A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Wrongful Arrests


When Denise Mansfield was murdered last year, Prince George's County, Maryland, police focused their investigation on three women spotted withdrawing money from an ATM where money was taken from Mansfield's account after her death. The time of the withdrawal from the dead woman's account, recorded by a bank computer, corresponded to the times stamped on the ATM video of the suspects. After the images of the women were shown on America's Most Wanted, a viewer identified the three as Virginia Shelton, 46; her daughter, Shirley, 16; and one of Shirley's friends, Jennifer Starkey, 17, all of Sierra Vista, Arizona. Police interrogated the three and claimed they admitted using Mansfield's debit card. The three denied confessing but were kept in jail for three weeks, until Sharkey's father got local prosecutors to look at the bank's transaction records for Mansfield's card, which showed she'd used that machine earlier in the day. It turns out the police had simply assumed the bank's transaction computer and the ATM videotape were synchronized. They weren't.