Detective: ‘We tried the right guy’

Tue, 12/20/2005 - 6:08pm
By: John Munford

Despite the not guilty verdict from a Fayette County jury last week, Lt. Col. Bruce Jordan of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office is still convinced that Eddie Robbins III killed Fayette resident David Mangham and Mike Fowler of Ellenwood in Mangham’s north Fayette home in April 2003.

This is the first case Jordan has “lost” at trial in his 26-year law enforcement career. But the chief detective has no heartache about the jury’s verdict, since several parts of the case against Robbins “fell apart” at trial, he said.

Tuesday morning, Jordan assessed the case solely on evidence presented at trial.

“I’m not sure I would’ve convicted him either,” Jordan said, noting that he was privy to more information on the case than the jury was.

“We tried the right guy. We just had bad luck during the trial.”

Mangham and Fowler were found shot to death in May 2003 in Mangham’s home in the Princeton Chase subdivision off Ga. Highway 314 North.

There is a slight possibility that if a significant piece of evidence is uncovered in the future, the federal government could pursue a case against Robbins for violating Mangham’s or Fowler’s civil rights despite the acquittal on the murder conviction. Robbins has already been found liable for contributing to the wrongful death of Mangham in a civil case, and a judgment was entered against him for $30 million in 2004.

Jordan has no regrets about prosecuting the case, as detectives had exhausted all resources in the investigation.

“We did our job,” Jordan said. “(District Attorney) Scott Ballard did his job and presented the evidence and he gave the family their day in court. Parts of the case unraveled at the trial. The jury did what they had to do.”

Chief among the problems during the trial was a conflict over Jordan’s testimony about a brief interview he conducted with Robbins on the porch of his Jonesboro home a month after police think David Mangham and Mike Fowler were killed.

Jordan testified that Robbins nodded slightly when Jordan asked if David Mangham had pulled a gun on him. Dan Hiatt, the former lead prosecutor on the case, later testified that he was never told about the head nod incident and he didn’t recall seeing a reference to that in the case report the sheriff’s department filed with the DA’s office.

Jordan’s testimony about the head nod reply from Robbins was crucial to the case because it could have been considered an admission that placed Robbins at the crime scene when the killings occurred. No physical evidence was discovered at the scene that would link Robbins to the killings, sheriff’s officials testified.

Jordan said Hiatt was told about the nod reaction from Robbins “at least 10 or more times,” Jordan said.

A secretary for the DA’s office rebutted Hiatt’s testimony in part, saying that she read the sheriff’s office case report before the case was presented to the grand jury in 2003 and the report contained information about the nod from Robbins.

Hiatt declined to comment for this story, saying he would let the record of his testimony in the case speak for itself.

Jordan said Hiatt was either “incompetent” or was motivated politically to testify. But in his testimony, Hiatt indicated he was very unsure at the outset whether or not he should have even come forward with his observation, based on a news account of a pre-trial hearing in the case. Hiatt said he sought the advice of a fellow attorney before deciding to draft the letter that he sent to the DA’s office, which was then forwarded to defense counsel.

Even Robbins’s defense attorneys, Stacy Flynn and Tammy Jacobs, had no idea that Hiatt would play a role in the case until days before the trial, they said.

The prosecution was also depending on cell phone records that showed Robbins’s phone “hitting” on cell phone towers near Mangham’s home on the morning that the killings allegedly occurred.

But a cell phone company representative testified that the towers could have picked up signals from 15 miles away, not two or three miles away as detectives were originally told by cell phone company officials.

That evidence was also considered crucial to the case because it could have placed Robbins in the area of the killings around the time police think they occurred.

Part of the case also hinged on the theory that Robbins stole cash from a hidden compartment in Mangham’s home, and he had paid his father-in-law $810 the day the killings allegedly occurred despite the fact that he hadn’t worked the entire month of April.

Mangham’s girlfriend originally told police that she had counted the money several days before Mangham was killed, and at the time there were numerous $100 bills in the secret stash. At trial, however, she testified that she counted the money about two weeks before Mangham’s death.

Detectives found only one $100 bill in the area of the the secret compartment and surmised the rest had been stolen.

Although this is the first murder case he personally has lost, Jordan said he didn’t have any anguish over the way the investigation panned out.

Taking the case to trial was the right thing to do, Jordan said, adding that he believes in the system.

“I feel much better than I would have had we never tried the case at all,” Jordan said.

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Submitted by Concerned on Thu, 12/22/2005 - 4:20pm.

Concerned Citizen, you are correct, the closest tower would pick up the call, however; the tower covers a radius, If it were 15 miles from the tower to Manghams house and that tower was the closest tower to Ediie when he was on the telephone, he could have been 30 miles from Manghams house as the crow flies or he could have been in the living room.

There are lots of people that would know David had large amounts of cash in the house if he was selling drugs. The absense of the money could have been that he had pay for soome drugs up front and they hadn't been delievered yet. Who ever shot them may have been looking for the money or the drugs.

There are so may things that can happen when you live your life in a world of drugs. I would look hard at the scorned girlfriend that was snooping around and happend to find Davids hiding place. "Theres nothing like the Scorn of a woman".

I would venture to say the .45 is in the bottom of one of Georgia's many lakes or rivers, marred up in the mud.

I think he may have gotten away with it, but then again, I think maybe he didn't do it; that equals Not Guilty.

Submitted by Concerned Citizen on Tue, 12/20/2005 - 10:01pm.

15 mile cell phone reception? The public defender convinced the jury that Eddie Robbins was in Clayton County when his cell phone hit off the towers nearest the victim's house on the day of the murders....hmmmm. I would think that a cell phone would go to the nearest tower rather than skip over perfectly operational towers to connect to ones that just happen to be near a murder victim's home. A murder victim who Eddie Robbins denied knowing (though they went to high school together) and when later asked by his son if he killed the victim's, replied, It's better if you don't know. Sounds innocent to me.

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