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Stolen Evidence Could Derail Murder Trial in Greene County

September 26, 2013

No one saw Taybronne White shoot three people in the early hours of May 3, 2011. Without any eyewitnesses, the murder case against White is largely based on crime scene evidence. Defense attorneys tried to poke holes in that evidence by calling into question the actions of a former evidence technician in Greene County responsible for handling much of the evidence collected in the investigation.

James Shifflett, a former reserve deputy with the Greene County Sheriff's Department, testified Thursday he stole evidence from 33 criminal cases, including Taybronne White's. Shifflett stole nearly $20,000 in cash out of an evidence locker between 2008 and 20011. He told jurors he opened two sealed evidence envelopes relating to the Taybronne White murder investigation, pocketing about $850 in cash. Shifflett told the court he had only taken money and hadn't touched any of the other evidence, but defense attorneys said the stolen evidence called into question the integrity of all the evidence collected during the investigation. In September of last year, Shifflett was convicted of one felony charge of embezzlement.

Nearly two dozen witnesses have testified so far in the trial. White faces first-degree murder charges in the deaths of 26-year-old Brian Lee Daniels, 25-year-old Dustin Tyler Knighton and 26-year-old Lisa Hwang. Prosecutors say the three victims were shot by White after a botched robbery and home invasion on Ford Avenue. Their bodies were found on the side of Octonia Road

Graphic images of the crime scene where the bodies were discovered were presented to the jury. Family members in the courtroom wiped away tears as investigators described the first hours of the investigation after finding the tree victims.

The wife of Daniels, 28-year-old Kathy Daniels, took the witness stand, testifying she was pregnant with their second son at the time of the murder. "He was a really good dad," she said, wiping away tears.

The fiance of Knighton, Detra Eubanks, also testified. She told the court she had known him almost her entire life, since her aunt and uncle took in Knighton and his brother as their own as young children. Eubanks broke down in sobs as she told the court they had plans to get married in September.

Trial is scheduled to resume Friday morning in Greene County.

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