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Testimony from 'dog scent lineup' sent woman to prison for crime she didn't commit

A Dog Sent Me To Prison

Megan Winfrey and her brother Richard were charged for the 2004 slaying of a high school janitor Murray Burr in Coldspring, Texas -- and believe it or not, some blockbuster evidence against them came from the "testimony" of a dog.


"I thought it was a joke. A dog? Really?" Megan told INSIDE EDITION. "In a million years, I never thought I would be in this kind of situation," added her brother Richard. Richard had never been in trouble with the law -- not even a traffic ticket. There was no physical evidence connecting Megan or Richard Winfrey to the crime scene. But they did have one "witness" who "said" they did it: a bloodhound.

Megan was stunned. "They said the dog alerted on my scent and I was the murderer." The bloodhound's handler, Keith Pikett, a former deputy sheriff in Fort Bend, Texas, said the Winfreys' scents matched the scent on the clothes of the murder victim. He conducted something called a "dog scent lineup" where his bloodhounds sniff the evidence from the crime scene and then compare it to scents taken from individuals with one of them being the suspect.

This type of evidence gathering has been called "junk science" by critics who say it is highly unreliable. When the dog signals on one of the scents by barking or stopping, Pikett considers it a match, and the evidence is used against the suspect at trial. Megan and Richard were arrested, along with their father.

A sheriff's detective tried to get the Winfreys to confess, but none of them did. "I tried to tell him that I did not do it. You don't know what you are talking about," explained Richard. "And he kept telling me that I did it and that I was going away for a long time."

Megan said, "I never would have dreamed that a dog could send me to prison for life." Former Maryland state trooper and dog expert, Doug Lowry says the dog-scent testimony used against the Winfrey family was a joke. He believes videos of "dog scent lineups" conducted by Keith Pikett show him stopping his dogs at cans where he knew the suspects scent was placed. "This is not credible evidence," stated Lowry.

While watching one of Pikett's dog scent lineup videos, INSIDE EDITION's Lisa Guerero asked, "Is Keith Pikett cueing this dog right now?" "Absolutely. His feet are together. The dog can't go any further, said Lowry. Guerrero asked, "If he walks past the first can and stops at the second can, that seems like it's a pretty obvious clue that he's cheating." "Pretty obvious, just for a lay person looking at it as yourself," said Lowry.

Nevertheless, a jury convicted Megan and her father, who were represented by public defenders. Megan was sentenced to life. Her father got 75 years. When Megan's brother went to trial, his family hired an experienced lawyer who proceeded to rip Piketts evidence to shreds. The jury came back in 13 minutes with a verdict of not guilty.

"The foreman told me that they would have been back sooner, but they didn't want to raise any suspicion," explained Richard. "They waited 13 minutes but they wanted to come back in five."

Megan spent six years in prison, her father three, until their cases got thrown out. INSIDE EDITION's Lisa Guerrero caught up with Pikett as he was walking one of his bloodhounds: "Hi Mr. Pikett, I'm Lisa Guerrero with INSIDE EDITION. Critics call your dog scent lineups, junk science. Do you have a response to that?" "Yeah, how far are you going to walk?" responded Pikett.

Pikett, who believes his lineups are legitimate, denies faking any evidence and says nobody is convicted solely on a dog's testimony.

"I just hope that one day he sits down and he reflects on this and does a lot of soul searching and asks for a lot of forgiveness for this, because he's going to need it," said Richard.

Join the discussion

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MFEENY3 May 21 2014 at 5:43 PM

The judge, jurors, and prosecutors are all morons. They should ALL be locked up for stupidity!

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17 replies
MO MONEY MOMONEY May 21 2014 at 5:09 PM

It's not the ability of the dog to follow a scent but rather the ability of the dogtrainer or handler to read what the dog is saying. It was obvious to a neophyte dog handler that the man was putting the dog in place. This should be treated as a criminal act by the handler as well as the prosecutor.

Flag Reply +67 rate up
2 replies
tony MO MONEY MOMONEY May 22 2014 at 1:31 PM

True.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
kingofswords72 MO MONEY MOMONEY May 26 2014 at 11:18 AM

The canine officers do the same thing during traffic stops. They ask "mind if I take my dog for a walk around your vehicle?" and of course what choice does a person who is being detained have in the matter, it's a public road, the officer can do anything he wants with his dog without permission. When they take their dog around the vehicle they cue the dog to hit on a scent, mostly out of view of their dash cam and then tell the motorist that the dogs actions say he has probable cause to search your vehicle without a warrant. Even if they don't find any drugs but they find money they will take the money because they say the dog found drug scent on the money. Eighty percent of U.S. currency has drug residue on it. They do this especially to people from out of State. If you have $2,000 in traveling money they will confiscate it and you have to prove in court that it wasn't drug money in order to get it back. It's legal theft and they're getting away with it.

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1 reply
What's Shakin T kingofswords72 May 26 2014 at 1:05 PM

All to true

Flag +2 rate up
jorgebrito2 May 21 2014 at 4:58 PM

I hope she sues and gets a lot of money back. This lady is innocent and needs to get out of jail now. Her and her brother are good people. Good thing is that they are both single and none of them have kids, because it would have been a much bigger problem.

Flag Reply +55 rate up
6 replies
mikeonthebay1130 May 21 2014 at 7:24 PM

the question she should have asked Pickett was whether he or anyone else has even tried to catch the real killer

Flag Reply +42 rate up
1 reply
cqdeed mikeonthebay1130 May 21 2014 at 9:38 PM

When the police make up their minds they do not like to change them or admit they may have been wrong. After all, the mentality of most LEOs is that the population is made up only of LEOs and perps.

Flag Reply +26 rate up
1 reply
coledude cqdeed May 22 2014 at 4:38 PM

"the population is made up only of LEOs and perps."
You left out the third category.. Sources of revenue!!!!

Flag +10 rate up
dollibug May 21 2014 at 5:27 PM

I hope they all SUED the people for WRONGFULLY CONVICTED THEM. CORRUPTION AND COVER UP IS ALIVE AND KICKING ALL OVER AMERICA*******

Flag Reply +31 rate up
3 replies
Joi May 21 2014 at 4:55 PM

Woof, now this was unique in a way but like lie detectors, methinks it's mostly a big guessing game for they don't tell the truth either. As for this great talented Hound, they can find things by scent so methinks he did find the scent, but only after it's handler led him there. Why not let the Hound go on his own, no leash, and he'll find whatever you're looking for. That Hound should bite it's handler in the butt. Arf, arf.

Flag Reply +20 rate up
chuck May 21 2014 at 6:21 PM

libs will do anything wont they?

Flag Reply +15 rate up
15 replies
tsr5112 May 21 2014 at 5:13 PM

Maybe the dog IS that smart.Problem is that Pinkett mis a moron and not nearly as smart as the dog.

Flag Reply +13 rate up
mpiastra May 22 2014 at 6:03 AM

scary

Flag Reply +8 rate up
youngman19 May 22 2014 at 1:19 PM

Another good job Texas, let a dog send people to jail for murder but let a rich drunk teenager off with probation for killing 4 people because he was rich....

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
abcstarfox youngman19 May 27 2014 at 2:28 AM

You got that one right.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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