NORWICH – An expert witness plotted the path accused murderer George Ford Jr.’s truck took on the night of his babysitter’s death in exacting detail in Chenango County Court Monday.
In a two-hour demonstration, District Attorney Joseph A. McBride had Steven Moehling, vice president of Land Air Sea Systems, the company which made the GPS in Ford’s truck, describe in detail the speed, altitude, location and stops recorded by the tracking device. The court watched the recordings made from 10:49 p.m. on July 7, 2007 to 10:27 a.m. on July 8, 2007, the night 12-year-old Shyanne Somers died.
On a projector screen displaying a clock, speedometer and maps, Broome County Court Judge Joseph Cawley watched the GPS tick by at one-second intervals in the four hours leading up to the incident and then the following 90-minute trip to Chenango Memorial Hospital.
It is during this span of time the prosecution claims 43-year-old Ford murdered his neighbor’s daughter, who was supposed to be baby-sitting for him.
Ford claims the incident was a tragic accident, but police investigators disagreed after discovering a key piece of evidence that contradicted his whole story – a GPS tracking unit placed in the truck by Ford’s suspicious wife. The device allegedly traced Ford’s exact route on the night in question and was in the back seat of his truck.
Moehling said that after lingering in the victim’s driveway for seven minutes, the ‘tracking key’ shows Ford’s first stop after picking up Somers was not at his residence, but over a mile in the opposite direction. The truck then came to a rest at an empty parcel of open field along Pleasant Valley Road. The truck stayed at the property owned by Ford for 3 minutes, 42 seconds at 11:20 p.m. The truck then returned to Ford’s residence by 11:40 p.m., where it sat for 11 minutes, 47 seconds.
This is when Ford’s wife, Cindy, testified that she decided against returning to the graduation party the couple was attending and instead went to bed. According to Cindy, George Ford then left to take Shyanne home. She also noted that it was not uncommon for her husband to remain out all night and that the couple’s relationship had become “estranged.”
According the to the GPS evidence, the vehicle then left Ford’s residence and made its way from Rt. 26, down Stage Road, ending up at an abandoned house along Will Warner Road in the Town of Otselic by 11:50 p.m.
Moehling said the GPS device shows Ford’s truck remained in the area until 2:58 a.m. During that time, Moehling noted that the GPS turned off and on repeatedly, but never left the area. He explained that the tracking key deactivates if it remains stationary for over two minutes, but would “wake up” if it detected movement again and begin recording. “When its sleep mode is disturbed, it starts recording again,” he said.
At 2:58 a.m., Ford’s truck left the abandoned residence and headed east on Will Warner Road, the direction he came from. The animated GPS icon showed the truck traveling to the end of the road, at the intersection of Stage and Will Warner Road, then circling back towards the vacant home. It then passed the home at 2:59 a.m. doing 16 miles per hour, which McBride said indicated that the defendant was looking for something.
As the truck passed the abandoned home, it continued to travel west along the heavily wooded area of Will Warner Road, moving between 10 to 20 miles per hour. Moehling said device then shows a gradual slow down of the vehicle in the last quarter mile before it stopped, which he demonstrated to the court on the projector.
When asked by McBride if he thought Ford was in control of the vehicle at this time, Moehling responded, “Yes, based on this I believe he was in control of the vehicle at this time because of the gradual reduction in speed in the last quarter mile before the stop,” he said.
At 3:03 a.m., traveling at a final recorded speed of 2.49 miles per hour, Ford’s vehicle came to a stop at the location believed to be the site of Somers’ death...