The Confession Tapes (2017) s01e06 Episode Script

The Labor Day Murders

[crickets chirping in the distance] [birds cawing in the distance] [man, on recording] Fear.
Fear is the most overwhelming emotion that exists in man.
Fear overrides everything.
Fear will shut your body down.
People understand that, but they gotta understand how you get there.
You see what I'm saying? They gotta understand what took place to get you there.
We can't do that for you.
But it's there.
It's there.
It's this close.
[man 2] Today, it's time right now.
Let's do this.
You can't go.
Look at me.
Say it.
Okay? Say it and be done with it.
[policeman] It's Monday, September 4th, approximately 12:37.
A crime scene off of Bladen Road.
Apparent double homicide.
[man] And they were scared.
The neighborhood, the community.
They didn't know what was going on.
We didn't know what was going on.
[policeman] Somebody was found in a puddle behind the wrecker [camera shutters clicking] a white male in his 40s.
[man] Robert Van Allen.
- [man 2] Robert Van Allen? - [man 1] Robert Van Allen.
Senseless waste of a life over $500.
[man, on recording] There's a second body on the other side an older gentleman maybe in his 50s or early 60s.
We felt that this victim was a senseless death.
[man] Then here come the rumors, you know, we got a killer loose.
Don't know where he's at, who it is.
Somebody thought it could have been a family member.
[man] Brantley County is one of the poorest counties in the state of Georgia.
Lots of really good hardworking people, but just people scraping to get by.
And this is the community where Lavelle Lynn made his money.
[woman] Like everybody, everybody's got an enemy here or there, but we never seen any of 'em.
He kept all the rigmarole away from us.
[chuckles] [Belinda] This is my dad here at the zoo.
We did everything together.
Daddy was like the backbone of the family.
He tried to make me like a peacemaker, keep everybody close.
He was a He was a good man.
Some people didn't like him, 'cause he was strict and he was stern and he was set in his ways, but he had a lot of friends, you know.
That morning Daddy got killed, we was all sitting around the table, cutting up, joking with Daddy about the T-shirts that he brought home with little funny sayings on 'em.
We was all having fun and joking.
And then he got his phone call.
[man] At about 9:50 a.
m.
, the day the murders occurred, there was a telephone call placed, uh, to Lavelle Lynn's house.
That call was placed from a, uh, convenience store that's at the end of a road that intersects with the road that the crime scene was located on just a few miles away from it.
[bells on door jingle] [Belinda] So I answered the phone, you know, "Lavelle's Pool Hall, Eight Ball speaking.
" You know, and he kinda snickered a little bit and asked to speak to Lavelle.
[Higgins] Lavelle Lynn had a wrecker service as such, of of picking up disabled cars.
[Belinda] And Daddy just kept repeating himself.
"Where are y'all located at? Where are you at?" "Bladen Road by the railroad tracks.
" Daddy never took his truck off the road, the highway.
He'd never go on dirt roads, but he went down there.
[Higgins] Lavelle Lynn was reputed to carry a large amount of cash.
[Belinda] Daddy didn't believe in banks and stuff.
He was always cash only, you know.
He counted out $480, which was for the light bill and the phone bill.
And he put the rest of his money in his little black pouch thing and had, uh, Robert to go put it up.
So that's all he had on him was light bill money and phone bill money.
And his bag of weed, of course.
[chuckles] You know [man] Is there money in the wallet, Tom? [Tom] No.
Well, yeah, a couple of Well, yeah, I can't tell how much [man] It does contain money.
Identification.
This victim could be identified as Robert Van Allen.
- How old, Tommy? - [Tom] Born in, uh, '58.
[man] Born in '58.
[Belinda] Robert, he was Daddy's best friend/mechanic whatever needed to be done.
They never took nothing off of Robert.
He had jewelry on.
His wallet, it was never touched.
The only things that was missing was Daddy's wallet and his money.
Robert was laying on his back, hooking up to the cars when he got shot with a .
25 handgun.
Daddy was shot once, between the eyes.
It was devastating, you know.
Didn't understand why or who.
[woman] Um Here, talk for me.
- [man] All right.
What do I need to say? - [woman] I'm just testing the sound.
Oh.
I just think I'm a scapegoat for this.
They needed a conviction.
They got one.
At the time of my uncle's murder, I was working two jobs.
I was working with Asplundh, and I was working at Walmart.
I was doing okay.
Were we having financial difficulties? I mean, we were struggling.
But you know what? We were happy.
I mean, of course, at the time, I would have never thought that I would be considered a suspect in a double homicide.
I was more concerned about losing my job than what I was, being arrested for two counts of murder.
[Belinda] Did he do it? You know.
That was his uncle, you know.
Why? When he'd have done anything in the world for him.
All he had to do was ask.
Oh, my Lord.
We got calls just as I have no idea where to begin.
There were so many callers coming in left and right.
During the investigation, we had talked to the family and I'd advised everybody, you know, "If you all see anything out of the ordinary, or anything suspicious, please call.
Don't care when it is," you know.
Everybody was pointing their fingers.
"So and so done it.
So and so done it.
This wrecker driver done it.
This person done it.
The sheriff done it.
" My name was even mentioned, you know, at one time.
Boy, there was so much smoke down there in all directions.
At that point, I'd been a criminal defense lawyer for 12 or 13 years.
I've dealt with a lot of murder cases.
I have never dealt with a case where there have been that many suspects, potential suspects, um, called in or mentioned.
Lavelle was quite a colorful character who liked to gamble on drag racing and had a history with selling pot.
And he was just a a man who knew all the people in the community who were taking shortcuts.
Yeah, he knew a lotta people.
He bought cars all over the place from all kinda auto sales places.
Yeah, Lavelle knew people, definitely knew people.
I mean, he'd go to every car lot around here.
We'd go from here to Savannah and buy cars from 'em and buy all their used cars.
He'd bring them back to his place and he'd park them out and sell parts off of them.
[Belinda] Junk cars everywhere.
From the dirt road to the tree lines, there was nothing but cars everywhere.
[Whorton] He had shady ways of making money, you know what I mean? And everybody thought it, knew it.
I mean, I never seen it.
But I always thought he did.
It's an assumption, you know what I mean? And I didn't look at him that way.
I looked at him as the parts man.
We making money.
[laughs] You know what I mean? So I don't care what he does.
I didn't care if he sold dope or what.
It doesn't matter to me.
That's his business, you know? I just liked the idea that me and him made money off the cars.
[Adams] I recall we had well over 35 names that were presented as potential people who might be good for this double murder.
The thought was there could have been a retaliation or that Lavelle had gotten back into drug dealing.
And so there were lots and lots of potential suspects.
[Belinda] Maybe Daddy might have seen a little too much.
I don't know.
There are some things that we don't know, you know? I mean, he didn't ever tell Mama.
The only thing he'd ever tell Mama is, you know, "The less you know, the better off you are.
" [Higgins] Two individuals were seen there by the wrecker, uh, by witnesses after the The crime had occurred.
[Adams] The description of these two people.
He did describe a white male.
Well, in Brantley County, that's all they have.
[chuckles] There are no African-Americans.
There are no Latinos.
They had a drawing out of what the person supposedly looked like two days after the murder.
Back then, the sketch drawing kinda looked like me.
And so I was pulled into the station and then questioned for 72 hours.
We buried Lavelle and Robert.
And the day of his funeral, I walked through the crowd.
You wouldn't have believed the people that were looking at me when I was walking up.
You know, and I'm looking at them thinking they looking at me like I did this.
And I'm looking through the crowd at them, trying to figure out which one of them might have done it.
There were so many people that would do so much wrong that actually hung out with Lavelle that it could have been any of 'em.
[woman] Well, at the funeral - Buddy went to the funeral, right? - [woman 2] Yeah, we went to the funeral.
And, Buddy, he was so upset.
And I'd just be there for him, you know, the best I could.
'Cause Buddy was close to his uncle.
I mean, he wasn't close to the rest of his uncles but he was close, yeah, to Lavelle.
So he was grieving for his uncle and Lavelle's kids, 'cause we all went to school together.
I felt really sorry for his kids, 'cause they had lost their daddy, you know.
I felt so sorry for their mama 'cause she'd lost her husband.
And I couldn't imagine going through that.
Didn't want to imagine going through that.
[Adams] There had been a six-month investigation of this double homicide with no solid leads.
They'd eliminated a a couple of people as potential suspects but they'd not gotten very far down that list.
And then Buddy's name came to 'em in early March.
[Buddy, on telephone] The only thing that connects me to this case to begin with, is being at that freaking store at the time.
[Adams] Paige's Mini-Mart is on this U.
S.
highway, a little gas station with a lot of pumps.
Everybody goes there.
It's really the crossroads of that community.
Buddy went there all the time.
Lavelle went there all the time.
Many of these other 36 suspects went there, frequented that place all the time.
[white noise static] [Adams] Buddy had been there on the day of the homicide.
He He appears to be clearly in the video.
And from Paige's, a call was made to get Lavelle Lynn to leave his house.
[Buddy, on telephone] I get up that morning and I go to Auto Zone over in Brunswick to get a starter for my Jeep.
On my way back from Brunswick, I had to use the restroom.
That's all.
[bells on door jingle] [Buddy] I stop at the store, go in, use the restroom, leave.
And then I go to come back in to buy some cigarettes.
[Kristy] Went to go back in to get him a pack of cigarettes, line was too long.
He come back out, got in the car and left.
[Buddy, on telephone] Six minutes after I leave the store, an alleged phone call is made from that store that lured my uncle and Robert out to where they were shot and killed.
I just wish I could have, you know, picked up on the voice sooner.
You know, there was I ain't never heard of him.
He was soft spoken, uh, when he asked to speak to Lavelle.
You know, it wasn't Buddy, 'cause Buddy has got this, uh, manly, straggly voice.
[Higgins] The video surveillance showed, uh, Mr.
Woodall beginning at 9:47 a.
m.
And then ending at 9:50 a.
m.
, about the time that the call would have been made.
There was no video outside of the store where the payphones would have been located.
When you're looking at that surveillance video, the pay phones would be to the right of the frame.
So, you have him leaving the store, walking in the direction of the phones.
And then the car that's seen passing in front of the Mini-Mart outside of the Mini-Mart that's consistent with his car leaving from that same direction.
It's entirely possible that the other suspect is the one who was making the telephone call.
But this puts Mr.
Woodall at the convenience store at the time that the call was placed.
All the evidence we collected, we feel like, led to the solving of the case.
Glenn County P.
D.
worked the crime scene.
They went out and collected the, uh, shell casings.
There were three shell casings fired from a semi-automatic handgun found at the scene, close to the body of Robert Van Allen.
They had compared those with some spent .
25 caliber shell casings from behind Buddy Woodall's parents' house and they were a match.
[Adams] The shell casings weren't definitively fired by the same weapon.
And, ultimately, the weapon had never been recovered.
When the police focused in on Buddy, they had largely circumstantial evidence.
They had multiple hearsay statements that Buddy's brother-in-law and Buddy had sort of talked about this incident or they'd heard from others that Buddy sort of talked about it.
I'd never heard him say his uncle.
I remember Buddy telling me what he thought he would do if he had to knock somebody off.
He'd get 'em out somewhere in the woods somewhere and he'd get 'em to come to him and do 'em in.
That just lined up too good for me.
[Adams] They had tire track markings that didn't prove Buddy's car was there.
But it was consistent with the Goodyear tires that Buddy had.
I mean, some of this really started to feel like, um, My Cousin Vinny, you know, with sort of circumstantial evidence that really could be read both ways.
Buddy didn't look anything like the sketch.
Buddy has never had that much hair.
And certainly not hair that stood up.
Buddy was at Paige's Mini-Mart sometime around when the call was made to Lavelle.
And that's that's true.
But in that little window of time, so were about 50 other people.
There was certainly significantly more evidence pointing to all these other sources than there had been to Buddy.
But the Glynn County detectives didn't look for that link.
All their investigation was to show Buddy did it and not, in any way, to To more fully look for other suspects.
After he got off from work that evening, he come by my house.
I was sitting right out there on that back porch, and, uh, he told me what was going on.
I I didn't know it.
I didn't know [sniffles] [voice cracks] Excuse me.
I didn't know that he was a suspect in any way.
He told me they had, uh, questioned him about it.
He said he was not guilty, and he was scared.
I told him.
I said, "Buddy, you tell them you have nothing to say, that you want a lawyer, and you cannot afford a lawyer.
Do not talk to them by yourself, not one more time.
" [police dispatch, indistinct] [Wheatly] The next day, they came by when he got off from work.
[Buddy, on telephone] When I got home about 6:30 that night, Walt Vaneer and Jay Wiggins gets out of the car.
"We want to ask you some questions about, um, your uncle's murder.
" [Kristy] They had told me all they wanted to do was talk to Buddy.
And not to worry about it, that he would be home.
So I took 'em I took 'em at their word.
They were police officers.
[Kristy] He'd been up for so long.
He'd been drinking.
He took some of his grandmother's Xanax.
[Adams] They had him there for several hours.
And it was only after they were able to get Buddy to place himself at the scene, did they turn on the video camera.
So somewhere nine to ten hours into the interrogation process, they turned on a video recorder that they had available the entire time.
[white noise static] [man] You got a a lawyer? [man 2] You're you're already You have You got it set in your mind that I'm a murderer.
[man 1] What do you call it? Tindale comes in.
I mean, he's aggressive.
You are trying to [Tindale] What am I trying to do? What am I trying to do? You're trying to say stuff that I did not say.
[Tindale] You did say it.
- I said David.
- Okay.
Not my uncle.
[Buddy] They had asked me, "Did anyone use your wife's car that day?" I said, "Davey was going to use it.
" They said, "Hold on.
Stop, stop, stop.
Who's Davey?" I said, "He's my brother-in-law.
His name's David Wimberly.
You know, we call him Davey.
" Their whole story was he was the one that shot and killed my uncle and Robert and I was the one that was supposed to have been there and witnessed all of this.
They said, "If you will say that Davey is the one that shot and killed them we'll let you go.
" [Adams] They talked to him for a few hours and they decided that they wanted to do some testing.
And they used a tool called the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer, which, as far as I can tell, is hocus-pocus.
But they used this as an investigative tool.
[Higgins] CVSA analyzes your voice.
They're not admissible in court.
They're not not deemed to be scientifically reliable.
But it is something, just as polygraph examinations are Are used by law enforcement agencies, uh, as an investigative tool.
And they do rely upon them, regardless upon admissibility in court.
[Buddy] They asked me two questions pertaining to the shootings.
Was I there? Did I shoot and kill anyone? Jay Wiggins says that I was being honest about not shooting my uncle or Robert.
But I was supposedly being deceitful about being present at the scene of the crime.
I had refused for so long the story that they wanted me to say.
I knew it was a lie.
[sniffles] [Adams] So the detectives put him in the situation after hours of thinking, "Even though I'm innocent, I have no way out.
" [Buddy] I went to Brunswick that morning, like I told y'all.
[sniffles] I did see Davey.
He stopped me and asked me if I would help him do something.
[man] Did he elaborate on what you say he wanted? [Buddy] He didn't elaborate on nothing.
So we get in Kristy's car and drive down Bladen down to where it forks at.
And he takes me to the very end gave me a little .
22 Dillinger, Derringer a little two shot .
22.
He goes, "If you see any cops or anything, fire two shots in the air.
" Then he left, turned around and went back.
- [man] Driving? - Kristy's car.
- Left you standing out there? - As the watch.
[Buddy, on phone] When I told them that story, that was a lie.
I just wanted it to end.
I just wanted to go home.
I remember seeing a bunch of people down there on the bridge fishing.
I remember shooting at a snake.
[Buddy, on phone] I believed in my heart that they had just made a mistake.
And I felt like if if I gave them what they wanted, that it would end for me.
That they would forget about me and, you know, and just let all this end.
Hell, I thought it was over.
So he places himself at the scene.
And once they did that, they tried the next step.
They used every technique.
They moved the desk to the side, so that they could really get in there.
And they were leaning in and putting a hand on his knee and whispering to Buddy.
[man] You sure you didn't hear the shot? 'Cause people heard some shots.
You should've heard it where you're standing.
If these pressure techniques are put on us for a certain amount of time, it might take you a week, it might take me an hour, but we're all gonna have our breaking point where we give up when you have a skilled interrogator on the other side of the table.
You notice we, um, never did talk with you anymore about, uh, the witnesses.
I didn't say nothing about that to you.
I didn't say anything else, because I saw you blocking the stuff out.
I can tell you right here, right now I picked you out a second past ten minutes.
So it it's possible that you're blocking that out.
Putting yourself down the road where you wanted to be.
We gotta redo that.
[man] Buddy, I think the two hardest things in the world for you is you were involved in your uncle's death.
You didn't shoot your uncle.
I don't think you meant for it to, but it happened.
[man 2] You notice how it came to you today? Or tonight? [man 1] When it all started coming to you a little bit, it was like It was like having the the shades pulled back, wasn't it? Like lightning, maybe.
There's more light to come in.
[man 1] You notice we haven't fingerprinted you.
You interested why we haven't? 'Cause it's gonna tell me what I already know.
We have partial prints on casings.
Why do that? Why? What's that gonna show me any more than I know now? You're taking yourself to where you didn't wanna be or where you wanted to be in your mind.
Earlier, you said it wasn't possible you were on Bladen Road.
You remember? You said, "It wasn't I wasn't on Bladen Road.
" Then your mind opened up a little bit, didn't it? And when it opened up, you realized not only is it possible, but "I was there on Bladen Road.
" You don't remember hollering, "No!" or "Stop.
" or "What are you doing?" You don't remember him pointing the gun in your direction? Tell me about the snake.
Maybe that'll help.
- Tell me about the snake.
- [Buddy] It was a little A little bitty ground rattler.
- [man 1] So you shot it how many times? - [Buddy] No, I shot at it once.
I missed a bit, and he was gone.
[man 1] I think that that snake you're seeing is your opinion maybe of of Davey.
You have a good foundation in the church, don't you? [Buddy] Mm-hmm.
[man 1] You see something evil in your life, and you try to block it out.
But it's so evil that you can't block it out completely, so you have to replace it with something else.
What you replaced it with was that snake.
And you said yourself you couldn't hit it.
And what that's telling you is you couldn't stop it.
Does it make sense now? [Buddy] I didn't shoot my uncle.
[man 1] I know you didn't.
I know you didn't.
- [Buddy] I didn't shoot Robert.
- I know you didn't.
But I think you sat there and watched.
And I think that's something that your mind just couldn't handle.
I just [Buddy] I wish I could just close my eyes and [man 2] The walls are crumbling down, Buddy.
[man 1] You couldn't stop him, could you? [Buddy] I can't make you understand.
[man 1] You couldn't stop the snake, and nobody blames you, okay? Now, you're not It was the other guy deep in your mind, right? Your mind is coming around.
Okay? - Just open it up.
Open it up.
- [sobbing] Your mind is coming around.
Think about that snake.
You see what it really is.
See the horrible act that you already saw.
You gotta open the door.
Tell me if you don't see that.
[man 2] Buddy? It's a dead end, it's time right now.
Let's do this.
You can't go on.
Look at me.
You can't go on.
I can go no further.
Let's go.
Let's go right now.
Say it.
If you gotta keep your eyes closed while you say it, say it.
[Buddy] Yes, I would.
I mean, I don't know - Say it, and you're done with it, Buddy.
- [man 1] You'll have the best sleep you've ever had in the last six, eight months.
[man 2] Buddy? Say it, and you're done with it.
He told 'em what they wanted to hear.
So he said they kept telling him, "Just tell us what we want to hear.
Just tell us what we want to hear.
You'll be able to go home to your wife and sons.
" And he told 'em what they wanted to hear after a while.
[Buddy] I remember Robert being in the front of the car.
I heard a single gunshot [sniffling] from the back of the car.
[Higgins] Buddy Woodall's statement he ultimately made was that, he was there but he did not shoot anybody.
[Adams] No lawyer worth their salt would have allowed him to endure that.
And they would have never had enough to arrest Buddy Woodall for this crime.
And maybe they would have investigated the other people that they stopped investigating the moment they focused in on Buddy.
[man 1] Sit back, close your eyes and relax a bit, all right? And enjoy the release of this, okay? [Buddy] Do I get to go home? [man 1, sighs] I don't see why not.
[door opens] [sobs and sighs] Oh, dear God.
[sniffling, sobbing] [Buddy, on phone] I have no I don't know.
I wanted out.
I seen a way out or I thought I seen a way out.
And I guess you could say I took a coward's way out.
I regret that.
I do.
Buddy sat in jail for five years before we even went to court.
I was left with three kids to raise on my own.
I thought he was coming home.
Everybody thought he was coming home.
The prosecution had a largely circumstantial case with a confession.
The confession was their best piece of evidence.
Seventy to 75 percent of which was not recorded at all, even though they had a recording device there and all they had to do was press "On.
" We had one of the nation's best experts onboard to come down and explain this really difficult phenomenon of false confession.
Like why would a person confess to a crime they didn't do? If they're not beaten and if they're not intellectually disabled.
But, a few months before our case went to trial, the Georgia Supreme Court said that false confession experts aren't allowed in Georgia.
And that crushed us.
[Kristy] When they said that he was guilty, I just [sighs] said, "Oh, God.
" I about had a nervous breakdown that day.
I don't know how they come to the conclusion of it, honestly.
[Wheatly] I was in court every day they had court.
I sat there for the entirety of it.
I just didn't feel like it was a a fair thing.
They did not prove beyond any reasonable doubt that he was guilty of what he was charged with.
The only thing they had was a a confession of sorts.
That's what convicted him.
If that hadn't have been there, I'm not sure that he wouldn't have been found innocent.
[Adams] When we went to the sentencing phase of this capital trial, there were three options in Georgia, life with parole, life without parole or the death penalty.
Nobody ever gets life with parole.
It just doesn't happen.
In Buddy's case, the jury came back with life with parole.
Unheard of.
Unheard of in Georgia.
I think that's a reflection on on nagging feelings about the level of proof against Buddy in the first part of the trial.
Justice missed its mark in this case.
Six months or so after trial, I got a call one day and it said, "You're not gonna believe this.
David Wimberly walked out of jail.
He's free.
" I said, "What?" And they said, "Yeah, they dropped all charges on him.
" And so, without that videotaped confession, they just didn't have enough case on him and they dropped charges.
That says everything.
[Belinda] All of those questions like Did they make Buddy take the rap for it? Or, you know, if you're gonna admit to being there and did not pull a trigger, then who did? Daddy was a good person, you know? Sometimes, you can smell him in the air, you know? Especially down there [chuckles] where he used to sit all the time.
[Kristy] We've had a lot happen to, you know, our family.
16 years going through this.
Unless a person's really been through it, you you really don't know.
But it's just like you have to take it one day at a time.
And you gotta have faith, I mean Jason Jason handled it through eating.
He never really talked about his feelings a lot.
He was almost 200 pounds at ten years old.
My little boy will be a year old.
We'll see.
- This month.
- Seventeenth.
At times, I really I really feel like he thinks that we forgot about him, especially because we used to go see him every week.
And now, we have our own families and, you know, so we don't get to go see him as much as we would like to.
I don't even think I've been at all this year.
- It's been a while.
- You know, it's terrible too, 'cause I think there's chances I could have gone and I haven't.
[Adams] A lot of judges like to tell jurors we have the best criminal justice system in the world.
Maybe we do.
But at the end of the day, it's only as good as law enforcement is fair, as the defense lawyer is skilled, as the jurors are open-minded and as good as the experts and the testimony you're allowed to put up.
And even then, it's a human endeavor.