Witness says police tortured Thacker, confessions in 2010 killing not backed up

POTEAU, Okla. -- Confessions Elvis Aaron Thacker made in the 2010 murder of Briana Ault were unreliable because there was no physical evidence to verify them, a private criminologist retained by the defense team testified Wednesday.

Brent Turvey accused the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation of "professional abandonment" of the physical evidence gathered by investigators in Ault's murder.

Thacker is charged with first-degree murder and forcible sodomy in the Sept. 13, 2010, death of Ault, 22. Oklahoma is seeking the death penalty for Thacker.

Turvey said once Thacker confessed to cutting Ault's throat and leaving her nude body at a secluded pond just across the state line in Pocola, Okla., agency investigators became disinterested in the physical evidence and made no effort to corroborate Thacker's confessions with the evidence.

Turvey told jurors he was the first person to go through Ault's pockets when he did his assessment of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation's investigation.

"That's shocking," he said.

Turvey said in his assessment of the investigation, there was no evidence two perpetrators were involved in the murder as the state alleges. There was no multiple DNA found at the murder scene, no multiple use of weapons, no evidence Ault was restrained, and the sexual nature of the crime wasn't the type that would have multiple perpetrators, he said.

Turvey also accused the Fort Smith Police Department of torturing Thacker by letting him suffer with two gunshot wounds for more than 30 minutes without offering any aid while trying to get him to give a dying confession.

Turvey said he was obligated to report Thacker's treatment by police to the U.S. Department of Justice and to the United Nations under the Istanbul Protoco of 1999, which bars torture and inhuman or degrading punishment. He said he planned to file that report after his testimony.

Any confession Elvis Thacker made is invalid because of the torture, Turvey said.

According to testimony in the trial, Fort Smith detectives raided the apartment where Thacker and his brother Johnathen were staying Sept. 15, 2010, to serve an arrest warrant in a separate rape case. The brothers were also persons of interest in Ault's death at the time.

When detectives burst into the apartment, Elvis Thacker attacked and stabbed a detective, after which other detectives shocked him with stun guns and shot him twice, according to testimony.

The detective who was stabbed in the neck recovered. In 2011, the brothers were sentenced to prison in Arkansas after pleading guilty to attempted capital murder and a kidnapping charge in connection with the rape warrant.

Before the defense rested its case Wednesday, Elvis Thacker told Judge Jonathan Sullivan he didn't want to testify.

"I'm not confident I'm able to testify properly," he told Sullivan after the judge explained his right to testify or not.

Johnathen Thacker, also charged in Ault's death, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in April 2014 as part of a deal to avoid the death penalty in exchange for testifying against his brother.

Johnathen Thacker said Elvis Thacker killed Ault after telling him he wanted to rob her of $1,600 he mistakenly believed she had won at a casino. Johnathen Thacker said he was with Ault and Elvis Thacker but didn't know that his brother was going to kill Ault.

First Assistant District Attorney Margaret Nicholson told Sullivan that she intended to call rebuttal witnesses when the trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. today.

NW News on 04/28/2016