Freshwater: The police report

I’ve received a copy of the police report on the incident described in Dumpster diving for docs. It is a “found property” report, not a criminal complaint. The report contains a 3 page typed account of the incident by Don Matolyak, Freshwater’s pastor.

The main message of the circulating story I described in my earlier post–the mysterious appearance of new evidence from the district via a cloak and dagger route–is confirmed by Matolyak’s statement, but a number of details differ. I’ll list them below the fold, based on Matolyak’s statement in the police report.

  1. The events occurred the evening of Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb 2 and 3, not Feb 4 and 5.

  2. Freshwater was out of town when he got a voicemail telling him about the materials, and so was not involved in retrieving them. Nor was Hamilton involved in the actual retrieval of the materials; he came into the incident later, on February 3.

According to Matolyak’s account he received a call from Freshwater the evening of Tuesday, February 2. Freshwater was out of town, and told Matolyak that he had received an anonymous message on his voicemail, the caller apparently trying to disguise his identity. According to Matolyak’s account, the caller claimed that

“… there was more information-materials for John. They would be found in a plastic bag by a garbage can at the corner of Mt. Vernon Avenue and Division Street. We assumed this was the person who sent the previous letter in the mail to John & School Superintendent, Steve Short.

The corner of South Division Street and Mt. Vernon Avenue is near the high school and middle school, less than half a mile away from them. It’s open terrain, with a city park with softball fields in the northeast quadrant, the high school baseball and soccer fields in the southeast quadrant, a farm field (now snow covered, but with corn or soybeans in season) in the southwest quadrant, and a batting cage and miniature golf course in the northwest quadrant.

The “previous letter” phrase refers to an anonymous letter sent to Freshwater and Superintendent Short shortly before the last session of the hearing was due to resume in January but which was postponed after 2.5 hours of attorney conferences. It turns out that anonymous letter was the stimulus for the postponement of the hearing that day.

  1. In picking up the materials Matolyak was accompanied by a man named Charles Fisher. According to Matolyak’s account, Fisher accompanied him at Freshwater’s suggestion:

John asked me to get Charles Fisher and go check this out since he [Freshwater] was in Dover [Ohio]. Charles is very trustworthy and has his Conceal Carry (sic) permit so he would be armed in case of trouble.

Now think about that last sentence for a moment. That’s an indication of the paranoia that is characteristic of the conspiracy theorists in this affair. And contrast it with another passage from the next paragraph of Matolyak’s statement:

As I drove to the home of Charles Fisher I questioned whether we should contact the police. I wondered if we would be facing some kind of danger as the person who did this would be expecting John Freshwater to be the one to follow up on the voice mail message. But I decided it wouldn’t be necessary to contact the police because we were just on a factfinding mission.

He takes an armed escort, but decides not to contact the cops.

  1. The materials were not in a dumpster at the high school, but were by a trash can in an area near it, in an “old black computer bag” inside a plastic bag. On top of the bag was a letter addressed to Freshwater. The police report does not contain the contents of that letter. The bag contained a 3”-4” stack of papers and a “large number of photographs of items from John’s room.” It also contained three stopwatches, a whistle, and $45 in cash.

  2. Fisher and Matolyak took the bag and contents to Matolyak’s church, where they rummaged through the materials, describing them to Freshwater on the telephone and photographing them. “One letter was placed in a sealed envelope and left for Pastor Paula Powell to scan and E-fax to Kelly Hamilton when she got to the office Wednesday morning.” Matolyak then locked the material in his office.

  3. One Wednesday evening, Matolyak, Hamilton, and Freshwater went through the materials. Freshwater identified all but about 300 photographs as having come from his room. Fisher came by and showed them the photographs he had taken at the original scene and later.

  4. Hamilton then informed the others that they might need to make a police report. Hamilton and said he’d instruct them later on what to do.

The complaint/report was made by Matolyak at 1536 on Thursday, February 4, and notes that the PD took custody of the property and place it in evidence for safekeeping. I presume that means in the PD evidence room. Steve Short, Superintendent of Schools, was notified of the report number.

This is now officially past bizarre. It has mysterious phone calls, midnight missions with an armed escort, and hundreds of photographs and a stack of documents in a black bag in a parking lot. (Incidentally, someone should tell Mr. Fisher that a Concealed Carry permit in Ohio is not a license to act as an armed private security guard, and he should get competent legal advice before depending on his permit like that again.)

In contrast to the earlier story I described, there was no dumpster diving or discarding of relevant documents. This now looks more like the documents (assuming they are genuine, which seems now to be a safe assumption) were stolen from the school, and that almost certainly by an insider.

Last academic year I had Lauri Lebo out to Kenyon to speak to my class about her experience in Dover, PA, during the Kitzmiller trial, experience she chronicled in her excellent book The Devil in Dover. Mt. Vernon is now in worse shape than Dover, I fear.

I expect that the Board of Education meeting this evening will be interesting.