Monday, June 16, 2008

40 Years for Erik Stoddard

... for the murder of three-year-old Calen Faith DiRubbo.
Stoddard was convicted and sentenced twice before, this was his third trial.
Here's more links on that epic case.

17 comments:

Dave said...

The trial and conviction of Erik Stoddard for the death of Calen Dirrubo is a blatant demonstration that indigent defendants cannot receive a fair trail in Baltimore. While Erik has been tried three times for this crime, he has yet to receive a fair trial. This is the story of the facts surrounding the case of Erik Stoddard in the death of Calen Dirrubo.

Erik Stoddard was a 21-year old medic in the US Army Reserve, and had joined the Army Reserve in order to earn money to attend college. As an Army medic, he was trained to save lives, and he was considering going into the career Army to serve his country after 9-11. He worked landscaping during the day, and lived in a house with four other young people in Baltimore City. One of the people in that house, Cheryl, had two children -- Calen, who was 3, and Nick, who was 5. Also in the house was Cheryl's ex-husband, Nick Dieter Sr., and two other adults. About two months before Calen died, Erik and Cheryl became romantically involved.

Erik was implicated in the crime because he had baby sat Calen, her brother Nick, and an 18-month old neighbor child, that day. Erik sat the children from 10 am until 2 pm that afternoon, when Nick Dieter arrived to relieve him. Based on the testimony by several witnesses, there was no more than a total of 30 minutes during that day that Erik was alone with the children, and all of those witnesses testified that Calen was happy and playing every time they saw her, including the next door neighbor, Jennifer Pritchert, Calen's grand father, and Nick Dieter.

On the night Calen died, Erik was not present. Earlier that evening, at 6 pm, Erik and Cheryl (Calen's mother) had gone out to dinner, and did not return until around 11:30 pm. There were police cars and an ambulance at the home when they arrived. There was also testimony at the trial that Calen was fine before Erik and Cheryl went out for dinner, including testimony that Calen sat on her mother's lap while she brushed her hair at 5:30 pm that night, and other testimony that she was playing with the other children in the house. Calen was left in the custody of her step father, Nick Dieter, when Erik and Cheryl left for dinner. There were several witnesses that testified as to the whereabouts of Erik and Cheryl that evening. Those facts are not in contention.

Calen died of a severed colon around 10:30 pm that evening while in the custody of her step father, Nick Dieter. Two coroners testified at the trial that there is no way a child with that severe of an injury could have been playing with other children, or even sat in her mothers lap and had her hair brushed with an injury that severe. As a result, Calen had to have been injured sometime after Erik and Cheryl left for dinner.

Nick Dieter was originally arrested for the death of Calen, but he concocted a story that he did not arrive at the house until 5:30 pm that night (despite the fact that he had actually arrived at 2 pm and had been in custody of Calen). Nick told the detectives that he had been arrested for DUI the night before, and that he had to go to the impound lot to get his car, and that he did not get the car until around 3 pm that afternoon, and arrived at the house at 5:30 pm that evening. None of the police officers investigating the crime followed up on Nick's claim. Further more, Nick managed to get two girls to corroborate his story with him. As a result, the State turned its attention to Erik.

Nick Dieter resented Erik a great deal. Despite the fact that Nick was no longer married to Cheryl, he felt a great deal of animosity toward Erik because Erik was dating his ex-wife. As a result, Nick had motive to not only save himself, but to stick Erik with the crime.

When Erik was arrested two days later, the police went to the home of Jennifer Pritchett, the next door neighbor, and told her they had arrested the murderer of Calen. Jennifer was a neighbor that had dropped off her child in Erik's care on the day Calen died. The police told Jennifer to be very careful if Erik gets out of jail while awaiting trial as he could come back and murder her daughter too. This alarmed and concerned Jennifer Pritchert greatly, even though Erik had nothing to do with Calen's death.

There were ten statements taken by witnesses on the evening of Calen's death. In the preparation for Erik's first trial, only three of those statements were released to his public defender, despite repeated motions to obtain all of that data. In addition, Erik asked for impound lot records, and a number of other elements. None of those items were made available for Erik's first trial. In addition, the State prosecutor went to Cheryl and threatened to take her older son from her if she did not testify for the State at the first trial.

At the first trial, the State based their case on the time line that Nick and his two friends had concocted. They also placed Jennifer Pritchert on the stand and asked her how her child felt about Erik. Because Jennifer had been warned by the police to keep her child away from Erik, she testified that he child was terrified of Erik. In legal circles, this is known as "priming the pump" -- Jennifer had no problem letting Erik take care of her child on the day Calen died, but when the police told her he was a murderer, she was ready to see him convicted and sent to jail. This was the element that caused a mistrial in Erik's first trial.

There were other disturbing elements about the way Calen died -- she had 73 bruises on her body, and had obviously been abused for many weeks. The state postulated that because Erik was dating Cheryl, he must have been disciplining the children, however there was no testimony to corroborate the States hypothesis. Both Erik and Cheryl stated in the trial that Erik had never disciplined the children. However, Nick Dieter, who lived at the home, did discipline the children regularly. But it was Erik that was on trial, not Nick.

It took four years for Erik to languish in prison until his appeal was heard. His first conviction was finally overturned because the State relied on hearsay testimony from Jenifer Pritchert in the trial. Erik managed to get a new public defender appointed to him, and he obtained six more of the police statements (with one still missing). He also asked for the impound lot records, but the court refused to allow him to do the kind of basic research he needed to defend himself. Erik also asked that little Nick, who was at his sister's side the night she died, be allowed to testify, but this also was denied. He also asked that he be able to poll potential jurors regarding their racial views, which he was also denied.

At Erik's second trial, the State used the same time line based on Nick's impound lot claims, and also put Jennifer Pritchert on the stand, but was careful not to let Jennifer speak for her daughter even though Jennifer's animosity for Erik was on display for the jury. Cheryl testified that she was forced by the State to testify against Erik at the first trial because the State threatened to take her children away from her, but the State was allowed to read testimony to the jury made by Cheryl from the first trial. Cheryl tried to show how she was pressured by using tape recordings from the police interview, but the first 45 minutes of tape from the interview had somehow been erased.

The coroner's for both the State and the defense testified that Calen's injuries could have been caused from 1 to 24 hours leading up to her death. They also said it was impossible for a child with that grave of an injury to be playing or moving about. There were several witnesses that testified Calen was fine right up to the point that Erik and Cheryl left for dinner. On closing, the State gave a 20 minute closing argument based on Nick's time line, followed by Erik's public defender who gave a 20 minute closing statement. Then the state was given FOUR HOURS for rebuttal on the public defender's closing argument. This action by the State prosecutor was unethical, unjust, and completely outside the norms of criminal prosecution.

There were numerous errors in Erik's second trial, including the fact that he could not obtain the police statements and other information he asked for, however the verdict was set aside just a few days later because he was denied the right to poll prospective jurors about whether they could render a fair verdict based on his race (Erik is white, the majority of the jurors were black).

Over the next year, while Erik sat in jail, he continued to file motions to obtain police statements and other information. In November of 2007, Erik filed a motion to fire his public defender and defend himself. He used the fact that he was unable to obtain the impound lot records that would indicate when Nick's car was actually released as a reason for dismissing his attorney. In response, the public defender went to the impound lot to retrieve the records. As a result, he learned that the impound lot was closed at the time Nick said he had obtained his car. As a matter of fact, the lot had never been open after 12 noon on Saturday in the 20 years the impound lot had been in operation.

At Erik's third trial, they were much better prepared. The State led off with their usual witnesses, including Jennifer Pritchert, the Baltimore City Coroner, and others. Erik's attorney put the manager of the impound lot on the stand, who testified that there was no way Nick could have obtained his car after 12 noon, and that the 3 pm time frame proposed by Nick in the previous two trials was absolutely false. Next, the detective that investigated the case took the stand and testified that it was his first detective case and that he actually did not know what he was doing. He did not take statements properly, he did not follow up with witnesses after the fact, and he did not research any of the claims made by witnesses. In addition, he testified to the time to get from the impound lot to the house could not be more than two hours, even in heavy traffic and catching all of the red lights. With the lot closing at 12 noon, and a two hour trip to the house, this put Nick at the house at 2 pm -- just like Erik had testified in the previous two trials.

Erik's public defender then put Nick Dieter on the stand and presented him with the impound lot evidence. Nick basically broke down on the stand, admitted he had perjured himself at both of the previous trials, that he had arrived around 2 pm that day at the house, that he had beaten Calen several times with many of those incidents leaving large bruises, including a large bruise on her neck that fateful day. In fact, he admitted to everything except actually killing Calen.

The State was taken by surprise with this testimony and asked for a one week recess to "review" the information, which the judge granted -- this is unheard of in a capital case. In addition, Erik was to take the stand in his own defense that day. When the State asked for a one week break in the trial, they insisted that Erik give his testimony right then, not when the court would reconvene a week later. Despite objections by Erik's attorney, the judge overruled and said that Erik either testify on that day, or else he would not be allowed to testify in his own defense when the court reconvened a week later.

When the court resumed the trial a week later, the State asked to put Erik on the stand to cross-examine him. This was the most poisoned, biased example of prosecutorial misconduct I have ever witnessed in any court trial. Let me give you a small example of how this was conducted:

State: Mr. Stoddard, the night before Calen died, you went out to a bar with your friends. Is this correct?

Erik: Yes, that is correct.

State: And what time did you leave to go to this bar?

Erik: Around 10:30 pm, I believe.

State: And what time did you arrive back at the house? Around 1:30 or 2:30 am?

Erik: Yes, I believe that is correct. Some time around 1:30 pm.

State: And when you arrived at the house, did you go upstairs into Calen's room and remove her panties and sniff them?

Erik: WHAT?? Of course not!!! I have never did that! There is no testimony in any part of this trial to that effect.

State: So you are now saying you did not remove and sniff Calen's panties?

Erik: Of course not! I have never removed Calen’s panties, or sniffed them. I cannot believe you are saying that.

State: So how many times have you changed Calen's diaper?

Erik: Never. Calen was potty trained, and was potty trained well before I started dating Cheryl.

State: You like making speeches, don't you Mr. Stoddard?

Erik: No, I am just trying to get a fair trial and make sure the jury understands the facts.

State: There you go again Mr. Stoddard. If you want to make a speech, go ahead.
I'll wait. (at least a 60 second pause).

While this was clearly intended as a show to the jury in order to try to upset Erik, he maintained his composure and put up with this barrage of abuse. There were many, many objections raised by his attorney during this questioning, but not a single objection was granted by the judge.

Because of the abuse of the closing statement and rebuttal process by the State at Erik's second trial, an agreement was established to limit closing arguments to two hours for both the State and the defense. While you would think that in light of the fact the Nick Dieter testified that he perjured himself, and that his time line was fictitious, and the fact that the State had a week to reformulate their closing based on this new evidence, the time line would be changed. But when the closing arguments were made, the State relied on the same time line that they proposed in the first and second trial, completely dismissing Nick Dieter's admission that he perjured himself. Despite the fact that Erik's public defender tried in vain to show the correct time line based on trial testimony, the State had the final word.

When the first vote was taken by the jury, the jury was evenly split. On one hand, if Nick did arrive at 2 pm, then there were several adults in the house and it is likely Nick Dieter was the one who committed this crime. On the other hand, if the State's time line was true, then Erik had opportunity to commit the crime, even though testimony clearly indicated the child was active and playful right up to the time Erik and Cheryl went to dinner. To break the dead lock, the Jury asked for a transcript of Nick Dieter’s testimony, but the judge denied the request (even though Nick's testimony was now nine days old). In the end, the jury went with the prosecutor and convicted Erik again.

Is this a fair trial? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. If Calen was injured in the serious manner described by the coroner's office, why didn't Nick Dieter notice she was injured? Why did it take until 10:30 pm until Nick found Calen dead on the couch before he called an ambulance? Why was Nick not held accountable for not noticing the child was severely injured for at least four and a half hours?

2. Since Nick admitted he had perjured himself on the stand, and it was corroborated by the testimony of the impound lot manager, why did they continue to pursue the fictitious time line argument?

3. Was it fair for the State to be granted a one week pause in the middle of the trial in order to put distance between the defense testimony and the State's closing argument?

4. Why didn't the judge grant the jury a transcript of Nick Dieter's testimony?

5. How can you convict one person of a crime when there is ample evidence that there were multiple adults involved through out the day, and the fact that all of those that testified indicated Calen was alive and well at the time Erik and Cheryl left for dinner?

6. Why didn't the State bring perjury charges against Nick and his two accomplices one they learned that Nick had perjured himself on the stand at the two previous trials?

7. Why didn't the State bring child abuse charges against the mother of the child if there were 73 bruises on her body at the time of death, some of them weeks old?

9. Why weren’t child abuse charges brought against Nick after he admitted to bruising the child several times, including the night she was killed?

Here is one thing you can count on -- this verdict will be appealed, it will be overturned, and Erik will live to see yet another day in court. Perhaps someone that is truly interested in justice will step in to stop this sham from going any further. So far, he has spent six years of his life behind bars for a crime he did not commit. Governor O’Malley promised he would clean up corruption in the State when he took office, but where is he now? What would you do if you were in Erik’s shoes?

Barbie said...

If i was Erik i wouldve got a decent legal team that knew the difference between an australian instrument and a bong!

Anonymous said...

I understand your point to the fullest, but I would like to put in my opinion. I WAS friends with both Nick and Erik. I do believe Nick should receive some type of charges if hats what really happened, however, the charecter that you are portraying Erik as is completely false. You make it seem that he was an upstanding citizen doing right, which is wrong. I have known him for years an when I first heard about this incident my immediate response was " erik did it". He is actually completely opposite than what you describe him, VERY violent with no intention of going to college. Always wanted to fight someone, male or female. Which I know he has several previous charges for such incidents. Even though we were friends, I always knew and everyone else around him always knew he was not right in the head. If you just looked at him wrong you would probably get beat by Erik.
Knowing the two individuals the only one capable of doing this would be Erik, I know they have the right man.

GreatBear said...

Our hearts go out to friends we have intimate relationships and take sides. There is a wrong done to Catlin here and Nick Dieter confessed a whole bunch of wrong doing during the last trial. Yes, yes he will go to prison very soon.
To imply of someones guilt on "past" actions is not how the criminal justice system works. If you notice Mr Stoddard has not wavered in any of his statements and we are watching very closely. As for "everyone else" they have all lied in court. The fact is that every time there is a trial these same purgers rise-up to protect Nick Dieter and they tell all kinds of lies to his account of the time frame the State uses to manufacture the killer.
This time a lot has changed!
Maryland has a fourth trial murder case on it's hands, the first of its kind ever and this will bring all the big networks to Baltimore. We the (who have been silently waiting) will see who is accountable for Catlin's death. God bless Mr Stoddard for enduring such and being an innocent person with no voice to help him.

Anonymous said...

I think all parties involved in this incident should be punished in some way or another, Including the mother for letting this happen, I am by no means saying Nick is completely innocent, however I just want to give you a background of charecter. Erik's background will tell you alot about him. And if you would know the true charecter of Erik, besides in a court room, I don't think you would be so compassionate.

Such a sad murder of an innocent baby girl's life...

GreatBear said...

The fact of Erik AND Cheryl NOT BEING HOME has skipped everyone's mind and it falls back to keep "Nick protected".
The character of Erik's past before the murder cannot be used in a court of law. If when his friends thought his character was out of line, (before Catlin's death), then those friends should of spoke to him about it instead of using it as a manipulation tool to convict him of a crime that the EVIDENCE does not show.
This case has been studied extensively by many investigatory law universities and the the same results keep rendering;
1. Why has this case not been reopened for investigation ?
2. Why is there so much judicial misconduct in the court ?
3. Who is the person that is going to take the fall for a murder case that has been so POORLY handled ?
The press needs to be in the court room and a few of our legislators to give this case a fair shake. Then We will see the results that real investigations render.

idremhd said...

Erik Stoddard is an absolutely violent sociopath. I know him personally, I went to school with him. He is a bully that picks on people smaller than him, and frequently abused animals, children, women and anything else that won't fight back. I also happen to know Nick Dieter, and he happens to be the exact opposite of Erik Stoddard. Erik Stoddard is a baby killer, and three courts have proven that. You can try to blame anyone you want, but that doesn't change the facts.

Anonymous said...

How come there are no photos of this beautiful child that was murdered? Why is it that when these cases go on and on and on for what seems like FOREVER the VICTIM is ALWAYS lost. Calen's body told the story of what happened to her. Cheryl admitted to being afraid of Erik, way before the trial. Way before a DA could "threaten her" to testify against him. And anyway, I have been in an abusive relationship - I have had a man choke me. I filed charges against him and when he THREATENED me to drop the charges I DID!!!! Why? Because I believed he'd kill me if he ever got out of jail.

I have Googled all of these names for the last two hours - WHY are there no photos of these people? Why are there only the same articles over and over and over again? I want to see the arrest warrant, can someone show me this?

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous I don't know why there isn't more news related information available on the case. You would think a terrible tragedy like this would have been covered by local TV and perhaps even some national news outlets, and therefore have pictures available. I would imagine that the family involved felt the guilt associated with not protecting their child, and probably weren't comfortable speaking with the media. What upsets me are these people trying to paint some picture of Erik like he was saving up for college. He was an absolute thug, who beat women, and anyone else who he didn't like or had something he wanted.

mj said...

The clerk of the court-- Frank Conaway's office-- should have a copy of the arrest warrant if this was in the city.

Anonymous said...

So what was that about a fourth trial?

plain tired said...

Just because you may have attended a year of school with Erik or knew him at one time didn't make you friends with him. don't pretend to know someone you really know nothing about. If you where in Erik's inner circle of friends you would know Erik WAS NOT anything like the person you thought you knew. And as for Nick Dieter the same is true. He abandones his kid for 2 1/2 years when he lives down the street, he is abusive and violent behind clothes doors. Oh and by the way when I have see Nick Dieter he himself has said Erik does not deserve to be where he is. Hhhm. to me it sound like Nick has something weighing on his conscience. You do not really know someone unless you live with them or are around them for most of the day every day instead you only know the image that you want to be portrayed to others. I know Nick and Erik for almost 20 years both now so please don't speak like you knew anything. And guess what there are no photos because its not really your buisness. If you wanted to be nosey you could have come to one of the trials. If people cared you could have gone and if you actually knew any of these people instead of maybe meeting someone once you would have already known what they looked like.

Anonymous said...

Hey plain tired! You are so stupid. Nick didn't abandon his kid for 2.5 years! Cheryl hooked up with Calen's dad at that time and kicked Nicky's to the curb. Then after she let Calen's dad use her car, even though he wasn't licensed, and he wrecked it this killing himself,
She wanted nick back! This sums up their
Character; she was a whore, and nick too nice. He want violent at all

Heather Gray said...

I lived in the same house but different apartments with Cheryl Deiter and her boyfriend Alex in Pikesville, Md from 2007-09. She didn't mention her dead daughter or her oldest child, Nick (Cheryl's mother has custody of him, Cheryl isn't allowed to see him)until she needed me to babysit her young son, Lucas, while she went to Erik's trial. The story she told both myself and my boyfriend was quite different than what is in the various articles I've read. She wasn't out to dinner, she was at a motel having sex with Erik. She said that he was Nick's best friend and they were sneaking behind his back. I was told this story more than once. She blamed Nick for killing her daughter because he found out that night that they were at the hotel. She eventually had a one night stand with my friend who also lived in our building and had a daughter by him. He has never seen the baby and wanted nothing to do with Cheryl. She has two new children to replace the first two. She shouldn't have a goldfish. I feel I need to contact someone in regards to what she told me back then. She was and still is a common piece of trash and I believe fully that she knew her kids were being abused and did nothing about it. I hope she reads this, as she knows exactly who I am and what she told me.

Unknown said...

Another theory that was floated was that Calen's brother killed her. He was older than her by three years and was known to be violent with her. He could have kicked her or jumped on her very hard and caused the damage that led to her death. He was the only person that was with Calen in the same room when she died. Unfortunately we will never know if that is what happened because the grandparents took the brother away when the police arrived and the detective never interviewed the brother (which was lamented by the police detective at Erik's third trial). Otherwise, it was Nick that killed Calen, and Nick has already admitted in court that he committed perjury by describing a false timeline that the prosecution based its case on.

Erik has been in prison now for 15 years for a crime he did not commit. Even though Nick admitted he had fabricated the timeline, the prosecutor used that perjured timeline for her closing arguments to re-convict Erik. While the prosecutor knowing used false evidence in her closing evidence, the judge never even blinked. There are still multiple grounds for appeal, but is not possible for Erik to receive a fair trial in the State of Maryland. If everything remains as it is, Erik will not be released from prison until the year 2041. That is a long time to be locked up for something you did not do.

If you really want to have an impact on saving an innocent person, you should contact the Maryland State Attorney General's office and share what you know with them. All of the rest of this is a matter of public record. Because Erik is poor and cannot afford legal representation, the State has no interest in finding the actual killer or righting a wrong. This is a terrible tragedy on so many levels - a little girl lost her life, and innocent man was convicted of a crime he did not commit, and a killer has been allowed to go free. Thanks for speaking out about what you know.

Anonymous said...

These are quite an interesting array of comments concerning Calen Faith Dirubbo's "murder". Little Calen was injured severely a week prior after being punched in the abdomen (there was a tear in her intestine). Nick was not there. A week later, Calen again received a blow to the abdomen, this time severing her intestine. The police initially arrested Nick Dieter because he was there. Caleb's little three-year-old body had bruises literally from the top of her head to her feet in various stages of healing, all of which show up very vividly upon death. Once the autopsy was done, the police realized that Cheryl's initial statements to police didn't add up. She was called back down to the police homicide unit where she changed her statements and implicated Erik once she realized her own existence was in jeopardy. They got the right guy for this murder. Now understand that both Cheryl and Nick were certainly not free from responsibility in Calen's death. I do not understand why neither were charged for at very least neglect. Calen could have received medical help. That didn't happen.

Now I totally agree with Heather Gray's comments above. Cheryl is a liar, a thief, a manipulator and much much more. She did not and still cannot protect her children. In this country, you must have a license to drive; however, anyone can have children. Cheryl lost one child to death and then another after having her parental rights terminated. She went and had three more, with one of those being molested. She should not have any children.

Dave said...

You left out the part the Nick admitted UNDER OATH at the third trial that he committed perjury on the timeline, that he was with Calen from 2 PM on, and that he beat Calen "hundreds of times". This is in the court record and not subject to dispute. I was in the courtroom when Nick gave his testimony.

Erik had nothing to do with Calen - he was dating her mother. The only reason Erik was even implicated is because Cheryl asked him to look after Calen until Nick arrived at 2 PM so she could go to work. A member of Cheryl's family delivered food to the kids at 1:15 pm and said in their testimony that Cheryl was fine. Others testified that she was playing at 5:00 pm when Erik and Cheryl left to go to dinner. If Erik severed her colon, how could she possibly be playing? She would have bled out quickly, screaming in pain and losing consciousness. Nick was with her for another five and a half hours, eventually finding her dead on the couch. WTF??

Erik Stoddard is in jail because he is poor and unable to retain a decent attorney to defend himself. Nick's family had plenty of money for Nick's legal defense, and they did not hesitate to send attorneys to bail him out of jail the very next day. The State Attorney needed an easy win, and Erik was an easy target. Nick manufactured a false timeline to put the blame on Erik and lied under oath on when Nick arrived. That timeline was debunked in the third trial with evidence from the parking garage, forcing Nick to admit in court that he perjured himself.

A good attorney would have pulled the evidence required to disprove Nick's timeline in the first trial and that timeline would have never been allowed to stand. At the third trial, when the State Attorney realized that Nick's admission of perjury had completely destroyed her case, she got the judge to agree to a one week pause in order to get the jury to forget about the testimony, and when the trial resumed, she used the perjured timeline in her closing arguments to convict Erik one more time. And despite the fact that they knew the timeline was false, the judge never said a thing.

Erik has been in jail for 17 years for a crime he did not commit. He will be there until the year 2041 and will be 61 years old when he gets out. There is no special legal team or Serial Podcast to come to his defense. He is just another poor person sucked off the streets and thrown into prison because he could not come up with the money to defend himself. A child is murdered, an innocent man is jailed for most of his life, and the killers go free. And nobody really gives a damn.