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Posted: Fri. May 4, 2012 2:54 AM (EDT) - Updated: Fri. May 4, 2012 2:27 AM (PDT)
(Drew Peterson, pictured above, center, is a suspect in his fourth wife's disappearance and has been arrested and charged in the murder of his third wife.)
Illinois (WCJB) -- Drew Peterson will be in an Illinois courtroom Friday for a hearing for his upcoming murder trial, court officials said. The former police sergeant is accused of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004. When Savio was found dead in 2004, her death was ruled accidental. He remains under investigation in the October 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson. After Stacy Peterson went missing in October 2007, her husband became the focus of a police investigation. Authorities exhumed Savio's body and conducted a second autopsy, this time ruling her death a homicide.
This hearing comes after a controversial ruling was made earlier this year in the widely followed murder case. In April, an Illinois appellate court ruled that prosecutors can use potentially incriminating statements made by Savio and Peterson's still-missing wife against him. That ruling overturned an earlier judge's decision that forbid prosecutors from using eight statements made by Savio before her death and by Stacy Peterson before her disappearance.
Since Savio is dead and Stacy Peterson is missing, the defense has argued that using their alleged statements to family and friends violates Peterson's Sixth Amendment right to confront the witnesses against him. In general, hearsay statements made to third parties cannot be introduced at trial unless a defendant can cross-examine the person who made them. There are some exceptions if prosecutors can prove the statement is reliable. But a new Illinois law, which some call "Drew's Law," goes beyond those exceptions. The law, passed while investigators were looking for Stacy Peterson, allows courts to consider statements from "unavailable witnesses," provided prosecutors can prove the witness was killed to prevent his or her testimony.
Myth: Model Minority! Fact: Domestic Violence!
July 24, 2011
Grand Prairie, Texas - (WCJB) -- A man opened fire at a Texas roller skating rink during a birthday party for one of his children, killing his estranged wife and four of her family members before turning the gun on himself, police said Sunday.
Tan Do, 35, and Trini Do, 29, were hosting the party at the Roller World Skating Rink in the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie, Texas, on Saturday for one of their two children, Grand Prairie police said in a statement.
"The couple had been involved in ongoing marital problems and it is believed that this led to the shooting," police said. "Trini Do was among the deceased." Police responded to a call of a shooting at 7:10 p.m. Saturday (8:10 p.m. ET). Officers found the bodies of five people; a sixth person -- the suspect -- with a gunshot wound to the head; and four other people who had sustained non-life-threatening injuries. Others who were killed included Trini Do's sisters, Lynn Ta, 16, and Michelle Ta, 28; her brother, Hien Ta, 21; and her sister-in-law, Thuy Nguyen, 25. "It appears the suspect targeted his estranged wife and her family members," police said. The couple's two children were not harmed, and were in the care of other family members Sunday, authorities said.
Tan Do was transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to police. About 30 people were attending the party at the time of the shooting, but the roller rink was not open to the public, police said. Employees of the rink were not injured. Witnesses were interviewed by police, and the police department's crisis counselors and chaplain were working with the survivors, authorities said.
Published on Aug 14, 2013
Cop Kills Son!
June 4, 2011
"There's all kinds of blood. I... I... I can't." -- Benjamin Hankins response to a dispatcher who repeatedly urged him to try to perform CPR on his wife, whom he indicated was not breathing, after he shot her numerous times.
MUNCIE, Ind. — Police say a reserve officer with the Gaston Police Department shot and killed his estranged wife (pictured left) Friday morning during a domestic dispute in his Harrison Township home. Benjamin Allan Hankins, 36, called 911 at 7:44 a.m. to report his wife had been shot in his house, in the 5800 block of North Delaware County Road 600-W, just north of Bethel Avenue. In a frantic call to 911 dispatchers, Benjamin Hankins reported his wife "pulled my gun on me. And then I shot back. My wife and I were having an argument," Hankins said during one of three separate conversations with dispatchers. Asked where his wife had been hit by gunfire, Hankins said there was a wound "right in the chest (and) there's one in the arm." Hankins sounded panicked as a dispatcher repeatedly urged him to try to perform CPR on his wife, whom he indicated was not breathing. "There's all kinds of blood," he said. "I... I... I can't."
According to the Sheriff's Office, the victim, Lisa A. "Nettie" Hankins, 32, was still alive when police arrived at the scene. She was taken to the Muncie hospital, where doctors attempted a life-saving surgery. She was pronounced dead at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital. She suffered multiple gunshot wounds, Delaware County Coroner Scott Hahn said. Hankins (pictured left) was taken into custody at the scene and has been preliminarily charged with murder, according to the Delaware County Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Office confirmed that more than one weapon was found at the scene. The shooting occurred after Lisa Hankins had stopped at her husband's home so their two oldest children could catch the bus to Wes-Del Elementary School. The couple's third child, who is 4, was apparently waiting outside in a car when her mother was shot. "It was during the time when kids were going to school and getting on the buses, and we're trying to find out all those details," according to a Sheriff's spokesperson. The nearby Wes-Del Community Schools was on lockdown for about 45 minutes following the shooting.
Benjamin Hankins' statements to police, according to the police report, do not indicate his reasoning behind the attack. During the argument, Benjamin Hankins told investigators, he "went into the living room and retrieved a gun from the couch" and then "pointed the gun at Mrs. Hankins and shot her several times." Benjamin Hankins said he shot at Lisa Hankins more than once, but was unsure exactly how many times bullets struck her. The police report also indicates a recent history of threats, in the form of emails and text messages, from Benjamin Hankins to Lisa Hankins. Kurt Walthour, an investigator with the Delaware County Sheriff's Office, would not comment on the content of those threats, citing the ongoing investigation. Walthour did note Benjamin Hankins' demeanor in his interview with investigators following the shooting. "(Benjamin Hankins) showed little emotion," Walthour said. Lisa Hankins had filed for divorce last September, and the case was still pending at the time of her death, according to court records. Lisa and Benjamin Hankins were not living together at the time of the shooting. She is listed in court documents at a Muncie address.
Gaston police Cpl. James Dixon declined comment about the shooting. Cpl. Dixon said Benjamin Hankins has been a reserve officer with his department for about three years. He declined further comment about the shooting, calling it an "open investigation." "It's a sad day for us, it's a sad day for the family," Dixon said. "We knew their family well. They've come to all our events and things like that, so we need to let the investigation take its course."
Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013 4:00 am | Updated: 1:33 pm, Fri Jan 11, 2013.
911: What's Your Emergency!
Longview, TX -- Harry Chester Goodan, 42 (pictured above-center) a former Longview 911 emergency supervisor, pleaded guilty Thursday to shooting his police officer wife to death. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Goodan must serve half the sentence before being eligible for parole under the plea agreement he reached with prosecutors. As part of the agreement, District Judge Alfonso Charles accepted that the crime occurred in a moment of sudden passion which placed 20 years at the top of the sentencing range. A murder charge typically carries a sentence of up to life without parole and a $10,000 maximum fine.
About 30 family members and friends of the late Longview officer, many of them police from different agencies, attended the hearing. Across the aisle, Jamie Goodan’s eldest sister and father, the latter of whom testified for Harry Goodan when his bond was reduced, sat with the defendant and his family. Julie Rickman, the youngest of Jamie Goodan’s three sisters, said after the hearing that peace of mind remained elusive. “I thought I’d have peace,” Rickman said. “I’m starting to realize there really is no conclusion. There’s still a lot of people hurt, and justice is never going to be done — that’s up to God.”
Rickman said her nephew and the Goodans’ only child, 10-year-old Nicholas, is being raised by both families and is doing well. “He’s a bright, young man, but he has his challenges,” she said. “He understands to the best of his ability, so don’t worry about him.” Rickman also mourned a big sister she described as her best friend. “There was so much loss when I lost her,” Rickman said. “She’s impacted people as long as I can remember. Even when she was off duty, she was on duty, if you know what I mean. She would go and sit with women that were working an overnight shift at a gas station.”
Her sister would secretively leave envelopes of money to contribute to any office party, she said. Joining the force in 1998, Goodan paved a path for other women officers.
“(She) really opened the door for something that now seems easy to do,” Rickman said. “She loved her job so much. She loved helping people so much. She loved justice.”
Goodan called Longview police Dec. 11, 2010, to the town home he shared with his wife, Jamie Ellyn Goodan. Reports say Goodan met officers at the door and immediately told them he killed his wife. According to police, Goodan shot his wife during an argument in their home, though a report notes he did not recall firing the weapon. The report also said the husband threw his wife to the floor during the fatal argument.
Posted: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 10:04 am, Mon Feb 28, 2011.
A former 911 communications administrator, charged with the death of his Longview police officer wife, was released Tuesday from the Gregg County Jail on $75,000 bond. Harry Goodan originally was held on $500,000 bond; however, District Judge David Brabham ruled the bond was excessive and lowered it to $75,000 after Goodan’s father-in-law, Jimmy Rice, and Goodan’s ex-wife, Jonna Goodan, testified on his behalf at an early January court hearing. There are rigid stipulations to his release. Goodan must remain home between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. daily; he is barred from possessing a gun, alcohol or illegal drugs; he must wear a monitoring device at all times; and he must report weekly to authorities. He was arrested Dec. 11, 2010 and his bond was lowered Jan. 4, 2011. The delay in his release was because authorities needed to install a monitoring device at the Longview apartment complex where he lives. Apartment officials said they could not confirm whether Goodan would be moving back into his Towne Oaks apartment, where the shooting occurred.
Goodan called police to the home he shared with his wife, Jamie Ellyn Goodan, and told officers he had killed her, according to arrest reports. An autopsy later revealed Ellyn Goodan died from a gunshot wound to her head. A partial police offense report released under the Texas Open Records Act said Goodan told officers he and his wife had been fighting in a bathroom. According to the report, Goodan said he ended up with his wife’s gun and shot her during the fight. Goodan also described striking his wife to the ground in the report.
Posted: Sunday, December 12, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 10:04 am, Mon Feb 28, 2011.
A Longview police communications administrator has been charged with murder in the shooting death of his wife, a Longview police officer. Jamie “Ellyn” Goodan, 38, was found dead from a gunshot wound in her Towne Oaks apartment about 8:30 a.m. Saturday when police responded to a disturbance call, according to a statement from the police department. Her husband, Harry Goodan, 39, is in Gregg County Jail, charged with murder, according to the police department. He is scheduled for arraignment today, Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Arthur Fort said.
Ellyn Goodan is survived by a son, Nicholas. “He was her life,” neighbor Elfriede Hall, 86, said. Hall met Goodan about a year ago when she called for an ambulance because she was having difficulty with high blood pressure. Goodan heard the sirens and came to see what was happening. After that day, Hall and Goodan developed a close friendship. “I just cannot believe this beautiful, young woman was torn from her life,” Hall said. Hall’s daughter lives about 20 miles away, and Hall said she came to depend on Goodan. Ellyn, Harry and Nicholas became somewhat of a second-family to her, and she said she never noticed signs that anything like this would happen. “I am still stunned,” she said. Nicholas, who is autistic, kept the family together, she said. “He was their world,” Hall said. “It is all so incomprehensible.” In addition to working with the police department, Harry Goodan also served as the president-elect of the Texas Association of Public Safety Communications Officers. Longview police and the Gregg County District Attorney’s office are conducting the investigation. Police said more information will be released as it becomes available.
November 20, 2010
A former Georgia sheriff's deputy convicted of murdering his wife and a day laborer in 2008 was sentenced Friday to two consecutive life sentences plus five years in prison. That means that Derrick Yancey, 51, will have to serve at least 60 years before he is eligible for parole. Yancey showed no emotion as a Superior Court judge imposed the sentence for the murders of Linda Yancey, 44, who was also a sheriff's deputy, and Marcial Cax-Puluc, 23, a day laborer from Guatemala. The defendant told police that he shot Cax-Puluc in self-defense after the day laborer had shot his wife. Prosecutors argued that Yancey was the lone gunman and that he hired Cax-Puluc as part of an elaborate plan to kill his wife.
November 3, 2010
October 26, 2010
Murder Trial Begins!
September 21, 2009
Federal authorities captured accused double-murder suspect Derrick Yancey (pictured above, left/right side, photo composite) on Saturday in the Central American coastal town of Punta Gorda, Belize. Jeffery Mann, the DeKalb County Sheriff's chief deputy sheriff, said Monday that Yancy, who fled custody in April, was arrested by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Security while sitting at a bar in the Belizean neighborhood he was living in. Yancey’s arrest ends a five-and-a-half-month manhunt that began on April, 2010 after he escaped house arrest at his mother’s home in Jonesboro. Yancey, 50, cut his ankle monitoring bracelet and fled the state by Greyhound bus.
Yancey initially told investigators that he killed Puluc in self-defense after Puluc shot Linda Yancey, who was an officer at the DeKalb County Jail, during a robbery attempt. Forensic evidence later determined Yancey was lying and he was arrested. Investigators believe he killed both people. Before his arrest, Yancey was last sighted on April 6, 2010 at a Greyhound bus station in Phoenix, Ariz.
At the time of his escape, he was out on $150,000 bond for the June 9, 2008, murders of his wife of 17 years, Linda Yancey, 44, and Guatemalan day laborer Marcial Cax Puluc, 20, at his Southland subdivision home in Stone Mountain. Mann said law enforcement agents apprehended Yancey after a member of the Sheriff's Office's fugitive squad received a tip that he had attempted to contact family members. The U.S. Marshal’s Southeast Regional Taskforce located Yancey in Punta Gorda, a resort and fishing town on the Caribbean Sea. Mann said Yancey, who is now in jail in Belize, will be extradited to DeKalb. Mann said he did not know when Yancey would be returned to DeKalb. Mann said investigators were not sure how long Yancey had been in Punta Gorda or how he got there.
Sandra Hannon, Linda Yancey’s sister, said she was glad it did not take 10 years to find Yancey. “There is a sense of relief,“ she said. "I think I would like to lay eyes on him.”
June 9, 2008
DeKalb County sheriff’s Deputy Derrick Yancey claimed day laborer Marcial Cax Puluc killed Yancy’s wife in an armed robbery June 9, 2008 forcing Yancey to shoot him. However, on Thursday, a DeKalb grand jury indicted the deputy, accusing him of both slayings.
Yancey, 49, (pictured left) surrendered at the DeKalb County Jail August 14, 2008 afternoon about an hour after authorities announced his indictment on two murder charges and two counts of using a gun in the commission of a felony. Yancey, a 17-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, resigned on August 11, 2008.
Linda Yancey also worked for the Sheriff’s Office. She spent 13 years there, most recently as an intake officer in Juvenile Court.
Fugitive from JusticeApril 5, 2009 - 12:54 AM ET
“He was on an electronic monitor and was restricted to the house... We received info that he cut the bracelet off and left his residence.”
---Dekalb County Sheriff’s Spokeswoman Lt. Billi Akins
DECATUR, Ga. (AP) - Authorities are hunting for a former DeKalb County sheriff's deputy (pictured left) who is missing while free on bond on charges of killing his wife and a day laborer. The sheriff's office said on Saturday it assumes that Derrick Yancey is desperate, armed and dangerous. The DeKalb County fugitive squad is looking for the 49-year-old suspect. Yancey was indicted in August in the fatal shootings of his wife and a Guatemalan day laborer who he claimed had killed his spouse at their Stone Mountain home. Prosecutors say Yancey fabricated the story about the June 9, 2008 shootings. Yancey was released after his August arrest on $150,000 bond and placed under house arrest. The sheriff's office said he was last seen Friday night at his family's home in Jonesboro.
Posted: May 24, 2014 - Updated: 05:13 am PDT, Monday, June 30, 2014
Cumberland County, New Jersey -- Former city police sergeant and confessed wife killer Robert E. Vanaman is back in Cumberland County as a free man for the first time in five years.
Vanaman was released on Friday from a state-approved halfway house for inmates. Now 45 years old, he had been behind bars since May 1, 2009.
His release is not quite without strings. For the next three years, the New Jersey Board of Parole will monitor his conduct. Any breach of parole conditions could mean his return to prison to serve out the remainder of that period, according to the parole board.
Five years as an inmate have done nothing to alleviate the pain and anger among relatives of his wife, Barbara Elke Vanaman.
Barbara Vanaman was 37 years old when her husband shot her twice using his police-issued pistol during an argument at their home here on May 11, 2006. She had moved out to be with a boyfriend and wanted a divorce.
The couple’s two young sons, after a custody fight in court, were placed with a paternal aunt after Vanaman was sentenced.
“Tell me where the justice is,” John Shaffer, Barbara Vanaman’s stepfather, said this week of Vanaman’s release.
Shaffer said criminals serve longer terms for robberies in which no one is hurt. State laws need to change to appropriately punish offenders, he said.
Warren Vanaman, father of Robert, said his family would have nothing to say. “Why can’t you leave people alone?” he said when called.
Vanaman was sentenced — actually sentenced and then re-sentenced due to an appeal — based on a plea agreement.
A surprise decision to confess, in return for a guarantee of a lesser sentence than he might get if convicted, cut short his murder trial as a contentious jury selection was nearing an end on March 30, 2009.
Vanaman admitted he murdered his wife and tampered with evidence. He cut his arms with a steak knife, so he could claim self-defense.
He eventually was sentenced to a maximum term of six years on a charge of second-degree manslaughter “in the heat of passion.” The sentence came with a provision that 85 percent of it be served before parole was possible.
Vanaman also was sentenced to a consecutive term of one year for evidence tampering.
Under the 85 percent rule, the mandatory minimum was fixed at five years, one month and six days in prison. He met the minimum term with aid of credit for time spent in the county jail.
Larry Gregorio, deputy executive director of the state parole board, said a three-year period of supervision is required under state law if a crime is in the second degree.
“The first day he would have to report to the district office, and at that point he meets with a parole officer,” Gregorio said this week. “They’ll explain the conditions to him, again. He has to agree to it and sign it.”
Gregorio said Vanaman is restricted to living in Cumberland County. The board is not allowed to disclose a parolee’s exact residence, though.
“He has 20 general conditions of mandatory supervision,” Gregorio said. “That’s a standard.
“One of which is that he is to refrain from any contact directly or through a third party with the victims of the offense or the victim’s relatives,” he added. “That would be unless authorized by the board panel or authorized by the appropriate court.”
It is “very, very difficult” to justify telling a parolee they can not live in a particular area, according to Gregorio.
Cumerland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said her office notified the Shaffer family of Vanaman’s pending release.
Property records still show Vanaman as owner of the family house on South Wedgewood Court, where the shooting occurred.
Vanaman is free to travel around New Jersey, but he is not allowed to leave the state or even to stay overnight outside the county.
Gregori said another condition of parole is that he seek a job.
One positive over the years, Shaffer said, is that a cooperative relationship developed with the grandsons’ guardian and they do see their mother’s relatives.
As part of his plea deal, Vanaman had to forfeit his position as a police officer. The deal did not otherwise place restrictions on future employment.
Vineland attorneys Joseph D. O’Neill and Charles I. Coant represented Vanaman, opposed by then-county First Assistant Prosecutor Kenneth Pagliughi.
Coant said he wished Vanaman the best of luck in picking up his life.
March 30, 2009
MILLVILLE, Pa. - Millville police Sgt. Robert E. Vanaman killed his wife during a heated argument over their crumbling marriage, then cut himself with a knife blade in an attempt to fool detectives into thinking she attacked him before he shot her twice. Vanaman made that stunning admission Monday afternoon in Cumberland County Superior Court, abruptly ending his high-profile murder trial just days before it was scheduled to begin.
Robert E. Vanaman, 40, (pictured left) and his attorney maintain[ed] he killed his wife in self-defense after she attacked him with a knife. Charles Trice, a former trooper with the Florida Highway Patrol shot his estranged wife, Darla Trice, in the chest with his .357 revolver while at the marital home. He claimed self-defense, asserting that his wife had stabbed him, that the pain from the stabbing had left him weakened and vulnerable, and that when she approached him a second time, he felt compelled to fire so she would not kill him. (State of Florida v. Charles Trice)
Vanaman pleaded guilty to manslaughter and tampering with evidence in the May 11, 2006, shooting death of his wife, Barbara, and faces as much as 11 1/2 years in state prison when he's sentenced May 1, 2009. In a memo (December 2007) to the officers within the Milville police department regarding safety and domestic violence during the holiday season, the author of the memo, a fellow police officer and close friend of Robert Vanaman who was charged with the murder of his wife Barbara Vanaman back in May of 2006, provides his version of why Robert killed his wife.
Excerpts from an Investigating Millville Police Officer, after Vanaman's arrest:
"Sgt. Robert Vanaman, a long time colleague of mine, was arrested 2 days before Thanksgiving. It is alleged that Sgt. Vanaman was called home from work (he and his wife were separating and she was removing her belongings from the home) by his wife. Thereafter, Sgt. Vanaman called for assistance, his wife had been shot and he had multiple stab wounds. Sgt. Vanaman and his wife were rushed to the hospital. She died from 2 gunshot wounds to the chest, he remained hospitalized for 4 days with multiple stab wounds to the hands, arms and chest.
After six months of fruitless investigation and receipt of an expert report that supports Vanaman's claim of self defense, the Prosecutor's Office arrested Sgt. Vanaman. The bloggers demanded he get the "needle" and compared him to "OJ Simpson".
Sgt. Vanaman was arraigned on the eve of Thanksgiving in front of a Jury Box of Reporters and a courtroom full of gloating members of the Prosecutor's Office (Shame on them)! He remains in jail. I cannot imagine being placed in a position to choose between saving my life and taking the life of my spouse, the mother of my children. Perhaps this explains why Sgt. Vanaman sustained so many stab wounds before taking the actions necessary to defend himself. As LEO's we are acutely aware that we are legally justified to use deadly force when confronted with a knife wielding suspect (wife or not). Although Sgt. Vanaman was justified in using deadly force prior to being stabbed, he allowed his wife to stab him numerous times before taking action to protect himself. The Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office, although LEO's themselves, have forgotten their training and given into the pressure of the media. I have the utmost respect for Sgt. Vanaman. He is a good, decent, and loving father. He is an excellent police officer, dedicated and loyal colleague. Please keep him, his children and his family in your prayers this Holiday season. Pray that they find the strength to endure the struggles ahead. I am confident that we will prevail and he will be acquitted."
[Note: At C.J. we see similarities between Vanaman & O.J., with the exception that Vanaman is eligible for parole.]
Just as alarming, Det. Sgt. George Chopek, of the Prosecutor's Office Major Crime Unit, stated that he was in-charge of the investigation and responsible for overseeing all personnel and the processing of the scene on May 11, 2006. In the very next sentence, Det. Sgt. Chopek admitted that he did not take one single note, nor generate any report or written documentation on the incident.
Robert E. Vanaman, 40, joined the Millville Police Department in October 1991. He served as the department's technology officer and was promoted to the rank of sergeant in September 2005.
May 11, 2006 Millville police said they are investigating a homicide that involves one of their own. According to the Cumberland County prosecutor, the wife of a Millville police officer allegedly stabbed her husband and the officer then shot her in a domestic dispute at their home at Wedgewood Court and Shamrock Lane. The wife was killed. The officer is being treated at a hospital.
Neighbors told the News Media that the officer and his wife were the "perfect couple," and that they were very social.
"Rob has been a good city employee, and this situation really hurts," Police Chief Ronald J. Harvey said during a visit to the Vanaman house May 12, 2006. "Words cannot really describe how traumatic this whole experience has been. He’s a good cop," Chief Ronald Harvey said. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think something like this would happen. This is one of those things you could never predict."
November 21, 2006 More than six months after prosecutors say he shot and killed his wife, Millville police Sgt. Robert Vanaman is arraigned in Cumberland County Superior Court. Vanaman was arrested on a first-degree murder charge November 21, 2006 in connection with the May 11, 2006 shooting death of his wife Barbara. He was taken into custody about 9:30 a.m. by detectives from the county’s Major Crime Unit and held on $750,000 cash bail, according to Cumberland County Prosecutor Ronald J. Casella. Officer Robert Vanaman pleaded not guilty to the charge of first-degree murder during his arraignment in Cumberland County Superior Court. The police sergeant has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of his upcoming trial.
The court would later reduce his bail to $500,000.
• Count 1: Criminal restraint. Maximum sentence of five years in prison. • Count 2: Murder. Maximum sentence of life in prison, minimum sentence of 30 years.
• Count 3: Possession of a weapon for a deadly purpose, 10 years maximum. • Count 4: Hindering, 5 years maximum.
• Count 5: and 6: Tampering and obstruction, 18 months maximum.
Vanaman's [Lying] Defense
Robert Vanaman, (37 y.o. at the time of the incident) called 9-1-1 on the afternoon of May 11, 2006 to report the deadly domestic incident, Chopeck said at the hearing. "He said he had been stabbed by his wife," Chopeck testified about the contents of the 9-1-1 tape. "Toward the end he said he shot his wife." Chopeck said he arrived at the Wedgewood Court home of the couple to find the kitchen knife Sgt. Vanaman said was used in the attack broken in three pieces.
Vanaman’s attorney, Joseph D. O’Neill said the officer acted in self-defense. "I will present evidence that the wounds suffered by Sgt. Vanaman were defensive," O’Neill said. "A fair jury will confirm that." O’Neill questioned the length of the Prosecutor’s Office investigation. Vanaman was hospitalized for four days at the South Jersey Healthcare Regional Medical Center following the shooting. During the hospital stay, Vanaman’s wounds were examined by Dr. Lyla Perez, a doctor from the state Medical Examiner’s Office, and photographed by investigators from the county Prosecutor’s Office and the state police, O’Neill said. Experts also examined the entry wounds from the two shots fired at Barbara Vanaman to see whether forensic evidence backed up Sgt. Vanaman’s contention that his wife was attacking him when he used his service weapon to defend himself.
O’Neill said he would enter a not guilty plea to any charge. "I hope that no charges will be filed," O’Neill said. "My investigation shows that charges should not be filed, but it is my job to defend. It is the prosecutor’s job to determine if charges are filed, and it’s up to a judge and jury to determine innocence or guilt." O’Neill said Vanaman’s service weapon discharged during a domestic dispute in which his wife "slashed and stabbed him in the chest, stomach, arms, hands and fingers during a struggle. "We don’t know if the weapon was discharged accidentally, but the wounds appear to be defensive," O’Neill said.
Vanaman's Probable Cause Hearing
At the Probable Cause hearing of Sgt. Robert Vanaman on Tuesday, December 19, 2006, the Prosecutor's Office presented one witness to testify on their behalf. Det. Sgt. George Chopek took the stand in Judge Geiger's courtroom and openly admitted that the New Jersey State Medical Examiner, Lila Perez, would not issue a report that sustained the Prosecutor's charges. Ms. Perez responded to Sgt. Vanaman's home on May 11, 2006, and processed the evidence.
Vanaman's Guilty Plea
On March 30, 2009, Vanaman pleaded guilty to the following crimes:
• Manslaughter (second degree): Maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison. Must serve 85 percent of sentence before being eligible for parole.
• Tampering with evidence (fourth degree): Maximum sentence of 18 months in state prison.
Judge Martin Herman plans to sentence Vanaman on May 1, 2009. The sentences for the two charges would be served consecutively, meaning Vanaman faces a maximum prison sentence of 11 1/2 years behind bars. He also faces five years of supervised parole after being released from prison. Under lengthy questioning from Judge Martin Herman, the defendant said the shooting occurred during an altercation with his estranged wife inside their home on South Wedgewood Court in Millville.
Vanaman said he shot her when she threatened him during an argument. "She grabbed a kitchen steak knife," (still lying through the guilty plea) Vanaman, 40, said in a steady voice while standing next to his attorneys. "I lost it and shot her two times. The argument was over who was going to leave and who would stay with the children," he responded to another question. The couple are parents to two school-age boys. Vanaman's steady voice wavered as more detailed questions piled up from the judge, his attorneys and county First Assistant Prosecutor Kenneth Pagliughi. His face starting to redden, Vanaman also finally admitted that his knife wounds were self-inflicted. The prosecution had lined up two expert witnesses who also came to that conclusion, but the defense was prepared to present conflicting testimony. During his allocution, Vanaman admitted to shooting his wife and then trying to cover his tracks. "I know that all shootings involving police officers are investigated. Your honor, it was a stupid thing to do," he told the court. "And what did you do?" Herman asked. "I picked up the broken blade of the knife and I scratched myself," Vanaman responded. His guilty plea Monday means he no longer will be allowed to serve as a law enforcement officer. Vanaman was released on bail Dec. 4, 2006, and remains free on $500,000 bond as he awaits sentencing.
C.J. Note: There you have it! After murdering his wife; attempting to frame her; and then lying about it for three years, Vanaman will serve less than four (4) years in prison.