OSWEGO, NY – Over the span of five days, different witnesses in the groundbreaking Heidi Allen hearing shared testimony that could give her convicted kidnapper, Gary Thibodeau, a new trial.
Thibodeau was convicted in 1995 for kidnapping Allen from a convenience store in New Haven where she was working Easter morning, 1994. Allen’s remains have never been found.
Thibodeau has been in prison ever since. In 2013 the case came alive again when former Oswego County resident Tonya Priest came forward implicating three other men: convicted murderer James Steen, convicted felon Roger Breckenridge and self-proclaimed Heidi Allen private investigator Michael Bohrer, were involved with Allen’s disappearance and death.
Thibodeau, who is serving 25 years to life, has long maintained his innocence.
Thibodeau’s lawyers, Lisa Peebles and Randy Bianco of the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Syracuse, filed a motion in July 2014 requesting the hearing on the grounds that Tonya’s concerns could be valuable evidence for a new trial that could exonerate Thibodeau.
Peebles believes a jury would acquit him with new evidence. She hopes to prove that the prosecution, prior to his trial in 1995, failed to turn over evidence favorable to the defense.
Acting Judge Daniel King presided over this week’s hearing.
Judge King, a sitting Judge in Lewis County was asked to hear the case after the sitting county court judges in Oswego County recused themselves.
District Attorney Greg Oakes still believes Thibodeau is responsible for Allen’s disappearance.
DA Oakes and Chief Assistant District Attorney Mark Moody maintain Priest’s information and sworn statement is not credible and that the new information is all hearsay and rumor.
The following are highlights from each day of the hearing, which is slated to continue February 3 at 9 am at the Oswego County Courthouse.
Monday, January 12 – Day 1:
Federal Public Defender Randi Bianco testifies as a key witness. Bianco testifies many materials were not turned over during initial investigation, including information that Heidi Allen was a confidential informant (CI).
Current Judge Joseph Fahey, Thibodeau’s attorney in 1994, is questioned and placed on record regarding what he knew of Allen’s Confidential Drug Informant status. He said he had never seen certain documents and was unaware her card had been dropped.
Tuesday, January 13 – Day 2:
Tyler Hayes testifies. He talks about an altercation with Michael Bohrer, a self-proclaimed investigator in the disappearance of Heidi Allen, at the Liberty Tavern in Oswego County 14 years ago. Hayes said Bohrer told him he was “wracked with guilt” over what happened to Heidi Allen. Tyler tells the court he told Bohrer to go to the police.
James “Thumper” Steen, imprisoned for the murder of his wife and her boyfriend in 2010, took the stand. Priest told investigators Steen and two other men kidnapped Allen, beat her to death and then hid her body under floorboards in a cabin in the woods off Rice Road in Mexico.
Steen told the court a different story. Steen said that Roger Breckenridge was responsible, and that Breckenridge told Steen 20 years ago that Breckenridge had scrapped a van with Allen’s remains in it. Breckenridge and Jennifer Wescott begin dating in 1995.
Breckenridge testified he stole and scrapped a van from the Thibodeau property sometime in late summer of 1994, after the search warrant was executed on Thibodeau’s property. Breckenridge testified Allen was not in the van he scrapped.
Wednesday, January 14 – Day 3:
Breckenridge continues testimony with cross by DA Oakes. Breckenridge denies involvement in Heidi’s disappearance.
Bohrer, a self-proclaimed investigator for the Heidi Allen case, also testifies. He appeared disoriented for most of his testimony, which made questioning very slow. After three hours, he broke down emotionally on the stand. He is slated to come back on Thursday to continue.
Priest was slated to testify on Day 3. But, in a surprise move, Peebles decides not to put Priest on the stand. Peebles told the court she doesn’t want to subject Priest to additional harassment for coming forward. Priest’s sworn statement will be admitted.
Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd was also called by Peebles to testify today. His testimony won’t be heard until February. Peebles wants to question Sheriff Todd regarding his statements to the press in 1994 about Allen’s CI status.
Jennifer Wescott was also to take the stand, but decided she wanted to secure an attorney first. Her testimony will also be heard in February.
Thursday, January 15 – Day 4:
Dog handler Kathryn Bamford was brought in by the Federal Public Defenders office to investigate the alleged cabin site off Rice Road in Mexico. Bamford testified her dog indicated a spot where there could have been the odor of human remains in 2014. Bamford testified the wind can move human remain odors around from where an actual body may have been, even 80 years after a body has decomposed.
Bohrer continued testimony after arriving very late to court. Bohrer maintains he didn’t kidnap Allen. Prosecutors show Bohrer is a mentally unstable man that only has an interest in the Allen kidnapping.
Friday, January 16 – Day 5:
Lead Heidi Allen investigator James Pietroski tells the court he doesn’t believe Priest or Wescott are credible with any new Allen abduction theories. Public Defender Peebles tried to show Pietroski didn’t follow up appropriately as an investigator.
Megan Shaw also testifies. Shaw is married to Priest’s first husband. Shaw testified she was afraid of “being killed” for testifying at hearing.
Richard Haumann, an investigator secured by the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Syracuse, testifies on locating two areas in the woods where Priest said Steen told her the cabin might be located. Prosecutors show there was never an actual cabin with a wood stove.
During the first week of the hearing, 15 people testified out of a possible 50.
The hearing will resume on February 3 at 9 a.m. before Judge Daniel King in the Oswego County Courthouse.