The 3 clues that could have stopped a killer
A school log-in sheet, a cell phone and a set of palm prints -- all found at the scenes of three separate crimes. All belonging to a man who would later be implicated in shootings of two women who made desperate calls to 911 from closets. Could these crimes have been prevented by basic police work? This 11Alive Investigation retraces the steps that could have led police to a convicted killer -- before the tragedy happened.
November 30, 2013
Pamela Williams calls 911. Her home in the Amhurst subdivision has been broken into. She tells the operator that she's hiding in a closet.
When police arrive, they find Williams in the closet. She's been shot at point-blank range in the head.
Six days later, Pamela dies. She was 43.
Determined to find Williams' killer, neighbors and colleagues raise more than $15,000 to offer as a reward.
Two weeks later, police arrest Jonathan Banks, James Sims and James Calhoun. Prosecutors refer to the trio as a “death squad”, saying they were part of a burglary ring that committed more than 100 burglaries in south Fulton County and at least one shooting.
The three are convicted on felony murder and burglary counts in 2016.
But before Williams' tragic death, police had a string of clues in their possession that could have seemingly led to Calhoun. What happened? Why was he still on the streets?
A look back at the evidence police had -- and ignored:
Clue #1: The log-in sheet
November 19, 2012
Fulton County Police officers are dispatched to a home on Lawrence Place in Atlanta after an alarm reportedly is activated.
The responding officer finds a rear window that appears to be have been forced open. The lower portion of the window is lying on the living room floor. The back door is open.
Another officer arrives.
The entire house has been ransacked. Strewn wires across a desk in the kitchen seem to point to where a computer once sat.
The homeowners are out of town, but a neighbor is able to get in contact with a relative, who comes by to secure the house.
The officers tell the relative that when the homeowners return, they can report anything they find missing.
A police report later indicates that in addition to the computer, other items stolen include a game console, some video games, two flat-screen TVs and a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun.
Related | 3 missed clues: The dropped cell phone
November 20, 2012 | 11:02 a.m.
An officer leaves a message for the victim.
November 20, 2012 | 12:53 p.m.
An officer leaves a voicemail for the victim’s mother and the victim asking them to return the call to discuss the case.
November 23, 2012 | 11:26 a.m.
An officer speaks to the victim, who said he hasn’t yet inventoried everything that had been taken from his home. He tells the officer that he’ll fax over the list when it’s complete. The victim adds that a red cigarette lighter was found in his house which doesn’t belong to anyone who lives there. The officer tells him that he’ll collect the item personally to have it checked for prints.
“This case will be marked INACTIVE pending new information or lead,” the officer writes.
November 26, 2012
According to a report filed by an officer on November 27, the victim drops off the cigarette lighter to the officer. He also gives him other documents he said he found in his home. Among them is an Atlanta Metropolitan College computerized log-in form for James Calhoun.
At 8:44 a.m., the victim emails the officer. That email appears to contain additional information about James Calhoun, including his mother's name, likely home address and social media activity.
At the bottom of the email, the author writes, "MY TWO CENTS: I think this kid is part of a home burglary ring."
November 27, 2012
The officer files a follow-up stating that the victim had dropped off the items. The officer writes that an I/LEADS search revealed Calhoun's address.
The officer leaves a voicemail at the home, requesting a return call.
“An interview with Mr. Calhoun will be arrange [sic] after gaining contact to determine how/why his identification was found at the victim’s residence,” the officer writes.
November 28, 2012
James Calhoun’s father, James Sr. , calls the officer, who explains that he wanted to speak with Calhoun’s son in reference to items found at the scene of a burglary. Calhoun tells the officer that he’ll have his son call him to arrange an interview.
December 28, 2012 | 10:10 a.m.
The officer writes that the lighter and note have been processed for latent prints and came back with negative results. The note was placed in evidence and the lighter destroyed, the officer writes.
January 3, 2013
Police receive a 911 call from a woman. She's in the closet, and terrified.
Listen below (Warning: Call contains violent sounds of a woman being shot. Viewer discretion is advised.)
January 3, 2013 -- Selected audio from a 911 call of a home invasion in which a woman was shot in her closet.
After several minutes talking to the dispatcher, the woman is heard screaming loudly, followed by what sounds like gunshots.
The phone hangs up.
Moments later, the woman calls back.
"I'm shot," she cries. "They shot me four or five times."
Police later determine that she had been shot with a 9 mm handgun.
Responding officers are involved in a brief pursuit. During the chase, a cell phone is dropped.
That cell phone is later determined to belong to James Calhoun.
Photos from the scene: Melissa Burke shot in a closet