Summary of a Cinderella Story: Killing of Janet Siclari by Culprit Thomas Jabin Berry
In August 1993, Janet Siclari (35 years old) with her brother and two friends, was vacationing in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. They were staying at the Carolinian hotel in Nags Head.
On the night of August 28, Janet and her two friends were out at a comedy club drinking and dancing until her friends wanted to leave. Janet insisted on staying and her friends handed her the car keys. She later returned to the hotel room, which momentarily woke her brother, but she excused herself to smoke a cigarette and then left.
The next morning her body was found by a local maintenance worker on the beach behind her hotel. She had stab wounds and a slit throat. A pair of shoes and socks were found near her body.
Evidence suggested she was sexually assaulted. This was a brutal crime as stranger-on-stranger crimes were rare in this area. The very next day, Hurricane Emily swept up the bank, forcing many people to evacuate.
It washed up the crime scene and gave a chance for suspects to flee, but this does not deter the police from catching the real culprit.
List of Evidence in the case
|DNA evidence to identify the culprit
|A steak knife was used
|A pair of shoes and socks
|Bears the barefoot impression of the wearer
Forensic Analysis in Cinderella Case
A. Combined DNA Index System (CODIS)
Through the swabs from Janet’s body, the DNA profile of the culprit was generated. However, there were no suspects to match with, and the case went cold.
After nearly five years, when CODIS was introduced in the American justice system and the DNA of the suspect was added to the database, they found a match. It was matched to Thomas Jabin Berry who was a commercial fisherman in that area.
His DNA was admitted into the system due to a parole violation. He had a history of sexual offenses. Priorly, he was sentenced to 10 years for assaulting a 12-year-old girl.
Furthermore, he admits to being on crack when he met Janet and insists their interaction was consensual.
B. Robert Kennedy: Barefoot Impression
The DNA evidence was enough to incriminate Berry for r*pe, but there was little to link him to Janet’s murder. And that was when the police turned to the pair of shoes found near her body.
Robert Kennedy, an expert in barefoot impression on shoe insoles, took over the evidence. He is reputed to have built a database that can identify the wearer of a shoe from the impression their barefoot creates.
He studied the indentations made by the weight-bearing areas on the foot and the dark patches made by sweat and dirt as parameters for impression comparison. These marks are unique to an individual and are compared to the inked impression of the suspect barefoot.
After his analysis, it was concluded that the shoes found at the crime scene in fact belonged to Berry. He must have left them so the sand prints cannot be traced back to his whereabouts.
Why did Janet Siclari’s case become a cold case?
The Outer Banks of North Carolina was a vacation destination where stranger-on-stranger crimes were rare. There were not many suspects, to begin with. The few who were suspected either had an alibi or were cleared due to a negative DNA match. Due to a lack of witnesses or leads, the case became cold.
Who was the convicted fellow in Janet’s murder? And why did he kill her?
Thomas Jabin Berry was a commercial fisherman in the area. He had a history of sexual assault and was high on drugs when he interacted with Janet. He must have assaulted her, as per his nature, and stabbed her to death to cover up his crime.
How the Berry was caught?
Berry was first found through a CODIS match due to his parole violation. CODIS is a national DNA database where the profiles of convicts and suspects are indexed. Upon adding the DNA test kit sample after five years of the crime, it matched with Thomas Jabin Berry. And to add on, his barefoot impression on the shoes found at the scene links him to the murder.
What was the punishment for the culprit?
Berry was supposed to be given a death sentence. But one jury member was not convinced of his guilt and of which he got life imprisonment without parole which he is still currently serving.
Why this specific case is called “A Cinderella Story”?
This case is ironically called a Cinderella story. It is because though scientific evidence clearly indicated that Berry sexual assault Janet, the fact that he murdered her was not established beyond a reasonable doubt. It came down to whoever fits the shoe must have been the murderer, like a much more gruesome twist to the original fairy tale.
What if the shoes were not found? Is still DNA more than enough to charge him with murder?
If the shoes were not found, there were certain circumstantial evidences that could have incriminated Berry. His ex-girlfriend testified that he always carried a steak knife with him which also happens to be the weapon of murder.
And the fact that he would still be the last person who saw Janet alive and at that time he was abusing her will still stand. The final decision of if Thomas J. Berry was actually the murderer or not, if the shoe evidence was not there, would have come down to the court’s decision rather than scientific findings.
Why was the bartender the prime suspect? Is he the murderer?
Edward Read Powell was the prime suspect in the case as he was also the last person who saw Janet alive. They have been flirting all through her vacation and she spent time with him earlier that day. She also bumped into him and his girlfriend at the club where she stayed back to talk to him.
He testified later that he was in front of her hotel later, where his girlfriend worked, to meet his girlfriend, during the time of the crime. And he had a steak knife with him to have Peperoni which was also the weapon of crime.
There are no evidences that incriminate him for Janet’s murder. But there was no evidence to prove that he had nothing to do with it either. He might as well have walked in on Janet and Berry having sex, like Berry insists, and attacked Janet in frustration and jealousy. But without any evidence or witness, that cannot be proved.
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