Roy Hartless, who retired in 2005 after 33 years as a Staunton police investigator and now works as a private investigator, agreed.
I had made a commitment to the mother of one of the victims that I would do whatever I could to ensure closure to the families," Hartless
"It's important that the public realize ... literally, police personnel went coast to coast for this investigation …" Police have flown to California for interviews, Hartless
adds, "the documentation wasn't there from the start."
Asked to reopen the case in 1998, Hartless discovered "red flags."
The victims' families, he
said, never had been interviewed by police.
CASE GOES COLD AGAIN
said the case was opened again in 1988 when Roanoke investigators suggested a lead.
Ten years later, Hartless opened the case again, working with Staunton police investigator Wayne Snodgrass.
"We started with a half-inch file," Hartless
said, measuring with thumb and pointer finger.
"That told me something was wrong."
A typical case file is at least 3 inches thick, he
arranged a meeting with the Hevener family, during which relatives said no other officers had ever interviewed them.
"In today's world, that never would have happened," Hartless
The mystery over why the documentation was so thin and other questions about the original investigation might never be solved.
The investigator who originally handled the case has died, Hartless
From 1999 to 2005 Hartless
and Snodgrass worked uphill, struggling with inadequate documentation and frequently speaking with sources who relayed information they said they'd told to police long ago.
None of that information appeared in the police file, Hartless
cleared some individuals who long had been suspected by people in the community.
retired three years ago, he
and Snodgrass had bolstered the case file, filling two file drawers.
"I can tell you with assurance, from 1999 to 2005 ... as new information was received, that information was followed up on," Hartless
said the woman mentioned a gun.
also recalled a polygraph test and said police told her
she'd passed it but was leaning toward knowing the killer.
That statement threw up a "red flag" for Hartless
Polygraph tests are passed, failed or inconclusive, he
The test would have been documented as inconclusive had the suspect demonstrated potential knowledge of the killer's identity, he
On Nov. 28, the suspect confessed to Staunton police, according to Sheets and Hartless
"From July to present, I understand what appears to be the perception of [police] not reacting quickly enough.
That's out there," Hartless
"I myself questioned a little bit."
said, there are potential explanations.
"There's going to be a couple areas of concern [for police]," he
"There were things that should have been done back in 1967 that weren't done, and I'm not talking about modern day technology."
The thin case file, confusion over the polygraph and Bradshaw's account of a "two- or three-day" turnaround on a ballistics test that an investigator claimed to have done leads Hartless
to believe the investigation was not handled well at its onset.
Police wait longer than two or three days to receive ballistics test results, even today, Hartless
"Should [police] be prepared to address those types of issues?
Yes ... but that was [before this] administration," he