Police More Concerned with Arresting Someone than Getting the Fact Straight

This is an egregious example of police and prosecutors being more interested in arresting someone for a crime than taking the time to actually look at the evidence.

Prince Georges police arrested Virginia Shelton, 46; her daughter, Shirley, 16; and one of Shirley’s friends, Jennifer Starkey, 17, and charged all three with first degree murder. The only evidence police had was video footage from an ATM that showed the three withdrawing $200 with a debit card taken from a murdered woman. It took 22 days for an outsider to point out the obvious,

The biggest mistake in the case, which came to light after the three Arizona residents were arrested April 22, was the faulty assumption that the bank’s transaction computer and the ATM camera kept synchronized time. As it turns out, they did not. Although the Sheltons and Starkey, on the videotape, seemed to be standing at the teller machine at the same time $200 was withdrawn from Mansfield’s account, the three actually got money from the ATM several minutes earlier, with legitimate cards, a prosecutor has determined.

Clearly the police didn’t exactly perform due diligence in looking at the ATM transaction records (which they had) to see if the women’s story about withdrawing money using a legitimate ATM card was true. Hey, they were in a hurry to arrest someone — who has time to check things like that?

In fact, according to the Post,

The murder charges were dropped only after Starkey’s father took it upon himself to gather his own copy of the records, then fly from Arizona to Maryland and ask a Prince George’s prosecutor to review the records.

The families involved are contemplating a lawsuit and at the very least someone should be seriously reprimanded and demoted for such incompetency.


Mistaken Arrests Leave Pr. George’s Murder Unsolved. Washington Post, Ruben Castaneda, Washington Post, June 22, 2003.

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