Lawyer seeks way to clear Indiana County man’s murder conviction
Long : Indiana County 15-year-old was found raped, shot in head
An attorney for the New York-based Innocence Project says he’s at a “crossroads” in his attempt to clear an Indiana County man of the 1976 shooting death and rape of a 15-year-old girl.
Plum native Craig Cooley represents Lewis Jim Fogle, 59, the only one of four men charged with Deann Katherine Long’s killing to be convicted.
Indiana County prosecutors consented to Cooley’s request for DNA testing of genetic material maintained in evidence. But analysts at NMS Labs in Montgomery County were unable last fall to extract any male DNA from the samples.
Cooley said he met Friday with officials at the Pennsylvania Innocence Project at Temple University’s law school to determine whether they can help him go in another direction in the case. Project officials, who will review the case file, could not be reached for comment.
Cooley said he hates to give up on cases with “classic red flags,” such as the prosecutors’ reliance on jailhouse informants’ testimony in 1982 to convict Fogle of killing the girl in a wooded area about one-tenth of a mile from her Green Township home in northern Indiana County.
“When that’s the basis of the state’s case, that’s concerning,” Cooley said. “It’s frustrating because I know it’s a case that has significant concerns that the DNA could have answered.”
The victim, known as “Kathy,” was at her parents’ home along Route 580 on July 30, 1976, when a man knocked on the door and falsely claimed that her older brother Leonard had been in a car crash, Kathy’s sister, Lola Long, told the Tribune-Review in an interview.
Kathy got in the man’s car and left with him.
Her body was found the next day.
She was shot once in the back of the head, and her underwear and shorts were pulled down.
The murder went unsolved until March 1981, when state police arrested Fogle, his brother Dennis Fogle, Joseph Victor Receskey and John Robert Lynch.
Lewis Fogle was tried separately and convicted in February 1982 of second-degree murder after three inmates testified he incriminated himself to them. They claimed the brothers raped Kathy and Lewis Fogle shot her.
Lewis Fogle claimed he had blood on the back floorboard of his car because he put a dead rabbit that he struck with his vehicle there.
Two weeks after Fogle’s conviction, prosecutors said they would have to drop murder charges against Receskey and Lynch because of a lack of evidence. Police got conflicting statements from a Conemaugh Valley Memorial Hospital mental patient, who implicated the quartet while under hypnosis in 1981. The evidence was never used.
Dennis Fogle’s case was dismissed in March 1982 because the state violated speedy trial rules.
In the years after Kathy’s death, her parents kept getting crank phone calls from people who said they enjoyed raping and killing her, Lola Long said. Even after the arrests.
Kathy’s survivors also received several anonymous letters saying Fogle didn’t kill her, but whoever the author was claimed to fear for his or her life.
“That’s a strange thing, that (Fogle) said he was innocent the whole time out,” Lola Long said. “Everyone has a right to prove their innocence.”
Cooley has been collaborating with Indiana County Assistant District Attorney Michael Handler, who once was a public defender representing Fogle’s brother.
Handler and District Attorney Thomas Bianco supported the Innocence Project’s interest in paying for DNA testing.
“I said to (Cooley) when this project started about a year ago: ‘Look, we have no desire to convict an innocent man. If you have proof he’s innocent, we’re going to listen to him,’ ” Handler said. “It’s up to Cooley to prove if he’s innocent. We’re not going to stand in his way if he succeeds.”
Handler disclosed his past representation of Dennis Fogle and said Lewis Fogle didn’t have a problem with it.
“I’m only trying to do my job in the DA’s office and trying to make sure justice is done, whatever it is,” Handler said.
Dennis Fogle, 57, was charged last year with sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in Mifflin County. He pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and was sentenced in October to five to 10 years in prison.
Receskey died in March 2010 at 59. Attempts to locate Lynch were unsuccessful.
A pen pal of Lewis Fogle’s said she’s reviewed his case files and believes he’s innocent.
Barb Fritsch of Armstrong Township began writing to Fogle in the late 1990s after getting to know his son. The correspondence helped to foster Fogle’s dabbling in art while behind bars.
Fritsch and another artist, Peggy Blosser, sent Fogle sketches and photos of bridges and other landscapes to his prison cell. He turned those into paintings, some of which were entered on his behalf in Indiana County art shows.
Fritsch, who calls Fogle a friend, arranged the donation of 13 of his best paintings for display at the Indiana County Technology Center.
“In my estimation, he didn’t do what they said he did, and it’s been covered up for a long time,” she said.