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Case shut, questions linger about investigators in Murdock murders

Case shut, questions linger about investigators in Murdock murders

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Livers questioning said to deviate from standard practices

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LINCOLN — The dirty cop acted alone.

That’s the explanation a top state official gave in blaming David Kofoed for a 2006 murder investigation that accused the wrong people. After all, Douglas County’s one-time CSI miracle worker was convicted of planting blood in the case.

Yet two Nebraska State Patrol investigators and two Cass County sheriff’s deputies were named along with the disgraced CSI chief in the same federal lawsuits.

It has been eight years since Wayne and Sharmon Stock were slain in their rural Murdock, Nebraska, home by shotgun-wielding teenagers on a drug-fueled crime spree. The criminal case is closed, the lawsuits are over, and the killers sit in prison.

Still, a mystery lingers: If the four investigators other than Kofoed did nothing wrong, why did their employers agree to a nearly $2.5 million settlement?

Agency leaders and their attorneys declined repeated requests to talk about the settlement, the investigation or whether the case has prompted changes to avoid similar problems. Rather, they stressed that the final terms required no admission of wrongdoing. Two of the four officers, meanwhile, continue to work as investigators.

So The World-Herald dug into a massive digital archive of court records for answers. The review turned up what an appeals court described as circumstantial evidence that at least some of the other investigators conspired with the CSI chief to falsely implicate cousins Matthew Livers and Nicholas Sampson.

Lawyers for the investigators twice failed to convince federal courts to dismiss the conspiracy claim and other civil rights violations alleged in the lawsuits. Last October, as the case was settled, an Omaha jury was days away from hearing accusations that:

                                              » Two State Patrol investigators and a deputy engaged in constitutionally prohibited coercion when they interrogated Livers. As a result, Livers made a false confession that also implicated Sampson. The state’s own interrogation expert said under cross-examination that the questioning of Livers was flawed.

                                              » The investigators fabricated evidence by feeding crime scene details to Livers during the interrogation and using coercion to produce incriminating statements from other witnesses. There also was disputed evidence that the video of Livers’ recantation, made the day after he confessed, was withheld from the prosecutor.

                                              » The investigators and the crime lab commander engaged in a conspiracy against the cousins. Two of the investigators pressured CSI technicians to find some physical evidence to bolster Livers’ confession, and one of the patrol investigators spent more than three hours at the Douglas County crime lab the same day Kofoed “found” a victim’s blood in the car.

                                              » The investigators arrested Livers without probable cause.

Lawyers for the patrol and Cass County vigorously defended their clients and denied all allegations in legal filings leading up to the trial.

They contended that the investigators had compelling reasons to focus on Livers, which included evidence of serious conflicts with the murder victims, who were his aunt and uncle. They insisted the interrogation was not out of bounds.

They also said the investigators were assured by the lead prosecuting attorney that the confession constituted probable cause for the warrantless arrests of Livers and, hours later, Sampson.

While the settlement requires the Sheriff’s Office to seek specialized interrogation training, there was no such requirement for the State Patrol. And the patrol investigators refused a request from Livers for a public apology, saying they still believe he played some role in the murders.

As for a conspiracy, the law enforcement agencies argued the plaintiffs failed to produce concrete evidence of actions taken by any of the four investigators to help plant the blood.

In fact, in the months after the cousins were charged, the officers helped arrest the Wisconsin teens responsible for the crime, Kim Sturzenegger, the attorney representing Cass County, wrote in a trial brief.

“Because the investigators were determined to follow up on all leads and conduct a thorough investigation, they developed the information which ultimately led to the decision to drop charges” against Livers and Sampson, she wrote.

That’s how it ended.

At the beginning, investigators locked on the man they were convinced was the killer.

The investigation

Wayne Stock, 58, farmed and ran a successful hay business. Sharmon, 55, was a teacher’s aide who also operated a cake business from her home. The couple were widely known and well-liked in Murdock, a community of 270 people about 40 miles southwest of Omaha.

Their murders shocked everyone who knew them.

The bodies were discovered about 9 a.m. on April 17, 2006, the day after Easter Sunday, in the upstairs master bedroom of the two-story house. The case fell under the jurisdiction of Cass County Sheriff Bill Brueggemann, but because homicides in the county were rare, he sought help from the State Patrol and Douglas County CSI.

Investigators recovered important evidence from the scene, including live and spent shotgun ammo, a marijuana pipe and a small flashlight they suspected had belonged to the killer. Later they also found a ring determined to have been left behind. Otherwise, the house was not ransacked, and it appeared no cash or other belongings were missing.

A criminal profiler for the patrol said the point-blank shots and lack of stolen property indicated the intruder came with the intent to kill. And blood spatter on a wall revealed more than one person had been involved.

The profiler said to look for two young males.

Patrol Investigator William Lambert and Cass County Sheriff’s Investigator Earl Schenck Jr. were assigned primary roles in the case. Though experienced criminal investigators, neither had previously headed a homicide inquiry.

Along with Sheriff’s Sgt. Sandra Weyers, the investigators started by interviewing family members, asking if they knew anyone who would want to hurt the couple.

Several relatives said Matt Livers had a history of conflict with his aunt and uncle, including friction over the future inheritance of a home belonging to Wayne Stock’s mother. Livers had lived with his grandmother for a period, and his aunt and uncle had reportedly insisted he move out.

Relatives also described Livers, 28, as slow, different and immature for his age.

The oldest son of Wayne Stock’s sister, Livers was diagnosed as learning disabled and took special education classes through school. Although he had no prior criminal record, he struggled to keep employed as an adult.

A psychological assessment conducted months after his arrest listed his IQ at 68, which categorized him as mildly mentally retarded. The report also concluded his verbal abilities are significantly higher than his overall intellectual performance, “perhaps leading one to believe, (e.g., in conversation) that he is more highly functioning than he truly is.”

Late at night on April 17, Investigators Lambert and Schenck conducted their first interview of Livers. He indicated there was a past tiff with his relatives, but all had been forgotten.

In the meantime, the investigators identified a vehicle they believed was used by the killers. A Ford Contour, which belonged to a cousin of Livers, matched the color of a vehicle seen by witnesses near the Stock home the morning of the killings. As it turned out, the cousin’s car also had been detailed just hours after the shootings occurred.

On April 19, the car was towed from Lincoln to Omaha, where it was searched by members of the CSI team for six hours, to no avail. They also tested vacuum bags recovered from the detail shop, which produced no traces of blood or DNA.

On April 20, Lambert gave Livers a ride to Omaha so he could submit fingerprints and a DNA sample. Then, on April 25, Lambert and Schenck picked up Livers at his rental home in Lincoln and drove about 50 miles to the Sheriff’s Office in Plattsmouth.

They sat down in an interview room, turned on the video camera and started asking questions about 9 a.m.

Livers told investigators he had spent much of Easter at a gathering hosted by his grandmother, Lorene Stock.

He returned home to Lincoln about 5:30 p.m. and said he stayed at the house until he went to bed that night. He said he slept the entire night next to his fiancee, Sarah Schneider.

About 1:30 p.m., saying he wanted to clear his name, Livers submitted to a lie-detector test. Patrol Investigator Charlie O’Callaghan, who was working toward certification as a polygraph examiner, told him he failed.

The results were infallible, O’Callaghan said, and they could only mean Livers killed his relatives or knew who did. Livers admitted to being nervous while taking the test, but he vehemently denied he killed the couple.

About 2:30 p.m., Investigators Lambert and Schenck returned to the interview room. The tone of their voices changed as they bombarded Livers with accusations.

Lambert told Livers his reactions to the polygraph questions provided conclusive proof that he killed the Stocks. Livers, visibly shaken, protested. In the span of seconds, the patrol investigator swatted away eight denials in a row.

“Listen to me and listen well,” Lambert said. “This is a chance to save yourself. This is potentially a death sentence. No lie, OK? If you are involved in this, then you can save yourself now.”

And the only way for Livers to save himself, the investigators said, was to declare his guilt.

Still Livers tried repeatedly to convince the officers he was innocent. The patrol investigator said many people in similar positions have tried and failed to outsmart authorities.

“I’m dumb as a brick,” Livers replied.

At another point, Schenck asked if Livers considered himself a man. Livers nodded.

“Then stand up,” Lambert said.

Livers stood, taking the officer literally.

After more Livers denials, Schenck raised the stakes.

“If you don’t admit to me exactly what you’ve done, I’m going to walk out that door and I am going to do my level best to hang your ass from the highest tree,” he said. “You are done. I will go after the death penalty. I’ll push and I’ll push and I’ll push and I will do everything I have to make sure you go down hard for this.”

The investigators then scripted their theory of a motive, telling Livers he was sick of being put down by his aunt and uncle, tired of seeing their wealth while he struggled on the edge of poverty. They suggested it was understandable if he snapped and lashed out.

After more accusations, Livers said: “I’m not this kind of person. All I remember is sleeping in my bed that night.”

Finally, after about 6½ hours of questioning, Livers started to agree with his accusers.

“The truth is, you got a gun. Right or wrong,” Schenck asked.


“And you took that gun back to your Uncle Wayne and Aunt Sharmon’s house, right?”

Livers paused.

“Right or wrong? Come on, Matt.”


At first he took sole responsibility for the killings. But after a lengthy series of questions posed by Schenck, he implicated his cousin, Sampson, the brother of the man whose car had been seized. Livers also said he and Sampson used the Ford Contour.

Authorities arrested Livers and his cousin that night.

The next day, facing another polygraph exam, Livers recanted in full.

“I’ve been just making things up to satisfy you guys,” he said, “and answering questions just from, you know, basically fitting an answer to what you guys have been asking.”

Sampson, 21, agreed to undergo a lie-detector test of his own. After he was told he failed, however, he refused to answer more questions without a lawyer.

Then, two days after the confession, CSI commander Kofoed searched the Ford Contour a second time for gunshot residue. Kofoed, who had made incredible DNA discoveries in past homicide investigations, did it again. He said he found a speck of blood underneath the dashboard. Tests later confirmed it was Wayne Stock’s blood.

In the months that followed, Livers and Sampson sat in jail, facing a trial and a possible death sentence for a double murder. Authorities tested their clothing, firearms and other belongings, but found nothing else to physically connect the men to the crime scene.

Tests on the marijuana pipe and ring did produce DNA, but not a match with Livers and Sampson.

An inscription inside the ring, however, led authorities to its owner in Wisconsin. They soon learned the ring had been inside a pickup that had been stolen on Easter Sunday by Gregory Fester, 19, and Jessica Reid, 17.

Lambert and Schenck drove to Wisconsin to interrogate the new suspects. The two confessed, each blaming the other for shooting the victims.

But the investigators kept after the teens, telling them accomplices from Nebraska had to be involved. Under questioning that included threats of the death penalty, the teens amended their stories, saying they were led to the Stock home by two men they met in Murdock. When shown photos, however, Reid picked an image of Sampson but not Livers. Fester picked out two photos, neither of which was of Livers or Sampson.

In a subsequent interview, Reid recanted and said she and Fester were the only ones present. They picked the Stock house at random. DNA matched Fester and Reid, and authorities recovered matching shotgun shells, bloodstained clothing and a diary entry by Reid describing a murder.

Each pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and each was sentenced to life in prison.

Sampson was released from jail after six months. Livers got out after more than seven months. Charges against both were dropped.

After their release, the cousins filed civil rights lawsuits against the authorities.

The lawsuits named Lambert and O’Callaghan from the State Patrol, Schenck and Weyers from the Sheriff’s Office and Kofoed from the CSI unit, along with Cass County, Douglas County and Douglas County Sheriff Tim Dunning.

Dunning eventually was dismissed from the lawsuits, and he wrote a public apology to Livers. Douglas County reached settlements, agreeing to pay Livers $50,000 and Sampson $75,000.

The rest fought on.

The interrogation

To win on their first claim, the plaintiffs sought to prove Lambert, O’Callaghan and Schenck coerced a confession in a manner that “shocked the conscience.” That means they had to prove a higher standard than simple negligence.

When it comes to interrogating suspects, however, the courts generally have given law enforcement plenty of leeway. For example, interrogators can lie and deceive, making claims to have fingerprints or other incriminating evidence that does not exist.

A primary responsibility for law enforcement is to make sure suspects know they have a right to an attorney and to refuse police questions. Officers met the standard with Livers, who never asked for a lawyer.

In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court has said a suspect must confess voluntarily in order for the statements to be admissible. Coercion, defined as overbearing a suspect’s will, violates an individual’s 14th Amendment right to due process.

The courts generally have considered the “totality of the circumstances” when deciding if a confession was coerced. The circumstances include police actions, whether the confession is corroborated by other evidence and the mental fitness of the suspect being questioned.

Judges have ruled interrogators can’t obtain confessions with physical force, threats of harm or promises of leniency. But, as anyone knows from watching a season of “Law & Order,” interpretations of what’s a threat or promise can vary from case to case.

The courts have thrown out confessions resulting from interrogations that contained a combination of excessive length; withholding of food, water or sleep; and keeping suspects in a physically uncomfortable setting. They also examine confessions for “contamination,” when investigators feed crime-scene details to a suspect that only a killer would know.

The Livers interrogation bore striking similarities to a 2001 Missouri case in which the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a confession on the grounds that police shocked the conscience.

In that case, the judges determined police coerced an intellectually disabled man when they interrogated him for more than four hours, falsely claimed to have incriminating evidence, ignored his protests of innocence and used leading questions that provided details from the crime scene.

Livers had not eaten before police picked him up and was not given a meal until after the 11-hour interrogation. On tape, he frequently complained of the “freezing” temperature in the interview room.

Officers ignored more than 80 denials, and questioned Livers for about 6½ hours before he confessed. Some examples of “contamination” included investigators revealing where the victims were shot, the location of their bodies and Sharmon Stock’s apparent attempt to phone for help.

Attorneys for the investigators argued they did not know Livers was intellectually disabled. They apparently did not look into his educational history, and the IQ test wasn’t done until months after the confession.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said the investigators had been told by relatives Livers was “slow.” They also brought up Livers’ description of himself as “dumb as a brick” and how he took literally the challenge to “stand up” and accept responsibility for his actions.

The investigators argued Livers and Sampson failed to meet the necessary standard to win the claim.

Quoting from a previous ruling by the 8th Circuit, they said there must be “a violation of rights so severe, so disproportionate to the need presented, and so inspired by malice or sadism ... that it amounts to brutal and inhumane abuse of official power literally shocking to the conscience.”

Manufacturing evidence

The undisputed example of evidence manufacturing in the case was Kofoed’s planting of blood in the tan Ford Contour. In a separate criminal case in 2010, Kofoed was convicted of evidence tampering for planting the blood in the Contour. He served two years in prison.

But the cousins argued the interrogators fabricated evidence by leaking crime scene details so Livers could fashion a more believable confession. Lambert and Schenck also used leading questions to help Livers shape his statements.

Another element of the false evidence claim was that Lambert and Schenck threatened, coerced and manipulated the Wisconsin teens into incriminating the cousins. Investigators Weyers and O’Callaghan allegedly did the same with a close friend of Livers, an intellectually disabled man in Texas whom Livers had visited in the weeks before the murders.

In addition, the tape of Livers recanting the confession was not turned over to his defense attorney for six months, prompting an official complaint against the prosecutor.

In a deposition, Cass County Attorney Nathan Cox, the prosecutor in question, said he did not know about Livers recanting, nor was he given the recording until after he had dropped charges against Sampson. The investigators, however, said they turned it over, and suggested Cox must have lost it.

To counter the evidence fabrication claim, the investigators said they never quit following leads in the case. While some of the evidence they developed may have incriminated Livers and Sampson, some didn’t.

“It was their investigation that led to the Wisconsin perpetrators of the crime,” Sturzenegger, the attorney hired by Cass County, wrote in a trial brief. “Their actions ultimately exonerated (Livers and Sampson).”


In general, Livers and Sampson alleged that all of the investigators conspired to violate their civil rights by their actions in the case. But they focused on the planted blood.

In depositions, Lambert and Schenck each said he made multiple visits to the Douglas County crime lab to check on analysis of the evidence. One of the lab technicians referred to the investigators as “pains” because of their repeated requests for testing and results.

On April 27, two days after the confession, Lambert called Kofoed and asked him to reprocess the Contour, though it had been examined by the CSI team days before. That afternoon, Kofoed and another CSI officer processed the car a second time, and Kofoed said he found blood under the dash.

Entry log records show Lambert signed in at the crime lab at 8:05 p.m. on April 27 and remained there until 11:20 p.m. He returned to the lab the following day. In deposition testimony, he said he could not recall what he and Kofoed discussed other than the blood finding.

Despite the significance of the discovery, Kofoed did not write a report about the blood or even seek to have it tested to see if it came from a victim. Rather, he said he left the swab in the evidence room and forgot about it.

On May 4, investigators learned the DNA recovered from the ring and marijuana pipe found at the crime scene did not match Livers or Sampson. The next day, Schenck arrived at the crime lab and stayed for an undetermined amount of time, but later testified he couldn’t remember why he stopped or to whom he spoke.

Days later, Kofoed wrote a false report claiming he had made the blood discovery on May 8, not on April 27. He transferred the swab for testing, and it came back as a match to Wayne Stock.

It would represent the only physical evidence to tie Livers and Sampson to the crime.

The conspiracy theory relies on “speculation and conjecture,” the investigators argued in legal documents.

“Livers has simply named all the individual defendants as being involved in the conspiracy without stating which defendant did what or who they conspired with to violate Livers’ rights,” Ryan Post, an assistant attorney general, wrote in a trial brief.

In addition, in late 2007, Lambert took a confidential statement from one of Kofoed’s CSI technicians with whom Lambert had formerly worked. The informant accused Kofoed of planting the blood in the Contour. Lambert relayed the allegation to the FBI.

In response, the FBI sought out the informant and eventually started investigating the CSI commander.

Probable cause

The final claim involved the Fourth Amendment requirement that probable cause must exist to support an arrest.

Livers’ attorneys argued their client had been arrested at one of three points: when the investigators picked him up on the morning of April 25 and drove him to the Sheriff’s Office, when they placed him in a windowless interview room, or when Lambert told Livers he could not leave after he allegedly failed the polygraph test.

All three points occurred before Livers confessed. In depositions, the officers agreed their suspicions of Livers did not amount to probable cause until Livers actually confessed.

The state’s attorneys argued their clients should not be found liable for false arrest for any time beyond Livers’ confession. So, at most, the patrol would be liable only for the 6½ hours Livers spent under questioning before his confession.

The investigators also testified they were told by the prosecuting attorney the confession provided probable cause for the arrests. And they pointed to a 2006 ruling in Sampson’s criminal case, in which a district court judge said the confession provided sufficient probable cause for officers to act.

The courts

In 2011, lawyers for the investigators asserted the defense of qualified immunity and tried to get the lawsuits dismissed from U.S. District Court in Omaha. Qualified immunity shields law enforcement officers from civil liability when they perform their duties reasonably and believe they are operating within the law.

To overcome the defense, attorneys for Livers and Sampson had to convince the judge that their rights were violated and those rights were clearly established at the time the investigators acted, Chief U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon wrote.

The judge explained that at that stage in the process the law required him to view the facts in the light most favorable to Livers and Sampson. He ruled in their favor.

The investigators appealed to the 8th Circuit. In late 2012, a three-judge panel of the appeals court dismissed the Douglas County sheriff from the lawsuits. As for the rest of the defendants, the panel decided a jury should hear the case. The judges also found evidence of a meeting of the minds to incriminate Livers and Sampson.

In the wake of the legal setbacks, the state tried once more to limit the liability for the patrol’s investigators. This time they argued the confession was credible because Livers provided three crime-scene facts that had not been fed to him by the interrogators.

One was the statement that Wayne Stock was trying to crawl to an office near his bedroom after he was shot in the knee. The others were the color and location of a car parked near the Stock home, as reported by newspaper carriers.

Livers’ legal team said information about the knee wound had been told to Livers by his father, who learned about it from other relatives at the Stocks’ funeral. As for the car’s color, Livers knew his cousin’s vehicle had been seized by police. And the location of the getaway car? It was either up or down the road that ran alongside the farmstead, so Livers simply guessed.

“It’s unbelievably, screamingly obvious Matt Livers had no idea what he was supposed to say, what he was supposed to have done, and he was guessing and following cues from Schenck and Lambert,” said his attorney, Locke Bowman, who also directs the MacArthur Justice Center at the Northwestern University School of Law.

When the litigation ended on the brink of the jury trial, Attorney General Jon Bruning said his office made an economic decision to settle rather than risk paying greater damages. Then he blamed the “dirty cop.”

“This case was just poisoned by Kofoed’s planting of evidence,” he said. “We felt we had no choice but to settle.”

The troopers, Bruning said, “acted honorably.”

More recently, the attorney general has declined requests to discuss in detail the claims made against the troopers and deputies.

Lambert and O’Callaghan remain with the Nebraska State Patrol as investigators; however, Deb Collins, the agency’s spokeswoman, wouldn’t provide specifics on their assignments.

“The case was settled with no admission of wrongdoing by the State of Nebraska, and we continue to stand by our personnel,” Patrol Col. David Sankey said in an email response to an interview request.

In a 2009 deposition, Lambert said he still considered Livers guilty based largely on the polygraph results. And he was adamant that his interrogation and other actions remained within legal parameters.

“Let’s just say I would not change anything about the case that I did,” Lambert said.

Lambert said in his opinion, none of the interrogation threats were coercive. He argued a threat has to be carried out for it to be coercive.

He bristled at suggestions that his colleague’s “hang you from the highest tree” statement was out of bounds.

“This is heinous,” Lambert said. “You’re not going to sit down with Matt Livers and pat him on the back and say ‘Listen, Matt, we need to talk, OK? You’re in a little bit of trouble here, buddy. These are the facts, now come clean.’ ”

Lambert said the patrol had given him little specialized training in interrogations. Anything beyond what he learned as a criminal justice major at the University of Nebraska at Omaha or the patrol’s academy came through experience.

In his deposition, polygraph examiner O’Callaghan disagreed with a paid expert who said the trooper’s execution of the test was so flawed it could not be accurately scored. The expert also said the results were inconclusive rather than showing deception by Livers.

Meanwhile, the $2.48 million settlement came from state coffers and a risk-management pool mostly funded by county governments.

Part of the settlement required Cass County sheriff’s investigators to undergo training on the interrogation of learning disabled or mentally ill suspects, said Maren Chaloupka, the Scottsbluff attorney who represented Sampson in the lawsuits.

Sheriff Brueggemann referred questions to the private attorneys hired to defend the investigation. They, in turn, declined to discuss the case.

In a 2009 deposition, Deputy Schenck said he did not consider any statements he made during the interrogation to be improper. He rejected suggestions that his goal was to obtain a confession.

“Our approach was to confront him about the answers that he had failed on the polygraph and try to elicit the truth from him,” Schenck said.

Schenck said he asked to be transferred to courtroom security and inmate transport duties after his investigation of Livers and Sampson unraveled. On July 24, 2010, he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in Keith County. He resigned from the Sheriff’s Office four days later.

Since then he has been cited three times for driving under suspension and is no longer working in law enforcement. He did not return messages left with relatives seeking comment for this story.

Weyers also left the Sheriff’s Office, and now works as Cass County’s emergency manager.

Experts on police interviews, including one hired to help defend the state, said they are troubled by what occurred in the Livers interrogation.

Stan B. Walters of Versailles, Kentucky, has been training law enforcement officers for 30 years — including Deputy Schenck and other officers in Nebraska — to read body language and conduct interviews. The state brought in Walters to review the Livers interrogation. Ultimately he came to see the confession as “probably false” and the techniques used to obtain it as flawed, he said in an interview.

But Walters also argued some of the tactics are similar to what he has seen in scores of interrogations across the nation.

“The general technique, unfortunately, was not uncommon,” he said. “What I saw was not an aberration.”

Jim Trainum, a former Washington, D.C., homicide detective who now works as a consultant for law enforcement agencies, said he uses portions of the Livers interrogation to teach how to avoid false confessions. He argued Nebraska law enforcement agencies should learn from the Livers tapes.

The stakes are high: Not only do false confessions accuse the innocent, they can allow the guilty to remain free, Trainum said.

The Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center in Grand Island uses the Livers interrogation to show what police should do, and not do, to ensure confessions are legal. In particular, the case is used to help trainees learn how to recognize signs a suspect is cognitively impaired, said William Muldoon, the center’s director.

The training center serves all Nebraska agencies except the patrol and the Omaha and Lincoln Police Departments.

Several experts who reviewed the interrogation were most troubled by the amount of crime scene information the investigators provided to Livers before and after he confessed.

Krista Forrest, a psychology professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney who has researched and written about police deception during interrogations, said the confession lacked a key factor that damaged its credibility: At no point was Livers able to give an unprompted retelling of the killings that closely matched the crime scene evidence, she said. Nor did he provide investigators with the location of the murder weapon, bloodstained clothing or some other piece of evidence they lacked.

“Honorable police work?” she said. “To blame this on Kofoed alone is to ignore a big part of everything that went wrong.”

Contact the writer: 402-473-9587,

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Tom Winslow spent 19 years in a Nebraska prison for a rape and murder he did not commit. A jury says he should get $1,000 for each of the many, many days of his life he lost behind bars. Matthew Livers spent less than one year in a Nebraska county jail for a double homicide he did not do. His total payout could be more than 22 times as large — $22,098 for each lost day of his life.

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