Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Police: Couple tried to frame innocent man

As reported here:

ASHEVILLE — Police say a city couple spent weeks carrying out an elaborate plot to frame a man for crimes he didn’t commit — until they were undone by their ringing cellphones.

Michael Dale Timmons, 39, and Teresa Sandra Knapp, 46, of Henrietta Street, reported to police the man had raped Knapp and broken into their home, among other crimes, city police Detective William Olson said.

Timmons also is accused of sending threatening text messages to Asheville police officer Orlando Burge, pretending to be the man being framed. The threats included messages such as “I will kill you” and “I will kill the cop after I rape the (expletive).”

Police have spent dozens of hours working on the case but were unsure of a motive. It might be that Timmons was avoiding being forced to return to Iowa, where he is on probation on a methamphetamine charge, Olson said.

Timmons was trying to convince his probation officer in Iowa that he needed to remain in Asheville because of the rape and other investigations, Olson said. Timmons was scheduled to be back in Iowa this week for a court hearing.

After their arrests early Monday, Timmons and Knapp face more than a dozen charges each, including felony conspiracy, perjury, making a false report to police, misuse of the 911 system, resisting public officers and communicating threats, according to warrants at the Buncombe County magistrate’s office.

Olson said another man may have been working with Timmons and Knapp in the scheme. No charges have been filed against that suspect, but the investigation is continuing.

The man who police said was the victim of the scheme is a former boyfriend of Knapp, police said. He was not named.

Investigators doubted the couple’s story soon after launching an investigation in January but had to take the allegations seriously, particularly the rape claim, Olson said.

He and other officers got a break when they went to the couple’s home at 1 a.m. Monday.

“Part of the reason we went was to try to catch them off guard,” Olson said. “We really just got lucky catching them.”

Investigators wanted to search for drugs because of Timmons’ meth charge in Iowa, but once inside the home they decided to call several cellphone numbers used by the caller who threatened Officer Burge.

An officer dialed one number, and a cellphone on a table in the home began ringing, Olson said. An officer dialed another number, and police began hearing a sound from a phone set on vibrate.

Olson said officers searched until they found the phone under the couple’s mattress.

“I said, ‘Something is ringing in here,’” Olson said. “Even when we pulled the phone out, he (Timmons) was still saying, ‘I don’t know how that got there,’” he said.

Timmons was charged with felony conspiracy, perjury, four counts of making a false report to police, 12 counts of communicating threats and one count of resisting public officers. He was being held at the Buncombe County Detention Facility in lieu of $77,000 bond.

Knapp was charged with felony conspiracy, three counts of perjury, five counts of misuse of the 911 system, six counts of making a false report to police and one count of resisting public officers. She was being held under an $86,000 bond.