Police chief sued

Published 9:57pm Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Suffolk Police Chief Thomas Bennett is one of the defendants in a $25 million lawsuit by a Henrico County man who claims Bennett’s handling of a Newport News homicide case in 1990 resulted in his wrongful imprisonment for 22 years.

David W. Boyce was sentenced to two life terms in 1991 for the robbery and murder of his friend, Timothy Kurt Askew. Bennett was a Newport News homicide detective at the time and the lead investigator on the case.

According to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, Bennett failed to turn over to prosecutors a Polaroid photo — taken by police the day of the murder — that would have proven Boyce had short hair at the time of the murder, rather than the stringy, shoulder-length hair a motel clerk described as belonging to a man seen fleeing the scene.

Askew was found dead on May 19, 1990, in a room at an Econo Lodge in Newport News. A few days before his murder, Askew had agreed to allow Boyce to stay with him at the hotel, because Boyce was having marital problems, according to the lawsuit.

However, the night of the murder, Boyce was already asleep when Askew came home. Knowing Boyce had an early work shift the next day, Askew rented a separate motel room to party with some friends. By the time a maid entered Askew’s room about 11 a.m. the next day, he was dead of multiple knife wounds. Boyce had gone to his job at a nearby restaurant.

Upon questioning him later that day, police took a Polaroid photo of Boyce, which showed him with short hair. But at his trial, Patricia Montgomery, an evidence technician, claimed he had long hair that day and must have cut it between the murder and the time of his arrest and mug shot photo five days later.

Police continued to keep the Polaroid until April 2008, saying it had been found among investigative materials related to Boyce’s case.

Furthermore, even the simple tests available at the time failed to link any biological evidence from the crime scene to Boyce. Years later, more sophisticated DNA testing confirmed that Boyce could not have contributed any of the evidence and that, in fact, some of it belonged to another unknown man.

The lawsuit also claims that police, to shore up their crumbling case, “managed to scrounge up a jail house snitch,” who described hearing Boyce confess to the crime while awaiting trial. Years later, the man recanted his testimony and said he had been “coerced and coached by the Newport News police into providing it.”

In March 2013, a federal district court judge vacated Boyce’s conviction, and a review by the Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney concluded Boyce should not be re-tried.

“As lead detective, Defendant Bennett, among other things, had primary responsibility for providing the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office with investigative materials, including all exculpatory and impeachment evidence, compiled during the criminal investigation by the Newport News Police Department,” the lawsuit reads.

Boyce has requested a jury trial and a judgment of $25 million, in addition to punitive damages, interest and court costs.

Kim Lee, a Newport News spokeswoman, said the city has no comment on the lawsuit.

Bennett did not return calls and emails seeking comment.

PrintFriendly
  • CypressManorLady

    They quick to bust in our doors and lock us up when we do wrong, but there chief been doing wrong to. Wonder if he gonna get locked up for doing wrong like we do when we do wrong.

    Suggest Removal

    • softspoken1

      If he did it I sure hope so! It is inexcusable in my opinion. We will see. I feel sorry for the man screwed over. I hope he gets every penny and that’s not enough.

      Suggest Removal

  • primo

    Are you kidding me?? A man was FALSELY imprisoned for 22 YEARS by a lead detective who is now our police chief??!! And he has NOTHING to say about it??!! No accountability to us!! Who the heck vetted and hired this guy? Is this the sort of detective practices that are now being encouraged in Suffolk?? Worse yet, some posters to this article eluding they are cops, have the mindset that this is just an oopsie-daisey . Twenty-two YEARS of WRONGFUL incarceration, is no oopsie-daisey and if you are cops – SHAME ON YOU!! This would have ripped my family apart if it happened to someone in my family. Nice Chief, real proud.

    Suggest Removal

    • Savannah

      If anyone says anything negative about the police department, for any reason whatsoever, from spending, to as you can see, something very serious like this, they’re told by some posters (not all “police supportive” posters do this!) they must dislike the police, they’re not supportive of the sacrifices they make, etc. etc…
      So, at least for myself, I don’t say much of anything in regards to the PD. I used to post compliments in threads about “good deeds/actions” as well as things I disagreed with, I don’t even do that anymore. For what it’s worth, I think the SNH did such a good job with this article, I didn’t need to say much.. it’s all right there.

      Suggest Removal

  • softspoken1

    So what, why act now as if your comments were questions? SPD officers take so much crap because they work for the city that the citizens hate. They did a great job out there but that’s lost in the hatred for the CM, mayor and city council. These are regular citizens doing an amazing job. And to think you are just another disgruntled ex-cop makes it worse. You should know better. As for Bennett, he is a good chief but I wouldn’t put it past him given his “my way/must win” attitude. But why not wait to see what the evidence says before convicting this man. He has done a lot of good for Suffolk, and we may find that he did some bad in Newport News. If that’s the case we do just like Bennett, we deal with it and move on. Frankly, I’m tired of seeing cops have to get up here and defend their every action. It’s sickening and the way I see It So What, you need to check yourself, apologize and not be so quick to roll your ex-coworkers under the bus. And cops, stop telling so much. Sooner or later trying to defend yourself if ur not careful u might give info that shouldn’t be known to the general public.

    Suggest Removal

    • J. Peoples

      Softspoken 1, your comments are contradictory at best. Why should.Chief Bennett be given the benefit of a doubt, did he afford Mr. Boyce the benefit of the doubt? From the article it appears he knew evidence was being withheld and he did nor said mothing. You yourself has stated you wouldnt put it past Bennett with his win at all cost attitude. So why do you reprimand others for clearly stating what you are implying. And by the way, what exactly has he done for Suffolk?

      Suggest Removal

  • Peanutbred

    The Peter Principle is alive and well, although Chief Bennett’s competence has long been in question, not as a bureaucrat – at which he excels – but as a competent law enforcement officer. Monk Churn could run circles around Bennett, even from the grave.

    Suggest Removal

  • suffolkian1965
    • So What

      Suffolk has always had problems over the years with its Senior Law Enforcement Command structured leadership.The most telling statement of this was during the last election cycle for sheriff when Candidate Jen Pond said she wanted to be the sheriff for all the people and not just for those in blue that had to also include those in the blue suits. as well.How much money was spent on that call several weeks ago when a yoot refused to do what his adult mother told him to do and the command bus was sent out along with a bunch of over reactionary storm troopers with weapons drawn as if they were going to be confronted by a hard core criminal instead ended up trying to intimidate A kid who was more into watching Scooby Do.InStead Of advancing community relations and trust that one event set back a lot of good work that comes out on display on nights like national night out, or the great work the folks did out at elephants fork, again I ask since that was a joint venture between local and state officials, and the state requested assistance, im assuming it was the state folks who are most responsible for the positive outcome of that ordeal.and that’s what is most important. so overall when looking at these events leader ship is or was lacking and the state displayed it and took control? because the city senior leadership wasn’t there? in fact where was our highly touted city manager? during both incidents.

      Suggest Removal

      • So What

        I Shall re ask the last question where was the chief?

        Suggest Removal

      • Lovebug

        If your speaking of the Elephants Fork ordeal the Chief was there and he was there the ENTIRE time. This was a state police warrant being served HOWEVER, because the State Police did not properly PLAN the SPD had to get involved. In fact the SPD Robot and Command Bus played a large part in the assistance of this situation with the Chief right there the entire time. As a matter of fact the SPD planed, organized, and carried out the perfect evacuation of the students. In most situations like this the Chief is always present. He’s not just an office Chief he gets out there on the streets with his officers quite often.

        Sadly in any profession things go badly. Years ago when this man went to prison technology was not what it is today and things were much different as we all know. In knowing the Chief I don’t believe that he would ever deliberately do something that would take someone’s freedom or cause them harm. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t make mistakes along the way because I’m sure he did, he’s no less human than the rest of us. He has done a lot of good for the SPD and its the organization it is today because of him. Sadly there is something negative going on so everyone will jump on the band wagon of negativity.

        As for your confusion on the other incident involving the kid you believe was more into watching Scooby Do. Remember, there are things going on behind the scenes that the public are NOT aware of and at no time does the PD deploy those resources unless there is good reason behind it. They are not the storm troopers with weapons like you state. They are everyday people doing the job they are trained to do and use their level of force according to the Intel they are provided.

        Suggest Removal

      • Lovebug

        A 911 call isn’t going to give you anything. A state police officer was serving this warrant with a SPD officer assisting. From there the guy fought the officers on his porch, took off, went into a home, stole a van, took off in the van, crashed, ran back to his house and locked himself in as he was yelling to the officers that he was not going to prison again. It was through negotiations, what he was saying to the police, and the intel they gathered on the guns he had in the house that led to the quiet and out of sight evacuation of the school before they made any further contact or actions to get this guy out of the house. Mind you he had a pretty stiff security system with cameras all around his house. This guy had NO intention on coming out of that house alive. Our current Chief is at EVERY event like this and also is known to show up at smaller events. Hes very good at what he does and is the reason the dept is where it is today.

        Being that you are an ex officer I would think that if anyone would understand what the PD does you would. The other situation you speak of is much the same. It started off as something that seemed pretty simple then turned out to be a bigger deal due to intel and communication with the kid having the issue. As police officers its their job to protect people and carrying guns is apart of that duty. Any gun can go off if not handled properly. You can’t expect them to not act on the intel they have just because a gun may go off. That’s kind of silly don’t you think? Again, of all people you should know there is always more to what is going on than the public is privy to.

        As for Donna’s video, sure she has a right to take her video however, in MY opinion when you see officers knocking cameras down off of a house so this man can’t see what they are doing or where the officers are at around his home to keep them safe one would believe that it would be smart if you are going to take video to NOT post it on Facebook or any other media outlet for this man to view as this is happening. That was my own personal beef with the video. Not the fact that she took it but the fact that she also posted it on social media while this was happening. Not a very safe situation to put these officers in. You don’t know what this guy was doing inside. He could have been looking for media coverage of this event to see what was happening outside and where these officers were around his home.

        It goes on everywhere. People are so very quick to take their video and post it online line as quickly as they can. Not long ago I watched a video of an accident with people hurt in a car. Rather than the person HELPING these people they were the only ones there at the time and they choose to take video while they waited for the police to get there. It blew me away to think that these people were hurt in their vehicle and rather than helping these people took video. The video did however stop after the police got there and the officer made them feel like idiots for NOT helping and taking video instead. its insane what our world has come to and how people react to these situations with the need to stand back and take a video or pic rather than helping others.

        Suggest Removal

    • Savannah

      I echo that sentiment.

      Wow.

      Suggest Removal

      • So What

        bug u answered My question on the point I raised regarding if he was on location.
        as for the intel remark I suggested that the 9 11 call be released as to cut off the critizim and why would the pd even attempt to deny donna perry’s right to video what she had the right to do in a public forum? as for the storm troopers remark, what if a officers weapon had gone off “accidentally and struck the yoot on a misdemeanor domestic dispute /disturbance call?. the city council and a civilian review board should be impaneled on that incident alone. being ex law enforcement im very pro police.

        Suggest Removal

Editor's Picks