Golden – Kenneth H. Botham Jr.’s attorney, apparently intent on discrediting investigative techniques of the Grand Junction police and Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, hammered Monday afternoon at a sheriff’s investigator on time lapses between the disappearances of four persons and tests taken by local law officers.
Repeatedly Monday afternoon, Lee Foreman, the defendant’s court-appointed lawyer, quoted the dates of the disappearances of Botham’s wife, Patricia, and their neighbors, Linda Miracle, and her sons, Troy and Chad. The four persons disappeared on Aug. 22, 1975.
Forman elicited from sheriff’s investigator Mike Smith the information that stained wood chips found on the Bridgeport Bridge had first gone to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation on Nov. 20, approximately six weeks after they were recovered. The jury also learned from Smith that sweepings from Botham’s car had not been sent for analysis to a hair and fiber expert until Nov. 13, 1975.
The bodies of the four persons, bound and weighted with railroad iron, were found in the Gunnison River in late September and early October. Botham was charged with the murders in November 1975 and convicted of the first-degree murder of his wife and the second-degree murders of the other three persons in December 1976. The Colorado Supreme Court overturned that conviction last June and ordered a new trial. District Judge James J. Carter, presiding judge of the 21st Judicial District, ordered the trial location changed to Golden last July.
Foreman also asked Smith why law officers had allowed plates of half-eaten spaghetti to remain on the table at the Miracle home for one month, without impounding them as evidence and why no test was made to see if there were latent fingerprints at both the Miracle and Botham homes. Smith said he saw no relevance in the plates of spaghetti and admitted no checks were made for latent prints.
Earlier, Smith, a prosecution witness, had outlined for Mesa County District Attorney Terrance Farina the physical evidence which the sheriff’s office had obtained. That evidence included the bridge chips, stained with what appeared to be blood, some hair samples found at the scene, clothing worn by the dead persons, and the coaxial cable with which the bodies were bound.
Midway in the Monday afternoon hearing, Mrs. Kenneth H. Botham Sr. and two women from the Miracle family, Mrs. Foister Miracle and Mrs. Delbert Miracle, slipped quietly into the courtroom.
Other members of the Miracle family remained outside the courtroom, because they have been subpoenaed to testify.
Among others in the courtroom were Bob Wagner and his daughter. Wagner said his wife, Ruth, is a member of the prison fellowship group and had written to Botham while he was on “death row” in 1975, before the death penalty was declared unconstitutional. Wagner, a Denver traveling salesman, said he and his wife have visited Botham “two or three times a month” while he has been at the Golden Jail awaiting trial.
“From all we’ve heard, I feel he’s innocent,” Wagner said.
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