This narrative describes information brought forth from supporters of the “Michael Chapel is Innocent Project.” No one from the prosecution or investigative process has reached out or responded to offer their story, but they are encouraged to contact me and share their version of events. I would also like an opportunity to speak with anyone who served on the Chapel jury.
Following are the questions that Chapel supporters say must be answered to determine who murdered Emogene Thompson.
-If a veteran police officer like Mike Chapel was going to commit a murder, why would he choose a location that is within very close proximity to a very busy thoroughfare, with an unobstructed line of vision?
-Witnesses say that on the evening of April 5, 1993, Emogene Thompson left for work at her usual time. If she had been planning to meet Chapel prior to driving to her job, wouldn’t she have needed to leave earlier than her usual departure time?
-Why would the police destroy a pistol that was found near where an early suspect had been staying shortly after the crime? It was the same caliber as the murder weapon, showed two shots having been fired, the same as in the murder. Why was it not tested?
-The prosecution alleges that Mike Chapel needed money and that was his motive for committing the crime. He had a solid relationship with his immediate family. Would it not seem more logical that he would have turned to his family for a loan?
-If Chapel hadn’t wanted to turn to his family for financial assistance, he also owned a gun collection that was valued in the thousands. Likewise with a truck and car he owned. The Chapels had equity in their home. They owned a gym with thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment that was unencumbered. These would have generated much more than the $7000 involved in the murder. Wouldn’t it seem logical that he would have sold some or all of these things other than murdering someone?
-The financial auditor for the Gwinnett County Police Department’s report said that the Chapel’s finances had been tight the previous December (possibly due to the additional expenses associated with Christmas), but that they were demonstrably improved by February, well before the crime took place If his finances were improving, why a murder for $7000?
-There was a rose found in the victim’s car, on the dash. It appears to be in a plastic sleeve, such as used for fresh flowers. It was not shown in the crime scene photos seen by the jury nor was its presence ever explained. There were numerous questions about the item being entered into evidence files and a handwriting expert calling the chain of custody signatures from PD into question. Was the rose ever tested for fingerprints? Who gave the victim the rose?
-The chief detective, John Latty, said early in the investigation that they had reviewed the tapes from the police dispatcher from the night of April 15, 1993, to try and determine Chapel’s whereabouts at the time of the murder. That tape clearly indicates Chapel taking a call that would have made it impossible for him to have been at the scene at the time of the crime. Why was that recording “lost” only to be found years later, after the trial and appeal, in the DA’s files?
-Why did the DA ignore affidavits from six different firefighters showing Chapel to be in a firehouse at the time of the murder?
-How does an experienced officer (Sgt. Steve Cline) completely lose a collection of evidence (Chapel’s investigative files taken from his squad car), from one of the biggest investigations in the county’s history, in a 10-minute drive with no stops?
-There were several fingerprints found on the dash that were never tested and were destroyed. Why?
-The son’s alibi witness said he came to her house right after the time of the murder, with a “Subway cup of ice.” A Subway lid and straw was found in the victim’s vehicle, was any testing done to determine how long it had been there, or whose DNA might have been present? Why not?
-Why was the DNA found on the armrest tested but the District Attorney decided the taxpayers could not afford to test the DNA on the raincoat?
How could the DA’s office have been to the point of obtaining an arrest warrant in the murder of Mrs. Thompson, for an individual who was not Mike Chapel, only to have that warrant go away after a meeting with the Gwinnett Police Chief?
There are a couple of facts that readers should know about this case. First, an alternate juror, who did not vote in the verdict, Phillip Sullivan, felt very strongly that the case against Chapel was “flimsy and circumstantial.” He felt so passionately about his position that he dedicated the rest of his life to professing Chapel’s innocence and working to overturn the conviction.
Danny Porter was the Gwinnett County District Attorney who prosecuted Chapel. First elected to office in 1992, his bid for re-election to an eighth term in 2020 was unsuccessful, losing to Patsy Austin-Gatson. One of Austin-Gatson’s first actions in her new position was establishing a Conviction Integrity Unit to examine convictions under Porter’s administration.I had attempted to contact Johnny Moore, the attorney that represented Chapel in his trial, through a mutual friend. Sadly, Moore, who had retired to Florida, had passed away just days before.
In the next chapter, read our interview with Mike Chapel.