STEVEN SCHWAB: STRANGE ENCOUNTER

 

               SYNOPSIS:  Steven Schwab (Figure 1, [SCHWAB.JPG])schwab.jpg (41886 bytes) is a man who lived in an apartment on Montana Ave. (two streets north of the crime scene) with his dog, cat, and wife, though not necessarily in that order of affection.  On the night of the murders he had taken his dog for a walk, and in the course of that he had encountered Nicole’s Akita dog, and the Akita followed Schwab and his dog to Schwab’s apartment.  Schwab tried to find authorities to whom to entrust the stranger dog, but the hour was late on a Sunday night, and animal control facilities were closed or closing.  Because of a foreseeable conflict with his own dog and cat, Schwab did not want to keep the new dog in his apartment overnight, and so consigned him for that period to a neighbor, Sukru Boztepe.  Boztepe and his wife took the dog to their own apartment, but the animal became so agitated and unpredictable, they took him out on a leash to see if he would lead them to his home.   In that way, the Akita led Boztepe to the murder scene, and Boztepe caused the police to come.

               We are interested here to reconstruct Schwab’s experience to have more confidence in his time estimates and will also consider details of that experience that might be important in understanding the testimony of other witnesses, which must be consistent insofar as all are describing related events.

               THE NEIGHBORHOOD:  Figure 2 [MAP_S.JPG]map_s.jpg (40580 bytes) is a scan from the LA street guide, with a tint added to highlight the area around which Schwab walked.  As we noticed in the Heidstra timeline analysis, this neighborhood “runs on a slant,” and to remove that complication the map of Figure 1 has been rotated clockwise by 45 degrees to produce the map of Figure 3 [MAP_S2.JPG]map_s2.jpg (47169 bytes).  Colloquial “north” is toward the top of Figure 3.

               SCHWAB’S EXPERIENCE:  In the preliminary hearing, Schwab gives an excellent (but not quite complete) description of his experience.  Schwab left his apartment with his dog on leash a little after 10:30 pm, and walked west on Montana.  He crossed Bundy and at some point also crossed to the south side of Montana.  A block from Bundy he came to Gretna Green and turned left to go down there.  He went for a block and turned right onto Gorham.  (Once he left Montana, the neighborhood is a mix of older single family residences and new redevelopments, mostly into condominiums.)  Schwab went west on Gorham and toward the end of the block he met a blonde woman and a dark-haired man who were out for a walk.  They interacted briefly and the couple petted Schwab’s dog.   Schwab continued to the end of the block where he came to Amherst Avenue, and he turned left.  That brought him shortly to Dorothy where he turned left again, now going east.   After two blocks, that would bring him to Bundy Drive.  Figure 4 [SCHWAB02.JPG]schwab02.jpg (53276 bytes)

               As he approached Bundy, Schwab noticed that there was a large dog without a master ahead, and that caused him a little caution.  The dog, an Akita, seemed agitated and was barking at the house on the northwest corner of Bundy and Dorothy.  After a brief interaction in which the two dogs sniffed at each other (and Schwab’s dog growled), Schwab inspected the lose dog.  It had no leash, but it had a fancy collar – without any identification tags.  Schwab also noticed that the Akita had blood on all four paws – more on some than others.  He initially thought that the animal might be injured, but as he looked for such he could not find any.   Figure 5 [SCHWAB01.JPG]schwab01.jpg (57081 bytes).  (A stray point: Simpson probably came to Nicole’s condo down Bundy -- from the right on Figure 5 -- and turned right at this intersection.  As he proceeds west into the distance, after half a block he would come the entrance to the alley that eventually comes to the back of Nicole’s condo.  By turning left half a block from the intersection of Figure 5, he would enter that alley.)

               Schwab crossed the street (Bundy) and the Akita followed.  Schwab turned left to take his own dog north on the east side of Bundy (his usual route) and the Akita followed.  The Akita stopped at every house to bark up the path that led to the front door – dog behavior that Schwab had never seen before and did not understand.  (The reader should understand that these “paths” to the front doors of houses on the east side of Bundy are actually stairways; the houses sit twenty feet or so above the Bundy sidewalk.  This is different than on the west side of the street.)  At about the curve on Bundy, northbound Schwab saw that there was a police car going southbound and flagged him down.  While the police car was stopped in the street, Schwab explained to the officer about the lost dog that was following him.  The policeman said that he would “call it in,” and departed.  Schwab continued north in the company of both dogs.  Shortly later, he was aware that the patrol car had turned around and was following him.  (In fact, it followed him all the way to Montana, but no LAPD help for the stray dog ever materialized.)   Figure 6 [SCHWAB04.JPG]schwab04.jpg (54081 bytes).

               Schwab was not aware of any other person (such as Louis Karpf) in the part of his trip from getting to Bundy and Dorothy until he stopped the policeman.  Upon reaching Gorham, Schwab again encountered the blonde woman and the dark-haired man that he had talked to over on the other side of Gretna Green earlier.  They talked again briefly, and Schwab continued on his way home.  The Akita followed him all the way, and even up to the second floor, where Schwab had to hold him off while he shut his apartment door between himself and his dog on the inside and the Akita outside.  (He felt he could not let the big and strange-acting animal come into where his cat was.)   The dog seemed dehydrated, and so Schwab brought water down to the first floor courtyard and the Akita followed.  Schwab’s wife came too, and the couple discussed what to do with the dog.  There was contact with the animal regulation people, and Schwab discovered that they could not help him that night.  His neighbor, Boztepe, came along, and Schwab prevailed on him to take the dog overnight.  The last that Schwab saw of the dog was when Boztepe led him away and to his own apartment.  Figure 7 [SCHWAB06.JPG]schwab06.jpg (47122 bytes).

               TIMELINE:  In the criminal trial, Clark elicits Schwab’s time of leaving his apartment: “Q Okay. so at what -- at 10:32 or 10:33 you left?   A Approximately, yeah.”  Schwab explains that the route he followed is habitual, and one that he designed because it takes almost exactly half an hour which fits his needs as a person who watches much TV.  He checked his watch at Montana Ave. and Gretna Green Way: “…my dog had taken care of its duty and I cleaned up after it and I checked my watch to see whether I should continue on or return home [so as to use up as much of the half hour he had allotted himself without over-running].  For the dog's sake I didn't have to continue on if I didn't want to, and that was between 10:35 and 10:40 when I checked my watch”  Figure 8 [BUNDY_00.JPG]bundy_00.jpg (57454 bytes)

               From experience, Schwab knows that the middle of his route (the 15-minute point) is on Amherst, and from that he figures that he encountered the Akita when he still had about five or ten minutes of walking to go.  That is, he guesses the encounter was at about 10:55: “Q So approximately 10:55 you got to the corner of Dorothy and Bundy?  A That's correct.”  On cross-examination in the criminal trial, there is this; “Q How much time would you estimate that you spent standing on the corner with the dog at Bundy and Dorothy?   A Approximately a minute or two.”

               There are five points of irregularity in his walk, in addition to having the Akita follow him.  From his description in the transcript, we estimate the delays because of these events to be…

               1. Encounter couple on Gorham: 1-1/2 min.

               2. Initial encounter with Akita: 1-1/2 min.

               3. Encounter policeman: 1-1/2 min.

               4. Second encounter of couple on Bundy: 0 min. (just spoke in passing)

               5. Final encounter of policeman on Montana: 1/2 min.

               Schwab’s nominal speed over this distance, figured at 4514 feet in 30 minutes, is 150.5 feet/min., or 1.72 mph – almost twice Heidstra’s speed.   But, he probably always hits the sidewalk in front of his apartment a little after 10:30, as he did on this night, and also gets back a little before 11:00 o’clock (to give him time to come and go within his building), and so we can deduce an actual average rate of 4514/25 min. = 180.6 fpm, or 2.06 mph.   Compare this with his calibration point at Montana and Gretna Green, which is about 5 minutes from the start: 843 feet / 5 minutes = 168.7 fpm.  All things considered, we use 180 fpm henceforth, except in the part from the initial encounter with the Akita until Schwab flags down the policeman.  Because of the complications of the distracted Akita “barking up themap_s3.jpg (54297 bytes) paths,” it is assumed that Schwab only progressed at 100 feet per minute in that area.

               The relevant distances are shown in Figure 9 [MAP_S3.JPG].   Using the computed average speed and the presumed delays, we now can construct a schedule for Schwab…

 

EVENT

DISTANCE

TIME

Lv. Apartment House

0’

10:32.5

Montana & Gretna Green

843’

10.37.2

Gorham & Amherst (1)

2003’

10:43.6 - 10:45.1

Amherst & Dorothy

2311’

10:46.8

Dorothy & Nicole’s Alley

3086’

10:51.1

Dorothy & Bundy (2) *

3246’

10:52.0 - 10:53.5

Bark at 3rd House (Tistaert)

3476’

10:55.8

Encounter Policeman (3)

3496’

10:56.0 - 10:57.5

Encounter Couple Again (4)

3919’

10:59.9

Final Encounter with Cop (5)

4364’

11:02.3 - 11:02.8

Arr. Apartment House

4514’

11:03.7

2 min. to get to own unit

 

11:05.7

                                             * From Dorthy & Bundy to policeman at 100 fpm

               This model agrees with Schwab’s estimate that he left the apartment house at “10:32 or 10:33,” and got back into his apartment at about 11:05.  It assumes a reasonable pace for a man of his age and situation, and it accounts for all the irregularities in the walk that he has related.  It produces a time of encountering the Akita (10:52 to 10:53-1/2) that is very close to his own estimate of 10:55.  As a result, it is reasonable to expect that these values are within a minute or two of the actuals.

               ATTORNEYS’ OBFUSCATION:  As though we did not need another dreary example of the way attorneys mislead jurors, there is the prosecution exhibit I show here as Figure 10 [EXHIBIT.JPG]exhibit.jpg (23215 bytes), which was shown to illustrate Schwab’s experience.  Notice that the crime scene and its address (875) are shown, and at the bottom of the chart is the number, 11965, Schwab’s address on Montana.  Trouble is…  That address is shown on the west side of Bundy and Schwab lives a significant distance to the east of Bundy.  And, the chart shows that address on the south side of Montana, whereas Schwab lives on the north side.   Furthermore, the chart is constructed with north at the bottom, whereas the convention is that (unless otherwise noted, as with an arrow) north is toward the top of a map.  This misleading slapdash product would get a low grade if it were a junior high school project; its presence in a courtroom is a disgrace.

               As that may only be a result of sloppiness, the defense attack on Schwab’s timeline was a deliberate effort to create a false impression that he was careless with the facts.  Cochran confronted Schwab with his police report in which he said that he had encountered the Akita at some vague time between 11:00 and 11:30.  Since the police report is “official,” and closer to the event than his courtroom appearance, it makes it appear that Schwab’s actual time of encounter is doubtful.

               But, Schwab said that he had been awakened from a sound sleep by LAPD detectives at 5 am on the morning of the 13th, and asked to make a report.   He was at that time so groggy from sleep, that he wasn’t even sure what day it was (a fact that would influence his recollection).   He gave a statement in that state of confusion and the detectives went away.  Later in that same day, when he was fully awake, Schwab reconstructed his activities of the night before and realized that he had given erroneous times.  He called the police department, explained, and offered to make an amended report.  He was told that they “would get back to him,” but nobody ever did.  To this day, many people are influenced by that initial statement when Schwab was half-asleep to think that he is an unreliable witness.  He is not; the attorneys are (as ever) manipulative and shamelessly disinterested in the truth.

               Just as Schwab himself disclaimed his ill-considered police statement, we similarly dismiss it as no more than a promptly recognized mistake.

               RECONCILIATION WITH OTHER EVENTS:  Regardless of what time the witnesses thought events happened, they did actually occur according to some true timeline.  And, when two witnesses were experiencing the same event from different perspectives, those witnesses must have had the experience at the same time.  In this section we undertake to reconcile Schwab’s timeline with that of others who experienced part of what he did.

               Heidstra – The common experience for Schwab and Heidstra was the barking of the Akita (Heidstra’s experience was analyzed in “Heidstra’s Timeline”).  Heidstra heard the dog begin to bark at 10:33, and apparently the dog continued barking pretty constantly until Heidstra had heard the “Hey, hey, hey,” and later reached the big tree.  He appears to have continued barking after that, but maybe not constantly.  (Already when Heidstra got to the tree the Akita had been barking for 7-1/2 minutes, and that is a pretty long spell of non-stop barking.)  Apparently the Akita continued to bark some after Heidstra left the tree and started back up Dorothy toward his apartment, because Heidstra stopped once along the way to listen again.  And after he got to his apartment Heistra listened again to distant barking for a few minutes until he heard it begin to diminish; then he went indoors.  This “barking less” (10:56.5 in Heidstra’s timeline) corresponds to Schwab and the Akita walking up Bundy and stopping for the policeman (10:56.0 to 10:57.5 in Schwab’s timeline), and this is a point at which the Akita did actually “slow down barking.”

               Tistaert This was the old woman with a hearing aid that lived on the east side of Bundy at 874.   It was behind her house, with the “little black dog,” that Heidstra stopped to hear sounds in the night.  She was aware of the dog barking out on Bundy, and looked once (at an unspecified point) to see what was going on; eventually, she called the police about it.  When Marcia Clark chatted with her on the witness stand, she said,

____________________________________

Q About how long had the dog been barking when you called the police?

A I believe about a half hour.

_____________________________________

               According to our reconstruction, the Akita began barking on Bundy, on and off, at 10:33 when Heidstra approached on the Bundy/Gorham curve, and continued barking at least until about 10:56 when Schwab encountered the policeman.  Assuming that Tistaert called the police when the barking was the most pronounced at her location (when the Akita barked up the third “pathway”) that is at 10:55, 22 minutes after the dog started barking on Bundy.  For Tistaert to estimate 30 minutes, when she did not refer to a clock and was not paying attention to the time, is not out of line, I think.   (Also notice that according to Boztepe’s testimony the man who called the police for him – Tistaert’s neighbor to the north -- said that the dog had begun barking “about 10:30.”)

               The dog’s behavior when Tistaert looked out to see it is not completely clear.  She said,

_______________________________________

Q What did you see?

A I saw a dog running back and forth across the street barking.

Q When you say "running back and forth," do you mean from one side of the street to the other?

A No, no, just for, oh, possibly for ten or fifteen feet, from one – from the lamppost or something that is at the street there back to ten or fifteen feet back away from the street.

_______________________________________

               Apparently the Akita was running around in the vicinity of Nicole’s front walk (the “lamppost” is on the west side of the street about 10 feet north of Nicole’s walk) and barking at it, but did not actually go up the walk (as the dog also behaved later with Schwab).  But, since the dog was barking at a “path” on the west side of Bundy, Tistaert must have seen him before Schwab came along.  While the dog was with Schwab, he stayed only on the east side of the street (once they had crossed to there at the corner).

               Karpf – Louis Karpf was a man who lived in a condo beside Nicole to the north.  On the night of the murders he was in front of his condo for a couple of minutes, checking his mailbox at some time between 10:00 and 11:00 o’clock (he had been out of town for the weekend), and he saw Nicole’s Akita running in the street and barking.  He also saw a man walking a dog northbound on the opposite side of the street.  It is usually assumed that Schwab was the man walking a dog that Karpf saw, but it is premature to confirm that idea here.  It is necessary to first examine Karpf’s timeline.  Elsewhere.

               Couple – This was an intriguing chance encounter.  Schwab first met the couple when he was westbound on Gorham near Amherst, and then later encountered them again when he was northbound on Bundy just north of Gorham (locations “1” and “4” on Figure 3.) when they were southbound.  In both instances they were travelling in the opposite direction to Schwab.  Notice that if one travels counter-clockwise between those two corners (as Schwab did) he goes 1716 feet, and if he travels the clockwise route he goes 1568 feet – only 148 feet different.  So, if the couple was walking the same path as Schwab, but in the opposite direction, they were walking almost exactly at his 180 feet per minute.  Notice also from the map of Figure 3 that there is not much other way to get from the place and direction that Schwab saw them first to the place and direction where he saw them second except by going around the same circuit he was travelling, but backwards.

               The thing that makes this particularly interesting is that if the couple continued to walk down the west side of Bundy from where Schwab second encountered them for just 500 feet more, they would pass Nicole’s condo (at 11:02.7).   Since they never did “come forward,” we must presume that they just walked past the place (as Aaronson and Mandel did about half an hour earlier) without ever realizing that there was a dead body at the foot of the steps.  OR, they lived in a house in that last 500 feet, and so stopped before they got to Nicole’s condo after Schwab met them again.  But, in that case they had passed the condo on the beginning of their walk, 20.7 minutes earlier, at 10:42.0,. and the body was there then, too.  In either case this couple represents an example that people could have passed by the condo, with Nicole’s dead body laying 15 feet away in the dark, and not realized.

               Simpson – In “Heidstra’s Timeline” we determined that the time when Simpson left Dorothy and Bundy (as Heidstra saw the “white SUV”) was 10:41.6.   Alas; at that time Schwab was on Gorham, heading for Amherst, so he was not in a position to see this event, and his inability to tell us that he did is not significant.  Furthermore, Simpson was out of the neighborhood entirely two minutes later, and in that two minutes Schwab was walking west on Gorham.  One of the three practical routes that Simpson could have taken to go from where Heidstra saw him to where Shively nearly collided with him was up Gretna Green, but when Simpson would have passed Gorham, he would have been about a block behind Schwab, so Schwab wouldn’t have seen that either.

               Pilnak – Denise Pilnak, living 75 yards south of Bundy and Dorothy, was indoors throughout the barking that began at 10:33 and testified, “I heard one continuous bark for a very long time”; she estimated that time to be 45 minutes.  According to this, if the dog began barking at 10:33, then it would not have stopped until 11:18, and Schwab’s entire experience on Bundy was long over by then, and the Akita was long gone from Pilnak’s range of hearing.  Heidstra says that the dog “slowed down barking” at about 10:56, and this is in conflict with Pilnak’s “one continuous bark” for 45 minutes.  Also, Schwab observed the dog to be barking only intermittently after 10:52, and this is contradictory to Pilnak’s testimony.  Insofar as both Schwab and Heidstra were outdoors, in relatively immediate contact with the Akita, and paying rather constant attention to it, Pilnak appears to be the less reliable witness on this point. 

              In cross-examining Pilnak in the criminal trial, Marcia Clark badgers the witness with her police statement in which she says “dogs barking … around 11:00, 11:30.”  On the witness stand Pilnak disclaims that statement as being the ill-considered result of being in shock at learning that Nicole had been murdered.  Also, the inference of Clark’s cross-examination in the criminal trial is that Pilnak had told reporters on both June 13th and June 14th that she had heard dog barking until almost midnight.  On the witness stand, she disclaims that, too. 

               It is my impression of Pilnak’s testimony concerning the dog barking on Bundy after 10:33 that,

               * Like nearly all of the other witnesses, her prompt statements to the police were off the top of her head, and the details were later refined and made more accurate by reconstruction of the events.  (For example, after making her earliest statements, Pilnak received a phone bill from which, and by additional reconstructions, she produced an accurate time of the onset of the Akita’s barking on Bundy.)

               * Pilnak’s statement that the dog barked “constantly” for 45 minutes after 10:33 should be considered as a sincere impression, but not a result of a studied observation.  It is rather obvious from better positioned witnesses that the barking continued for only about half the time she reports, and it was intermittent, in the last five minutes or so, at least.

               Boztepe – The activities that Schwab undertook after he got home (discussing his experience with his wife, talking to the animal regulation people, dealing with the dog, and eventually handing him off to Boztepe) and the activities of Boztepe and his wife (trying to settle the Akita in their apartment for the night, and then letting him lead them to the crime scene, whereby they discovered Nicole’s body at about 12:05) are consistent with Schwab’s claim that he originally got back into his apartment at 11:05.

               DOG’S BEHAVIOR OVER TIME:  At first blush, Heidstra’s account makes it appear that the Akita started barking when Heidstra nearly encountered him in the Gorham/Bundy curve, and kept barking non-stop until Heidstra was back at his apartment house, and he noticed that the dog began to bark less.  But, Heidstra did not exactly say that, and that would be somewhat extreme of the dog.  It would mean that the dog had barked at full force constantly for about 23-1/2 minutes, and one would expect that the dog would grow hoarse long before that, especially in view of the fact that he had apparently had a previous 5-minute or so episode of barking around 10:20 according to Fenjves, et al.

               What Heidstra did say is that the dog was barking frantically (“crazy” and “hysterical”) immediately after he first started barking, and continued in that vigorous way for some minutes – certainly until the “Hey, hey, hey” (at 5.7 minutes of barking) and maybe until the “white SUV” (8.6 minutes of barking).  Furthermore, we know that the dog was barking at some point as Heidstra went up Dorothy to his apartment, because he looked back toward the source of barking, and we know that when Heidstra reached his apartment building the dog was barking, because Heidstra stopped to listen.  But, we do not know, and Heidstra was not asked, if the dog barked constantly and non-stop while he walked up Dorothy.

               From Schwab’s experience, apparently the dog did not bark constantly during all of that time he was with it.  (From the civil trial, when Schwab was walking up the east side of Bundy,  “A. The Akita was doing an interesting thing.  It was continuing this pattern of barking at the houses.   As I walked along the street, as we passed the path to each house, it would look up the path and bark at the house.  But once I got a few steps beyond, it would stop and catch up with myself and my dog .”)  Presumably, the Akita did not bark in the space between “paths to houses,” but only at the paths themselves, in which case the barking became intermittent after 10:53 or so.  Also, as Schwab and the two dogs progressed up Bundy toward the Gorham curve, they become progressively more sheltered from sound paths that could reach to Heidstra at his apartment a block away.

              While Heidstra was at the end of the walk toward his apartment, Schwab was approaching Bundy on Dorothy.  (From the civil trial, “A. As I approached the corner of Dorothy and Bundy, I saw that there was a large white dog at the corner, barking at the building on the [north-west] corner.”)  Schwab and his dog interacted with the Akita, and then the Akita resumed barking – “up the path” of the house there on the corner.  When Schwab observed the Akita barking at Bundy and Dorothy, Heidstra was about two minutes from his own apartment, so when Heidstra reached his destination, the dog would have been barking, and there would be cause to stop and listen.  Furthermore, the site of barking at this time, the corner of Bundy and Dorothy, is in a straight line to Heidsta’s location, and the barking would be the most conspicuous for Heidstra at that moment of all the places from which the Akita barked.  In this way, the Schwab and Heidstra timelines match as far as the barking of the Akita is concerned.

               The situation is depicted in Figure 11 [RECONCIL.JPG]reconcil.jpg (47885 bytes) in which the concurrent Schwab and Heidstra timelines are shown side by side.  To arrive at the overall understanding, Heidstra’s account is used when he is close to the Akita (up until he leaves the “big tree,”) and Schwab’s account is used when he is close to the Akita (after Schwab is within a block of the dog).  There is honestly too little information from either source to know exactly what the dog’s barking was like between these two times – between about 10:42 and 10:49.  Apparently the dog then was barking much, but may not have been barking non-stop. 

               CONCLUSION:  There is a good match between Heidstra’s timeline and Schwab’s.  Schwab was in the block of Bundy where the crimes occurred between about 10:52 and 10:58; he was opposite Karpf’s building about 10:55; Heidstra heard the Akita “slow down barking” about 10:56.5.  Also, Schwab’s initial encounter of the dog, when he observed the Akita barking, was at 10:52 on Schwab’s timeline, and that is a minute and a half before Heidstra’s timeline has him reaching his own building and stopping to listen to that sound, so their accounts match at that point, too.  Because of an informal “chain of custody,” the dog Schwab encountered and befriended is positively known to be Nicole’s Akita.  Heidstra recognized the sound of that dog as being the Akita, and Karpf recognized news picture of that dog on TV later as being the dog he saw that night.

Dick Wagner • Van Nuys, CA   (4/25/02)   SCHWAB2.doc

(Schwab’s estimation of time when he met Akita is good, and matches Heidstra’s timeline.)

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