But I still believe he is lying and is likely right where he belongs. The uncontested aspects of the circumstantial case are so strong, and his testimony so weak. If someone conspired against him, the who/how/why is so close to impossibility that the circumstantial aspects tend to convince me there is no other explanation. It would have been difficult as an investigator not to have tunnel vision on this one.
There is hardly an avenue of circumstantial evidence that doesn't lead right to Dennis 's doorstep. Even were it true that he had said not one of the quotes attributed to him by law enforcement - which so perfectly proclaim his guilt - I would still feel certain of his deceitfulness simply from the evidence I read in his testimony. He had eight months to prepare and he still couldn't get it right. In intricate detail or as a whole from a distance, his story just does not make sense to me.
His defense, his "story" as he calls it, is that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and brutal child-killer rapist torturers took the time to carefully frame him after burying their tiny victim. Or was it before burying their tiny victim?
Here's the story. At around noon Dennis decides he doesn't want to work any more that day. Dennis gets in his truck and takes with him a soda bottle filled with water, three syringes, one of them made of metal, and a single dose of "street speed" in a film can. No fishing gear, nothing else it seems. According to the story this planned session of intravenous drug abuse is only the second dose he will have ever taken, and only the third time he had ever injected drugs.
Now, Dennis drives randomly around the countryside and "frequently" stops and walks up lumbering roads just to see where they go. He's never done this before, but today is the day. On three of these wanderings he stops in a serene oasis and injects himself with another dose of his watered down speed. Using the same syringe each time. And leaving no mark as he injected himself expertly. Except the third time where instead of an intravenous injection he gave himself a subcutaneous injection causing a large bruise. But still not leaving an injection mark because he did it expertly.
He gets progressively more high until after rising from under the serene tree cradling him for speed trip number three -he realizes that he doesn't know which way to go back to his truck. Now he begins wandering in earnest, by some estimates for 8 hours he wanders until he is found at twilight. During his wanderings he remembers nothing of "significance" and this is why he has no memory of this time, simply because there are no signposts of events during this time to help him form specific memories. But drugs certainly did not affect his memory. No, not at all. He had "heightened awareness" and a razor sharp recollection of events from the moment he exited the woods.
Meanwhile, Dennis 's truck is being robbed. Our "real killers" are stealing rope, a scarf and documents with his name on them from his truck. They lock his unlocked truck as they leave with exactly what they need to imprison their victim and to frame the truck owner. They drive to the Henkel home and soundlessly abduct the young babysitter, and conivingly leave the incriminating documents in the circular driveway. They return to the location of our wandering Dennis and his truck, taking their young victim to a spot only yards from Dennis's remotely parked truck and begin their cruel work. They don't apparently worry that Dennis himself might return at any moment to his truck and discover them, or hear the girl or see the tracks, or discover the missing items from his truck. Somehow they seem to sense that he will be lost for many hours and that he will will not return to discover them -as Sarah Cherry's last hours were not short.
When they leave her, they bury her , but they leave her face exposed, so it must have been night time not twilight for them to have made this mistake, and by then Dennis was already in the back of a police cruiser. He has an aluminum clad alibi. Dennis has emerged from the woods with a scratch he can't recall, a bruise caused by a pinch on the job of his farm, and a muddy hand print on his shoulder caused by him slapping a mosquito. He locates a senior couple who offer to help him find his truck and drive him all over searching fruitlessly. He lies to them about his reason for being lost in the woods and his place of residence because he did not want them to associate him with being a drug user as he suspected they could tell that he was high.
While searching, they encounter a police cruiser and Dennis is transferred to them to continue the search for his truck. That is until he tells them his name and they realize that he possesses the same name as on the documents found in Sarah's driveway. He is shown the receipt and notebook told where they were found, and ultimately told that a girl is missing and he realizes that he must be a suspect.
Now he begins to lie in earnest to the interrogating detectives. He lies about his day, his intentions in the woods, why he was there, where he got lost, why he got lost, where he was before he got lost, where his keys were, how he got injured, all because he didn't want the officer to discover he was using drugs that day. As soon as Sarah returned from wherever she was with her boyfriend he would be vindicated, and meanwhile, the risk that his wife would leave him because of his illicit drug use was more prescient and fearsome than an enraged police detective screaming at him about whether he "often stopped to piss in other people's driveways? Especially driveways where innocent children have suddenly gone missing?"
He is eventually arrested and as a final insult on injury, in a rush to judgement due to the circumstantial evidence, the police force, en masse, from patrol officers, detectives, through to prison guards, all now conspired to put words in his mouth and together have fabricated a web of false statements and invented declarations of guilt and culpability. This is the story.
Dennis has a "story telling word." His version of "Once upon a time." His magic word is "basically" The word "basically" pops up in his statement like clockwork at every point where his narrative conflicts with the prosecutions reconstruction. It doesn't appear elsewhere. Only at these magic moments. Clockwork.
He doesn't remember, he doesn't remember, he doesn't remember, unless the prosecutor says "So drugs caused you to have memory lapse?" - then it's no, no, no I remember everything clearly. And he really does have very clear recollections. Surprisingly clear for someone supposedly so high that he has no specific recollections of the entire time he was in the woods, only yards away from the burial place and during the same period of time as Sarah Cherry's rape, torture and murder. He's simultaneously victim to the worst drug trip of his life, getting lost in the woods, losing his truck, wandering for hours and all while simultaneously some evil.. someone.. was framing him for the gruesome murder of a missing pre-teen girl. Lousy bad luck.
He lied to the first people he ran into after coming out of the woods, not about who he was, but instead about what he was doing in the woods. This doesn't make sense. If he didn't want them to know HE was doing drugs, why admit who he was, and then lie about what he was doing. Why say fishing when you have no gear? Why was what he was doing in the woods sensitive instead of his identity if, as he said he didn't want them to know HE was a drug user?
He is detained in a police car. He is interrogated. He lies and lies and lies again. Why he was there, how long he had been there, what he had been doing all day, who he spoke to, where he went, his home, the location of his keys, the cause of his bruises and scratches. So many lies! ALl admitted to in his testimony. And all this because he claims he was worried the police would know he was high.
But wait. He had used all his drugs. He's used up his one and only dose of speed, he can't even be charged with possession. He's not driving. What crime could they charge him with? Possession of the syringe? It's not illegal and as a farmer he has every reason to possess one. Yet suddenly he's no longer interested in finding his truck because of the syringe laying on his car seat and it could mean someone could .. gasp.. call him a "drug user" and point their fingers.
In fact, now he was so afraid they would discover that he was high that he simply stopped looking for his truck and sat meekly in the back of the police cruiser for eight hours. He doesn't want them to find the truck.
He's inordinately aware of fine details of his detention and interrogation he is not making sense at all as to his reasoning about why he would be lying. Most particularly once he is made aware that a girl is missing and he is suspected. Why continue to lie? I'm afraid the only reason I can come to is guilty knowledge that his truck is parked meters from where the missing girl lies dead and buried.
Another striking moment in his testimony happens for me when he doesn't recall "having been scratched." Not "getting scratched" or "receiving a scratch" but " I don't recall having been scratched." To be scratched requires someone to do the scratching, not something. Listen to these two: "I do not recall having been scratched by a branch." vs "I do not recall having been scratched by her." What I hear is him recreating the assault in his mind's eye and saying truthfully he did not recall her scratching him. This leaped out at me.
The keys, oh the keys. He took his keys. He admits he never takes them, usually leaving the truck unlocked. He says that it was "probably" because he worried his truck could be stolen in a remote area. Most people worry the opposite. Congested, urban = lock your car and take your keys. Remote, isolated dirt road = nothing to worry about. But this one time he takes his keys. Did he need to prevent a companion from getting back in the truck?
When he is in the police cruiser and confronted with the notebook and receipt, even his testimony stumbles over the difficult questions. It appears he immediately recognizes the items and simultaneously understands the implication of them too - before being told where they were found. It is at this point that once left alone he attempts to hide his car keys under the front seat of the cruiser - according to him to avoid another confrontation with Officer Reed because he had already claimed the keys were left in the truck and he didn't wish to be caught in a mistake. Why would this matter at this moment? Because to claim to have been framed, to claim that the rope and the scarf and the notebook and the receipt had all been taken from his truck by the "real" perpetrator he can't be in possession of his keys while his truck doors are still locked tight.
It really appears he did not expect to leave incriminating evidence with his own name on it in the driveway where the abduction took place, nor did he expect to lose his truck after walking in the woods. His efforts at trial are to explain away his presence at the crime scene with drug use, his vagueness of memory on drug use, and the strong circumstantial connection with the crime as conspiracy. Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito come to mind.
I don't think he was high. Not one officer reports they believed he was. If he had intravenous drugs perhaps they were used to make sure that he couldn't have been scratched by the little victim. I think he was terrified that more than just a tampon box would be found in his truck. More than just a sealed syringe in paper. Then, while spying on his captors using their own police radio in the cruiser - he realizes that the locked truck door was his only obstacle to a story of car theft, burglary and meticulous and nefarious intricacies performed by the "real killers" who fearlessly and maliciously returned to the location of their child-abduction only to leave incriminating evidence framing Dennis Dechaine for their horrific crime. Just one locked door and the keys in his pocket.