An Independence family says police botched their daughter’s death investigation.
Detectives say it’s suicide, but her family calls it a murder. They contacted KCTV5 News Investigations when they felt like they were getting nowhere fast with the people who were supposed to get to the truth.
The morning of June 21, 2017, Angela Schroer’s family was concerned for her safety.
“She had called my mom,” Angela’s father, Tim Schroer said. “Mom had called me and said something doesn’t seem right.”
Tim Schroer then called Independence police to stop by his daughter’s home for a welfare check. According to a police narrative in the investigative file, an officer knocked repeatedly until a man opened the door. OfficerID: jgilbertson, Investigative Report ….I continued knocking until I could hear a man’s voice from inside the house yelling the name Angela. As I continued to knock at the door an older white male answered the door. I asked him if Angela was at the residence and he pointed to the couch in the living room. As he did he stated “What the F***!” As I stepped into the residence I observed a white female sitting naked on the couch with what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the forehead. "
The officer identified the woman as Angela Schroer, lifeless on the couch -- naked, bruised on her face and arms with a single gunshot wound to her forehead.
According to the dispatch log, at 10:11 AM, less than 15 minutes after an officer received the call for a welfare check, an officer relayed the information back to dispatch, "self-inflicted gunshot wound."
Less than a week after Angela Schroer’s death, the cause of death was printed on her death certificate as a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The manner: suicide
Her parents’ concerns only grew as time passed, but it was August when detectives informed them the case was closed, and her death was suicide.
The Schroers could now see the investigative file, including all police narratives with detailed accounts at the scene and graphic photos of their daughter.
As painful as it was to see the file, the more painful, crushing blow came after they read it. There was no question in their minds that the Independence Police Department did not do their job. They failed their daughter, failed her family and dismissed Angela Schroer’s death without ever really investigating.
What you won’t find in the Independence Police Department’s investigative file is much information on the man who Angela Schroer’s parents believe murdered their little girl.
They believe Donald Greer, the man who answered the door when police arrived, is responsible.
Angela Schroer lived with Greer and even he says he was the only one home the night of her death. He even opened the door when officers knocked.
Greer is a convicted felon and has a long rap sheet including Florida and New York. It was in New York where he was charged with manslaughter. In a plea deal, the charge was lessened to felony criminally negligent homicide. That was 1979 in Rockland County.
As a convicted felon, he could have been arrested for being in the presence of a firearm.
Independence police didn’t arrest him. Instead, they took his word. Greer told investigators he was in the bedroom and “did not hear the gunshot," which was highly unlikely given the duplex is less than 500 square feet and even a neighbor heard the shot.
“It was loud ... it got my attention. It got my wife’s attention,” Eddie Martin told KCTV5.
Martin said police never interviewed him and never asked for any information including whether he had heard a shot.
“It seemed a little odd,” Martin said. “They should’ve been talking to me.”
Police did listen to Greer and the different stories he told that morning.
In one police narrative, Greer tells one officer "...the gun laying on Angela’s chest was not his and that he had never seen it before.” Yet, within minutes of telling that story, Greer admits he was at a gun show when his friend purchased the gun for Angela Schroer and even held it.
These conflicting statements are in the same investigative file, yet Independence police did not note this as a potential red flag.
The Schroer’s believe Greer’s presence at the scene where Angela was found naked, should have automatically required a rape kit as part of the investigation. The family later learned there was no rape kit or autopsy was never performed.
THEIR OWN INVESTIGATION
In August, Tim Schroer said he got a phone call from Independence police telling him the case was closed. End of story.
That’s when Angela Schroer’s parents pulled together all the money they could find to hire their own investigators, even postponing buying a headstone for their daughter’s grave.
“We instructed them, we don’t want things twisted, we don’t want it sugar coated to the answer that you think we want to hear. We just want to know the truth,” Tim Schroer said.
The Schroers hired Terry Deister and John Cayton. Deister was the head of investigations for the Platte County Sheriff’s Office for more than 20 years and owns a private investigation company.
Cayton is a forensic criminologist. He worked for the Kansas City crime lab for more than 30 years and served as the chief forensic criminologist.
Neither veteran investigator minced words when it came to their conclusions about the Independence Police Department.
“It’s very upsetting, Deister said. “If I’d have been in control of this, I’d probably have fired every one of them. Everyone one of them that responded to the scene. It’s just not right.”
Cayton drew up a list of all the errors made by police. Based on his analysis of the investigative file, Cayton described investigators as “incompetent, untrained or just lazy.”
Cayton points out what he says was a failed approach to the investigation.
If Greer was telling the truth about being in the bedroom and not hearing the gunshot, her death should be investigated as an unattended death.
“So that should be investigated like a homicide. DNA, fingerprints, the gun should’ve been protected. The hand should’ve been swabbed for gunpowder residue ... those things—once that’s gone, you can’t get it,” Cayton said.
In the investigative file, there is no record of police testing the gun found on Angela Schroer’s body to confirm that was the weapon fired -- a semi-automatic 22 Ruger with a 5.5” barrel.
Cayton was also shocked to see police sent the gun away for testing at an unknown lab.
A letter from the city attorney notes that testing will take a full year. Cayton explained there are multiple labs in our area capable of testing the gun, including the Kansas City lab where he had served as the chief forensic criminologist.
“I think they’re stalling to cover up their mishandling the case,” Cayton said.
Where the shell casing landed once fired from the gun also raises serious questions for both investigators. It was found behind the couch where Angela Schroer’s body was found. If she used the gun found on her chest to shoot herself, the casing would have been found in the opposite direction.
“There’s a good chance this was a staged scene where someone might have placed that gun and repositioned the victim,” Cayton said.
Both investigators say the gunshot wound itself provided key evidence someone else may have pulled the trigger.
“The top barrel was pressed tight against her skull and the bottom was loose,” Deister said. “That’s where the gas escaped tearing her skin larger at the bottom. It means somebody was standing there, had the gun up against her forehead tight at the top and loose at the bottom.”
Deister says the most telling piece of evidence police failed to recognize or ignored was the blood flow pattern. He believes the interrupted blood flow on Angela Schroer’s chest where the gun was found is telling.
“She had blood flow coming out both of her nostrils which is common when you get shot in the head.” Deister went on to explain. “One blood flow went back ... the other went down her neck, across her left breast ... and it came down where the gun was. It was smeared ... below the gun, the blood flow pattern was identical to what was above the gun. So that would indicate the gun was placed there after she died."
Deister also points out the blood from her nostrils flow in inconsistent directions. The second stream of blood appeared to flow in the opposite direction.
“Blood would naturally flow down in front of her face but it didn’t. It went straight back over her head and down into her hair, which would indicate she wasn’t in that position when she was shot,” Deister explained. “I feel almost 100-percent the body was moved. It had to be, and the only other person there was the roommate."
In the review of the Independence Police Department investigation, Deister concluded, “the evidence had been altered ... and it wasn’t noticed or just ignored by people who should’ve taken notice.”
Deister suspects Independence police wrote off Angela Schroer’s death before ever investigating.
“They just assumed she was a doper and killed herself," Deister said.
Deister explained he usually declines any media interviews and has for most of his career. He made an exception for this case.
“The only reason I’m willing to sit down and talk to you is because my experience in dealing with things like this ... nothing is going to get done unless there’s outside pressure put on,” he told KCTV5.
Cayton’s conclusion was in line with Deister’s.
When asked if he believed Angela Schroer’s death was investigated properly, Cayton responded, “No ... it was a slap in the face for the justice system.”
Independence police declined KCTV5’s request for an interview, saying the case was an open investigation.
That was news to the Schroer family who was told the case was closed in August 2017 and hasn’t heard from Independence police since then.
KCTV5 asked Officer John Syme, a spokesman for the Independence Police Department, if the case had ever been closed or closed and then reopened. He said that was not clear.
The police department sent the following statement to KCTV5:On 6-21-17 at about 9:37 AM, officers responded to 1401 S. Hedges Avenue on a check the well-being call. A family member called police to check on Angela Schroer, who had made statements the previous day that concerned them. Upon entering the home, officers located a deceased female, identified as Angela D. Schroer, a 28 year old, white female. Her apparent cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. A pistol was found between her hands. Officers detected no signs of a struggle or foul play at the scene. Witness statements, as well as the crime scene led responding officers and detectives to initially believe that the incident was an apparent suicide.The Crime Scene Unit responded to document the scene and gather evidence. The assigned detective conducted interviews, requested a drug analysis, and sent the firearm to the lab for DNA testing. Angela’s body was sent to the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s office. The manner of death was ruled a suicide, according to the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s report.Investigations like this consider the totality of circumstances including prior documented suicide attempts, information on suicidal statements from witnesses, mental health and known drug use in making a determination of whether a death is a suicide. At this point in the investigation, there is no evidence to indicate that the death was caused by anyone but Angela.The case is only listed “open” pending DNA test results on the firearm. If additional evidence is found, detectives will surely investigate them in the furtherance of this case.
Neighbors and the Schroer family say they were told Greer died at the end of last year.
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