It could have been the perfect murder.
The blow to the head was in just the right location to appear accidental. And then the killer managed to keep the body in the water long enough without producing obvious injuries.But David Earl Mead made a mistake.
Before Pamela Camille Mead's Aug. 15, 1994, death, he had spoken with three individuals about killing his wife. And it was the testimony of those individuals coupled with "the interweaving nature of all the little hints" that convinced an eight-member jury that David Mead caused the death of his wife, said Salt Lake Deputy District Attorney Howard Lemcke.
After deliberating for three hours Wednesday, the three-woman, five-man jury found David Mead, 31, guilty of murder, a first-degree felony, and solicitation of criminal homicide, a second-degree felony, at the conclusion of his seven-day 3rd District Court trial. Judge J. Dennis Frederick could order Mead to spend life in prison at his sentencing scheduled for Dec. 4.
"Maybe now we can have closure," said Pamela Mead's mother, Sinie Stokes. She and her husband, Garfield, who live in Colorado Springs, waited four years to see the case resolved. "We'll never forget her, but we know we've done everything we could to serve justice."
"The state never wins a murder case because we take our loss up front," said Lemcke. Though he said at first he had a hard time getting the charges filed due to the circumstantial nature of the case, he attributed his success to the "total tapestry" of evidence with each element being as important as "the sum of its parts."
It's hard to imagine how a jury would convict a man of murder when nobody saw him do it and when no hard evidence could be found at the scene that linked him to the act. But a glance at the top players woven into that "tapestry" may show how some of the evidence came together in the minds of jurors to incriminate David Mead beyond a reasonable doubt:
- Former girlfriend Stormy Simon was perhaps the most important witness because of the way she tied the case together, Lemcke said. She testified she dated Mead until he told her he was married. Then, during a bizarre phone conversation overheard by Pamela Mead, David Mead told Simon he was unhappily married, but that he would rather kill his wife and collect insurance money because otherwise he would lose his business.
Pamela Mead told her family about the conversation, and the Stokes were immediately suspicious of their son-in-law after their daughter's mysterious death. Defense attorney Richard Mauro countered Simon's testimony by saying it was irrelevant to the case because the alleged conversation had taken place years before the incident and because Pamela Mead had no life insurance policy at the time the statement was made.
- A mistress, Winnetka "Winnie" Walls, testified she was David Mead's kept woman and threatened to send Pamela Mead a video tape of her and David Mead engaged in sex acts if he did not leave his wife. Mead told her he would take care of the problem by staging a burglary at his house that would result in Pamela Mead suffering a "nasty spill."
Defense attorneys pointed out that Walls recanted her statements in a sworn affidavit and agreed to testify against David Mead only after the Stokes included her in a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Hired gun James "Jack" Hendrix, David Mead's cousin, testified that about a week before Pamela Mead's death, David Mead sought him out, offered him $30,000 to kill his wife and gave him about $1,000 and 60 grams of cocaine as down payment. Hendrix, however, spent the next two weeks on a drug binge and never made good on the bargain.
Mauro painted Hendrix as a manipulator with an extensive criminal history who would say anything to get out of jail.
- The couple's airline cleaning business became the money factor. The business was in Pamela Mead's name and was experiencing financial distress. The Stokes had promised to help. Divorcing Pamela Mead would have likely caused David Mead to lose the business and "this is why he told Stormy and Winnie and others that murder was the option," Lemcke said.
Also, investigators discovered a "secret account with coincidentally the same amount of money that Dave had promised to pay Jack to kill his wife," Lemcke said. And within days of his wife's death, David Mead filed a claim for a $500,000 life insurance policy. However, his older brother, John Mead, testified he initiated the claim to help David Mead pay for the funeral.
- David Mead's alibi to police was that he had been at work at the airport about the time Pamela Mead died. Airport police confirmed through key card records that he had been at the airport at the time he'd said. But his former employee, Robert Elliott, testified that he had done the work at the airport that night and never saw David Mead.
- Utah's Chief Medical Examiner Todd Grey testified he ruled the death a homicide after learning about the statements Walls and Hendrix had given police. But two experts testifying for the defense believed the death must have been an accident because of the lack of "defensive" injuries found in Pamela Mead's body.
One scenario placed Pamela Mead at the edge of the pond, feeding the fish as her husband had asked. Burdened by recent foot surgery, she may have lost her balance at the edge of the pond, fallen backward and struck her head on a brick. Losing consciousness, she drowned.
Another possible scenario is that the couple's dog, Baron, a 70-pound Chow who likes to jump on people, may have jumped on Pamela Mead, causing her to lose balance and fall. "The dog was the only witness," Mauro said.
But, asked Lemcke, as difficult as it was to walk, why would Pamela Mead be doing this in a pitch dark backyard?
Perhaps the most important players were the unrelenting cop, detective Jill Candland, and the stubborn prosecutor, Lemcke, who closely watched the civil lawsuit between Mead and the Stokes over the disposition of the life insurance proceeds. The court case ended in a hung jury. Lemke chose to file criminal charges three years after the incident.
"Our question was never, did David kill Pamela. Our question was, can we put together a case and prove it to the jury," Lemcke said.
Mauro said he anticipates appealing the verdict.