The Unusual Crime Scene, Zeigler (part 3):
Despite that this large, dark furniture store was a crime scene with multiple bodies inside, police did not hesitate to enter it several times.
Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputies and other officers violated basic rules of procedure by entering a dark crime scene knowing they will disturb evidence. They made it worse by smoking on the scene while evidence was not yet collected or processed.
If I am not mistaken, several groups of people entered the crime scene before technicians arrived. All the people who entered did so mainly when the furniture store was still dark. They were thus tripping over furniture, breaking vases, slipping over what they thought was a waxed floors, and in doing so, disturbed blood patterns and blood trails. They moved discarded bullets and cartridges, made extra foot prints, and disturbed the scene by carelessly discarding cigarettes.
The first group to enter the dark store consisted of Winter Garden’s Chief of Police Donald Ficke, Oakland’s Chief of Police Robert Thompson, Winter Garden Patrolman Jimmy Yawn, former Winter Garden Patrol Man Cross, and Citizen Richard Sims (the latter two deputized on the spot).
The second group to enter the dark store consisted of Chief Ficke, Lieutenant Hair of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, and Gerald Justice, a sergeant with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Ultimately Deputy Sheriff James Pearson joined them.
The third group to enter the dark store consisted of Chief of Detectives Morris Blankenship, Staff Duty Officer Wayne Bird, and Bruce Churchill, the Sheriff’s Lieutenant in charge of the Criminal Investigation Division.
After this last group went through the crime scene, Blankenship made a technician photograph the pulled down master switch lever outside the furniture store. Then, he pushed it up. Only then did the lights go on, hours after Chief Thompson took Zeigler to the hospital. For more about the master switch lever, click here.
Many officers walked through the scene with muddy boots while smoking and carelessly discarded their cigarettes. Since none of the Edwards or Zeiglers smoked, the stubs could have led to a suspect. Foot prints were wiped out in the store and swipe traces were present. Vehicles were not processed for evidence either.
Interesting side note: no Orange County Detective had ever investigated a quadruple homicide or had been confronted with a crime scene of this size and complexity.
To be continue.