http://wqad.com/2013/11/06/illinois-man-granted-3rd-trial-for-murder-of-rock-island-girl/The Iowa Court of Appeals granted a third trial for a man already convicted twice for the murder of a nine-year-old girl.
Jennifer Lewis’ burned body was found in a field near Jefferson Elementary School in Davenport, Iowa in September 1990. Jennifer had reportedly been raped and strangled before her body was set on fire.
Stanley Liggins, a family acquaintance from Rock Island, was accused of her murder.
Liggins, who is now 51, was tried and convicted of first-degree murder in 1993
That conviction was overturned, and he was tried and convicted again in a change-of-venue trial in 1995 in Dubuque.
An appeal of the second conviction was also successful, and Liggins was granted a third trial.
The Iowa Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday, November 6, 2013 that Liggins did not get a fair trial in Dubuque because defense attorneys were not told that one of the prosecution’s witnesses was a paid police informant.
Liggins is serving a life sentence at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison.
20 years ago, RI child’s murder scarred Q-C
September 18, 2010
http://qctimes.com/news/local/years-ago-ri-child-s-murder-scarred-q-c/article_1cbd93d4-c2d3-11df-93cd-001cc4c002e0.htmlShe was counting down the days until her 10th birthday. When it finally came, they buried her.
Jennifer Ann Lewis had only four more days to wait for her “double-digit birthday” when she was kidnapped from her Rock Island neighborhood, raped, strangled and set on fire near a Davenport elementary school 20 years ago Friday. She would have been 30 years old on Tuesday.
“It is truly one of the saddest cases I tried in 28-plus years,” former Scott County Attorney Bill Davis said Thursday. “It marks you. I have put several people in prison for the rest of their lives, and I can’t tell you their names.
“But I sure as hell can tell you who Stanley Liggins is and what he did.”
For the people closest to Jennifer, the passage of two decades is not enough to forget those dark days.
Mary Maxwell-Rockwell was 25 years old when her “little buddy” from a couple of blocks away was murdered. She had befriended Jennifer’s mother and stepfather, Sheri and Joe Glenn, when they moved to Rock Island from Rockford, Ill., when Jennifer was 7 years old.
“I was visiting a friend in Michigan when I got a phone call saying ‘Little Jennifer is dead, and they think Stanley killed her,’” Maxwell-Rockwell remembered this week. “I came back, and Sheri started begging me. She said, ‘They told me she’s dead, but I know she’s coming home. Please help. She’ll come home for you. She loves you.’”
Tears rolled down her face at the memory.
Jennifer’s parents were not permitted in the courtroom when Liggins was tried, twice. His first guilty verdict in Scott County was overturned on an evidentiary matter, and he was convicted a second time in a change-of-venue trial in Dubuque.
Since the Glenns were witnesses in the case, Maxwell-Rockwell said she sat through both trials on their behalf.
“I’ll never forget Bill Davis or (police investigators) Don Schaeffer and Kevin Murphy,” she said. “They put their heart and soul on the line to convict that man.
“I remember, on the day of the first verdict, the police were afraid something bad was going to happen in the courtroom, and Schaeffer said to me, ‘If I yell “Get down!” you get down. And don’t get up until I tell you to get up.’”
“We had a lot of very upset people,” he said. “We had to expect the unexpected.”
The unexpected began with the discovery of a child’s smoldering body in a grassy field near Jefferson Elementary.
“I was working on another case that night, and I heard the call go out,” Schaeffer recalled Thursday. “We became aware of a missing-child report
and we started to make a connection.
“There were only two of us who looked at the body at the scene, because we didn’t want to get near it. We were very protective of the scene, and we held it all night — until we had daylight.”
“We worked around the clock on that one,” he said. “We went to New York with the four tires off his vehicle to match a tread. (The vehicle remains in police storage.) We got a match of Jennifer’s fingerprints off a textbook we got out of her locker at school.
“The body was burned beyond recognition, and you don’t generally have fingerprints of a 9-year-old.”
Jennifer’s age made the murder especially hard to take.
“That one affected a lot of people,” Schaeffer said. “A sexual predator and a 9-year-old — as innocent as can be.”
“I think about the people who served on those two juries,” she said. “They had to listen to medical testimony about how injured she was from the rape.
Maxwell-Rockwell cannot stop herself from going over it in her mind, and she sometimes finds clues that eluded her when Jennifer was alive.
For instance, she said, Liggins offered Jennifer his pocket change for her bank whenever he saw her. If she counted it correctly, she got to keep it. If she made a mistake, he dropped the coins back into his pocket.
“Looking back, it was all steps toward earning her trust,” Maxwell-Rockwell said. “You know how somebody cuts you off in traffic, and you think how you’d like to give that guy a piece of your mind?
The desire to exact revenge often was present in members of Jennifer’s family, she said. One relative took a straight razor to a courtroom deposition, knowing Liggins would be present.
“He (the family member) was going to slit Stanley’s throat,” she said. “I told the police about the razor, and they took it from him.
“I have sometimes regretted stopping him.”
“Thinking about the last five or 10 minutes of her life, that’s the hardest part of all,” Maxwell-Rockwell said, the tears returning. “She was a little tomboy who loved her bike and was jealous of her baby brother, and we buried her on her 10th birthday with the Cabbage Patch Doll she wanted so badly.
“I just pray that my God numbed her as much as he could in those final moments of her life and just let the angels carry her. That’s what I still pray.”