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Evidence files missing in Salem

Salem, OR

The Oregon attorney general's office said Monday that an investigator's search has failed to turn up missing evidence in a triple murder case, a finding that makes it doubtful prosecutors will seek to retry the case.

Philip Scott Cannon, who claimed he was wrongly convicted of the triple murder more than a decade ago, was freed Dec. 18 after prosecutors said key evidence needed for a retrial was unavailable.

The attorney general's office said Monday that special investigator Dennis Carson couldn't track down any of the missing evidence used against Cannon. The evidence likely was destroyed, Carson said.

In his report, Carson said he interviewed former Polk County District Attorney John Fisher, who told Carson he might have signed an order to have the material purged in 2005, and that he had no idea where the missing items ended up.

Cannon, 43, who was serving a life sentence, had maintained he did not murder Jason Kinser, Suzan Osborne and Celesta Graves. Each was shot once in the head at a mobile home in a rural area west of Salem in November 1998.

Earlier this year, the state approved a new trial for Cannon after he claimed forensic evidence was flawed. However, plans to retry Cannon were dropped after prosecutors were unable to locate evidence that was used as trial exhibits.

Stan Butterfield, the current county district attorney, said Monday he was aware of Carson's findings when he issued a Dec. 18 statement saying that "dismissal is in the best interest of justice" in view of the missing evidence.

Butterfield said it's possible his office could refile the case against Cannon. He also said he has instituted new policies to try to avoid similar mistakes with evidence.

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