Alex Constantine - February 1, 2009
Raymond Lemme Crime Scene Photos Said Not to Exist are Published on Net! - Photos, Evidence and FDOT Involvement with Valdosta, GA Police Raise New Questions in Mysterious Death!
The case of the mysterious suicide of Raymond Lemme of the Florida Inspector General's office was reopened by Valdosta, Georgia police last December shortly after we broke the story of computer programmer Clint Curtis' sworn affidavit charging that he had built a "vote-rigging software prototype" at the request of Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL)!
Furthermore, graphic and disturbing photos from the crime scene --- said in the original police report to have not existed due to a failure in the camera's "flash memory cards" --- have recently been published on the web!
WARNING: THE PAGE LINKED ABOVE INCLUDES GRAPHIC MATERIAL!
A spokesman from the Valdosta Police Department has confirmed the legitimacy of the photos but has so far failed to explain several inconsistencies that the photos and materials from the supplementary detective reports reveal when compared to the original police report.
Supplementary evidence from the reports would seem to indicate that Lemme was not even in Valdosta, Georgia at the time that the motel receipts show that he had checked-in to the room where he was eventually found dead.
Furthermore, involvement from the Florida Dept. of Transportation (FDOT) may have lead to the quick re-closing of the case shortly after it was recently re-opened!
Lemme was the first official from the FL Inspector General's office to investigate the charges originally made by Curtis' 2001 whistleblower complaint at the FDOT, where he had gone to work after leaving Yang Enterprises, Inc. (YEI) in the wake several disturbing meetings at the software firm with Feeney and YEI's CEO, Mrs. Li-Woan Yang.
In Curtis' 2001 complaint to the IG's office, filed along with another FDOT whistleblower, he charged that an illegal Chinese alien was working at and committing espionage out of YEI and that YEI was illegally over-billing FDOT in a multi-million dollar contract. That contract, Curtis charges, was received with assistance from Feeney, who was, at the time of Curtis' original complaint, the Florida Speaker of the House as well as legal counsel and a registered lobbyist for YEI. Feeney had previously been Jeb Bush's running-mate in his original failed bid for Florida governor in 1994. Feeney now sits on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee representing Florida's 24th Congressional district.
The Chinese spy reported by Curtis was eventually indicted and pled guilty to espionage charges (see this previous BRAD BLOG report for more details). For their part, YEI was recently found --- in the IG's final report begun by Lemme in 2001 and finally released in February 2005 --- to have billed FDOT for more than $300,000 in "questionable charges" (see this recent BRAD BLOG report for more info on that).
THE 'BIG' CASE...
In his 2004 affidavit, Curtis describes a mid-June 2003 meeting with Lemme in which he claims that Lemme told him he "had tracked the corruption 'all the way to the top' and that the story would break in the next few weeks and I would be satisfied with the results."
On July 1, 2003 --- just two weeks later --- Raymond Camillo Lemme was found dead in a bathtub, with his arm slashed twice with a razor blade near the left elbow in Room #132 of the Knights Inn motel in Valdosta, Georgia; a border-town some 80 miles from Tallahassee, Florida where Lemme lived and worked.
A handwritten note, unsigned, was found by police on the desk in the room in a black leather day planner. Here is a photocopy of that note...
At the time of this incident, Lemme's only child was engaged to be married just three months later in September. Curtis has told us that Lemme frequently talked about his daughter with him. "He would always discuss his daughter and had talked about her upcoming wedding," he told us. Yet Lemme's only daughter --- his only child --- is not mentioned by name in the unsigned note. A family member of Lemme's has told us that the family generally feels that the handwriting on the note seemed to belong to Lemme.
A statement from Lemme's wife, Mary Ann, in the report from the Leon County, FL Sheriff's Office (where Lemme was first reported as missing) would seem to concur with Curtis' description of what he had been told by Lemme when they met in mid-June. His wife is described in the report by Officer Jim Tyson as having told the police that her husband "has been under a lot of stress at work due to a 'big' case he is working."
When we first asked Curtis what Lemme might have been doing in Valdosta in the first place, Curtis explained to the The BRAD BLOG in one of our initial interviews that "There are no autopsy laws in Georgia. Had he committed suicide in Florida, there would have been a mandatory autopsy."
THE APPEARANCE OF THE PHOTOS...
The police report from Valdosta Det. Shannon Floyd states, "a defect in the camera flash memory cards resulted in no usable photographs. Photographs will not be submitted with this report."
However, several weeks ago, Insider-Magazine published over a dozen photographs --- previously reported to have not existed! --- from the crime scene, including detailed shots of Lemme in the bathtub where he is said to have killed himself.
We will discuss shortly some unexplained inconsistencies in the photos, along with other details from the police report which, so far, neither add-up, nor have been explained by the Valdosta Police Department.
The legitimacy of the photographs was confirmed by a spokesman from the Valdosta police. Capt. Brian K. Childress of Valdosta's Professional Standards Unit told us in our original conversation with him that, "the flash card initially did fail" but that they were able to recover them after they "reopened the case due to interest on the Internet."
"We recovered the photos with some software and were eventually able to get them," he told us, "sometime late last year around December." (Our original story on Curtis was published December 6th last year.)
THE DATES THAT DON'T MAKE SENSE...
Aside from the sudden appearance of the photographs, the most obvious inconsistency in the police report are the two different receipts from Knights Inn.
The first, unsigned, is dated 6/29/03 6:44PM and is described as the check-in receipt, according to the Valdosta police report.
The second, apparently a check-out receipt signed by "Raymond Lemme", is dated 6/30/03 6:54AM.
The problem is, Lemme was not even reported as missing until 6/30/03!
"I have been unable to reach my husband, Raymond, all day. He left work early this morning, approx 5:15AM, told me he loved me and that he would call me later. He had a meeting @ work today and I had been unable to contact him."
A copy of her full affidavit is available here.
As well, the police report states that Lemme's watch had "stopped at 12:34 on June 30th".
When we asked Childress about the problems with the dates on those receipts, he told us, "Yeah...There was a question about the dates. We were told the management of the hotel made a mistake. Either there was an error in their machines or some other error."
His comment --- made during our first call with him, before he had had the chance to "pull the file" to refresh his memory --- might make sense if the credit card terminal machine at Knights Inn, for some reason, had its date set incorrectly. Yet, when we inquired whether the department had checked with the credit card merchant processor (who would have received transmission of the purchase on their end) to find out what their date/time stamp showed for those transactions, Childress told us he'd have to get back to us on that.
AN OPEN AND SHUT CASE...
Despite inconsistencies in the photos and other evidence that would seem to conflict with information in the police report, Childress informed us that while the case was re-opened last December after our original report, it was closed quickly thereafter.
"We spoke to someone at the Florida Department of Transportation," he explained, "and then closed the case again. It was either late '04 or early '05."
"Someone at the Florida Department of Transportation"?!
Childress promised to get back to us the next day with information on precisely whom they had spoken to at FDOT and, as well, with answers to several other important questions we had about the case, the report, the photographs and the receipts.
Late the next day, after we did not receive the promised callback from Childress, we were able to reach him via his cell phone after paging him. His tone that next day was notably different...
"Look...I spoke with my chief about this. We have looked at everything about this case... Everything...the allegations on the Internet and whether he's committeed suicide. Everything we've looked at indicates it was suicide. And that's all we're going to say about this...the media has blown this out of proportion.
"I'm getting tons and tons of questions about this case. We investigated it like any other case. There's nothing that we found that would indicate [Lemme] was murdered...If you find anything that indicates there's something we missed we'll gladly give it a look.
"I don't want to be short with you, I don't want you to think I'm stonewalling or anything, but quite honestly, I'm tired of answering these questions."
As it turns out, there were many indications that "there's something" they may have missed. So we asked Childress about three specific points on which he again promised to get back to us on Monday with answers to our questions. He also repeated several times that he didn't want us to think he was "stonewalling" us.
THE STONEWALL ...
That second conversation with Capt. Childress took place on Friday, February 11.
Childress did not call us back as promised on the following Monday and repeated calls, messages and pages made by The BRAD BLOG to him in the three ensuing weeks have all gone unreturned.
There are still many unexplained questions that we had hoped Childress and/or Det. Shannon Floyd could clear up for us. Above and beyond some of the matters discussed above, these are the ones we are most interested in for the moment:
Who was spoken to at FDOT, what did the conversation include, and why did that lead to re-closing the recently re-opened case?
The report of Det. Shannon Floyd refers to "flash memory cards" having failed in the camera as the reason that "Photographs will not be submitted with this report," as she wrote. She used the plural "cards". Was there more than one memory card used? And if so, how would one explain several flash memory cards all having the same failure?
We would also love to know how many pictures were taken in total, and how many were actually recovered. Was there more than the 15 which were posted on the Internet by Insider-Magazine?
Det. Floyd reports that she "examined the body for other signs of trauma [aside from the two cuts near Lemme's left elbow] with negative results. She also says there was "no sign of foul play", yet how does one explain the apparent severe bruising as seen on the right side of Lemme's neck in the photographs?
Det. Floyd also states in her report "On the bathrom floor next to the bathtub was a black in color man's dress belt, which was lying on the top of a white in color hotel bath mat. The belt appeared to have been used as a tourniquet; dried blood was visible on the belt but was not visible on the towel". We're no crime scene experts, but the following photograph from the crime scene clearly shows blood on the towel...
How do the police explain the fact that both Lemme's wife Mary Ann and Lemme's supervisor in the IG's office, Bob Clift, said that they felt it was "very out of character" for Lemme to simply disappear as he did?
In Clift's handwritten sworn affidavit given to the Leon County, FL sheriff on June 30th, the day Lemme went missing, he wrote "This is very out of character for Ray." (underlined as in the original) A copy of his actual affidavit is available here.
In Mary Ann's affidavit, given on the same day, she writes "This all is very out of character and he has never done this in the past."
In the Leon County Sheriff's report, Officer Jim Tyson says, "Mrs. Lemme did advise that this was out of character for her husband."
THE MISSING DETECTIVE...
We had hoped to speak with Det. Shannon Floyd since she took the crime scene photos and wrote the most detailed report in the case file. She was the one who reported the camera's "flash memory cards" as having failed, said that there were no "signs of trauma", that "Nothing was observed that would indicate foul play" and described there being no visible blood on the white towel next to the tub. She also described the stopped watch and the check-in and check-out receipts, along with their dates, but mentioned nothing about the apparent inconsistency in dates.
In our first conversation with Valdosta's Capt. Childress, he had informed us that Det. Floyd was no longer with the department and was now teaching at a university. He didn't feel it appropriate to let us know where she was teaching, but in our second call, he informed us that, "Det. Floyd does not work for us anymore. She left and is teaching somewhere now. I'm not gonna tell ya where she is. Her husband said she didn't want to talk to the media. I spoke with him last night after we spoke."
We have attempted to speak with members of Lemme's family, including his wife Mary Ann. They preferred to either not speak with us or to do so only on background. The family expressed great sadness about their loss, yet seemed to be of differing opinions on whether there might have been some sort of foul play at work or whether this was just a tragic case of suicide.
They all seem to agree that there had been no previous indications that Lemme might have wanted to kill himself. It was described as a complete shock to all of them.
Things had seemed to be going well for Lemme, who had just returned from an Army Reserve weekend and had recently received an award from the IG's office.
CLOSING THOUGHTS...FOR NOW...
We realize this report raises many unanswered questions. In fact, many more than it answers. Indeed, there are still other concerns from the police report which we have not discussed here yet. For example, a rope found in the trunk of Lemme's car with what was described as a "dark stain that could possible be blood." Det. Floyd claims to have performed a "presumptive test for the presence of blood" and wrote that "the test result was negative."
We have waited quite a while before filing any sort of detailed report on this matter for at least two reasons. One is our interest in being able to investigate it thoroughly before presenting evidence that might be misleading. We have attempted to give the Valdosta Police plenty of time to get back to us, but it has become apparent that --- for whatever reason --- they've determined it's in their best interest not to talk with us. Even if it means they will appear to be stonewalling...as Capt. Childress continually stressed that he wasn't.
The other reason --- at least the reason that we've waited so long before going into detail on this element of the Clint Curtis story --- was because we'd felt that the allegations made by Curtis about Tom Feeney and YEI were explosive enough in and of themselves. A sensational story such as the suicide of the original investigator looking into Curtis' allegations --- just weeks after it is claimed that he "had tracked the corruption 'all the way to the top'" --- could easily allow an all-too-easy way out for those who wish to detract from Curtis' claims. The "crazy conspiracy theory" defense has become, of late, the favored to dismiss credible claims for those who'd rather not deal with uncomfortable facts. Particularly when such claims do not otherwise comfortably fit their own agenda.
There are many "suicide conspiracy theories" out there these days --- too many --- and we had hoped that the extraordinary allegations at the heart of the Curtis case would not be dismissed due to the unexplained mysteries surrounding this particular death.
Indeed, the reporting from the original publishers of the crime scene photographs, Insider-Magazine --- despite the intrepid work by editor John Caylor in unearthing evidence which "didn't exist" --- is the sort which we feel makes it much easier for many to ignore Curtis' claims. We have spoken with Caylor about this point, and he simply feels his way of reporting this sort of story is the best way. We do not agree, although we must respect him for his ability to get hard evidence which nobody else had previously been able to uncover.
It should also be noted as well that we take little comfort in publishing disturbing and graphic photographs of the tragic death --- however it may have happened --- of someone's father, someone's husband, someone's brother... We take no joy in it, and have done so only after much careful consideration.
In the end, the continuing veracity of Curtis' claims, along with the continuing and documented collapse in credibility of both Feeney and YEI in this matter, have continued to give us reason to believe that some very bad people may well have done some very bad things. The reopening of the case in Valdosta, the sudden appearance of the photographs, the quick re-closure of the case after FDOT officials intervened, and the odd behavior of the Valdosta Police have added a newsworthiness to this element of the story, such that we are no longer able to keep from reporting it. As much as we truly might have liked to.