Case Timeline

A history of key events surrounding the Norfolk Four case, from 1990 to the present.

 
  • 1990 Norfolk Police Detective Robert Glenn Ford secures a series of false confessions from three teenagers in a robbery and murder known as the Lafayette Grill case. He's briefly reassigned to uniform duty but later returns to the homicide unit.
  • June 24, 1997 Omar Ballard attacks Melissa Morse with a baseball bat in the Bayshore Gardens apartment complex. Ballard's friend Tamika Taylor brings him to her friends' apartment -- the home of Michelle and William Bosko. When a group of men arrive at their apartment searching for Ballard, William Bosko turns them away
  • daniel NicoleLate June 1997 Nicole Williams learns that she has ovarian cancer; she and Danial move up their wedding date to June 27 so she will be covered by his Navy health insurance.
  • July 7, 1997 Omar Ballard rapes and murders Michelle Moore-Bosko.
  • July 8, 1997 William Bosko, an enlisted sailor, returns home from a week at sea to find his wife dead in their apartment.

    Bosko beats on the door of neighbor Danial Williams, who calls 911. When the police arrive, Detective Maureen Evans asks Michelle's friend, Tamika Taylor, who she thinks might have committed the crime. Taylor fingers Williams, although she later claims that she also mentioned Ballard as a possible suspect.

    The same day, Ballard is charged with malicious wounding in the beating of Melissa Morse and a warrant is issued for his arrest.
  • williams Mug ShotJuly 9, 1997 After a night of interrogation by Detectives Maureen Evans and Robert Glenn Ford -- more than 11 hours in total -- Danial Williams confesses to the rape and murder of Moore-Bosko. That morning, Williams signs his confession, saying he beat her with a shoe.

    The same day, autopsy results indicate she was stabbed and strangled -- not beaten, as Williams had confessed. Williams then signs another confession, stating he stabbed Moore-Bosko. He is arrested and charged with capital murder and rape.
  • July 17, 1997 Omar Ballard beats and rapes a 14-year-old girl within a mile of the Bayshore Gardens apartment complex.
  • Aug. 6, 1997 Danial Williams is indicted by a grand jury for capital rape and murder.
  • Aug. 18, 1997 Williams' lawyers request investigator funds from the court.
  • Oct. 27, 1997 Williams' lawyers tell the court that they want to investigate recent crimes in the neighborhood. The court grants $1000 for this purpose, but lawyers never spend the money.
  • Nov. 2, 1997 Nicole, Danial Williams' wife, dies. No one ever took an affidavit from her.
  • Nov. 7, 1997 Danial Williams files motion to suppress his confession. Ten days later, the court denies his motion.
  • williams Is EliminatedDec. 11, 1997 Analysts tell Norfolk police that Williams is excluded from DNA samples collected at the crime scene. Police and prosecutors don't share this information with Williams and his attorneys until April 30, 1998.
  • Jan. 1998 Prosecutors offer Williams a life sentence plea bargain. Williams declines.
  • dick Mug ShotJan. 12, 1998 Lacking a DNA match, Detective Ford interrogates Joe Dick, Williams' roommate and fellow sailor on the USS Saipan, who confesses to Moore-Bosko's murder. He claims Michelle let him and Williams into her apartment and then the pair vaginally and orally raped her. Joe says he hit Michelle in the face; then she threatened them with a kitchen knife -- which he couldn't describe. He then states that they stabbed her with the same knife. Dick claims he then wiped his penis on a blanket and covered Michelle with it. He says the crime occurred in the living room, and that Williams might have then dragged the body to the bedroom. Dick is arrested and charged with capital murder and rape.

    According to a 2007 New York Times Magazine feature Dick's Navy supervisor Michael Ziegler says that "he has 'no doubt' Dick was on duty the night of the murder." Ziegler claims that superiors told him the investigation was a "civil matter" and that he would be contacted if police needed to question him. (They never did.) Dick's lawyer and the prosecutor both claim that Dick wasn't on duty the night of the rape and murder.
  • ballard MugshotJan. 15, 1998 Omar Ballard pleads guilty to the attack and rape of the 14-year-old girl. One month later, he pleads guilty to beating Melissa Morse with a bat and is soon after sentenced to a total of 41 years in prison for both crimes.
  • Feb. 13, 1998 Attorneys for Danial Williams ask the court for a competency evaluation because Williams refuses to plead guilty. The exam is conducted two weeks later. Williams tells the psychiatrist he is not guilty and made a false confession.
  • March 26, 1998 DNA analysis excludes Williams and Dick from the sample found at the crime scene.
  • April 1998 According to Joe Dick, jailhouse informant Timothy Gurley convinces him to implicate others. Dick writes letters implicating a sailor named Eric. Based on Dick's description, police track down Eric Wilson, a friend of Danial Williams' wife.
  • April 7, 1998 Dick's lawyer, Michael Fasanaro, files a motion to suppress Dick's confession.
  • Wilson MugshotApril 8, 1998 Detective Ford interrogates Eric Wilson; he confesses to rape after nine hours of questioning. Wilson is arrested and charged with rape and capital murder.
  • April 27, 1998 Joe Dick is interviewed again, this time by Detectives Ford and Brian Wray. This time Dick claims that Eric Wilson was also with them. He said the trio covered the peephole and Moore-Bosko opened the door; that the crime occurred in the bedroom; that they tried to carry the body out but returned the body to the bedroom when they heard a car. Dick says Eric Wilson hit Michelle in face, and Danial Williams and Wilson grabbed her arms while Wilson held a knife to her throat. At first Dick says Wilson didn't stab Moore-Bosko; later he says Wilson did. Dick also claims that Wilson cleaned the knife at Williams' apartment after the crime.
  • June 10, 1998 DNA analysis concludes that Eric Wilson's sample does not match evidence from the crime scene.
  • June 16, 1998 Detective Ford interrogates Joe Dick again. Dick fingers "George, and he thought his last name was Clark" and "two others"; the total number of alleged assailants is now at six. Dick claims all six men grabbed her and carried her to the bedroom while she struggled, and that everyone stabbed her except Eric Wilson. When asked to identify his accomplices, Dick picks Derek Tice out of a Navy cruise book.
  • tice Mug ShotJune 18, 1998 Derek Tice is arrested in Florida and charged with capital murder and rape. A week later, Detective Ford transports Tice to Norfolk for an interrogation. After 11 hours, Tice confesses and says six men were involved -- the "Norfolk Four," plus Richard Pauley and Geoff Farris.
  • pauley Navy PhotoJune 30, 1998 Richard Pauley is arrested and charged with capital murder and rape. Ford is on vacation. Pauley is interrogated but doesn't confess. Telephone records later show Pauley was communicating with his girlfriend in Australia at the time of Michelle Moore-Bosko's rape and murder.
  • ferris Navy PhotoJuly 9, 1998 Geoff Farris is arrested and charged with capital murder and rape. Farris does not confess and asks for an attorney.
  • Aug. 25, 1998 At the preliminary hearing for Geoff Farris and Rick Pauley, Joe Dick claims there were six men involved in the rape and murder. Under cross-examination, Dick says there might have been a seventh, an unknown white male. He claims to have not revealed the others before then because he feared Danial Williams would tell them his family's address and they would be hurt. Dick claims that the seven men carried Moore-Bosko into the back bedroom, where they raped her for an hour-and-a-half. Dick remembers Farris handing him the knife, but says he didn't see him stab her.

    Farris and Pauley's defense attorneys challenge the theory that there were multiple perpetrators. Judge Poston finds probable cause to charge Farris and Pauley, with rape and murder, even though Dick admits he did not see Farris stab her.
  • Aug. 28, 1998 DNA analysis finds that the samples from Derek Tice, Richard Pauley and Geoff Farris does not match the evidence found at Michelle Moore-Bosko's apartment.
  • Oct. 27, 1998 Ford interrogates Derek Tice again; Tice names John Danser as the seventh man involved in the rape and murder.
  • Danser PhotoNov. 4, 1998 John Danser is arrested and charged with rape and murder. Detective Ford interrogates him, but he doesn't confess. Records later show he had an alibi, including a work time card from the day of the crime and an ATM receipt. Friends corroborated his story of attending birthday celebrations that evening.
  • Nov. 5, 1998 Police again interrogate Derek Tice, who recants his claim of Danser's involvement and also his own confession. The Commonwealth of Virginia does not disclose Tice's recantation to Danser's counsel.
  • Dec. 28, 1998 Preliminary hearing for John Danser begins. Derek Tice testifies that he and Danser did participate in the crime, despite having told Ford otherwise in November.
  • Jan. 22, 1999 Danial Williams pleads guilty to rape and capital murder with a promise of a life sentence in exchange for a stipulation of facts. Read about why Williams pled, from his attorney, Danny Shipley.
  • Feb. 9, 1999 Danial Williams meets with prosecutors and claims Geoff Farris, Richard Pauley and John Danser were involved, and that Eric Wilson did not participate in the stabbing.
  • Feb. 18, 1999 A more sensitive DNA test excludes all seven men implicated in the crime.
  • letter About MichelleFeb. 22, 1999 A woman named Delvie Stover turns over a letter to police that her daughter-in-law has received from a man in prison -- Omar Ballard. In the letter, Ballard threatens Stover's daughter-in-law and then states: "You remember the night I went to mommy's house and the next morning Michelle got killed? Guess who did that. Me. Ha ha."
  • Feb. 24, 1999 John Danser's pretrial hearing resumes two days after police receive Ballard's letter. Danser's attorney, Jennifer Stanton, tells judge a letter exists from a man confessing to the crime. Judge Poston asks the prosecution about it; they say they are not yet in receipt of any evidence. On March 15, Judge Poston orders the confession letter released.
  • March 4, 1999 Judge Poston hears arguments on whether Norfolk prosecutors should be removed from the case and fined for withholding exculpatory evidence in Eric Wilson's case. The evidence consists of the interrogation notes from Dick's second confession on April 27, 1998 in which Dick says that Wilson was only there for the rape. Poston rules the request frivolous and denies it.

    On the same day, a DNA analysis report confirms semen recovered from the murder scene belongs to Omar Ballard. After a 20-minute interrogation, Ballard tells Detective Ford he committed the crime alone. Ballard makes two statements. In the first he claims that he visited Moore-Bosko for 45 minutes before they had consensual sex. Then something "just ticked in [his] head" and he got a knife from the kitchen and stabbed her. In the second statement, on March 11, Ballard says that he raped and killed Moore-Bosko.

    Ballard is charged with murder. Prosecutors provide Danial Williams' lawyers with Ballard's letter and the results of Ballard's DNA test.
  • April 14, 1999 Danial Williams files a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Almost two weeks later, the court denies the motion and Williams is sentenced to two life terms without parole.
  • April 21, 1999 Joe Dick pleads guilty to rape and first-degree murder.
  • May 6, 1999 A DNA analysis report further confirms that Omar Ballard's DNA was found at the crime scene.
  • May 14, 1999 Prosecutors withdraw charges against Richard Pauley, Geoff Farris and John Danser for lack of evidence.
  • dick On StandJune 16, 1999 Eric Wilson's trial begins. Joe Dick testifies that all seven men and an unnamed black man -- Omar Ballard -- committed the crime together. Dick claims that Ballard came up to them in the parking lot, decided to join them in their crime, and threatened them if they told. The group then rushed into Michelle Moore-Bosko's apartment, raped her and then stabbed her, except possibly Eric Wilson. Dick also says he saw Wilson holding a knife to Michelle's throat while Danial Williams forced her to give him oral sex.

    Dick admits on the stand that he hopes his testimony will help get his sentence reduced.

    Ballard is called as a witness but pleads the Fifth.

    Wilson is convicted of rape, but acquitted of murder, and sentenced to 8-and-a-half years. The jury foreman tells The Virginia-Pilot: "We listened to the confession over and over. There were points in the confession -- how he felt and how he was angry -- that we felt showed there was genuine emotion. He wasn't making that up."
  • Sept. 8, 1999 At Joe Dick's sentencing hearing, he apologizes to his family and says he has cried and lost sleep over what happened the night he allegedly raped and murdered Moore-Bosko. Dick's attorney, Michael Fasanaro, asks the judge for mercy, stating that Dick was "the only person who has not attempted to duck his responsibility" for the crime. Judge Poston sentences Joe Dick to two life terms in prison.
  • Feb. 8, 2000 Derek Tice's trial begins. Joe Dick repeats his testimony from Eric Wilson's trial. When questioned, however, Dick admits he is not "an honest man" and claims that he based his first confession on what he heard in the news. Omar Ballard also takes the stand and testifies that he was not involved.

    Judge Poston refuses to admit Ballard's previous confessions into evidence, on the grounds that Ballard has declared on the stand that they were lies. The judge also refuses to let Tice's attorney, James Broccoletti, question Ballard about the confession letter and rejects a defense motion to admit documents related to Ballard's other assaults on women.

    Broccoletti does, however, question Detective Ford about his interrogation techniques; he also attempts to call an expert witness on false confessions, a motion that Poston denies.

    Tice is convicted of rape and capital murder and is sentenced to two life terms in prison.
  • Older Ballard Mug ShotMarch 22, 2000 Omar Ballard pleads guilty to rape and capital murder of Michelle Moore-Bosko and is sentenced to two life terms.
  • July 25, 2000 The Virginia Court of Appeals denies an appeal by Danial Williams.
  • May 2002 The Virginia Court of Appeals reverses Tice's conviction, on the grounds that the jury's sentencing instructions were incorrect -- Judge Poston erred in not allowing James Broccoletti to question Ballard about the confession letter.
  • Jan. 26, 2003 James Broccoletti meets with Joe Dick and claims Dick tells him he was not at the scene of Moore-Bosko's murder. Detective Glenn Ford meets with Dick after Broccoletti; what was said at that meeting is in dispute.
  • Jan. 27, 2003 Derek Tice's retrial begins. Joe Dick sticks with his story from the Wilson trial, testifying that he and the other men participated in the crime.

    Judge Poston refuses to admit Ballard's confession letter because it was not "properly authenticated" and refuses to admit Ballard's previous statements to police on the grounds that they were unsigned. He does allow Broccoletti to direct a detective to read Ballard's letter to the jury.

    Tice is again convicted of rape and murder. He is sentenced to two life terms in prison.
  • 2004 Three major D.C.-area law firms get involved in the case as pro bono advocates for the men.
  • Eric Leaning On FenceSeptember 2005 Eric Wilson completes his prison term.
  • July 2005 The new lawyers hire Richard Ofshe, a professor of sociology and an expert in confessions and interrogations, as a consultant. He later writes a report, which concludes: "All of the evidence I have reviewed and all of my years of study of interrogations and false confession leads me to conclude that Danial Williams, Joseph Dick and Derek Tice are innocent beyond any reasonable doubt."
  • Nov. 3, 2005 A "Crime Scene Analysis and Reconstruction" report, commissioned by the legal teams representing Williams, Tice and Dick, is released. Written by Larry E. McCann of the Academy Group, Inc., it concludes: "In my professional opinion, Ballard sexually assaulted and murdered the victim by himself. There was no evidence linking Williams, Dick, Wilson or Tice to this crime. … They were charged solely because they confessed to the crimes."
  • Nov. 10, 2005 Danial Williams, Joseph Dick and Derek Tice file petitions for absolute pardon with the Governor of Virginia. Eric Wilson had previously filed his own clemency request. Read: Part One and Part Two of the petitions.
  • Dec. 21, 2005 Todd W. Bille, a forensic DNA analyst, gives an affidavit stating that, scientifically, there could only be one possible perpetrator of the rape and murder of Michelle Moore-Bosko: Omar Ballard.
  • Jan. 4, 2006 Nine jurors in Eric Wilson's trial write a letter to Gov. Mark Warner asking for clemency for the Norfolk Four, stating that had they heard additional evidence at trial, "we would not have convicted Eric Wilson of rape. … All the available evidence shows clearly that Omar Ballard raped and killed Michelle Bosko by himself."

    Gov. Warner is sent a similar letter from nine former judges and prosecutors from around the country. They state: "We urge you to use your executive power because our review has persuaded us that these men are innocent." Two years later, in July 2008, more than 20 former FBI agents ask Gov. Tim Kaine to pardon the four men.
  • Tim Caine SpeakingAug. 6, 2009 Gov. Tim Kaine grants Williams, Dick and Tice conditional pardons -- they are released from prison but their convictions stand, which means they must register as sex offenders and be on probation. Wilson was not pardoned because he had already served his sentence.
  • Sept. 14, 2009 After Derek Tice and his lawyers file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, a federal judge overturns his conviction.
  • Ford HeadlineMay 7, 2010 A federal grand jury indicts Detective Ford on four counts of extortion and one count of lying to the FBI, charges unrelated to his work on the Norfolk Four case. He is accused of accepting money from at least eight criminal suspects in exchange for getting them favorable treatment in court. He pleads not guilty.
  • September 2010 The attorney general of Virginia appeals the Sept. 14, 2009, decision overturning Derek Tice's conviction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Oral arguments are held.
  • Oct. 27, 2010 Detective Ford is found guilty on two of the four extortion charges and one charge of lying to the FBI.
  • Feb. 25, 2011 Ford is sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison by U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Friedman.
  • April 20, 2011 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit unanimously upholds Derek Tice's overturned conviction.
  • Aug. 5, 2011 A judge drops two felony charges against Derek Tice at the request of special prosectuor D.J. Hansen, offically making Tice a free man.

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posted november 9, 2010; updated february 28, 2011; updated april 20, 2011; updated august 9, 2011

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