During Tuesday’s continuation of the hearing to determine if Gary Thibodeau deserves another trial after other suspects have been implicated in Heidi Allen’s 1994 disappearance, two witnesses testified they were told authorities convicted the wrong man.
In 1995, Thibodeau was convicted of kidnapping the 18-year-old Allen from the parking lot of a New Haven convenience store in 1994.
In six days of testimony, James “Thumper” Steen, Michael Bohrer and Roger Breckenridge have been named as suspects by several individuals who claim they heard incriminating statements connecting the men to Allen’s disappearance.
Some witnesses have testified Bohrer, Breckenridge and Steen boasted of involvement in the crime; others said they heard incriminating statements second-hand.
In direct testimony during the hearing, however, Bohrer, Breckenridge and Steen denied involvement in Allen’s disappearance, and also denied making any incriminating statements.
Carl Robinson, a 32-year old man who worked in the early 2000s as a computer technician at Medspars — Bohrer’s small business — testified Tuesday he knew Breckenridge and his former girlfriend Jennifer Wescott.
Robinson says during a barbecue nearly 10 years ago, the Allen case came up in conversation, and Wescott told him authorities had the wrong man in jail.
Wescott’s name has come up frequently during the hearing. She was recorded in a 2013 phone conversation with Tonya Priest connecting Breckenridge, Steen and Bohrer to the crime and saying she was afraid to come forward. She told investigators afterward she knew nothing about Allen’s disappearance.
Robinson testified he exchanged Facebook messages with Wescott in 2014, but acting Oswego County Court Judge Daniel King disallowed detailed questioning on the messages because they were impossible to authenticate.
Wescott is still expected to testify, and further discussion of her conversations with Robinson is likely, according to federal public defender Lisa Peebles.
During cross-examination, District Attorney Greg Oakes established Wescott never told Robinson any specific information on Allen’s whereabouts or why she believed Thibodeau was innocent. Robinson said Wescott, Steen, Bohrer and Breckenridge never mentioned to him any involvement in Allen’s disappearance, murder or disposal of her body.
Robinson also testified he saw Bohrer sell marijuana to both Breckenridge and Steen between 2002 and 2004.
Oakes objected several times to Peebles’s questioning, with prosecutors arguing the marijuana sales by Bohrer were so long after Allen’s disappearance that Robinson’s testimony was irrelevant.
Allen’s status as a confidential informant — mentioned as a motive for other suspects by Thibodeau’s defense team — remains a contentious issue in the case.
Prosecutors downplay Allen’s role as an informant and note Thibodeau was in jail on a drug charge not long after her disappearance, giving him a potential motive. Thibodeau’s trial lawyer, now Onondaga County Judge Joseph Fahey, testified Tuesday that authorities told him Allen was never used as an informant.
Ronald Clarke, a Mexico man who said he’s known Steen for 35 years, testified Tuesday that Steen once told him he knew more about Allen’s disappearance than the sheriff’s office.
Steen said Allen was “long gone in Canada,” according to Clarke, who said Steen occasionally worked for his father. Clarke said at the time he was outside his house, trying to convince his sons to stay home instead of going out for a bike ride, when Steen approached, asking about work.
Clarke said Steen told the boys to stay in, be careful and be mindful of what happened to Allen.
Clarke told Oakes during cross-examination that Steen never said he was actually involved in Allen’s kidnapping, murder or disposal of her body.
Steen is in prison serving two life sentences with no chance of parole after murdering his wife and another man in 2010.
Evidence turned over to Peebles recently included recordings with Doug Labreck, who was housed in jail with Thibodeau in 1994. Labreck gave a written statement to the sheriff’s office on Dec. 12, 1994, “setting forth various oral admissions he allegedly heard from [Thibodeau],” including that Thibodeau asked him “if teeth could burn.”