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Tale of two murders

Simultaneous high-profile murder investigations and tensions between two police agencies may have sparked the meltdown of the state-of-the art, multi-agency Southern Oregon High Tech Crimes Task Force, court documents suggest. 

The task force was founded in 2007 by Josh Moulin, an ambitious lieutenant at the Central Point Police Department who in three years expanded the lab’s reach into nine Southern Oregon counties and oversaw hundreds of digital investigations, many of them child pornography and identity theft. By 2010, its lab held more than 40 computers and had a server with a capacity three times the size of the Library of Congress' contents.

Then came two of Southern Oregon’s most notorious murder cases within four months of each other: the near beheading of David Grubbs on an Ashland bike path in November 2011, and the shooting death of Kristy Huddleston, whose bloody body was found by her 10-year-old son at their Central Point home in March 2012.

In a $2 million lawsuit filed by Moulin in May in Jackson County Civil Court, Moulin claims he was forced out of his own agency after putting the Central Point case, which was successfully prosecuted, ahead of Ashland’s, which remains unsolved, prompting Ashland to leave the task force in April 2012.

Within two years, other agencies had followed suit, and the state-of-the-art forensics lab began to disassemble. Central Point police described the end of the task force as “transitioning from the current lab-based service model (to) allow forensic examiners to conduct operations from their respective home agencies.”

Moulin claims then-newly appointed Central Point police Chief Kristine Allison ordered him to make the Central Point case a priority, then made him the scapegoat when Ashland walked.

Moulin’s lawsuit outlines a “scheme” in which his fellow officers tried to pin computer crime and official misconduct charges on him. The suit alleges high-ranking Central Point officers forged a critical document, violated his civil rights and mishandled every piece of digital evidence in a criminal case that was dismissed with prejudice by Jackson County Circuit Judge Kelly Ravassipour in 2015. 

"This is a case where trained forensics examiners blatantly disregarded all protocols and training and went on a fishing expedition in a forensically unsound manner," Ravassipour wrote in her ruling.

Moulin said he was forced to liquidate his PERS retirement account to fight the criminal case, which did "irreparable harm" to his reputation in the community and caused "significant emotional distress." He claims Central Point police acted "with malice, without probable cause, and with reckless, conscious and outrageous indifference," according to documents in the lawsuit.

"Experiencing the full weight of an unfounded, politically motivated criminal prosecution — pursued with seemingly unlimited time and public resources — was devastating," Moulin said in a statement to the Mail Tribune.

The lawsuit puts on record details previously unknown about the Grubbs investigation while illustrating the challenges of managing multiple agencies' top-priority requests at the same time.

The first murder

On Nov. 19, 2011, David Michael Grubbs, 23, had just finished his shift at Shop’n Kart and was walking home on the Central Ashland Bike Path just after 5:30 p.m. when he was brutally attacked and killed. A passerby found his body less than 30 minutes later. The attack shocked the Ashland community and sent departments throughout the area scrambling to find evidence and track down suspects.

Moulin at first made the case a priority. For the next three months, Moulin and the High Tech Crimes Task Force examined “nearly a dozen items of digital evidence … including devices requiring complex analysis and specialized software and had provided APD with four forensic reports,” Moulin’s lawsuit states. It said the task force jumped on the case despite “significant demands of other casework.”

Some of its efforts included scouring social media to notify next of kin and analyzing a cellphone found on Grubbs’ body, completed within nine days.

But then another brutal murder occurred, this time in Central Point’s backyard.

The second murder

In the early morning hours of March 23, 2012, Bourne Paraday Huddleston shot his wife, Kristy, in the head with a silenced 9 mm pistol inside their rural home outside Central Point, leaving his then 10-year-old son to find Kristy's body covered with a sheet and a pillow inside the dark bedroom.

Huddleston's son later testified he was awoken by a scream and the sound of a gunshot, and saw Huddleston holding a gun while heading outside. His father ordered him to go back to bed, but the boy then heard Huddleston's car start.

About 2:30 the night of the murder, the child called 911. Hours later, police found Bourne Huddleston at a Rogue Community College classmate's Eagle Point home. 

The shooting culminated a bizarre and convoluted series of events in which Huddleston first attempted to hire a different classmate for his wife's murder, then schemed with his sister to hire another hitman to kill the classmate after learning he'd testify against him.

As Moulin and the task force compiled the digital evidence that would eventually convict Huddleston and his sister, Genetta Huddleston-Coradetti of Florida, Ashland police submitted a laptop it had seized in the Grubbs case and asked for it to be examined immediately. Moulin refused, saying Ashland had given no reason why the laptop should’ve been expedited.

"The APD Sergeant who submitted the laptop to SOHTCTF expressly descried it as a 'fishing expedition,'" Moulin's lawsuit states, further alleging that "APD initially failed to provide any of the required paperwork — such as a search warrant or consent to search — that was required for the task force to search the device."

Tensions reached the point that Ashland formally withdrew from the task force in April 2012. And Allison blamed Moulin, the lawsuit states.

"While she concealed this information from APD officers at the time, letting Moulin take the blame for complaints about the Grubbs case, Allison later admitted to investigators that she had instructed Moulin to prioritize the Huddleston homicide case — in which there were dozens of items of evidence still needing examination — over the single, apparently unimportant laptop in the Grubbs case."

Ashland isn't a named defendant in Moulin's lawsuit. But police Chief Tighe O'Meara disputed Moulin's claims that reasons to expedite the laptop were unfounded.

"I was heavily involved in this entire sequence of events and we had good reason to want that laptop examined," O'Meara said.

Allison declined to comment on allegations in Moulin's suit on the advice of lawyer Steve Kraemer, who represents the city of Central Point's insurance company. Kraemer said city officials will deny Moulin's allegations of wrongdoing in U.S. District Court filings within "the next month or so."

Kraemer said that his clients can't comment beyond a denial because of how Moulin's defense lawyer Kris Winemiller structured the sealing of Moulin's criminal case.

"For the City to respond to the recent allegations, beyond a denial, would risk violating the terms of the Order, for which sanctions could be imposed by the Court," Kraemer said. "By the terms of the Order, it does not apply to Mr. Moulin or his attorneys."

The Moulin case

A month after Ashland pulled out of the task force, Moulin was placed on administrative leave. Moulin claims he was never given a reason and aside from a vague "OSP will be in contact with you soon," he was never informed he was under criminal investigation nor was he ever read his Miranda rights, his lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims that Allison and Day initially pursued a misdemeanor charge of tampering with public records against Moulin because he corrected meeting minutes for the Law Enforcement Advisory Board, the agency which oversaw the task force. The lawsuit describes Moulin's corrections as a "mundane, innocent act."  

Oregon State Police concurred and had dropped the investigation into Moulin by May 17, two days after Allison initiated it and one day after Moulin's dismissal. 

Allison, Day and others continued searching for wrongdoing, attempting to access digital accounts belonging to Moulin without a search warrant or notification he was under investigation, the lawsuit states.

Central Point police ultimately shifted their attention on a MacBook that Moulin kept at his home, which he used primarily for presentations.

Winemiller said Allison and Day didn't know the laptop existed until Moulin contacted them about returning it. It had been seized in a drug raid by Medford police, who offered it to the task force. Moulin took it home to set it up after work, which was allowed by policy, the lawsuit states.

Before returning the Mac, Moulin removed a free program he used to manage his personal passwords. Winemiller said removing the information was in compliance with Central Point's policies and procedures, adding that Moulin was knowledgeable of them because he'd helped set them.

The laptop wasn't treated as evidence, Winemiller said, and ultimately "every single digital device that CPPD took from Moulin was tampered with and not preserved in a forensically sound manner." 

Using mismanaged evidence, Central Point attempted to argue that Moulin committed felony computer crime by deleting the program, claiming that Moulin violated instructions in a memo they'd handed him May 16 about his paid administrative leave. 

Winemiller says no one, particularly Moulin, ever signed it. Allison handed Moulin a copy of the memo, but never went over any instructions during what Winemiller described as an awkward and emotional dismissal.

The 'signed' memo

After two years of requests for a copy of the signed memo at the core of the criminal case, the one that finally appeared was forged and backdated, appearing minutes before a judicial settlement conference on Aug. 28, 2014, Winemiller alleged.

"Phone records reveal that, just minutes before that settlement conference, Defendant Day sent a text message to OSP detective [Bryan] Scott including a never-before-seen image of an administrative leave memo bearing Allison and Clayton's signatures (but still not signed by Moulin)," the lawsuit states. "This 'signed' memo had never been seen in the more than two years since Moulin was placed on leave on May 16, 2012.

"Forensic evidence indicates that the picture of the 'signed' memo sent by Day was taken with his iPhone at 1:11 p.m. on August 28," the lawsuit adds, just 19 minutes before the conference. 

Winemiller said "multiple versions of the forged memo" came out during the discovery phase of the criminal case, and she said Central Point initially tried to bill Moulin's defense lawyers $10,000 for evidence they sought, including text messages between Scott and Day.

"The evidence showed that (Day) had sent the memo to Detective Bryan Scott, but it was missing from the evidence we received from Detective Scott's phone," Winemiller said. She asked about the missing piece of evidence during Scott's testimony, but "Detective Scott could not explain why that message was missing," though he remembered receiving it during the settlement conference.

Moulin today

Two months after Moulin was placed on leave, Moulin moved to the Las Vegas area to work for a national security contractor for the federal government. He's held the title of chief information officer and chief information security officer since April 2016, according to his website. Moulin also has worked as an adjunct professor at the College of Southern Nevada.

Moulin said that prior to Central Point's criminal investigation against him, he and his family had hoped to live the rest of their lives in Southern Oregon, "where we went to school, adopted our two children and had lived for over 30 years."

He said he looks back at the three years he spent defending himself with frustration.

"Although it was clear I had committed no crime, prosecutors issued press releases and conducted media interviews, convened a secret grand jury — then refused to let me testify before it, and threatened me with enhanced sentencing if I did not plead guilty," Moulin said in his statement.

"Once I finally had my day in court, the criminal charges were dismissed with prejudice at the very first possible juncture," Moulin said. "Those records have been expunged but the harm to my family cannot be undone."

The High Tech Crimes Task Force today

Three years after Moulin’s exit from Central Point and the task force’s demise, has it made more sense for agencies to conduct their own digital investigations under their own roofs?

What’s left of the task force is now headquartered on the third floor of Medford police's new building and includes one full-time employee and a part-timer. Medford handled 126 cases and 321 pieces of digital evidence in 2016, according to Medford police Chief Randy Sparacino.

Medford police has been involved in computer forensics since 2004, Sparacino and Deputy Chief Brett Johnson said. Though MPD understood why partner agencies chose to focus those pooled resources elsewhere, they said maintaining progress in digital forensics made sense for Medford.

"When everybody decentralized we kept meeting," Johnson said, adding that Medford maintained relationships with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. Sparacino said there's space for four carved out for the high tech crimes: Detective Brandon Bloomfield who works full time, retired Jackson County sheriff's Sgt. Colin Fagan, who now works for Medford part time; an FBI agent; and an officer with the Department of Homeland Security.

Though much of the equipment that was in the Central Point crime lab made its way to Medford, not much remains, Sparacino said.

“A lot of it has turned over in time,” Sparacino said, adding that many technological components typically last 18 to 20 months. “The only stuff that’s lasted is the furnishings.”

Sparacino said the agency works to replace the equipment as it ages out and budgets allow. Many of the federal grants that Moulin used to build the task force and crime lab back in the first decade of the 21st century no longer exist as digital forensics has evolved from experimental to routine police work.

O'Meara said Ashland police have a greater ability to analyze digital evidence at their station, and that the technology has standardized and improved.

"I know that if we cannot handle an analysis our partners there will help us out," O'Meara said of Medford.

O'Meara said that "regardless of any bumps in the road that occur during complex investigations," he always felt supported by Central Point police and the task force.

Sparacino didn't criticize the task force's structure under Moulin, saying there's "benefits to both ways." He said that Medford police and Bloomfield have been active in digital investigations since 2004, and that they always felt like they had the tools they needed.

“The capability’s always been there and we’ve never felt like our needs are not being met,” Sparacino said.

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.