Legal Case study #4
A Successfully-Prosecuted Case --
The People of the State of California vs Clifford St. Joseph
On June 15, 1985, the body of a 25-year-old Caucasian male about 5'5" and 130 pounds was found in the South Market area of San Francisco. According to the coroner's report and subsequent testimony, the following was noted about the body of John Doe #60: the presence of very little blood; patterned injuries on the wrists, ankles, back and buttocks indicating the slashing were not random; a cut on the upper lip; a five-sided pentagram carved on the chest; one mutilated testicle; white wax melted in the right eye. From the coroner's report, SFPD investigators felt the crime was related to some Satanic ritual.
On June 23rd, the SFPD received a report for loud behavior at a residence in the Market district owned by Clifford St.
Joseph. The investigative officers arrived to find one man hammering on a door, trying to enter the residence. Four individuals - Ed Spela, Rick Hunter, Maurice Bork and Jack Friediund - were arrested for drunkenness (647f PC). During subsequent questioning, Spela told the arresting officers that he was trying to enter the residence to rescue his friend who was "drugged against his will, forced to submit to sexual acts, and would soon be the victim of a Satanic cult murder."
He also said the residents had previously sacrificed a human being. The arresting officers sent a copy of the report to Homicide as "possible information" regarding the John Doe #60 homicide.
Subsequently, Inspector Sanders issued a search warrant for the residence. Bloodstains were found on a blue blanket, on the carpet, and on the bottom center area of some trench doors. When the doors were sprayed with luminal, a large blood stain also appeared. All stains were found to be human; further, John Doe #60's blood was the same type as that found on the floor.
On June 25th, Inspector Sanders spoke with Ricky Hunter, the victim in an alleged kidnap, false imprisonment and forcible sodomy case that occurred at the above-named residence subsequent to the homicide. During the interview, Sanders received Spela's name, contacted him and arranged to meet him on June 29th whereupon Spela gave a taped statement in which he confirmed Hunter's statement that he (Hunter) had been gang-raped, manacled with thumb cuffs, and sodomized by four men, including Spela and St. Joseph. Spela further stated that St. Joseph and his two other friends were trying to force Spela to sacrifice Hunter as part of an initiation into a Satanic group. He then provided details about a sacrifice that St. Joseph claimed to have committed a few weeks earlier, the description of which fit the John Doe #60 case. Shortly thereafter, the key witnesses - Spela, Bork and Hunter- disappeared. Although the investigation continued for two years, the case against St. Joseph was not made until 1987 when the witnesses resurfaced to actually corroborate the physical evidence.
Clifford St. Joseph was arrested on June 23, 1987, and charged with first-degree murder (187 PC), sodomy (286(d) PC) and false imprisonment (236 PC). The preliminary hearing occurred in August 1987, he was arraigned in September, and the trial took place in February 1988. After six hours of deliberation on March 17, 1988, the jury delivered a guilty verdict on all three counts. On May 5, 1988, Clifford St. Joseph received a sentence of 34 years to life in prison - 25 years to life for first-degree murder, the maximum 9 years for sodomy and 3 years for false imprisonment to be served concurrent with the sodomy term.
Why the case was successfully prosecuted - the Investigator's perspective During an interview with study author, Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer, in San Francisco on May 10, 1989, Inspector Sanders related several investigative stages that he felt contributed to the successful prosecution of Clifford St. Joseph.
1."Good, careful crime scene investigation that stresses how to take a circumstantial case and back it up with physical evidence." As Sanders recalled "fortuitous circumstances" led to the detection of both crime scenes -where the body was found and where the crime was committed-but physical evidence was what tied them together. 'This was really a case of circumstantial evidence built upon physical evidence."