Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Debra Milke May Be Freed From Arizona’s Death Row!
Phoenix, AZ—In December of 1989 a man reported that four year-old, Christopher Milke disappeared at a Metro Center Sears Store. James Styers claimed to police he used a bathroom and told the boy to wait outside. Styers told the police when he came out Christopher Milke was gone.
Phoenix police took every possible step to find the boy by using cops, K-9s and their helicopter. Detectives were sent out and the legendary missing persons detective, Charles Masino solved the case through careful interrogation of Styers.
Masino quickly checked out each of the stalls in the bathroom and found one had a missing seat. Masino casually asked Styers if he used a stall or urinal to do his business. Styers claimed he used a stall. Masino brought Styers into the bathroom and asked him to open the door of whatever stall he used. As luck would have it Styers opened the door of the toilet that had no seat.
Masino pressed forward and eventually made the arrest based on Styer’s confession. Styers said he and his life-long friend Roger Scott murdered the boy. They tricked the boy into thinking he was going to see Santa Claus but instead took him to a desert wash near 99th Ave and Happy Valley road and executed him.
Detectives soon confronted Scott who made a nearly identical confession. The difference was both men accused the other of firing three shots into the little boy’s head with Scott’s gun. Neither man implicated the boy’s mother, Debra Milke, who was 26 years-old at the time. Police dutifully tape recorded the interrogations of both men and their confessions.
Debra Milke had informed police she was going to be with her father in Florence, Arizona, Sam Saedeik. Milke was emotionally drained and sought comfort from her family.
Phoenix police homicide detective, Armondo Saldate, was assigned to get out to Florence and get a tape recorded statement from Milke. There can be no question that Saldate believed and should have that Milke may be involved in the killing.
Saldate instead interviewed Milke without a tape recorder, arrested her for murder and brought her back to Phoenix for a TV news photo op on her way to be processed and booked.
I assumed like nearly all suspects do, Milke must have implicated herself. Soon I was asked by the CBS-TV news affiliate to interview Milke if I could. I quickly grabbed a tape recorder with a hidden microphone and raced to the Maricopa County Jail’s receiving area. I had planned to get Milke to implicate herself for later broadcast. I asked to see Milke and they brought her out inside the receiving area known as the Horseshoe.
I told Milke I was there for Channel 10 and wanted to hear her side of this story. I then asked her, “Did you tell police that you had anything to do with the death of your son?” Milke responded, “That’s crazy! Who told you that? I had Nothing to do with the death of my son!” Next I told her that I had heard the boy was killed to collect insurance. Milke snapped back, "I heard that too and that's off the wall!" I then asked her what she thought happened and she said she did not know anything but he was murdered. I asked Milke about her mental condition and she related she needed help. Milke was never evasive and looked me right in the eye the whole time.
I was surprised to hear her say she was not involved nor even know she was actually being accused of murder. I raced back to the TV station where the evening news was about to begin. The top story was my exclusive interview with Milke. A gifted Producer, Mary Cox wrote the story for the teleprompter in no more than three minutes as station engineers extracted Milke’s key quotes from my tape for broadcast as the new lead story of the night. News sometimes happens at lightening speed.
For nearly ten days there was no mention of the evidence used to hold Milke. Finally A Supplementary Report surfaced from Armondo Saldate. He claimed that in a private interrogation with no one present other than he and Milke that she had confessed claiming, “She did not want the boy growing up like his father.” There was no police tape, and just hours later I got a very different story from Milke on my tape that was broadcast to over a million TV viewers.
Milke granted another one hour exclusive interview to me on the afternoon before the day before she was sentenced to die. That report was supposed to be broadcast in two parts and be heavily promoted by the station. As luck had it, the first Gulf War began and the news for the next weeks was about Scud missiles landing in Israel and American forces punishing Iraq’s Revolutionary Guard. My Milke story lost its importance and newsworthiness.
As of this December Milke will have lost 20 years of her life inside a small prison cell. Most of that time she was the only woman on Arizona’s Death Row at the Perryville women's prison
Milke appealed her case and months ago arguments were made on her behalf to the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco. Essentially they just remanded the case back to US District Court Judge Robert c. Broomfield to either find evidence of Milke waiving her “Miranda Rights” against self-incrimination. There is no such evidence so the case will be retried without the confession. Aside from the fabricated confession there is no evidence to implicate Milke. Judge Broomfiled was ordered to accomplish this within 60 days. This nightmare may well be over before Christmas.
I’ve been convinced for 20 years that Milke never made a confession to anyone. Armondo Saldate had a long history of obtaining questionable confessions and investigative dishonesty.
I’m convinced that not only was the confession fabricated by Saldate but Milke is no more than a legitimate victim. Milke had found a new job at the John Alden Insurance Company across town in Tempe, arranged for day care for Christopher and rented a two bedroom apartment. Styers would no longer have the run of Milke’s apartment, contents of her refrigerator, and use of her car.
Styers was only in Milke’s life because he had a little daughter Chritopher’s age and became Christopher Milke's caretaker while hi mother was at work. Styers was collecting disability payments and did not have to work. My theory was Styers felt with Christopher missing Milke would not move and he may yet find a romance he sought with her. It is the only thing that made sense.
Some media folks have somehow assumed and actually reported that Milke and Styers were somehow in a romantic relationship. That has never been the case. Milke had a boyfriend at the time Christopher was murdered.
Listen to the oral argument on this case here.
Here is the order from the court:
Huebl Milke Affidavit