NORWICH – Almost a year to the day after George Ford Jr. pleaded not guilty in the death of 12-year-old Shyanne Somers, pretrial hearings began in Chenango County Court Monday.
Broome County Judge Joseph Cawley gave defense attorney Randel Scharf one week to submit a memorandum of law to list evidence he wants suppressed for trial. Within the next 60 days, the judge will decide on the motions and a trial date will be set for October or November.
Ford, 42, of Piscataway, N.J., has been incarcerated at the Chenango Correctional Facility since July 8, 2007. Initially charged with felony reckless endangerment following the death of his Otselic Valley baby-sitter, Shyanne A. Somers, Ford was later charged with second degree murder. Ford had said he accidentally ran over the girl while showing her horses on Will Warner Road in Otselic. Ford had contracted Somers to babysit his child, but when her services weren’t needed, he said he was taking her home when the accident occurred. Inconsistencies in testimony and later evidence led police to believe Ford ran the girl over intentionally.
Witnesses were questioned Monday to establish a crime timeline, about evidence collected, inconsistencies in Ford’s statements and how the investigation was handled by law enforcement officials.
District Attorney Joseph McBride called five witnesses to the stand. Christopher Rotundo, a police officer for the City of Norwich, was the first officer to respond at 4:55 a.m. July 8 at Chenango Memorial Hospital.
Rotundo said he was met by hospital security who told him the incident involved a “hit and run type accident” where a young female had been killed. Rotundo said he approached a large white truck pick-up truck with New Jersey license plates to find a young female victim’s body still inside.
Chenango County Sheriff’s personnel including Detective Sgt. Richard M. Cobb, Lieutenant James E. Lloyd, Detective Sgt. John Fern and Chenango County Sheriff Thomas Loughren were also called to the stand.
Inconsistencies in the statements given by Ford based on physical evidence found at the scene during the investigation were said by law enforcement officials to “not match up,” leading to the murder accusation.
Cobb, who spent the majority of the following day with Ford, said he was the one who retrieved the Global Positioning System (GPS), a key piece of evidence for the prosecution, from the Sheriff’s Department’s garbage, where Ford allegedly tried to dispose of it.
Fern verified the GPS from the truck belonged to Cindy Ford, the defendant’s wife. The technology shows where and how fast Ford was driving when the crime occurred. Fern testified that Cindy Ford came to the South Otselic sheriff’s substation. “She said she placed it under the passenger seat in her husband’s truck because she thought he was having an affair,” said Fern.