Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd took the stand during Tuesday’s continuation of the hearing to determine if Gary Thibodeau deserves a new trial.
Todd, who was undersheriff when Heidi Allen was kidnapped in 1994, testified he had limited involvement in the investigation in 1994 and 1995, relying on his sergeants and lieutenants to investigate. But he said for as long as he was sheriff, the Allen case would remain open until the mystery of her whereabouts was resolved.
“[The case] will always be open,” said Todd, “until I bring her home.”
Multiple individuals have come forward over the last few years implicating others in Allen’s 1994 disappearance. Thibodeau was convicted of kidnapping Allen in 1995, and lost an appeal in 1999.
Federal public defender Lisa Peebles asked Todd pointed questions about his office’s protocol for signing up confidential informants. Todd said that at the time of Allen’s abduction, there was no official procedure, and that individual investigators handled their informants.
The defense team has maintained Allen was a confidential informant, and that her informant card was dropped in 1992 in the parking lot of the store where Allen worked and went missing.
Thibodeau’s defense team argues this gives a motive to individuals connected to drugs in the area, in particular newly named potential suspects James “Thumper” Steen, Roger Breckenridge and Michael Bohrer. All three men have denied involvement.
Pressing Todd again about the process for signing up confidential informants, Todd repeated there was no procedure back in 1994.
“Is it your testimony that you’re completely clueless?” asked Peebles, who was cut off by an objection from District Attorney Greg Oakes and chief assistant district attorney Mark Moody, which was quickly sustained.
Todd later testified that subordinates told him Allen was not actually an informant. He also said her card being lost in the lot — which was found 26 months before Allen went missing — was “no big deal because nothing happened.”
Todd said he continued hearing about leads on the case after 1995, and that his investigators followed the leads.
“My goal was to find Heidi Allen and follow up on every lead possible,” he said.
Peebles asked the sheriff three questions about a potential lead, a report of “Heidi Allen was a snitch” written on a bathroom wall.
“I didn’t see that one, no,” Todd said. “They may have told me early, but do I have any information on it, no.”
Peebles asked if Todd was advised on a lead in February of 2013, regarding new information from Tonya Priest. Priest has come forward saying she had heard incriminating statements from Steen; earlier this month, she also said Breckenridge and Bohrer made incriminating statements linking them to the crime.
“They would keep me advised to what she testified to,” said Todd, “and every time she changed that story,” he’d be advised as well.
Moody objected to the line of questioning, with Peebles pressing Todd on his knowledge of the case.
“He is the head of the office and the (District Attorney’s Office) themselves have called into question the investigation,” said Peebles.
“So the whole purpose of this is to embarrass the sheriff?” asked Moody.
Peebles said that was not her goal.
“My job isn’t to go out and investigate,” said Todd. “My job is to supervise and make sure they do their job, and they did.”
The defense team has stated the sheriff’s office investigation was faulty and the District Attorney’s Office “dumped” evidence on them just days before the hearing began.
Acting Oswego County Judge Daniel King said he was not pleased about the late release of evidence, but denied a motion from Peebles earlier this month to dispense with the hearing over the matter.
During Todd’s cross-examination, Moody established through the sheriff that there are different types of informants; confidential informants who help on drug busts or some who simply provide information on a confidential basis.
During redirect, Peebles asked Todd the protocol if someone’s status as a confidential informant is ever breached.
“To be honest with you we’ve never had it happen,” testified Todd, saying as far as he knew, no one’s identification as a confidential informant has ever been released.