Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Crime that Wasn’t

Selfie Clears Suspect
by Robert A. Waters

Cristopher Precopia was arrested on September 22, 2017 by detectives from the Bell County Sheriff's Office in Texas.  When he asked why he was being cuffed, one of the cops said, “You know why.”  Only problem was he didn’t know.

But there was this written statement from his unnamed accuser.

“I had just gotten home from dropping off the kittens I rescued with their new mom.  I was in the kitchen and I heard the door jiggling and then open.  I walked in the room and [Precopia] charged at me knocking down the table and I fell over the vase in the middle and tried to get away.  He then grabbed me and started punching me and said ‘three strikes and this will happen to your sisters’ and cut an X into my chest and then cut lines in my face.”  She told investigators that she could “hear the slices being made.”  According to the alleged victim, the crime happened exactly at 7:20 p.m. on September 20.  A nasty-looking cut, an “X” sliced just beneath her neck, solidified her statement to investigators.

Surly cops transported Precopia to the Bell County jail and charged him with “burglary of a habitation with the intent to commit other crimes.”  He was told he could be sentenced to 99 years in prison.

Now that’s an eye-opener.

Precopia learned that a former girlfriend he'd dated in high school had made the accusations.  Cops told him they had a slam-dunk case with an attractive witness and fresh cut marks to prove their case. 

Precopia said he barely remembered her. 

His frightened parents borrowed $150,000 to pay his bond and hire an attorney, Rick Flores.  Even though Cristopher bonded out of jail, he was forced to wear an ankle monitor.

During all this, cops never even bothered to get Precopia’s side of the story.

Then his mother, Erin Pinkston Precopia, remembered a Facebook post she’d made on September 20.  She and Cristopher had attended a conference in Austin, more than an hour away from Bell County, and she had taken a selfie of herself and her son.  The time stamp on the photo read 7:09 p.m.  The background showed the Renaissance Hotel in Austin.  There was no way Precopia could have been in Bell County at the time of the alleged assault. 

Lawyer Flores hired an expert to document the selfie to determine if it had been faked.  It hadn’t, it was the real deal.  Flores handed the photo over to prosecutors who hired their own forensics expert to confirm dates and times.

When confronted, the alleged victim admitted she made up the story and inflicted the wounds on herself.

After nine months, prosecutors dropped charges.  County DA Henry Garza’s lame response answered no questions as to why an innocent man had been arrested without even so much as a police interview.  “We are always willing to listen and examine new information,” he said, “and that’s exactly what we did in this case.”

The case left some cops shaking their heads.  According to experienced detectives, one of the first things police should do is to interview the suspect to determine whether he or she has an alibi.  That didn’t happen in this case.

Until (and unless) the accuser’s name is released, we’ll never know why she made up her story. 

Before being arrested, Precopia had spoken to a recruiter about enlisting in the U. S. Army, but was turned down after his arrest.  His parents lost thousands of dollars.  And it’s likely Precopia's own concept of truth, justice, and the American way changed.  That might be the saddest part of all.