Detective placed on leave for mishandling murder case notes

Detective Arvin Fant walks into court for the Demeatrius Montgomery trial.

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by NewsChannel 36 Staff

WCNC.com

Posted on August 25, 2010 at 8:36 AM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 25 at 10:23 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A detective who discarded notes in the murder investigation of two police officers is now on administrative leave.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Rodney Monroe said Detective Arvin Fant is being investigated by Internal Affairs for his handling of the case and he could face criminal charges.

A judge ruled Tuesday that Demeatrius Montgomery, who is accused of killing two CMPD officers in 2007, should not face the death penalty because Fant admitted to discarding some notes he took while investigating the shootings.

"This has the potential of placing a cloud of suspicion over these proceedings," Judge Forrest Bridges said when he announced his decision Tuesday afternoon. "If we are not honest here at the courthouse, then we are wasting our time."

Fant admitted in court Monday that he discarded notes and he used another officer's writings in other notes to refresh his memory about interviews.

In several instances, Fant said he cut and pasted notes from another officer into his own notes.

Because of Fant's actions, the judge barred prosecutors from seeking the death penalty in the case.

"If there is a case that would warrant the death penalty, it is this case," said Monroe. "You can't teach stupidity. We're all professionals. We are trained and taught to be professionals and that is what the expectation is."

The families of the slain officers declined to speak after the ruling Tuesday, but Monroe spoke for them.

"The disappointment with the families and other members of this department are great," he said.

The Charlotte Observer searched court records and discovered that this isn't the first time Fant has been involved in a case with missing evidence. He was also the lead investigator in a 2003 armed robbery case.

The suspect, Muhummad Jaaber, was convicted but appealed on the grounds that Fant couldn't find two witness statements that had been given to police.

The two witnesses said they had been interviewed by officers shortly after the crime. One came from a victim who could not identify Jaaber as his assailant, the other from a woman who owned the house where the robbery occurred but wasn't home at the time.

Jaaber's attorneys requested copies of the two statements before the trial, but Fant couldn't find them, court records show. Fant told the N.C. Court of Appeals he searched everywhere he could, including the complete case file at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department's records office.

Fant also questioned officers who might have taken the statements, but they found nothing, either. Officials told the court one statement had been lost and the other one probably wasn't ever written down, even though the witness testified she had been interviewed.

The appeals court denied Jaaber's motion for a mistrial, ruling that the missing statements were not of significant evidentiary value and that both witnesses were cross-examined by the defense. The court also found significant other evidence of Jaaber's guilt had been offered at trial.

But the court noted, "it is of great concern that the State has apparently lost at least one, if not two, of the statements from witnesses regarding crimes with which the defendant is charged."

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