Above is Channel 4 News interview by Paula Tutman with Davontae Sanford after Pros. Kym Worthy announced she would not bring charges against then DPD Commander James Tolbert for perjury in manufacturing the false case against Sanford. Tutman notes that she would have a step-by-step account from Sanford at 6 p.m. on what police did to him the night of the 4 murders for which he was wrongfully convicted, and spent almost 9 grueling years in prison. However, the 6 pm video is no longer on the WDIV website and was blanked out in an earlier VOD story on the case.

19741 Runyon St. 

But, a 117-pp MSP report says a DPD evidence technician performed a gunshot residue test (negative) on Sanford at the 19741 Runyon address at 3:13 a.m. Sept. 18 (while the scene was being investigated after the murders Sept. 17 around 11:30 pm), indicating that Sanford was present at the crime scene AFTER the murders.

Victim Angelo McNorriel, seated near the front door, was shot multiple times by Vincent Smothers and an accomplice, clearly causing copious blood spray there.

According to the MSP report, then Cdr. James Tolbert, Sgt. Michael Russell, who had unofficially taken over the position of Officer in Charge,  and Sgt. Dale Collinshad driven Sanford around the neighborhood for several hours after Russell encountered him in his pajamas outside the Sanford home on Beland the night of the murders, prior to Sanford’s documented presence at the crime scene.

DNA evidence debated in ongoing federal lawsuit against DPD officers Michael Russell, James Tolbert 

City claims new DNA testing method shows blood of victim McNoriell on Sanford’s gym shoes; Sanford’s attys. contest validity of test

Potentially dangerous Detroit News story ignores evidence cited in MSP report that GSR was done on Sanford at the crime scene after murders

Vincent Smothers confession: “I cannot emphasize strongly enough that Davontae Sanford was not involved in the killings at 19741 Runyon Street in any way.”

 By Diane Bukowski

 January 12, 2020  Updated January 15, 2020

CORRECTION TO EARLIER STORY: VOD’S Jan. 12 story reported incorrectly that U.S. District Court Judge David Lawson had sealed the report on DNA evidence collected from a gym shoe alleged to belong to Davontae Sanford. However, a check of the federal court PACER website shows that Judge Lawson denied the plaintiff’s motion to seal the report on January 14, 2020.

Davontae Sanford (center) beams as his family including (l to r) young nephew, sisters, mother Taminko Sanford-Tilmon, stepfather the late Jeremaine Tilmon, and Apostle W. J. Rideout III applaud his release, at press conference June 9, 2016.

DETROIT — An inflammatory,  potentially dangerous Jan. 10 story in the Detroit News, “DNA Evidence Contested in Davontae Sanford Case,” says “Blood found on 14-year-old Davontae Sanford’s shoes after a 2007 quadruple homicide was retested last month, and it matched one of the victims, Deangelo McNoriell, city attorneys claimed in recent federal court filings in a lawsuit over his disputed murder conviction.”

The News further reported that Sanford’s attorneys are contesting the methods used by a new company called Cybergenetics to test the DNA evidence, after the Michigan State Police tested it in May and found no match. Those attorneys filed a motion to seal the report but U.S. District Court Judge David Lawson denied that motion Jan. 14, after the Detroit News story was published.

The four people found murdered at 19741 Runyon on Sept. 17-18, 2007, were DeAngelo McNoriell, Michael Robinson, Nicole Chapman and Brian Dixon, whose families are still grieving their loss. Worthy has never brought charges against Vincent Smothers and his accomplice in the murders, despite Smothers’ detailed confessions. Despite the News’ characterization of Sanford’s ‘disputed conviction,’ Sanford has NO CONVICTION on the record for the murders.

Four killed on Runyon Street: (clockwise) Nicole Chapman, DeAngelo McNoriell, Michael Robinson, Brian Dixon.

Davontae Sanford, now 27, is known worldwide for his release in 2015 after nearly nine grueling years in prison due to his wrongful conviction of the Sept. 17, 2o07 homicides at 19741 Runyon St. in Detroit..

A highly detailed confession to the murders by Detroit hitman Vincent Smothers, who said Sanford was not involved, and a Michigan State Police investigation that thoroughly discredited the original charges brought by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy led to a ruling by Third Judicial Circuit Court trial judge Brian Sullivan dismissing the charges against Sanford “without prejudice” in 2015, leading to his immediate release.

In one affidavit, Smothers stated unequivocally, “On Sept. 17, 2007, Ernest (Nemo) Davis and I shot and killed four people at 19741 Runyon St. in Detroit. I had been hired by Leroy Payne to kill Michael Robinson, who lived at 19741 Runyon Street, over a drug-related dispute. Nemo and I not only killed Robinson, but three other people who were present in the living room at the time of the hit. We left two survivors in the back bedroom, a young boy who had been sleeping in bed, and a woman who had run from the living room and hid under the bed.

Vincent Smothers appears in court March 25, 2012.

“I cannot emphasize strongly enough that Davontae Sanford was not involved in the killings at 19741 Runyon Street in any way. Before my arrest by the Detroit police department in April of 2008, I had never met, spoken with or even heard of Davontae Sanford or anyone connected to him. Davontae Sanford is being wrongfully incarcerated for crimes I know he did not commit.”

But Judge Sullivan’s ruling meant that the prosecution could re-charge Sanford at any time if it wants. A full exoneration would have meant a ruling of “dismissal with prejudice,” invoking the double jeopardy prohibition.

Worthy has never brought charges against Vincent Smothers and his accomplice in the murders, despite Smothers’ detailed confessions.

She continues to contend, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, that Sanford is not innocent in the case, which she still claims is under investigation. In a press conference after Sanford’s release, which was livestreamed on Detroit’s local news stations, she spoke almost exclusively about the evidence her office had used AGAINST Sanford.

His family’s initial joy at Davontae’s release was subverted months later by the murder of Sanford’s community activist stepfather Jeremaine Tilmon in 2016, while he was unarmed and holding his hands in the air, for unclear reasons. Sanford himself was shot in the leg months later in Detroit and later placed on probation in Arizona, where he had moved with his brother, on a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.

In a Facebook post Jan. 10, responding to the Detroit News article, Sanford’s mother Taminko Sanford-Tilmon said, “I know you all … will start harassing my family like you did for nine years! . . . Roberto Guzman who tirelessly fought [for Davontae] . . .told me this would happen because they dropped the case without prejudice and they [were] mad and embarrassed that he got out. . .We are about to start getting pulled over for nothing maybe over false evidence [planted] on us, getting probation violated for nothing, watching our house like before!”

Taminko Sanford-Tilmon is interviewed at rally for her son Davontae outside Frank Murphy Hall June 29, 2010. His young sisters and brothers surround her. VOD photo

The motion to allow the DNA test into evidence, filed by city attorneys Jan. 3 and posted on the PACER website, says in part, “On December 20, 2019, D/F/Lt Weimer informed Defense counsel and Plaintiff’s counsel that Cybergenetics had conducted its initial DNA analysis and found a victim’s, Deangelo McNoriell’s, DNA on the exterior of Plaintiff’s shoes.”

The city’s attorneys had asked that U.S. District Court Judge David Lawson deny the plaintiff’s attorneys’ motion for sanctions regarding their proposed submission of the questioned evidence. 

Regarding chain of custody of the shoes, MSP Investigator Christopher Corriveau reported, “On July 21, 2009, during an evidentiary hearing on People v Sanford in 3rd Circuit Court Sgt Russell testified that he confiscated a pair of tennis shoes possibly belonging to Davontae Sanford. However, no record of the seizure of the shoes can be located in the report or in the tabulation of the search warrant. D/S gt Roti and I requested a review of the Detroit Police Department property logs. The property logs show an entry on September 19, 2007, of a pair of blue and white gym shoes by Dale Collins. The entry shows the shoes were taken from Davontae Sanford at [address blocked out].”

Justly Johnson hugs mother after his release.

Later in the MSP report, DPD Investigator Barbara Simon, who was named the Chief Investigating Officer (CIO) on the case but was muscled aside by Russell, says SHE who collected Sanford’s shoes during a search of his family home on Beland. Simon said she did not do most hands-on investigation during the case, and particularly was not told of Vincent Smothers’ confession to the Runyon Street murders. 

Simon along with DPD Sgt. Catherine Adams is currently being sued by Justly Johnson and Kendrick Scott in federal court, in another case pursued by Prosecutor Worthy. They are two recently exonerated men who say the women coerced two teenagers into falsely implicating them in the Mother’s Day shooting death of Lisa Steinberg Kindred in 2000. They spent 18 years in prison, and were not released until after Worthy ultimately decided not to retry them.


But the DNA testing issue may be moot in light of claims the Michigan State Police made against the DPD in a 117-page report they submitted to Prosecutor Worthy just before Sanford’s release in 2015.

The most telling was a report of the Gunshot Residue Test an evidence technician conducted on Sanford in the early morning directly after the killings at 19741 Runyon.

“According to the relevant Detroit Police Department Gunshot Residue Test information sheet, a Gunshot Residue Test was conducted on Davontae Sanford on Sept. 18, 2007 at 3:13 [the night of the murders which began at 11:30 pm Sept. 17], by William Niehous at 19741 Runyon St. The subsequent laboratory analysis (Detroit Police Department Lab No. B-07o631) states the following: GSR Kit #5038 was submitted, consisting of three aluminum SEM sampling stubs labeled Right Web, Left Web, and Forehead/face. Significant amounts of lead, barium and antimony were NOT DETECTED on any of the sampling stubs from Davontae Sanford.”

Photo of gym shoe allegedly taken from Davontae Sanford, with substance city claims is blood on side of shoe. 

The MSP also reported, “The Detroit Police Department ‘Witness Conveyance Consent Form’ for Davontae Sanford is dated ’09-18-07′. The written time is illegible but appears to be ’33’. The officer requesting the consent is Michael Russell and the witness signing for Davontae Sanford is Pamela Sanford, his grandmother.”

Thus, Sanford was present at the crime scene the night of the murders, afterwards, contaminating the scene and potentially contaminating himself. Whoever brought him there should have been subject to severe charges.

Citing DPD reports issued at the time of the murders, the MSP report says that both Russell and Tolbert, along with another DPD officer Dale Collins, used Tolbert’s unmarked truck to drive Sanford around the neighborhood where the killings took place for several hours, after Russell first encountered Sanford on Beland St. outside his family home.

Cdr. James Tolbert

Sgt. Michael Russell

Russell  claimed they were having Sanford point out locations where people he falsely identified as involved in the murders lived. Later reports by Collins said they were having him point out alleged drug and gun houses.

Tolbert first told MSP investigators that a controversial diagram of the house and murder scene was drawn inside the truck, and later that Sanford drew it at police headquarters, before he  admitted drawing it himself at headquarters.

Ironically, MSP Det. Sergeant Christopher Corriveau said he took a call from Sgt. Russell during the investigation in which Russell said that only Tolbert, not he himself, was involved in the diagram situation. Corriveau said he would testify about the call if necessary. But Russell actually signed the diagram (shown below).

Joseph Weekley

Dale Collins

Russell and Dale Collins were both featured as stars on A&E’s “First 48” website, along with DPD officer Joseph Weekley and others involved in the DPD murder of 7 year-old Aiyana Jones during a horrific SWAT-style raid on her home in 2010.

Sanford said in later interviews that police showed him photos of the victims’ bodies as they were placed in the house, before he drew them in on Tolbert’s diagram.

Tolbert’s second statement to investigators that Sanford drew the diagram led to MSP recommendations that he and Russell both be indicted for perjury, recommendations that Worthy never followed up on.

Crime scene as drawn by Tolbert, with bodies placed by Sanford after he was shown photos of the murdered victims as they lay dead in the house.

Instead, one day before the statute of limitations was up, she announced that she would not charge Tolbert due to insufficient evidence, because Sanford would not testify about the diagram himself.

Sanford vehemently denied that twice, in an interview with Paula Tutman of Channel Four, and in an interview with Kate Walls of Michigan Radio.

Walls reported, “Sanford says police start showing him pictures of the crime scene: pictures of the bodies of four people who had been gunned down earlier that night.

“Those images will live with me for the rest of my life. I will never in a million years forget – like, it was, like stories.” [Sanford]

“He says police were telling him just cooperate – then we’ll take you home. That’s when another police officer comes in, Detroit Police Commander James Tolbert.

“And Sanford says Tolbert starts drawing a sketch of the house where the crime took place – the living room where the gunmen burst in, the couches – and Tolbert asks Sanford, ‘Draw for me where the bodies fell.’

‘And um once they showed me the pictures, I drew the bodies.’ Sanford said. ‘I drew the bodies on the diagram. And once I did that, Tolbert was like, ‘See? I told ya’ll. I told ya’ll.”

Listen to full Sanford interview by Kate Walls of Michigan Radio below.

In an affidavit submitted to Sanford’s attorneys from the University of Wisconsin Innocence Project, Sanford said he himself told Sgt. Russell about the fact that he and Davis had committed the murders on Runyon St, when he saw Russell during his police interrogation on other murders.



The MSP report adds, 

“Investigator’s Note: Sgt Russell documents Sanford’s height and weight on the statement form as 5’5″ and 155 lbs. Further, Cary Daily AKA “Cary”[a youth Sanford said was with him during the killings in a since discredited confession] is listed in the report as 5 ’07” in height and 140/bs in weight. Both subjects are substantially shorter in comparison to the description of the suspects provided by Jesse King and Valerie Glover.”

Apparently, Russell ignored the statements provided the night of the killings to DPD officers and in later interviews and court testimony by King and Glover. 

Vincent Smothers

Ernest Davis

The MSP report says, “King stated that the two subjects left Robinson’s house approximately five to ten minutes after he heard the first round of gunfire. King described the first subject as being “5′ 11” – 6′, brown skinned, slim medium build, dark clothes something like they wear in the winter with the center out but they had it up on their heads.

“He advised the initial subject was carrying a long gun. King described the second subject as slightly shorter than the first with the same build and complexion. He advised that subject was carrying ahandgun. King stated that his storm door was open and when the subject with the long gun saw that he (King) was looking at them, the subject with the long gun fired at him. King stated that he fired back with his 9mm pistol. King stated that both subjects then walked towards the fence and he lost sight of them.”

In an MSP interview, “King indicated he did not believe that either subject was Davontae Sanford. He explained that he knew Sanford because he (King) used to volunteer at the local school where Sanford was a student. He advised Sanford was also well known in the neighborhood. . . King stated he was familiar with Sanford’s walk and neither subject that night appeared to move like Sanford.”

Taminko Sanford-Tilmon, Davontae’s mother (l) and Mertilla Jones, grandmother of Aiyana Jones, killed by DPD at the age of 7 in 2010, held joint rally June 23, 2012, demanding justice for Aiyana and freedom for Davontae and Aiyana’s father Charles Jones.  The Jones family recently won an $8.2 million settlement from the City of Detroit.

Valerie Glover was present in the 19741 Runyon St. house the night of the killings, but fled to a back bedroom when the killers entered, and hid under a bed where Robinson’s young son was sleeping.

The MSP report says, “Upon questioning Glover advised that the only subject she saw was the one that was in the bedroom with her. Glover described the subject as a black male, no more than thirty to thirty-thirty five years old with a soft voice. Glover further described the subject as approximately 6′ to 6″1″ tall with a slim build. She also stated that the subject had something on his face like a ‘raid mask’.”

Smothers speaks with a very soft voice, which could be mistaken for a child’s voice, but another witness interviewed by the MSP, neighbor Sonia Roi Gaskin, denied the man she saw fleeing the home was a child.

The MSP report says, “Gaskin stated she saw a tall man wearing a dark trench coat walking north along the side walk. She said that he was walking like he was carrying a weapon. . . . Gaskin also described the subject as not being heavy set nor was the subject a child. She only saw one subject and could not tell if the subject had anything covering his face. She said it was very dark out at the time of this incident.”

Thelonious “Shawn” Searcy was falsely convicted in 2004 of a murder to which VIncent Smothers confessed. Searcy is awaiting state supreme court action on his case. Many of the same players in Sanford’s case took part in Searcy’s frame-up, including PA Patrick Muscat and DPD Sgt. Dale Collins.

The Michigan State Police reported extensively on other discrepancies in Worthy’s case against Sanford, including the weapons used to kill the victims, described correctly by Smothers, but falsely by Sanders, the type of bullets found at the scene, which correlated with the weapons Smothers described, and other forensic evidence confirming Smothers’ account of events.

The report makes it clear that Sanford’s initial confession was nothing more than a fantasy concocted under pressure from the police, as well as a wish to impress them. The Detroit police also assured Sanford that he would go home as soon as he confessed.

The complete 117-page MSP investigative report is linked below this story in three sections due to its length, and also included in a link inside “The Innocence Deniers” story below.


San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos in 2017, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy in 2013, and Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro in 2014. Photo illustration by Slate.

On Jan. 10, 2018, the national online newspaper The Slate published an article by Lara Bazelon,  an associate professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law.

It was called: “THE INNOCENCE DENIERSWhen convictions are clearly wrong, these prosecutors don’t just hinder justice—they actively work against it.”

It prominently featured Wayne County Prosecutor Worthy and Davontae Sanford’s case, along with that of exoneree Lamar Monson. It featured two other prosecutors, San Bernardino County (CA) District Attorney Mike Ramos,  and Orleans Parish District (LA) Attorney Leon Cannizzaro. 

Bazelon wrote, “These prosecutors do not “do justice” as the Supreme Court defines it. Instead, they delay justice to an exoneree all over again, sometimes under a wildly different theory at the expense of time and resources that should be used to pursue the crime’s actual perpetrator. They may also threaten endless legal challenges to wring ‘no contest’ pleas from innocent prisoners in exchange for time-served sentences. The prisoners, desperate to be free, accept these Faustian bargains, which brand them convicts for life and allow prosecutors to proclaim their guilt and the state to deny them compensation. Some prosecutors are so committed to adhering to the original mistake that they fail to prosecute the actual perpetrators, even when there is evidence to convict them.”

Davontae Sanford, now 27, Christmas 2019 Facebook

Regarding Davontae Sanford’s case, Bazelon wrote, “Sixteen days after Sanford was sentenced, a hit man named Vincent Smothers told the police he had carried out 12 contract killings, including the four Sanford had pleaded guilty to committing. Smothers explained that he’d worked with an accomplice, Ernest Davis, and he provided a wealth of corroborating details to back up his account.

Smothers told police where they could find one of the weapons used in the murders; the gun was recovered and ballistics matched it to the crime scene. He also told the police he had used a different gun in several of the other murders, which ballistics tests confirmed. Once Smothers’ confession was corroborated, it was clear Sanford was innocent. Smothers made this point explicitly in an 2015 affidavit, emphasizing that Sanford hadn’t been involved in the crimes “in any way.”

But Smothers and Davis were never charged. Neither was Leroy Payne, the man Smothers alleged had paid him to commit the murders. (Through his attorney, Payne has denied any involvement.) Instead, Smothers pleaded guilty to the other eight killings. Davis, who was never prosecuted, was convicted of an unrelated felony in 2013 and could be released from prison as early as July. Payne, who remains a free man, left Detroit in 2016. His whereabouts are unknown.”

She writes further, “In 2015, the Michigan State Police began to re-investigate the case. One year later, the police issued a 117-page report detailing compelling evidence that Smothers and Davis were guilty; that Sanford was innocent; and that Detroit’s then deputy police chief, James Tolbert, had lied to convict Sanford. It was at that point, nine years into Sanford’s incarceration, that Worthy finally agreed to his release—but only on account of Tolbert’s misconduct. She continues to insist that Sanford is guilty, pointing to his discredited confession. The state police recommended bringing perjury charges against Tolbert [and Russell] and murder charges against Smothers and Davis. Worthy declined in all three cases.” 

Below is Channel 7 News report on the exoneration of LaMarr Monson, also covered in Brazelon’s article. The name of Investigator Barbara Simon is also shown in this video.




The question becomes, when will Worthy, Detroit Police Chief James Craig, and others involved in stonewalling Sanford’s federal lawsuit with patently absurd claims that fly against the preponderance of the evidence cease their persecution of this young man, now 27 years old and trying to get on with his life? 

When will the real wrongdoers in this case, including Worthy, Russell, Tolbert, Collins and others who manufactured the case against Sanford, despite Smothers’ confession and all the evidence supporting his guilt and that of Ernest Davis, be appropriately charged for their actions?

In video above, Davontae Sanford asks why Michael Russell is still on the police force. In fact, there is a movement growing across the U.S. asking that prosecutors publish “Brady lists” of law enforcement personnel implicated in issuing false reports, committing perjury, and other crimes. Under Brady v. Maryland, the prosecution is obligated to provide the records of law enforcement officials testifying at trial if they provide exculpatory evidence on behalf of the defense. In Baltimore, 800 cases are under review by the State’s attorney and may be thrown out for failure to provide such information, Kym Worthy’s office told VOD they do not keep lists of such personnel, known as ‘Brady lists.”


Related documents:

MSP Report on Runyon Street Killings, parts 1 through 4:



#Justice4DavontaeSanfordFreeatLast, #Beatbackthebullies, #SaveOurChildren, #BlackLivesMatter, #StandUpNow, #StopJuvenileLifeWithoutParole, #EndPoliceStatePrisonNation, #ChargeKymWorthy, #ChargeMikeRussell, #ChargeJamesTolbert, #ChargeDaleCollins, #ChargeAPPatrickMuscat

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