Today, November 24, 2021, marks thirty long years since the very sad time when 10 year-old Amber Garrett was reported missing from her home.
As well as being saddened to hear that a child he knew had been murdered, Jeffrey Wogenstahl was soon shocked to learn that he was the suspect.
During the thirty long years that followed, Jeff has battled to demonstrate his innocence. His incarceration has robbed him of nearly three decades of the prime of his life. This year’s anniversary of Amber’s disappearance is a stark reminder of the years that have been lost to him.
The obstacles that have faced Jeff have been enormous. Despite a federal judge highlighting prosecutorial misconduct at the time of his trial that was ‘plain and plentiful’ and ‘wholly improper’; despite a Sixth Circuit Court noting that “the State suppressed the material in the original police file and made inaccurate statements misrepresenting the hair analysis”… despite all this, Jeff continues to spend his days on Ohio’s death row.
If the police had conducted a thorough murder investigation, they would have taken additional witness statements, for instance, about Amber’s mother behaving oddly around the time of Amber’s disappearance. More witness statements could have provided them with more insights.
For example, two witnesses, whose attempts to contact police in 1991 failed, have this year provided a description[i] of the man they saw talking to Amber’s mother in the early hours of November 24, 1991:
“heavy with a black leather jacket and blue jeans… black short hair and thick black-rimmed glasses… thin moustache… tall, probably at least six feet tall”.
This description could have alerted police to the similarity with a description given by a trial witness, Brian Noel, of a man he saw not long afterwards, near to where Amber’s body was eventually found:
“six foot, 180 – 200 pounds… a mustache and some facial hair… dark-colored jacket, bluejeans”.
Neither description fitted Jeff.
In similar vein, a crime scene expert and former police officer has described the police investigation as “[very] deficient in its thoroughness and adherence to established procedures of professional competence”.
But still Jeff must remain on death row.
Our thoughts are with him on this difficult anniversary.
[i] State of Ohio vs Jeffrey Wogenstahl. B926287. Petitioner Wogenstahl’s Second Amendment to his Successive Post-Conviction Petition, filed in the Court of Common Pleas Hamilton County, Ohio. Filed July 27, 2021. (Office of the Public Defender). Print.