By Koda Slingluff, Roselyn Pommai, and Sophia Barberini
LOS ANGELES, CA – For more than 25 years, Scott Hamby has sat in state prison without the possibility of parole after having been convicted of first-degree murder by means of a destructive device.
Now, over 20 years later — with a woman dead, mounting evidence of police corruption and numerous parties running free — Detective Mike Bauer fights to prove Hamby’s innocence.
Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Captain John “Mike” Bauer sat down with The Vanguard and a meticulous 800-page conviction review diligently outlining the details of Hamby’s case.
Bauer explained, “I am not an attorney, but 33 years in law enforcement, you know, you pick up a little bit of where there’s fairness… and there’s a number of specific instances in which I identified as what I consider to be judicial misconduct, prosecutorial misconduct [and] law enforcement misconduct.”
Scott Hamby became the leading suspect in the death of Lynn Standish, who was killed May 24 1994 after a pipe bomb exploded in a remote desert wash area in Antelope Valley, California.
Hamby was arrested, and his fate during the trial was then almost entirely decided on two pieces of information: circumstantial evidence and the testimony of one witness, Thomas Hinkle.
Hinkle testified that Hamby was living on Hinkle’s property at the time of the explosion. He said that Hamby asked him not to tell authorities that he had been there after the explosion.
Hamby was then found guilty of murder by exploding a destructive device, causing great bodily injury by exploding a destructive device and possession of a destructive device in a public place.
But Hinkle himself had suspicious circumstances, Det. Bauer explained, as a known drug dealer who had been brought in as part of DEA investigations around ‘98.
A deputy under Bauer, Jonathan Aujay, disappeared in 1998. In a different instance, investigated by Deputy Sheriff Darren Hagar, a witness “came forward to Hagar and said Aujay was murdered, and he was murdered with the assistance of Hinkle and [another party] Rick Engles.”
Poignantly, Hamby had told his attorney, Ted Yamamoto, that Hinkle had prior felony arrests and convictions. Yamamoto did not object to Hinkle as a witness and did not object to the prosecutor telling the jury Hinkle was credible “which was clearly not the case.”
Hamby would later allege that his attorney did not do everything he could to defend Hamby in court.
In another instance, prosecutors brought witness Thomas Pittman to refute that the first explosive, which detonated, had blasting caps or dynamite.
“I knew Pittman’s testimony to be untrue,” said Hamby, “and I told this to my attorney Ted Yamamoto. I never understood why he did not subpoena any witnesses to refute Pittman’s testimony.”
Yamamoto did not call certain witnesses, did not have fingerprinting done on evidence, and did not object to a readback where witness Sinclair stated, “Jill built the bomb that went off that night,” a statement which could have easily confused the jury.
In addition to Yamamoto not acting as adequate counsel, there was also evidence that was blatantly ignored by investigators and the DDA.
In a 1996 phone interview, Thomas Andre Bridgette, an associate of Hinkle, revealed that he witnessed Hinkle making explosives and detonating them four times within a 10 year period. Though Bridgette did not witness Hinkle making a pipe bomb, he did see him holding one.
Bridgette also claimed to have heard Hinkle say he was going to “rearrange 106th St. East,” warning people to clear the area.
Around the time of Standish’s death, Bridgette heard that Hinkle was going to use the bomb on a Dave Hepburn who allegedly owed Hinkle money and was a business competitor, as they were both “cooks.”
According to Bridgette, Hinkle planned to put the bomb in a microwave and place it in Hepburn’s truck, so that when he opened the microwave, the bomb would detonate and kill Hepburn. Bridgette claims to have seen a metal microwave in Hinkle’s shed.
Despite Bridgette revealing this information to the DDA and a LA Sheriff homicide investigator, he was not taken seriously, as the DDA claimed there was an eyewitness that had seen Hamby place the bomb, though they would not reveal the name of the witness.
In 2000, new evidence from an informant revealed that Deputy Sheriff Richard Engels may have prevented Hinkle, who was identified as a drug dealer and later pleaded guilty to charges for methamphetamine sales, from being investigated in the murder of Standish.
The informant also revealed that Engels may have been linked to the disappearance of Deputy Sheriff Aujay, who may have known of Engels’ and Hinkle’s criminal activity.
As demonstrated by journalist Claire Martin, there were many rumors of deputies fraternizing with drug dealers and informing them of potential drug investigations. She also clarified that Aujay’s disappearance was ruled a likely suicide, but informants revealed that he may have been murdered by drug dealers, including a fellow deputy.
Deputy Sheriff Darren Hager, who received this information from the informant, revealed it in a DEA task force summary.
But, after disclosing this information, Hager was fired from the sheriff’s department for recklessly accusing Engels of associating with drug dealers, lying about his theory that Engels was involved in Aujay’s alleged murder, falsifying information, and conducting a personnel investigation of Engels.
As a result of Hager’s termination, he filed a successful whistleblower lawsuit, winning more than $4.5 million in damages.
More evidence emerged in 2017 when Kimberly Pittman, Thomas Pittman’s widow, said Pitman knew Hinkle much better than he had initially revealed, even referring to them as “thick as thieves.”
Further, she disclosed, “I have read the testimony and I am here to say a lot of what Thomas Pittman said about his involvement with Hinkle was a fabricated lie.”
Another whistleblower lawsuit filed by Hager and Det. Mike Bauer provided even more evidence.
Bauer found multiple inconsistencies in Hamby’s case. Firstly, despite claims that the bomb was made in Hinkle’s shed, there wasn’t concrete evidence that the bomb was made there.
As Bauer explained, the case’s lead investigator Joe Holmes allowed the Deputy District Attorney Denton “to make a case which he knew and should have known was false.”
“He said that the bomb was made in a shack on Tom’s vehicles property, and that the bomb was consistent – the parts of the bomb were consistent with things that were found inside when they did a search warrant.”
But in the related “Hager [case],” attorney Richard Love got a different answer out of Holmes.
“[Love asked] was the bomb that killed when Standish made on Tom’s vehicles property? He said no. [Love] said, Where did they make the bomb? Where was the bomb man? He said, I don’t know.”
Secondly, Hamby’s attorney had multiple conflicts of interest, particularly with the lead investigator on the case.
Bauer added that the judge had made a finding that a group called the Vikings were falsifying search warrants.
“They were planting evidence that there, he actually made a judgment against the sheriff’s department and he made it a restraining order, a permanent restraining order that was later lifted by the appeals court. But he basically had acknowledged that people like Joe Holmes were guilty of this practice: unconstitutional policing,” Bauer said.
“Yamamoto never told Hamby that the investigating officer in his bombing case was aligned with Vikings and that he had been prosecuted by a man who represented Hamby, so this falls more into the area of effective counsel or lack of effective counsel,” said Bauer
Thirdly, a polygraph was administered to Hinkle after accusations of him being involved in Aujay’s disappearance emerged. Though Hinkle was initially said to have passed the test, evidence later emerged that he did not pass the polygraph.
Due to these inconsistencies, Bauer created a declaration demonstrating that, in his investigation, he found “reasonable likelihood” that Hamby is innocent.
Bauer remains fiercely dedicated to finding his missing sheriff, telling The Vanguard that he will not stop until Aujay’s remains are found and justice is obtained.
“I’m working on this until I can’t do it anymore,” Bauer said.
The newly emerged evidence, the clear corruption of the involved LA deputies at the time, and Hamby’s maintaining of his innocence has all led to Hamby declaring that his conviction and sentence violates his Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
Hamby has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, in the hopes to appear before court to present the newfound evidence.