 24 June 2009, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg responded to Judge Mike Lynch's decision with the following statement:

Today I requested a continuance in the case against Michael Scott, a defendant in the Yogurt Shop murders, whose trial was scheduled to begin on July 6th. Judge Mike Lynch granted that motion but also released both Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen on personal bond, as he indicated he would do in his previous scheduling order.

Requesting a delay in the case was a difficult decision but one that I believe is the best course toward an ultimate successful prosecution of this important matter.

Knowing that Judge Lynch would release both defendants, we requested certain conditions on their bonds, requiring them to remain in Travis County and report to the Court any change of residence, to have no contact with the victims’ families or witnesses, that they not carry weapons or consume alcohol or illegal drugs, that they report to the Court on a routine basis and attend all court appearances.

As you know, both Springsteen and Scott were convicted by juries in June of 2001 and September of 2002. Their convictions were then overturned by the appellate court, but their statements to law enforcement were found to be voluntarily given.

Since the original trial of these two men, new developments in DNA technology have become available. As we prepared for retrial, in March of 2008, we submitted various evidentiary items for what is called YSTR testing. This test looks for male DNA only and is deemed to be the most accurate test for samples that are mixtures of female and male DNA, as in this case.

We sought this testing because we have an ongoing duty and responsibility to use the most up to date science available, to seek the truth in this and all the cases we prosecute.

Currently, it is clear to me that our evidence in the death of these four young women includes DNA from one male whose identity is not yet known to us. The defense asserts that the testing reveals more than one unknown male, but the evidence presented at the hearing on Thursday, June 18th contradicts that notion.

The reliable scientific evidence in the case presents one, and one only, unknown male donor. Given that, I could not in good conscience allow this case to go to trial before the identity of this male donor is determined, and the full truth is known. I remain confident that both Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott are responsible for the deaths at the Yogurt Shop but it would not be prudent to risk a trial until we also know the nature of the involvement of this unknown male.

My office and the Austin Police Department remain committed to these cases. Their further investigation will continue to be a priority. My commitment to the victims, their families and this community is that we will not give up until all of the people responsible for these terrible and tragic murders are brought to justice.

On October 28th, 2009 all charges were dismissed against Scott and Springsteen.


DNA Evidence Leads to Release of Texas Man Who Spent Four Years on Death Row

Suspects in Yogurt Shop Killings Released

By S. Kreytak - American-Statesman

June 25, 2009

A man originally sentenced to death for four murders in Texas has been released on his own recognizance after new DNA evidence was discovered. 

Robert Springsteen and co-defendant Michael Scott were released by State District Judge Mike Lynch after prosecutors said they were not prepared to go to trial as scheduled, leaving Judge Lynch to follow through on his promise to the defendants that another delay would mean freedom for the defendants.  Lynch said he not only had to consider the charges but the rights of the men to a trial. 

Springsteen and Scott were both convicted of capital murder, with Springsteen receiving a death sentence and Scott receiving life, but the convictions were thrown out on appeal. 

Now new DNA tests have shown conclusively that the evidence retrieved on scene did not belong to Springsteen, Scott or other previous co-defendants.  The defense lawyers say the new DNA evidence exonerates Scott and Springsteen. 

After already testing more than 130 people, including friends of Springsteen and Scott, police and firefighters, and others, the prosecution is asking for more time to try and find the person matching the DNA from the crime. 

Springsteen and Scott had confessed to the crimes under what their attorney's call coercion and psychological pressure, in addition to other people that confessed who the police later determined to be innocent.  The case will return to court August 12.


Conviction in slayings of 4 girls tossed

Court rules a co-defendant's statement was wrongly allowed

By Janet Elliott - Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

AUSTIN - The capital murder conviction of one of two men in the slayings of four teenage girls at a yogurt shop was overturned Wednesday by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

The 5-4 majority ruled that a co-defendant's statement should not have been read to the jury in the 2001 trial of Robert Burns Springsteen IV.

The December 1991 crime had haunted the city for nearly a decade before Springsteen's conviction and death sentence.

But his death sentence was commuted to life last year by Gov. Rick Perry after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juvenile offenders could not be executed. Springsteen was 17 at the time of the slayings.

Co-defendant Michael Scott was given a life sentence in 2003. Both were convicted for the murder of 13-year-old Amy Ayers during a robbery at a store called I Can't Believe It's Yogurt. Also killed were Eliza Thomas, 17, and sisters Jennifer and Sarah Harbison, 15 and 17.

Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Paul Womack, writing for the majority, said Scott's statement should not have been admitted in Springsteen's trial because Scott did not testify and could not be cross-examined by Springsteen's lawyer.

The court said a 2004 opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear statements taken by police during interrogations fell under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment.

Scott's statement contained chilling details about his actions in binding and gagging the girls, raping and shooting two of them in the head, and then using paper and lighter fluid to set the bodies on fire. While he did not implicate Springsteen, prosecutors used the statement to show similarities with a confession given by Springsteen.

Scott's conviction has been upheld by Austin's 3rd Court of Appeals and an appeal is pending at the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Charges were dismissed against two other men who were arrested in the case but did not confess.

Springsteen contended his confession was coerced and denied involvement.

"If I just make up a bunch of stories and tell them what they want to hear ... the evidence will show it couldn't have been me," said Springsteen, explaining to jurors his thinking at the time police interviewed him in Charleston, W.Va., where he lived with his wife.

Womack said Springsteen's repudiation of his confession "may have more than the usual weight." He noted two other men previously had confessed to the murders but police decided that neither committed the crime.

He also said leaks from the investigation included information that was supposed to be held from the public.

Mary Kay Sicola, who represented Springsteen on appeal, said she filed her appellate brief in the case 3 1/2 years ago.

"It's been an exceptionally long wait to get a ruling. For all the reasons, for the sake of the integrity of our justice system, the sake of our community, I'm just so happy the court has finally issued a ruling," she said.

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle said his office is reviewing its options, which include an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or retrying Springsteen

Sicola said Springsteen will be transported to Travis County while prosecutors decide.

Womack was joined by Judges Tom Price, Cheryl Johnson, Charles Holcomb and Cathy Cochran.

Presiding Judge Sharon Keller wrote a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Judges Mike Keasler and Barbara Hervey. Judge Lawrence Meyers also dissented.

Keller said Springsteen was unharmed by the admission of Scott's statement since he had made his own confession: "That confession was voluntary. (Springsteen) had no motive to confess falsely, and there was absolutely no reason for the jury to doubt the truthfulness of the confession. (Springsteen) knew that a .380 semi-automatic handgun was used in the murders, and this information was a closely guarded secret ... ."

The prosecution was hampered during both trials by the lack of any forensic evidence.

The Austin Police Department issued a statement that it "is confident in the guilt of Robert Springsteen" and will work with prosecutors to ensure he "continues to be held accountable for these horrific murders."

Police said their break in the case came in 1999 when a task force reviewed an interview police conducted with a 15-year-old. He told police he had a gun used in the killings.

Detectives had interviewed all four suspects in 1991 before concluding the 15-year-old was lying. But they reinterviewed the four, and obtained confessions from Scott and Springsteen.


Somebody Has to Die

The Yogurt Shop Murder Trial Headlines Shout 'Guilty!' 
-- But Did the Prosecution Make Its Case?

By Jordan Smith -

June 15, 2001

At 4pm Wednesday, May 30, the packed state district courtroom of Judge Mike Lynch was wrapped in tense silence. After nearly 13 hours of deliberations over two days, the seven-man, five-woman jury charged with deciding the guilt or innocence of Robert Burns Springsteen IV had reached a decision. 

Springsteen, 26, is the first of three defendants to be tried for the notorious 1991 murders of four teenage girls in a North Austin I Can't Believe It's Yogurt! shop. On December 6, 1991, Eliza Thomas, 17; Amy Ayers, 13; and sisters Jennifer and Sarah Harbison, 17 and 15, were found inside the shop -- stripped, bound, gagged, shot in the head, and horribly burned in a fire police said was started to cover the crime. Maurice Pierce, 25, and Michael Scott, 26, have also been indicted for the murders and are awaiting trial. Charges against another suspect, Forrest Welborn, 25, were dropped in 1999, after two Travis County grand juries failed to indict him. 

Just before Springsteen entered the courtroom to hear the jury's decision, court sources said, defense lawyer Berkley Bettis had gone in to speak with him. The jurors are crying, he told his client -- that's not a good sign. 

At 4:05pm, Judge Lynch read the jury's verdict: guilty, of capital murder in the death of Amy Ayers. (This Springsteen prosecution concerned only the murder of Ayers.) A collective gasp, followed by choked sobs, came from the gallery, where the victims' families had been sitting for the three weeks of testimony. Springsteen looked straight ahead. In the jury box, the men and women who had judged Springsteen's fate were also crying, covering their eyes and mouths, consoling each other. 

But that wasn't the worst news Springsteen would hear that week. On Friday, June 1, the same jurors returned after nearly 11 hours of deliberation to deliver Springsteen's punishment. Under Texas law, there are only two possible penalties for capital murder: life in prison -- with a possibility of parole after 40 years -- or death by lethal injection. 

During the punishment phase, during which each side has the opportunity to call witnesses, defense lawyers Bettis and Joe James Sawyer called no one -- no one -- to plead for their client's life. Defending this puzzling strategy, Sawyer said that after prosecutors called Amy Ayers' father, who testified emotionally about his family's loss (eliciting an emotional reaction from more than one juror), it would've been difficult -- at best -- to call any defense witnesses. In the face of execution, the defense chose silence.

On Friday afternoon, Springsteen again stood virtually motionless in front of the court and, again, jurors were crying. Their sentence: death, by lethal injection. After the sentence was delivered, reporters who were seeking Springsteen's reaction approached Sawyer. "Not guilty," replied Sawyer, "that's what he says." Indeed, for nearly 10 years, this is what Springsteen has said over and over: not guilty. 

At a press conference that Friday afternoon, Pam Ayers, mother of the youngest yogurt shop victim, 13-year-old Amy, thanked Austinites for their "prayers and support" over the past nine and a half years. Later, District Attorney Ronnie Earle told the Austin American-Statesman, "We are doing our job, and we altogether seek justice and truth." 

Still -- after more than nine years of investigation by the Austin Police Department, aided at times by federal investigators -- many questions remain. Have "justice and truth" in fact been served? The court has certainly ruled. Yet for those who sat through the entire trial (especially those segments of the trial that were withheld from the jurors), it seems not so certain that Robert Springsteen participated in the yogurt shop murders -- or more precisely, whether this trial laid that question to rest, beyond a reasonable doubt. 

With two trials -- those of Scott and Pierce -- yet to come, questions asked but not answered (as well as many additional questions that remain unasked) are bound to come up again. There are questions about the evidence (or lack thereof) linking the suspects to the crime; about the APD's interrogation tactics and the validity of the confessions they obtained from both Springsteen and Scott; about the prosecutors' tactics at trial; and about the ability of Springsteen's lawyers to mount a sufficient defense. 

'Wholesale Carnage'

On Friday, Dec. 6, 1991, just before midnight, a police officer on patrol near Northcross Mall reported smoke coming from the rear of the I Can't Believe It's Yogurt! shop located in a strip mall just down the street. According to media reports at the time, nearly 50 firefighters responded to the call. After extinguishing the flames they made a grisly discovery: Four girls lay dead inside the shop, three of them stacked like wood in the back room, charred nearly to the bone. APD Detective John Jones was the first investigator to respond. "Wholesale carnage," he told reporters after he'd been inside. "I looked in there and, 'Oh my God.'" 

A local CBS news crew was out riding along with Jones that evening and remained at the scene, filming the first responses of the officers and investigators. Portions of the tapes were played in court during Springsteen's trial. They showed a protracted bustle of activity: firefighters going in and out of the shop repeatedly, hours after the fire had been extinguished; Austin Fire Department paramedics and arson investigators entering and exiting the shop; the arrival and departure of the Travis County medical examiner. And finally, at almost 4am -- nearly four hours after the call was put in -- the arrival of the Department of Public Safety crime scene investigators (at the time, APD did not have its own crime scene investigation unit). 

It was this gap in time, four hours of movement and disruption inside the shop before anyone arrived to "process" the scene for evidence, that helped create the chaos that would plague the APD investigators for the next nine years. DPS investigator Irma Rios testified at trial that the efforts of the crime scene investigators were not coordinated, that they failed to retain items from the shop for evidence -- including an aluminum ladder and other items that were melted by the fire -- and that they even failed to process certain areas of the property for physical evidence, including the shop's bathrooms, the front door, and a large Dumpster situated just outside the shop's back door. "No one ever pulled out everything that was in the Dumpster," Rios testified. "We just looked at what was on top." When asked by Sawyer whether the investigators had plotted the interior of the shop in a grid -- standard practice for a thorough culling of physical evidence -- Rios said the investigators had not done so. 

In the end, not one speck of physical evidence was logged by investigators that would link any of the three defendants to the scene of the crime. There were several latent fingerprints found on the lid of a cash register drawer, and at least five hairs were recovered from the girls' bodies or items of their clothing. But after analysis of the fingerprints by a FBI expert and DNA analysis of the hairs by a private company, none of this evidence was linked to any of the victims, the defendants, or any of the other yogurt shop employees. "There is DNA that cannot be attributed to the four victims or the four suspects," DNA specialist William Watson told the jury. Furthermore, he testified, the unmatched hairs came from more than one source. "Persons. These are from more than one individual." 

Compounding the lack of evidence was the unfettered activity at the scene that Friday night. The CBS cameras recorded what appeared to be unregulated access to the shop, a notion that defense lawyer Sawyer harped on while examining Detective Jones on the stand. "Sgt. Jones, is there a log in existence [that] reflect[s] everyone who went in and out of the crime scene?" Sawyer asked. "It's in the database," Jones replied. However, no log was ever produced as evidence during the trial by either the district attorneys or the defense. Upon further questioning, Jones told Sawyer: "There were enough people in [the yogurt shop on Dec. 6] that we couldn't control everything that was going out the doors." Indeed, in many of the photographs taken at the shop, numerous firefighters and other officials can be seen standing around in the background. 

In the days and months that followed the crime, the open access became an evidentiary problem, as investigators were inundated with tips and confessions from people who were giving details of the crime scene that police had hoped to keep secret. In fact, police testified, the list of "core facts" -- crime scene details kept from the public as a method to confirm the real culprits -- was getting smaller and smaller. "Initially, information we would normally keep [confidential] was coming back to us with such frequency that we had to cross it off the list," Jones testified. 

And among other things, it is this leaking of important details over the years that sheds a suspect light on the only pieces of evidence prosecutors have to try the yogurt shop defendants: the two confessions obtained by APD officers from Springsteen and Scott.

Detailed Dynamite

The interrogation room on the second floor of the Charleston, W.Va., police department is a cramped space, sparsely furnished with a table and three chairs. There's a clock mounted on one wall, placed there by APD detectives and outfitted with a video camera, which recorded -- sometimes poorly -- the conversation that took place on Sept. 15, 1999. During the interrogation, Robert Springsteen is sitting in a straight-backed chair across from the door. Detective Robert Merrill alternately sits in front of the door or with his legs propped on the wall, blocking the room's only exit. Detective Ron Lara -- and occasionally Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms federal agent Chuck Meyer -- sits across the table from Springsteen, leaning in and sometimes yelling at him, just inches from his face. 

This was at least the third time detectives had interviewed Springsteen in the eight years since the yogurt shop murders. Yet even after three weeks of exhaustive trial testimony last month -- which largely centered on this confession -- it remains wholly unclear what made up the substance of the previous interviews. What details had Springsteen been told about the crime by other detectives? What had he heard and read in media reports? What had he heard in the days after the crime from other teens that hung around the Northcross Mall? What crime scene photos had he been shown? Defense attorneys asked these questions during the trial without receiving any very convincing answers. 

Nonetheless, after nearly four hours of interrogation that day in 1999, during which Springsteen adamantly denied any involvement in the horrific 1991 crime -- as he had done for the previous eight years -- he finally began to break down in front of the police and admitted to being involved in the murders. "I don't know whether this is true or not, or whether I'm fooling myself," Springsteen told his interrogators. "I'm so confused ..." 

When asked at trial about the initial interview in December 1991, Jones said that both Springsteen and co-defendant Michael Scott (who also confessed to police, on Sept. 14, 1999, after 18 hours of interrogation) were subsequently "inactivated" as witnesses and/or suspects. "We get to a certain point with some suspects where we can't pursue them any more," he testified. "At that time we ran into a dead end." 

So, were the 1999 confessions and subsequent arrests the product of dogged police work, finally producing admissions by Scott and Springsteen to details of the crime that only the killers would know? Possibly. 

Unfortunately, at least concerning Springsteen's statement, that doesn't seem to be the case -- at least not beyond a reasonable doubt. First, Springsteen never said anything about the girls being bound and gagged, or about the rear room of the shop being set on fire. Detective Merrill testified that this is so because Springsteen terminated the interview before the detectives could get to that point. Yet Springsteen also told the detectives that Amy Ayers had been shot first by a .380-caliber gun -- which he fired -- then, when she didn't immediately die, that she was shot a second time with a .22-caliber gun. This clearly was not possible, since medical experts testified that, while Amy had been shot with both weapons, it was the .380 that ultimately killed her. Travis County Medical Examiner Thomas Brown also testified that Ayers was also strangled with a cloth ligature. Springsteen never mentioned this either. 

Springsteen did relate certain details that police said were never made public, and that police said also matched Scott's confession. Specifically, Springsteen said the second weapon used in the crime was a .380-caliber semi-automatic; that Scott had tried unsuccessfully to rape one of the girls; that while casing the shop earlier in the day, Springsteen had propped open the rear door with an empty cigarette pack or a small rock; and that after the crime, Scott had thrown up over a bridge. 

At first, these small but telling details in Springsteen's confession might seem convincing. Yet as it turns out, there are other confessions -- most of these unacknowledged in the courtroom and unknown to the jury -- that also mention some of the details police insist were never made public. Although a court-imposed gag order remains in force, and restricts detailed discussion of the murders until the trials of all three defendants have ended, sources close to the case told the Chronicle that there were many confessions -- at least 50 separate confessions, made to police. Some of these are described as also containing convincing details -- and many, to this day, have not been pursued by investigators. "That's where the dynamite is," said one source.

In court, defense lawyers Bettis and Sawyer were able to introduce only two such confessions into evidence. "Not to show that they're true," Sawyer told the court. "On the contrary, to show they were made by somebody with detailed knowledge of the crime." The statements admitted, while obviously false, did exhibit a striking amount of crime scene detail. A confession given by Alex Brionnes (who was already wanted in San Antonio for raping a woman and setting her on fire) told police in 1992 that the murders started off as a robbery; that the girls were bound, gagged, and raped then shot; that there were two guns used and the second "looked like" a silver semi-automatic; and that napkins and cardboard boxes were stacked on the bodies before the fire was set. All of these details correspond to the crime, and were supposedly confidential. 

Similarly, in another statement introduced by the defense, Shawn Smith -- described in court as an Austin resident who in 1992 voluntarily came forward to confess to the crime -- told police that he and some friends arrived at the shop after hours; that they stripped and bound the girls; that one of the guns used was "an automatic of some sort"; that the girls were stacked in the back room and that lighter fluid had been used to start the blaze. Police determined that these confessions were false because aside from these details, there were other well-known aspects of the crime (like the number of victims) that the confessors didn't know. Still, if the confessions of Brionnes and Smith -- along with dozens of others collected over the years -- were substantially false, how was it that they contained so much presumably "private" detail? On the stand, APD Detective Mike Huckabay -- also one of the initial investigators of the murders -- readily agreed with Sawyer's statement that the police department "quickly became so enmeshed in problems with people coming in with too much detail, things they shouldn't have known." 

"That was pretty much it, yes sir," Huckabay replied. 

At one point in the investigation, Huckabay testified, so many crime scene details were returning in the form of random confessions that the investigators thought there might even be a leak within the police department. The investigators also admitted they had called in nearly 60 local teenagers for questioning, and that the teens then were talking among themselves, further disseminating the crime scene information. 

So, what made Springsteen, Pierce, Scott, and Welborn the principal -- and finally exclusive -- targets of the investigation? 

Detective Paul Johnson, who took over the investigation in 1996, has said the primary influence was the initial contact made with Maurice Pierce just over a week after the murders -- contact that also led to the initial interviews with Springsteen and Scott. On Dec. 14, 1991, Pierce was picked up at Northcross Mall carrying a .22-caliber pistol and 16 bullets tucked into his jeans. At the time, he was taken in and questioned by Detective Hector Polanco. Pierce said in a written statement that the .22 he was carrying at Northcross Mall had been used by his friend Forrest Welborn to commit the yogurt shop murders. Welborn was questioned and denied any involvement, but did say that he and Pierce, along with Springsteen and Scott, had gone to San Antonio several days later in a stolen Nissan Pathfinder. As a result, both Springsteen and Scott were questioned. 

It was the .22, Detective Johnson said, that caught his attention again in 1996 -- police knew a .22-caliber gun had been used in the crime. However, experts testified at trial that the .22-caliber gun Pierce was carrying that day, which was seized by police, does not match the gun that fired the bullets that killed the four girls. Indeed, at a pretrial hearing in May 2000, Johnson admitted that he had been told by an APD ballistics expert as far back as January 1999 -- months before the defendants were arrested -- that Pierce's .22 did not match the gun used to shoot the girls. To this day, neither of the murder weapons has ever been found. 

Then there's the Polanco factor. 

It is safe to say that Detective Hector Polanco has a reputation for coercing information out of suspects. Most notably, Polanco took the statement of Christopher Ochoa, which was used to convict him and his friend Richard Danziger, for a 1988 rape and murder it was later determined they didn't commit. The two men were finally released from jail earlier this year. Ochoa's confession to Polanco was extremely detailed -- yet completely false. It was Polanco's interview with Pierce that put the boys on the suspect list to begin with. (According to defense attorney Sawyer, Polanco most likely also conducted the initial interview with Springsteen.) During the trial, Polanco testified that he has never coerced information from a suspect, "though I've been accused of it." 

Assistant District Attorney Efraim de la Fuente made it clear while examining Detective Huckabay that Polanco had in fact coerced false admissions from Alex Brionnes, whose confession Sawyer introduced for its inclusion of detailed crime information. Curiously, it seemed the D.A. was making the defense's argument: that APD officers had fed people crime scene details, in effect that APD was jeopardizing the integrity of its own investigation. 

"At any time did Alex Brionnes say, 'I was threatened and told what to say?'" de la Fuente asked Huckabay. "Yes," Huckabay replied. De la Fuente continued: "And didn't he say he'd only gotten his details from Hector Polanco?" Again, Huckabay replied yes. Polanco's involvement in the Brionnes and Pierce interrogations -- along with the infamous Ochoa confession -- may well call into question the validity of any information obtained through Detective Polanco regarding the involvement of Springsteen and the others in the yogurt shop crime. Yet last week APD Chief Stan Knee told K-EYE News: "There is absolutely no comparison between [those] two cases. Not only did the jury convict [Springsteen], but they gave him the ultimate conviction [sic] for this case." 

Knee had apparently forgotten that a jury also convicted Ochoa and Danziger.

Confession or Coercion?

It may seem hard to imagine an innocent person confessing to a crime that he or she did not commit, says Dr. Richard Ofshe, a professor of social psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, "but it happens, with improper, illegal use of interrogation tactics." Over strong objections by the prosecution, Ofshe was called by the defense to testify at Springsteen's trial. Judge Lynch ended up curtailing the extent to which Ofshe could testify in front of the jurors (one of several rulings over the course of the trial that defense lawyers said had the effect of severely limiting their ability to mount an effective defense). Ofshe was allowed to discuss, generally, the tactics used by police during interrogations, but was not allowed to weigh in on whether there was any coercion demonstrated by police in Springsteen's 1999 confession tapes. That judgment, Lynch said, was strictly up to the jurors. In the end, Ofshe's testimony was cut short after repeated objections by the three-lawyer prosecution team. 

Outside the courtroom, however, Ofshe told reporters he saw clear signs that Springsteen's confession was coerced. "Tactics were used that put him in a place of being considered the principal target [of the investigation]," he said. "Or, it was communicated to him that [if he cooperated with the police] that he'd be considered a victim. So, Springsteen was put in a position where he had to choose." Ofshe was bewildered as to why he wasn't allowed to testify concerning the confession in front of the jury, especially, he said, since he has testified similarly in front of Texas juries in the past. "I was severely limited in the testimony I might have given," he said. "I know what happens in interrogations, and I can help a jury evaluate it fairly. Because, if a jury understands how interrogations work, then they can understand those things that elicit false confessions." 

Why wouldn't the prosecutors want him to testify? "My guess would be the politics [of the case]," Ofshe said. Was Springsteen coerced? "In my opinion," said Ofshe, "yes." 

Prosecutors were also successful in barring other testimony that could have suggested an alternate theory as to what happened on Dec. 6, 1991, and thereby create further reasonable doubt in the jurors' minds as to Springsteen's guilt. Of the dozens of false confessions said to exist, defense attorneys were allowed to introduce only two. They were also barred from introducing testimony that suggested that one of Texas' most notorious criminals might be behind the murders. Sawyer and Bettis sought to introduce evidence that serial killer Kenneth McDuff -- executed in 1998 -- was in the area of the yogurt shop that Friday night in 1991. A map found in his car, they said, showed directions that would've landed him within three blocks of the shop. Moreover, Sawyer said, a woman at Northcross Mall said she'd seen McDuff there that night. Lynch ruled that the McDuff evidence was hearsay and would not be admitted. While the McDuff material does seem like a long shot, Sawyer told reporters, "This is nothing but what we've been trying to do since the beginning -- the collection of other confessions." 

Most crippling to the defense -- and most likely to become the basis of an appeal -- was Lynch's decision to allow the prosecution to introduce portions of Michael Scott's confession, which were read to the jury. This decision may have violated Springsteen's right to cross-examine witnesses against him. Sawyer said he filed a 450-page objection, citing several Supreme Court decisions that found constitutional violations in similar cases, but Lynch allowed the state to introduce the confession anyway. Following the trial, after the jury delivered its death sentence to Springsteen, juror Gunther Goetz told the Austin American-Statesman that the jurors considered Scott's confession the "key" piece of evidence. "That really struck a chord," Goetz said. 

"The rulings came down in such a way that we were just stripped of our defenses," Sawyer said. Other veteran trial attorneys agreed that the heady emotional politics of this case -- as in similar capital cases -- often seem to effect judges' rulings. "I can tell you that if the state needed to include some evidence, [the court] wasn't going to exclude it," said Austin attorney Joe Turner. "They'll leave that for an appeals court to figure out." 

If prosecutors are so certain of Springsteen's guilt, why would they so vociferously attempt to bar the admission of other confessions and the testimony of Ofshe; while simultaneously fighting to admit evidence that, quite possibly, violates Springsteen's constitutional rights? 

Prosecutors have consistently declined to comment on the case, citing the gag order, yet perhaps the answer is simple: Unless the confessions were allowed to stand alone, there would be no way to convince the jury to convict.

Blood on the Courtroom Floor

Perhaps there is one other way: Remind the jurors, with repeated and frightening intensity, of the horrible nature of the crime. "There's no question that when you have a case like this, the burden of proof seems to lessen for the state," said Turner, who sat through portions of Springsteen's trial. "It really didn't seem that there was any relation or connection [between Springsteen and the crime], and in the first week you could see that there wasn't any evidence connecting him either." 

In fact, the entire first week of the prosecution's case consisted entirely of reminding jurors (and the families for that matter) again and again, with graphic photos, charred pieces of the girls' clothing and sooty personal effects recovered from the scene, that this was an amazingly horrific crime. The redundant reminders overwhelmed the lack of physical evidence. The endless stream of photographs shown to the jurors seemed to have their intended effect: There were tears, horrified expressions, and postures of recoil throughout the jury box. But does the gruesome nature of the crime demonstrate anything about the guilt of the suspect at the defense table? "Nothing," Sawyer said. "They said, 'Here, let me show you these grisly pictures again and again.' And I agree with them, emotionally. But what you've got to be able to do is say, 'Is any of this fair? Is any of this evidence?'" 

Ultimately, the prosecutorial motive may be frighteningly simple: For a crime so brutal and remorseless, someone has to pay. 

But does a capital conviction that leaves so many unanswered questions -- and so many uncertainties suggesting ample grounds for appeal -- provide the resolution a death sentence supposedly requires? Does the Springsteen conviction truly begin to lay to rest the horror of the yogurt shop murders? 

Since the court's gag order was imposed in late 1999, the families of the murdered girls have said little to the media. After the jury delivered its guilty verdict on May 30, Barbara Ayres (mother of sisters Jennifer and Sarah Harbison) was surrounded by reporters and cameras. A reporter asked: "Is this what you wanted?" Ayres wiped her eyes. "We wanted some kind of an ending," was all she said. Last April, on the CBS newsmagazine 48 Hours, Amy's parents Bob and Pam Ayers said (in an interview recorded years ago) that no end would ever erase their loss. "Pam hates this word 'closure,'" Bob Ayers told the reporter. "All we're ever going to get out of this is a little relief."


A summarized transcript of Robert Springsteen's testimony

By Christian R. González -

In an anticipated, yet surprising move, Robert Springsteen IV took the stand in his own defense.

Springsteen said his videotaped confession was coerced by police and that he believed his requests for a lawyer were ignored.

Cameras and recording devices are not allowed in the courtroom. The following is an abbreviated and summarized transcript of Springsteen’s testimony.

The defense lawyer Joe James Sawyer surprised most of the courtroom when he said, “Call the defendant, your honor.”

Springsteen rose and stepped forward and was sworn in by the Judge Mike Lynch. Springsteen was then asked for testimony by Sawyer, his lawyer.

State your name.

“Robert Burns Springsteen the fourth.”

Are you aware of your Fifth Amendment rights [protection from self-incrimination]?

“Yes sir.”

Did I explain to you that if you choose not to testify the jury would in no way interpret your decision not to testify … that it would not be used against you in any way.

“Yes sir, you did.”

We discussed the evidence that has been developing and you voiced your feelings about what Mr. (Berkley) Bettis [defense co-counsel] and I had talked about [the case], and the concept of reasonable doubt and that after a full evening to think about it, it is your decision to take the stand.

“Yes, Mr. Sawyer, that’s correct.”

Have you been convicted of crime in any state of the U.S.?

"No sir. … That's incorrect. … It was a misdemeanor not a felony.”

Never been convicted of a felony?

“Nothing, nowhere.”

You understand Mr. Springsteen that these people here in the jury box heard you confess your involvement in these murders?

"Well allegedly confess, yes sir."

You made admissions. Now you’re here to tell these people that’s not true?

"Yes I am.”

You were first asked about this case a little more than a week after it happened.

“Approximately, yes sir, that’s correct.”

Tell the jury how that happened.

“Well as far as I recollect, there were a couple of detectives that came to my father’s residence on Dry Creek Drive. He came in and said, ‘There’s some men here that would like to speak to you.’… (Then said), ‘We’d like to take you downtown.’ So I went downtown with them and they asked me about people I was acquainted with: Mr. Welborn and Mr. Pierce.”

Did you answer their questions truthfully to the best of your knowledge?

“Yes I did.”

Do you believe that you were being truthful and accurate?

“Yes, Mr. Sawyer.”

And is it true that you, in fact, did see The Rocky Horror Picture Show that evening?

“Yes it is.”

Did Mr. Scott wait for you?

“Yes he did.”

After the film was over did you go to Mr. Scott’s and spend the night.

“Yes we did."

Did you travel with the other suspects in a Nissan Pathfinder the day after the murders?

“Well I believe it was two days later. But that was a true story.”

Did you go to San Antonio to meet a girl [one of the suspects] recently met?

“I don’t specifically remember meeting the girl. But yes, we did go.”

When was the next time you heard from the Austin Police Department?

“After the first initial contact here. I believe it would have been in 1993 maybe ’94. They contacted me at my parents' residence in Lincoln County … West Virginia.”

Did you tell them to the best of your ability about what you did?


When you were being questioned the first time, was it made clear to you that Mr. Pierce was a suspect of committing this crime with someone else?

“Yes pretty much. Maybe not in those words. But yes.”

They told you you weren’t a suspect but wanted to know how to track Mr. Pierce. But you don’t know even today that Mr. Pierce committed the crime.

“No sir. I don’t.”

Mr. Welborn.

“No sir.”

Mr. Scott?

“That’s 100 percent correct.”

Was there ever a time between 1991, the first time you spoke to policemen to West Virginia that you said, “I refuse to speak to you?”

"No. Never.”

Do you trust the police if you tell them truth.”

“Yes. Completely.”

Did you believe they were going to be truthful with you?

"Yes, I sure did.”

The evening before [the detectives] came to talk to you [in West Virginia] tell the jury what you were doing that evening.

“Well it was more than just that evening. If the interview was on the 15th, from the 13th to maybe even the night of the 12th, at that time I had been working two jobs and we had just inherited a new home ... [we were] remodeling … because we had to move in because we had to move out [of where we were living] … I had essentially no sleep for almost three days. I would say I had less than six hours of sleep in three days. I was working as a midnight stock person at Kroger … and I was also a short-order cook at the Aires Eagles FOE … like a lodge … I was employed part-time there to help out during the week and weekend. And the work I was doing around the house. Which was also like a job because it required so much work so that we could move in.

[Sawyer tells Springsteen to relax a little bit.]

What time did you get off work?

"I would say approximately, [I] probably arrived home between 8 and 9:30 in the morning.

And how long had your shift been?

“[I was] probably working both jobs from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. the next morning.”

So you actually worked back to back shifts?

“I worked from 5 to 5:30, the cooking job, until 10:30 p.m., to night job at Kroger … and worked till 8 a.m.”

Did you get some sleep before the police came?

"Yes. About an hour I was assume.”

Do you remember what the police told you?

"Well, yes. I think my recollection of the conversation … the testimony that Mr. [Robert] Merrill [an Austin police Department detective] proffered earlier is a little different … That Det. Hodges, of came to the door, in a suit and said, ‘I’m with the Charleston Police Department. And here with me is an Austin detective. We would like to speak with you.’ Det. Hodges introduced Det. Merrill, we had never met before. I had never spoke with him. After he introduced us … I said, ‘Please come in and have a seat. Can I get you a coffee, a Coke, water?’ They said, ‘Well we need to talk to you downtown. I asked, ‘Can’t we just do it here? [They said], ‘There’s another gentleman that needs to talk to you.’ [I said], ‘I’d be more than happy to accompany you downtown,’”

Why didn’t you stop talking [during the interrogation]?

“Well to be totally honest. I was under the impression that I was not allowed to leave at that time.”

There were several times where they said you were free to go. Tell the jury what kept you there.

“Early on in the interview I thought ... That I had invoked my right to an attorney when I said, “If you are accusing me of something I would like an attorney present … I though that was enough to invoke my Fifth or Sixth Amendment, I don’t know that much about law … and they ignored me … I can’t quote verbatim … the next thing I remember they started asking me was, ‘Tell us about Mike.’ To me that was … they totally ignored what I had asked them to do for me, So I was under the impression that that wasn’t a valid option for me.”

For at least a couple of hours you said, “I told you what I did that evening.” You told them, “And you don’t believe me.”

“Yes sir. That’s correct.”

How did you get to the point that you admit?

"Well I guess I just kind of gave up on myself and said well … what little bit I do know about the law in West Virginia is that there has to be evidence matching any type of crime whether it be a murder, robbery. And I thought, ‘Well they keep telling me that I’m not telling them the truth or that I … if I make up stories and tell them what they want to hear .. the physical proof will show that I wasn’t there. Little did I know, the laws are different in Texas. I thought I would be able to prove my innocence by saying this is a false statement. There is no evidence because I was not there and here we are today.”

How did you know about the crime details.

“Well some of the things were quite publicized as everyone is aware of. And some of the things [were] within the community at that time … Northcross Mall was the place to hang out and … the closeness of the area … it was something that everyone was talking about. I didn’t include myself in those specific conversations but it’s not something you can get away from either. [There were] groups of tables and different groups at the tables. So people that knew each other … acquainted … there’s going to be some interaction between the groups and I figure that’s where I picked up some of the information that I had and also from the newspaper and the news media.”

You said the cops said the gun was a .22. That’s because of Mr. Pierce.

“That’s correct.”

You and Mr. Pierce and Mr. Welborn aren’t that good of friends any more?

“We were acquainted but … we weren’t best friends.”

You and Mr. Scott?

"He lived with my father and I for probably three or four weeks or so. Yes, that’s correct.

And after that initial visit, interview … with police in ’91 did you guys have a falling out because you though the police told you, you were ratting each other out?

“I don’t think it was as detailed as that. It basically … what happened was Mr. Welborn was upset with Mr. Pierce. I still to this day don’t know what he said in 1991 … I was not upset because I was not implicated in anything. [They just asked me things like] ‘Do you know this? … Were you at Northcross Mall? … What transpired throughout the day?’ But Mr. Welborn had a real problem with Mr. Pierce saying that they, or him, or whoever, was involved. And I don’t know if it’s as detailed as all that. But I didn’t have a falling out with Mr. Pierce. I told him that I told the officer about the truck, the Pathfinder. [He asked], ‘What did you do that for?’ [I said], ‘Because it was the truth.’ They asked me if we had been in the Pathfinder … and that was the only interaction about the police situation that me and Mr. Pierce had. We didn’t specifically discuss anything between us about the murders themselves. He was upset with me that I told police about the Pathfinder incident. He was upset with me and not me upset with him.”

[Have you ever owned a .380?]

The only .380 I’ve ever seen [was when I worked at a convenience store] and we were open till 2 or 3 [the manager] had a little silver .380 that he kept behind the counter at work whenever we had a bunch of riff-raff going in and out of the store. And as far as I know that’s the only .380 I have ever seen or been acquainted with. During the questioning Det. Merrill said there was a large caliber weapon in the murders in addition to the .22. And in my opinion a large caliber weapon would have been a .45 … a 9 mm … If it was a large caliber weapon, if I say [it was a] .380 or a .38 or a .25, something of that nature, then it wouldn’t fit the facts.

[How did you know the facts?]

“The detective would tell me what the facts were.”

Do you have today any personal knowledge of who committed those murders.

“No I have none at all other than what I have seen and heard in court these past few weeks.”

When Det. Merrill was going to get a written statement you decided to end the interview. Why?

Because the detective finally read my rights and was allowing me to invoke my attorney-client privilege.

If they had said you were being accused or read you rights at the beginning would you have left the interview?

“Yes sir. I would have left immediately. I don’t believe they ever told me that I was free to go. They kept iterating (sic) that I would be going home. After they ignored my request [for a lawyer] they said, ‘You’re not going anywhere until you tell us what we want to know.’

"That’s when I decided to go. Because the statement that they fed … I started taking bits and pieces of what they said and pieces of what I saw in the media. [They asked], ‘Are you making stuff up? And changing this?’ [I answered] Because I didn’t know. I kept creating things and … I guess they were leading me … down a line to fit the scenario … Until they read me my rights.”

Note: The defense passed the witness and Assistant District Attorney Robert Smith cross examined Springsteen.

You didn’t know that you were being recorded in that room?

“No sir. I didn’t.”

Note: Smith asked a few question about why Springsteen ended the interview and if it was ended because his statement was going to be recorded in writing.

“No sir. That had nothing to do with it.”

So all of the facts are lucky guesses on your part?

“Well I wouldn’t call them lucky guesses.”

No, they are in fact factual information.

[You said that you understood that if you tell them you committed the crime they may have lenience?]

“Yes it could be a possibility.”

Admit that you did it … that technique didn't work I guess. You’re telling me the only .380 you saw [was at the convenience store]? So [a witness is lying about the .380]

"Yes sir. That’s 100 percent correct.”

How is that you know Mr. Scott didn’t get an erection at the yogurt shop? You said it didn’t you?

Mr. Scott said it 24 hours before you said it.

“There isn’t anything I can say about that.”

[You know that because you were there.]

“No sir that's incorrect.”

Was that a lucky guess?

“Well sir, I believe, I was led into that by a police officer.”

[You said, “Mike couldn’t get it up.”]

“To my recollection, yes sir.”

What did you do when you left the shop? What happened at the there at the bridge. [What did you say in the confession?]

“I threw up.”

What else [Did you say Mr. Scott threw up? Then you said “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”]

“Well Mr. Smith I believe you are taking that out of context. That’s because one of the officers brought me a pop to drink.”

You said Mr. Scott threw up there at the bridge didn’t you? You just said it. Mr. Scott said it.

"Yes sir. It must be [in the statement].

Where were you those days you were missing?

“I don’t recall.”

You weren’t home?

“I may not have been at home all the time. I don’t know how to answer that question … No sir. I wasn’t missing.”

You had little or no supervision.

“No sir. That’s not correct.”

Mr. Scott and you were both dropouts with nothing to do but hang out?

“No sir. It’s not…”

Were you working three jobs back then?


You were a dropout were you not?

Technically speaking, yes I was.

So was Mr. Scott?

[Springsteen said he wasn’t sure.]

Did he have a job?

“I don’t recall whether he had a job or not. I think he was looking for one.”

Explain to the jury why you have [changed] the statement that you gave to police the first time they questioned you. You told [a detective] that you didn’t go to the movie then. Then you wrote in a statement that you snuck into a movie … See a problem there?


You don’t see a problem there? You wrote it down that way.

“Maybe I misunderstood the way the conversation was headed.”

[The statements says many times you were at the mall at 11:40 p.m.]

“Yes, sir.”

At least five or six times, is that true?

[Sawyer asked the judge if he can give Springsteen the document. The judge said he could.]

“I would have to see the document.”

[A detective’s] notes indicate the same thing; that you were at the mall at 11:40 [at The Rocky Horror Picture Show.] Do you disagree?

“No I wouldn’t.”

There’s something about the time 11:40 that’s important to you…

“That’s a time that was important … to police officers.”

They had you write that out in your handwriting. Is that your testimony?


So you were able to get the caliber of the weapon that was used in the murders 10 years later?

"Well it’s also possible that during my questioning, either here in Austin … that that was brought up …”

You better change it [your story]. Det. Merrill told you it was a large caliber weapon. Is that your testimony?

“I believe somewhere in there.”

And you guessed the .380 right?

“I’d believe I had to say yes.”

A silver .380? It just so happens that’s the exact weapon used. [A witness testified you had that gun.]

“He’s lying. I never had a .380 in my life.”

Have you owned guns before? [You said two different things in your confession that you never had guns and that you collected guns.]

“Family members in my family collect guns that I have access to. But I do not collect guns myself.”

Did you tell the West Virginia police that you were a suspect in 1992.

“No sir. That’s a misinterpretation of the conversation. … Yes sir, I would like to clarify. When I was speaking with Officer Gunno I had an Austin, Texas ID card because at that point I didn’t have a driver’s license. [He said], ’Isn’t that where the murder took place that’s been all over the national news.’ And I said, ‘Yes sir. Some acquaintances of mine were brought in and questioned and they brought me in and asked me questions about my friends.”

[So you didn’t tell him.]

“Well he inferred from that.”

[What about not being at Kelly Hanna’s house?]

“I wasn’t supposed to be at Kelly Hanna’s. We were supposed to go to her house on the night of the Pathfinder. That’s when we were supposed to go.”

So your previous statement that you went to San Antonio, I thought you said, “She went with us?”

“There’s a difference in my opinion between knowing something and thinking something.”

In that Nissan Pathfinder, were you making it up that you got Sunday newspaper?

“No sir. I got a Sunday paper every week. I still do.”

And you read the story on the yogurt shop?

"I’m sure I did if it was in there.”

[Did you read the story out loud to everyone?]

"I don’t recall. It’s plausible yes.”

Tell us what you did on Dec. 6, 1991.

“Where do you want me to start?”

You have all these different stories, pick one.

In the morning we [Pierce, Scott, Welborn] arrived at the mall and we hung out through the afternoon. At approximately 5 to 6 o’clock Mr. Pierce and Mr. Welborn left and me and Mike were sitting outside the arcade … and they ran off to pick up Mr. Pierce’s sister for work … I don’t recall … we were sitting on a park bench, talking, smoking cigarettes, watching the Hooter’s girls … Mr. Pierce came back and through the parking lot at a good rate of speed and said there was a bunch of guys over there throwing stuff at the car. Mr. Scott and myself got back in the vehicle with them and drove around looking around for these Hispanic gentlemen throwing things at Mr. Pierce’s car. We did not find them. We drove around some more and … in 1991 there was another, I don’t know if you call it a strip mall … directly across the street … There was another arcade over there that had two entrances. I believe we were over there and spent some more money in the arcade and then went back to Northcross where I spent the rest of the evening. … Approximately between 10:20 and 10:30 Mr. Pierce left [because his sister got off work] and he took her home and he was supposed to return to take me and Mr. Scott at 1:30 … after The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And they never returned. A man named Bob or Robert … who attended [the movie] numerous times before [offered us a ride]. I lived over on Dry Creek and he said I’m going kind of toward 35 … Mike’s mother lived over there close to McCallum so he gave us a ride … dropped us off and we walked to Mr. Scott’s mother’s house and we spent the night there.”

Here's a copy of the what you wrote to the police. Tell the jury if there’s anything about the second arcade you just described in that statement.

"No sir. This statement covers from 8 p.m. to 12 midnight.”

And there’s nothing in [a detective’s] note about that second arcade.

“I don’t know sir. I have never seen his notes.”

There’s nothing in that [statement] you gave to police in West Virginia about that same arcade.

“Not that I recall, no.”

You never told [Det.] Paul Johnson on the phone about that.

“Not that I recall.”

[Another question about the arcade.]

“Mr. Smith, I don’t recall.”

This is the first time you said anything [about the second arcade.

“No sir. I don’t believe that is true at all.”

Did you just say you went to The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

“Yes sir. I snuck in.”

How did you sneak in?

“The person taking the tickets went to the soda counter and when he had his back turned, I went in.”

[A friend] who was looking for you didn’t see you there. Tell us then, Mr. Springsteen, how it is that you, 10 years later, know the exact position of Amy Ayer’s body on the floor of the yogurt shop.

“I didn’t until I heard testimony here in court.”

Did you know you demonstrated that exact position?

“No sir. I saw the photos on the screen just like everyone else did.”

Tell us how you came to that conclusion when the police said describe the position.

“I don’t think it looks like the same position to me.”

We’ll let the jury decide that. Did you know you actually did that three different times?

“I didn’t [know]. … It looks to me like anyone that would be laying on their stomach.”

No further questions.

Note: With that the testimony ended; both lawyers approached the bench. Shortly after the defense rested its case.



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