SBI agent admits he ‘assumed guilt’

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 16, 2004

WINDSOR – It was the response that James Cooney was seeking.

As week two of the retrial of Alan Gell drew to a close here Friday, Cooney, along with the remainder of the defense council representing the Lewiston-Woodville man convicted and sentenced to die for the April 3, 1995 murder of Allen Ray Jenkins of Aulander, listened as local SBI Agent Dwight Ransome testified that several witnesses who had earlier said they saw Jenkins alive after April 3 were not sure of their facts.

However, Cooney thought he was sure of one fact and he was able to gain a positive answer from Ransome upon cross-examination.

&uot;On July 27 (1995), you conducted a second interview of Alan Gell in the murder of Allen Ray Jenkins,&uot; quizzed Cooney. &uot;After that interview, you believed that Mr. Gell had committed the crime.&uot;

&uot;Yes,&uot; answered Ransome.

&uot;When did you re-interview the witnesses (the ones earlier referenced),&uot; asked Cooney.

&uot;July 28, 1995,&uot; Ransome replied.

&uot;The day after you made the assumption that Mr. Gell had committed the murder,&uot; noted Cooney. &uot;So, is it fair to say that you formed your belief prior to the interviews on July 27?&uot;

&uot;Yes,&uot; responded Ransome.

In regards to the witnesses’ statements taken prior to the re-interview process, Cooney asked, &uot;Don’t they all have to be mistaken if, as you contend, Allen Ray Jenkins was killed on April 3?&uot;

&uot;Yes sir, they could have been wrong,&uot; answered Ransome.

&uot;Did you show any of those witnesses their prior statements in order to refresh their memories,&uot; asked Cooney.

&uot;No sir,&uot; Ransome replied.

Earlier in the cross-examination, Cooney asked if Ransome had re-interviewed Ricky Odom, Margaret Adams, Edward Adams, Willie Hoggard or Donald Hale in July of 1995. Ransome said he did not re-interview those five witnesses.

&uot;As of July 28, these five people had all informed law enforcement that they saw Allen Ray Jenkins alive after April 3,&uot; noted Cooney. &uot;Were their statements provided to Dr. Gilliland (the Greenville-based pathologist who completed the autopsy on Jenkins’ body)?&uot;

&uot;No, I wasn’t asked by Dr. Gilliland (to provide those statements),&uot; answered Ransome.

Last week, Dr. Gilliland chastised law enforcement for not providing her with all the statements (recanted or not). She said that information was vital in aiding her in determining the exact date of death, one that she – now basing her opinion on new scientific data just recently made available – changed from April 3 to between April 8-10, 1995. Gell was jailed in Bertie County from April 6-20, 1995 on a vehicle theft charge.

Under direct examination from state prosecutor Jim Coman, Ransome testified that he, upon request of then District 6B Attorney David Beard, re-interviewed four witnesses that had previously said they saw Jenkins alive after April 3, 1995.

One of those witnesses, Mary Hunt, said she saw Jenkins on April 8 from her office at Farm and Home Gas in downtown Aulander from where she spotted Jenkins, in his white Camaro, stopped at the traffic signal. She previously testified that she was under the impression that Nancy Perry was in the car with Jenkins.

In her re-interview, Hunt informed Ransome that she Jenkins on Saturday, April 1, not Saturday, April 8. Earlier in Friday’s proceedings, Perry said she and Jenkins left Aulander on April 1 as he drove her to Lowell, NC (a town in Gaston County, west of Charlotte).

Paula Brabble, another witness who had earlier stated she saw Jenkins on April 10, 1995 in Ahoskie’s Golden Skillet restaurant (where she was employed at the time), also recanted during a second interview with Ransome. She told the SBI agent that she did indeed see Jenkins at the Golden Skillet, but didn’t remember the exact date.

Robert Blowe also informed Ransome that his previous statement of seeing Jenkins on April 10 might not be correct. According to Ransome, Blowe told him that he saw Jenkins on a Monday during the first part of April. He was unsure if that date was April 3 or April 10.

Another witness, Benjamin Parker, was on Ransome’s list to be re-interviewed on July 28, 1995. In his first statement, taken shortly after the murder, Parker said that Jenkins purchased herring from him on Monday, April 10, 1995. During the re-interview, Parker said that Jenkins was at The Fishing Hole (an Ahoskie-based fish market) on a Monday in the early part of April.

However, last week, Parker testified under oath that he was very sure that April 10 was the day that Jenkins purchased the herring. While on the stand, Parker accused the investigators (Ransome and former Aulander Police Chief Gordon Godwin) of &uot;playing games&uot; with him.

&uot;Did you or Chief Godwin brow beat him (Parker) on July 28,&uot; asked Coman during direct questioning. &uot;Did you do anything to challenge him? Did you act unprofessionally?&uot;

Ransome answered no to all three questions.