Brett Hartmann
Case Details

Brett Hartmann was arrested on September 10, 1997, for the murder of Winda D. Snipes. 
Brett was 23 years old at the time of his arrest. Through phone records Brett has shown that he was at home and on the phone with a girlfriend at the time of the murder. His trial started on April 14, 1998, and though he is actually innocent, he was found guilty on April 30, 1998 and sentenced to death on May 22, 1998. All of which is a short period of time for a death penalty case. 

Brett went to Winda's apartment on the evening of September 9, 1997, and discovered her body, which made him an instant suspect. The police never looked anywhere or at anyone else, despite witness statements that she was heard arguing with her boyfriend, Jeffrey Nichols, a month or so prior to her death, an argument in which Mr. Nichols was heard threatening to "cut the bitch up, slit her throat", which is very similar to how she was murdered.

The police only gave Mr. Nichols a cursory glance but quickly dismissed him as a suspect as he said he was at home drinking beer with buddies, which in Akron, Ohio, I guess is a better alibi then actual phone company records.

The nature of her death was a brutal one in which she was stabbed 135+ times, was severely beaten, strangled, her throat was cut and her hands were removed. Despite such a brutal attack in which she was sure to have fought for her life, pictures taken the day after the murder of EVERY inch of Brett's body showed not a single scratch, nick, mark, bruised knuckles or anything else that would be consistent with such an attack. The only mark on his body was, as the police described themselves, a "well healed" scuff on his left elbow that he had received several days prior while moving crates at work.

Defense Attorneys
Brett's trial counsel, Lawyer Lawrence Whitney, conducted almost no investigation, he relied mostly on the prosecution's investigators to do all of the foot work and accepted their information as fact. He never asked Brett his side of the events, rather he said he preferred to let the evidence tell him what happened.

Mr. Whitney's co-counsel was, Lawyer Robert Coombs, whom in September of 2001 came under investigation for fraud and theft from his clients. He plead guilty and was sentenced on April 23, 2002, to four (4) years in prison for stealing upwards of $517,000.00 from his clients dating as far back as 1993. In one case he was clearly actively defrauding and stealing from clients while representing Brett.

Mr. Coombs even bought the building that housed his law firm with money he stole from a probate case. A year after Brett's conviction, his trial judge, Judge Michael T. Callahan, was implicated in a murder investigation. An investigation which resulted from a prostitute/confidential informant who told her handler back in 1998 of an incident that had happened previously, of a guy who took her to a court house, gave her coke and had her perform oral sex on him.

The handler had her point out the chambers she went into in the court house and then pick out the car that he had picked her up in, unbeknownst to her, the chambers and car belonged to Judge Michael T. Callahan. Six (6) days later she was found murdered.

As for his possible involvement, the information was passed on to the county prosecutor liaison with the drug enforcement agency, prosecutor Judy Bandy, it has always remained a "mystery" why the information was never relayed to the homicide investigators working the murder. It was not until late 1999 that it surfaced in another investigation, but was then too late to be acted upon.

The Prosecutor
The lead prosecutor in Brett's case, Judy Bandy was notorious for burying evidence and over indicting. In the high profile "Akron Escort Case", in which she pursued RICO Act violations against simple escorts/prostitutes, she was removed as prosecutor after the case was shut down and a special outside prosecutor was brought in amid complaints from Judge Jane Bond and defense attorneys that Bandy routinely withheld evidence1.

Judge Jane Bond openly criticized Bandy for violating disclosure laws in several already completed escort cases. Another judge, Judge Lynn Slaby said about Bandy, "she knew all the cops and she knew which ones were good on the stand - or they got good."

Bandy's actions in the escort case come as no surprise to Brett, as she had just as big of a "win at all costs" attitude in his case, as she blatantly sought perjured testimony from a rebuttal witness she called, Police Legal Advisor/Detective Chuck Quinn, testimony she KNEW to be false. The elicited testimony from Mr. Quinn was designed for one purpose only, to discredit Brett and his mother, Carol Parcell.

Quinn's testimony is in direct contradiction to every other detective's testimony that the state had 
testify, and is clearly perjury. Quinn's perjured testimony is believed to have played a MAJOR role in Brett's conviction. Mr. Whitney did little to point out the perjured statements to the jury, even though 
he KNEW them to be false also. Mrs. Bandy also, more than should be allowed in any court, misstated or lied about her own witnesses testimony in her closing arguments.

Mrs. Bandy even went as far away as Portland, Oregon to hire blood splatter expert Mr. Rod Englert. Whom, if Mr. Whitney had properly checked out, it would have been known that he routinely made up evidence, lied, padded his credentials, and in one case is believed to have actually planted blood evidence. And who is facing charges of "professional Misconduct" by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, dealing with his "blood splatter" testimony in certain cases.

Lt. John Lawson, who testified against Brett, also committed several instances of perjury which one can see once they compare his testimony at the suppression hearing and his testimony at trial. He was also charged with and admitted to stealing computer software worth $2,489.00 from a company which he was providing security to back in 1999. He was to be arraigned January 28, 2000.

No Evidence
No new evidence has ever been collected in this case since that which was collected at the crime scene the day after the murder, yet, after his arrest but prior to his indictment, on September 13, 1997, deputy Police Chief Michael Matulavich admitted during a press conference that they did not have enough evidence to charge Brett until they got a "big break" in the case, which was a report by the Sheriff's Office of hands found in a county trash sorting center.

So they quickly charged Brett and THEN went in search of the "big break", which only turned out to be a pair of bear paws. So they were left with their original statement that they did not have enough evidence to charge Brett, but it was already too late, so they went to trial anyway to "roll the dice".

Brett was at Winda' s apartment the night prior to her death. While there she received a phone call, though she did not answer it, she told him that he had to leave as her boyfriend was coming over, so he left, and after he left she received another call five (5) minutes after the first, she did not answer this call either. Detective Joseph Urbank testified that the calls carne from a pay phone in Kenmore (several towns away).

On April 18, 2002 an investigator hired by Carol was able to determine that the phone with the number that called Winda the night Brett was there DID NOT come from a pay phone in Kenmore as Det. Urbank had testified, but rather came from a pay phone in Akron which is less then 100 yards from Winda' s apartment, with almost a direct line of sight to her apartment.

The coroner arrived on the scene around 12:30 am, and he gave an approximate time of death of  “late afternoon to early evening,” yet, when Det. Urbank testified about checking at 5:00 am on the cab arrivals and departures from her apartment, he testified that he only checked the cab arrivals and departures from 10:00 pm to 12:00 or 1:00 am, well after the estimated time of death, not to mention that the police arrived on the scene at 11:00 pm.

When the police first arrived on the scene, they entered the apartment, saw the body, left and "secured" the apartment. The first detective on the scene, Det. Urbank entered the apartment, saw the body, left and went to get a Polaroid camera, returned and took photos of the body, left again, upon which the apartment was again "secured" until the other detectives and crime scene investigators (CSI) arrived.

CSI member, Gregory Harrison within minutes of his arrival started documenting (taking photos) of the scene. ALL involved claim NO ONE touched the body or moved anything until AFTER Mr. Harrison documented the scene. Yet, in Det. Urbank's photos there was a pair of spandex pants under her right thigh, but in Det. Harrison's photos the spandex pants had been moved out from under the body to "just north" of it. 

Poor Detective Work
Winda was strangled with a cord that was cut from a clock in her apartment, it is the one thing everyone knew the killer had to have touched, yet though the clock WAS dusted for prints, and multiple prints were visible, the police never bothered to even attempt to lift them and compare them to Brett or anyone else until seven (7) months later during Brett's fourth (4th) day of trial when the State brought in Cynthia Mayle, from the Bureau of Criminal Investigations, that morning before trial resumed to examine the clock, with nothing more than a magnifying glass. She testified that by then the prints were too overlaid, which is a direct result from all of the handling it received over those past seven months.

Another print was found on the bed frame (under the bed) to which she was tied to, in it's location it is obvious the print was most likely left by the killer when he tied her to the bed. Yet, no one ever bothered to lift it or match it to anyone.

Several hairs, inconsistent with Brett's hair length and color, were found on her body. Yet despite repeated requests by his appellate counsel, NO DNA or other tests have ever been performed on the hairs.

After Brett's conviction and sentencing, his trial counsel, Mr. Coombs, asked a juror what they 
convicted Brett on, all the juror said was "it took us several days, but we found a reason to convict him".

Since his arrest, Brett has continuously maintained his innocence. His family has always believed in his innocence and continue to fight for his exoneration and freedom.

At the time of this writing, Brett's appellate counsel are petitioning a Federal District Court for further discovery and forensic testing to help prove his claims of actual innocence in his Writ of Habeas corpus. All instances written about in this case synopsis are fully backed up by trial transcript records, affidavits and news reports. Instances written about in this case synopsis represent only a portion of those that occurred in this case. And all instances described herein are but a brief explanation of what occurred.

Micheal J. Benza
4403 St. Clair Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44103 

David C. Stebbins
400 S. Fifth St. Suite 202
Columbus, OH 43215

1. An additional reason Judge Jane Bond shut down the escort case was due to a believed conflict of interest as Michael Callahan's (was trial judge, then became County Prosecutor) name came up as a possible client of the escort services under investigation. 


We have recently come into possession of some new evidence which further shows the lengths the state went to secure a conviction against Brett. 

In the synopsis we spoke of the clock, a clock that the state claimed that though they dusted it for prints and which showed it to be covered in fingerprints, that the prints were never lifted, that they instead decided that determining if the clock worked or not was more important then lifting the prints.

Det. Gregory Harrison testified numerous times that NO prints were ever lifted off of the clock. But we have just recently come into possession of a police report which states “prints lifted from one Wesclox clock (partial set, sent to BCI),” and we also found an evidence report which, after it describes the Wesclox clock with the cord cut off that was collected, in the right hand margin are the words written “prints compared.”

This indicates that prints WERE lifted, sent to BCI and compared against Brett's prints. Obviously they did not match Brettts prints because if they had, with the clock being the one thing everyone knows the killer touched, the state would have screamed it from the roof tops!! And obviously the comparison did not match the victim's prints or come back inconclusive because if it had, it would not have harmed my case, not to the extent that hiding these reports would.

In a similar instance, the police collected a sponge mop from Winda's apartment, Det. Gregory Harrison testified at first that no prints were lifted, but then admits that the scotch tape that was on the handle when it was presented in court indicated that someone had attempted to lift prints, but that none were lifted. He testifies several other times that NO prints were ever lifted from the mop handle. But we are now in possession of a police report which states "mop handle was processed at the station for fingerprints with several lifts being taken".

Again, this indicates that though Det. Karrison testified that NO prints were lifted, that in fact several lifts were taken! Also, the same theory applies here as with the clock, had there been any other result than the prints NOT matching Brett's, then the state would have had no cause to withhold it from his defense.

Brett Had sexual relations with Winda at 3am on September 9th, she is believed to have been murdered at approximately 4:38pm on the 9th, 13 hours after Brett was with her. The coroner testified that he extracted the “specimens at 11 or 11:30am on the 10th,” and that at the time of extraction the semen was 18-20 hours old and that it "medically and forensically indicates to me *** penetration ensued at a time interval equivalent to the time that the -- or close the time the decedent met her death."

No DNA tests were performed for the trial, but it was done as part of Brett's appeals since the coroner said the time of deposit was at or around Winda's time of death, while Brett was at home on the phone at the time of her murder. It was surprising when the DNA test came back as belonging to Brett. Since then, Brett has attempted to get his attorneys to hire a pathologist to determine where the coroner made his mistakes that led him to believe the semen was deposited at the time of the murder instead of at around 3am when Brett was with Winda.

However, a pathologist is no longer need as we are now in possession of a police report by a detective of a conversation he had with the coroner several days after the murder. In this report the coroner states that when he extracted the semen it was up to 36 HOURS OLD! Which puts the true time of deposit back to around the time when Brett said he was with Winda.

In the same police report in which the coroner talks about the semen, he also asks the detective if the clock that had the cord cut showed 4:38 am or pm, and when he is told that it does not show either am or pm, the coroner says that her time of death could have been either the 4:38 am OR pm!

In both instances, his testimony during the trial left no room for doubt about his findings, when in fact doubt is abundant! He committed perjury about the time of deposit in an attempt to place Brett at the crime scene at or around the time of the murder, when in fact the true time of deposit backs Bretts testimony. And his “absolute” findings testimony on the time of death robbed Brett's defense of the opportunity to pursue other possible leads. 

Most important right now are the recent DNA tests which basically placed Brett at the scene around the time of the murder. If any juror had been inclined to believe the state, that the semen was Brett's, then based on the coroner’s perjury they would have had no choice but to convict, as the coroner placed him at the scene. But the truth is that the time of deposit was when Brett said he was with her, 13 hours before he death. 

The withholding of all of these reports are serious Brady violations, each of which could have possibly changed the trial verdict, and we are currently attempting to get them before Brett’s Federal Judge.

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