Grand Jury Investigation into a Philadelphia Police Officer

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January 22, 2015: Today, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams charged former Philadelphia Homicide Detective Ronald Dove with Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution, Obstructing Administration of Law, Tampering with Physical Evidence, Unsworn Falsification, Flight to Avoid Apprehension, and, Criminal Conspiracy.  His accomplice, Erica Sanchez has been charged with Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution, Obstructing Administration of Law, Tampering with Physical Evidence, Flight to Avoid Apprehension, and, Criminal Conspiracy.  The arrests of Dove and Sanchez come after a lengthy Grand Jury and Police Internal Affairs Division (IAD) investigation.

 

At 2:01 PM on Sunday, September 8, 2013, Philadelphia police received a report of a body found at 3312 N. 5th St. in the city of Philadelphia. Within minutes, police reached the scene and found the body of Cesar Vera in an after-hours club lying in a pool of his own blood. Mr. Vera had a single stab wound to the chest – that had penetrated through his heart – killing him within minutes of the stabbing. The homicide Detectives who responded to the scene quickly identified the name of a suspect – Erica Sanchez.  Sanchez would remain the sole suspect in the homicide of Cesar Vera until her surrender to police on October 16, 2013. Despite extensive efforts, homicide Detectives were never able to find, question or detain Erica Sanchez before that date because one of their own was assisting her in avoiding responsibility for her conduct.

 

Unbeknownst to the Homicide Detectives – indeed, unbeknownst to the Philadelphia Police Department – one of their own members, Homicide Detective Ronald Dove, had been with Erica Sanchez after the death of Cesar Vera. Over the hours, days and weeks following the murder, while homicide Detectives searched for Erica Sanchez, Detective Dove knew exactly where she was and how to contact her. He actively shielded her, hid her and failed to disclose material evidence and facts to his fellow police officers.

The Grand Jury found that on the morning of the murder of Cesar Vera, Sanchez, still stained with the blood of Vera, called Detective Dove and sought his help.  Dove responded and went to pick her up.  Within a short time he began to call various national hotel chains, before the police department even knew a homicide had occurred.  When the body was discovered that afternoon, notice was sent out to all homicide detectives, including Dove.  Once the body was discovered, Dove quickly sought to contact Sanchez.  Soon after that contact, both Dove and Sanchez stopped use of her cell phones.  Dove spent that evening with Sanchez, and checked in with his supervisor, failing to mention that he was at that very moment with the prime murder suspect.

The next day, as corroborated by toll records and video, Dove drove Sanchez from Philadelphia to Rochester, New York, where he checked her into a Holiday Inn, for which he paid.  He bought her a new cell phone, a Tracfone, which is particularly difficult to trace.  He left her hidden in New York and came back to work in Philadelphia, where his own colleagues were still trying to locate the suspect.

Meanwhile, Dove had undertaken a campaign to actively mislead other law enforcement personnel and protect the suspect.  The night of the murder, Dove called a fellow detective to fish for information about the progress of the investigation.  In later conversations, he eventually revealed that he knew Sanchez and repeatedly insisted that the killing must have been in self-defense.

Dove also spoke with the lead detective assigned to the case.  He urged his colleague to conduct only “a light interview” of Sanchez, and again insisted that the killing must have been in self-defense.

Dove also reached out to the chief of the homicide unit in the District Attorney’s office.  As with the detectives, he told her that he knew someone who was involved in a homicide, but insisted that it must have been self-defense.

Each of these individuals made clear to Dove that, if he came to possess any information about the case, it was of course his duty to report it immediately.  Dove promised he would, but he was lying.  He never told any of them that he knew exactly where Sanchez was hiding out, and that he himself had set it up.

Two weeks after the murder, Dove returned to New York – not to bring the suspect in, but to take her on a little vacation.  They spent the weekend at Niagara Falls, touring the sites and taking pictures.  Dove then brought Sanchez back to Rochester, checked her into a different hotel, and returned to his job in the homicide unit as if nothing had happened.

Not until October 1, three weeks after the murder, did Dove finally give a statement to investigators, but it was full of inaccurate statements.  He said nothing about his contact with Sanchez immediately after the murder, he hid the fact that he had spirited her out of the jurisdiction, and he failed to mention that he had disposed of her car and phone.

Dove’s actions and inactions from the early morning hours of September 8th to the date of Sanchez’s arrest on October 16, 2013 for the murder of Cesar Vera, constituted a concerted effort to prevent, harm and damage law enforcement efforts to solve the murder.  Dove’s actions prevented the collection and preservation of important evidence (such as the clothes worn by Erica Sanchez on the day of the homicide, finger nail scrapings, DNA, hair samples, a timely forensic exam of her car, recovery of the murder weapon, etc.) that was available on the day of the homicide (September 8th).  In addition, his actions prevented police from obtaining physical custody of Erica Sanchez.

 

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