Junk Forensics in San Diego - The Cheri Lynn Dale Story
By Charles Caldwell
Edited by Laurie Solomon, JD Editor
Justice:Denied magazine, Issue 25, page 6
Cheri Lynn Dale in 2002
date was Jan 24, 1990. Cheri Lynn Dale and her mother Connielou
Caldwell had just left traffic court in San Marcos, CA. Cheri asked
her mother to please stop by a house in Carlsbad CA. She had bought a
small red telephone shaped like a Porsche as a birthday gift for her
brother Fred Caldwell. The phone had ended up at Lisa Stanton's house
at 2441 Torrejon Place. Lisa reluctantly handed the phone to Cheri
through a slightly opened front door.
Cheri returned to the car almost in tears as the gift was missing a wheel and the plug was gone. When the two arrived home, Cheri showed me the damaged present and I assured her I could fix it. My name is Charles Caldwell. I am Cheri’s stepfather.
After supper, we all watched TV till bedtime. The next morning Connielou quietly fixed breakfast trying not to wake Cheri. Connielou, Grandma and myself all ate, talking as little as possible, as our dining room and living room are connected. Cheri was asleep on the hide-a-bed.
Connielou was leaving for work at 6:30 a.m., a friend of Cheri's,
Jason DeVoid, inquired if she was home. He was asked to please not
wake her as she needed her sleep. I left for work at 7:45 a.m. while
Grandma was doing dishes. When I departed, Grandma, Fred and Cheri
were left at home. Fred woke up before Cheri and walked through to
the kitchen, seeing Cheri still asleep on the couch.
9:30 a.m. Connielou called home to remind Cheri they were going
shopping. Grandma said she would remind Cheri. At 11:45 Connielou
picked-up Cheri at home at 1234 N. Coast Hwy 101, in Leucadia, and
off they went to Escondido shopping. Prior to leaving the house,
Cheri presented the birthday gift to Fred.
before 5 p.m. I arrived home from work. As I turned on the 5 p.m.
news previews, I see an old friend at a murder scene. It was Richard
Castenada, now a Detective for the Carlsbad PD. I brought it to
Fred's attention that Richard was on the news.
wife and Cheri arrived home at the same time the news report aired.
Connielou walked in first, approaching the TV and exclaiming, “That’s
the house where Cheri and I were yesterday!”
8 and 9 a.m., Susan Taylor had been bludgeoned to death. She had been
a guest at the Torrejon residence at that time. The house had been
under surveillance for some time by a narcotic’s team. It was
well known to the neighbors to be a drug house and hangout for
Cheri saw the news report about an hour later on a rerun, she made a
hasty departure to see if any of her friends had any details on what
had happened at Lisa's house.
Saturday, 1-27-90, two days after the murder, Cheri was driven to LA
with 4 other women to be a model for a skin care seminar. She wore
jeans and a tank top. There were no bruises or scratches on her body
according to Delores Entzminger and Joan Hall who were with her and
3-7-90, Cheri was interviewed at the scene of a drug bust by officers
Sutt and Presley. I didn't see Cheri for some time after that. She
had been staying with friends. The next jolt I recall is when she
came walking in one evening in June of 91 with her new husband, Jeff
Hilner. We were all shocked; Jeff was a drug dealer and town bully.
She exclaimed to her mother that she couldn't get rid of him so she
married him hoping he would change.
had cut the tires and broken the windows of many of Cheri’s
friends’ cars, anytime she was hiding from him. Jeff had mental
problems. After he had nearly killed Cheri, we sent her to Texas to
stay with her sister.
Jeff called her in Texas begging her to come back. He became violent when she refused and swore he would hurt her “real bad.” The conversation was taped by Cheri’s brother in law; David Davis, a Bear County Texas Deputy Sheriff. Jeff’s next move was to call my wife and inform her that he was on his way to burn our house down. I was very concerned, for I had knowledge that he had previously set two house fires. Sure enough, here he came spinning his wheels and yelling “I’m gonna burn your house down!” By now I had all I could take from this man, so I met him in the front yard and he decided to leave. Thank the lord we saw no more of Jeff until Cheri’s trial.
relevant actions occurred on Jan. 7, 1992. First, Jeff gave a
voluntary interview to Detective Robert Wick of the Carlsbad PD in
which he implicated Cheri in the Susan Taylor murder. Second,
Detective Wick searched a residence in Leucadia where Jeff told him
Cheri had stashed a bag of bloody clothes. Neither of these things
could be proven simply because they were not true. The third and
probably most regrettable action taken by Detective Wick; he reported
to Detective Presley in a police supplement that evidence item #15
which was a rope of blond hair found in Susan Taylor’s left
hand, was missing from the evidence room. Remember this date.
On 6-11-92, Wick, DDA Thomas Manning and officer Presley flew to San Antonio, Texas to interview Cheri. They interrogated her for 5 hours. Fingerprints, teeth impressions, and hair samples were collected.
6-26-92, Cheri’s hair was compared to the hair from the
clutched fist of the victim by Rosemarie Neth of the San Diego County
Sheriff’s Crime Lab. Detective Wick would later misrepresent
Ms. Neth’s conclusion in Cheri’s arrest warrant.
9-29-92, the missing hair sample was found in Det. Wick’s
undercover car by his boss Sgt. Spencer. This is the same hair sample
that furnished probable cause to arrest Cheri. Remember; the hair was
reported lost almost 8 months prior. Then it was sworn to have been
compared to Cheri’s three mo. before it was found. You think
that's odd? Check this out;
12-16-92, the same comparison test was done again by the same Lab.
Now item #14 & #15 both contain a scissor cut lock of blond hair.
#14 was bits of hair found by the dead girl’s arm, but the best
part is Cheri’s hair sample is now about 4" shorter than
it had been in the previous test. It had lost the approximately the
same length as the scissor cut locks of blond hair now appearing in
the present test of #14 and #15. According to the arrest warrant
written by Detective Wick, the results of the 6-26-92 test and the
12-16-92 test showed that Cheri’s hair and the hair in the dead
girl's hand were “Similar in all respects”. This
conclusion was an outright lie.
game that the prosecution was playing is starting to become painfully
obvious. Later on, a grand jury and a trial jury was not made aware
of the false forensic conclusions contained in Cheri’s arrest
8-2-93, the DQA portion of the DNA of Cheri’s hair and the
victim's comparison test was reported to the Carlsbad PD by Cellmark
Diagnostics, Maryland. Paula Yates swore to the Grand Jury that Cheri
“Cannot be excluded as the source of the DNA found in the hair
in the victim’s left hand.”
On 8-23-93, Cheri was arrested in Texas by Detective Wick and DDA Manning.
9-12-93, Cheri is released by Judge Gus Strauss to fly to San Diego
at her own expense to face Manning & Wick in court.
9-15-93, Cheri was incarcerated in San Diego.
On 2-22-94, After countless delays, Cheri appears before Judge Charles Rogers. Her appointed attorney Steven Wadler filed a complaint charging Manning and Wick with Perjury, Falsified Evidence, and Outrageous Governmental Misconduct. After discovering the false forensic information in the arrest warrant, Judge Rogers released Cheri on her own recognizance.
4-18-94, Paula Yates the senior molecular biologist at Cellmark
Diagnostics swore to the grand jury that Cheri's hair could not be
excluded as the source of the DNA obtained from the hair from the
victim's hand. After Cheri’s arrest and indictment however, the
same expert retracted that conclusion saying “Dale is excluded
as the possible source of the DNA” But it was too late, the
baseless arrest and indictment already occurred.
8-12-94, Steven Wadler was removed from Cheri's case.
12-12-94, Cheri's new appointed lawyer Michael Berg dropped
the motion to dismiss Cheri case that Wadler had raised along with
the Perjury and other charges. He did this without his client's
foreknowledge or consultation. As neither I nor any of my family had
any confidence in Mr. Berg's ability, we began contacting other
sources for help. Mr. Berg became aware of this and informed us that
it was too close to trial and that Judge Gill would not permit a
change of attorneys at this time.
On 3-23-95, trial starts. The trial was a disaster.
Cheri’s alibi was never presented nor were any character
witnesses called. Among Mr. Berg’s choice comments in his
closing argument was a quote from Adolph Hitler, a reference to
Richard Nixon as a crook, and the brilliant remark “If Cheri
didn’t kill Susan, who did?”
On 4-25-95, a guilty verdict was reached. David Berman
was then appointed to represent Cheri in a motion for a new trial. He
did a great job but unlike DDA Manning, he played by the rules and
1-11-96, the motion for a new trial started. Now DDA. Manning is
defending Cheri’s ex-attorney Michael Berg, and bragging on
what a wonderful job he did defending her at trial.
On 1-1-19-96, Judge David Gill of San Diego Superior
Court decided that neither Cheri nor any of her family possessed any
credibility but Berg and Manning's honesty was beyond reproach. New
On 5-8-96, Russell Babcock was retained as Cheri’s
On 9-9-97, the first oral argument was denied.
On 4-25-98, through the efforts of Ken Culver of the San
Diego Sheriff’s Internal Affairs Division, we obtained the
missing forensic tests and the missing pages of others. The tests
• 3-3-90, Charles Merritt, Criminologist, SD Crime
Lab (revealing his false test conclusion that led to all of the other
• 6-26-92, Rose Neth, SD Crime Lab (pg. 3 where she
states "No conclusion could be reached" contrary to what
Detective Wick swore in the arrest warrant.)
• 12-16-92, Rose Neth SD Crime Lab (pg. 2 where we
learn there were scissor cut locks of blond hair in evidence that
should not have been scissor cut locks.
• 5-20-94, Paula
Yates, Cellmark Lab Test conclusion that was contrary to her
conclusions in the arrest warrant and at the grand jury. (Note: Yates
was flown to trial and Mr. Berg failed to expose her role in Cheri’s
arrest and indictment using her first misleading conclusion.)
we had proof of erroneous and/or tampered with forensic test
conclusions and that Cheri's Texas interview was also tampered with.
We learned last year that her interview is not the first to be
tampered with in this way, and it was discovered that DDA Peter
Longanbach had instructed his secretary to “shuffle the
defendant's interview to confuse the defense.”
was in custody of Cheri’s transcribed interview, shuffled 34
pages within the text then numbered them as though they were in
order, then supplied the transcript to the defense and the court in
it’s corrupted state. In at least one place, it turned Cheri's
answer from “no” to “yeah” and placed her at
the scene of the crime as though she were listening to the victim.
But it did a good job confusing the defense because not even our
investigator ever figured out why he kept “getting lost”
when trying to compare the text to the videotape. Also, pages
containing exonerating statements were excised from the transcript.
Judge Gill however, chose not to compare the videotape to the
transcript for some reason.
The prosecution also misquoted Cheri when they claimed she said:
“I went to Lisa's house on the day of the murder, 1-25-90.”
“That picture of the hair in the victim's hand sure looks like my hair.”
“I saw blood on the ceiling.”
“I could hear Susan on the phone as I approached the front door.”
“I don't know anyone with blond hair.”
“I went down the hallway and saw the blood.”
“I left a bag of bloody clothes at Charles Vary's house.”
“I lied about the voice sounding like Richard Amparano.”
“I lied because Jeff entered the room (in my first interview).”
“She had already been hit and bit before I got there” (The “BIT” in this statement is a product of creative enhancement by the prosecution. The audio on this tape was so bad only a portion was audible. Detectives Sutt and Presley were the original interviewers and neither heard Cheri say “bit.”
These are but a few of the damning statements officer Wick and DDA Manning claimed to a jury that Cheri made. None are true. None were challenged by attorney Berg.
In reading Taylor's autopsy report, I find evidence that
Susan had been sexually assaulted at the time of the murder. As per
Mary Pierson, DNA expert, the presence of Acid Phosphatase in the
victim's mouth, anus and vagina were found, in direct contrast to
what Coroner Dr. Eisele's swore at the grand jury and at trial.
All of Cheri’s appeals have been turned down so
far, because all the appeal court does is review court procedure. The
records however are wrong, because DDA Manning and arresting officer
Robert Wick lied at trial and Mr. Berg refused to expose them.
our San Diego justice system, even after seeing proof of
prosecutorial wrong-doing by our Prosecuting Attorney, this
wrong-doing is totally disregarded. Justice isn't nearly as important
as closing a case, especially one that has the smell of official
Instead of hearing Cheri’s side of the story at trial that she was sober, with family members, at traffic court, giving Fred a birthday gift, shopping etc; the prosecutor presented a wild story that was not even challenged by the “defense” lawyer. Even at the Motion for a New Trial when physical proof was provided to Judge Gill; the traffic court receipt, the purchases from shopping with cancelled check, Connielou's timecard showing the day she took off work to drive Cheri to traffic court; red telephone that Cheri gave to Fred on the day of the murder. And the testimony of the investigator who said there was “no doubt” that the red telephone was at 2441 Torrejon on 1-24-90 - still judge Gill bought the prosecutor's story that was based on Cheri Dale saying “I went to Lisa Stanton's house on 1-25-90 and overheard an argument.” - a complete lie by the prosecutor. Cheri was never asked when the date or the day was that she had gone there, and at the MNT she had sworn that it was a completely different day that she had overheard an argument there.
see no relief for Cheri in any type of appeal under these conditions.
There must be something we can do. You see, I know Cheri is innocent.
I’m an old man and have been through a lot but I have never
felt so helpless and let down by my government.
Cheri's address is:
Cheri Dale W60748
Chowchilla, CA 93610-1508
My address is:
1234 N. Coast Hwy 101
Leucadia CA 92024