February 06, 2022

'I must have had sex with her.' Doubts creep in as a detective springs his trap. - The San Diego Union-Tribune

Detectives pressed Kevin Brown to confess to 1984 sexual assault and murder

Kevin Brown didn’t do well under pressure.

Bullied as a child, anxious and depressed for much of his adult life, the 61-year-old retired police criminalist had suffered consequences at work and at home for failing to stand up for himself.

Now, unbeknownst to him, he was in the crosshairs of two veteran San Diego detectives investigating the brutal murder of a 14-year-old girl at Torrey Pines State Beach in 1984.

Recent DNA tests had identified Brown’s sperm cells on vaginal swabs collected during the autopsy of Claire Hough. The cold-case detectives, Michael Lambert and Lori Adams, had spent a year quietly looking into Brown’s background and that of another man, Ronald Tatro, whose DNA had also shown up in the evidence.

Tatro was literally a dead end, though — drowned in a river in Tennessee in 2011. So the detectives focused on Brown.

On Jan. 9, 2014, they arrived unannounced at his Chula Vista home and asked for his help on some old murders of prostitutes. This was a ruse to get inside and get him talking.

Brown had spent 20 years working in the San Diego police lab, leaving in 2002, 10 years before the DNA hit. His career there was cut short by poor performances during courtroom testimony. One of his bosses said defense attorneys would “beat him up pretty good” during cross-examinations, get him to back away from his findings.

The detectives spent a couple of hours asking about Tatro — Brown said he didn’t know him — and then steered the interview to Hough. They showed Brown her photo, and he said, “Oh, I remember her.”

“Did you ever meet her?” Lambert asked.

“No, not personally,” Brown said. “I just remember the picture looks familiar.”

Police interrogations are like ladders: Rung by rung, detectives try to move a suspect uphill in the direction of confessing. They know that a suspect saying “I did it” can be powerful evidence. But confessions are also problematic; false ones are a leading cause of wrongful convictions.

Here, by admitting some familiarity with Hough, Brown had taken the first step up the ladder.

Her murder was big news when it happened, and it had been revisited in the media numerous times over the years, so Brown wasn’t the only person in San Diego who would have recognized her picture. But the detectives weren’t going to leave it at that.

They asked Brown whether he was the criminalist who analyzed the Hough evidence in 1984 — they already knew he wasn’t...

Read Full Story: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/public-safety/story/2022-02-06/cold-case-brown-part-two

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