In December 1979, a triple murder shook the small town of St. Albans, West Virginia. John Moss III was convicted in 1983 and sentenced to life in prison, and he has since served 38 years for this crime that he did not commit. Jason Flom teams up with Georgetown University Professor of Government and Law, Marc Howard, and his student, Jessica Scoratow, to interview John Moss from behind bars in West Virginia and unravel the saga behind this tragic miscarriage of justice. On December 13th, 1979, in St. Albans, West Virginia, twenty-six-year-old Vanessa Reggettz and her two young children, Paul Eric and Bernadette, were strangled to death by electrical cords. The murders were gruesome–Vanessa was brutally beaten and stabbed with scissors, Paul Eric was left in a bathtub, and Bernadette was hung from a door. Paul Reggettz, the husband of Vanessa and the father of Bernadette and Paul Eric, was immediately taken into custody and after being interrogated for hours, he confessed in graphic detail and reenacted the crime for investigators. Reggettz was indicted on three counts of first-degree murder and held in pre-trial detention for eleven months. Charges were dropped, however, when John Moss, a 17-year-old former neighbor, was arrested for the murders instead. In October 1980, West Virginia State Police investigators traveled to interview John Moss in Ohio, where he was being held in juvenile detention for an unrelated crime. Mr. Moss denied any involvement in the murders, and the troopers took a blood sample from him without his parents’ consent or a court order. They returned to pick him up five months later to take him into custody. The policemen in the car claimed that Mr. Moss confessed to the murders. He then gave a tape-recorded confession. The police stated that Mr. Moss confessed again a third time, but there is no recording or written record of the confession. Mr. Moss maintains that he was coerced, beaten, and threatened during interrogations. Armed with these confessions, however, Kanawha County, West Virginia authorities charged John Moss with three counts of first degree murder and brought him to Charleston to stand trial for the Reggettz slayings in 1985. Importantly, there was blood at the scene of the crime that did not match any of the family members, and the blood was found to match Moss’s blood type. The blood sample was tested by Fred Zain, the infamous lab technician later convicted of falsifying blood evidence in over 134 cases spanning decades, and later destroyed after the conviction. Zain also testified at Mr. Moss’ trial, but the West Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that any testimony given by Zain should be discounted. On April 30, 1983, John Moss was convicted of the murders after fourteen hours of jury deliberation and sentenced to three life sentences without the possibility of parole in 1985. He was convicted again in 1990 after his first trial was thrown out for judicial errors in jury polling and prosecutorial misconduct. John Moss has been incarcerated in West Virginia for 38 years, filing numerous appeals alleging ineffective assistance of counsel and challenging Fred Zain's testimony, the validity of his confessions, and arguments about the purportedly stolen items. His appeals have thus far been unsuccessful, and without new evidence, his options for further appeals are limited.
For more information visit https://www.justiceforjohnmoss.com
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