‘After the Uprising,’ Destroyed Evidence Led to Dashed Hopes

As the months turned into years following the suspicious death of Danyé Jones, every bit of remaining evidence became that much more crucial to discovering the truth. By 2019, Danyé’s family pinned their hopes on two leads: the bedsheet by which he was hanged and his cell phone.

After months of back and forth with St. Louis County Police over possession of the bedsheet, Danyé’s mother Melissa McKinnies and her family were resigned to the belief that they would never get it back. At first, because it was considered evidence in an active case, they couldn’t receive it until the case officially closed. After the lead detective on the case, TImothy Anderer, finally completed the case report and it was released by his superiors in July 2019, Melissa found herself one step closer to taking possession of the bedsheet. Beyond that, the report itself revealed what appeared to be several deficiencies with the investigation.

According to the report, Detective Anderer’s actions after he left Danyé’s home on the morning of his death were limited to performing a computer search for reports documenting any potential psychological episodes with Danyé, searching for any prior calls to police by anyone living in Melissa’s home, and scanning his facebook page, none of which revealed much. Detective Anderer did nothing further on this case for two weeks, based on a breakdown of the report. Fourteen days later, he requested that a detective deliver the bedsheet to the crime lab for DNA analysis.

What’s striking about the police report is what Detective Anderer didn’t do. He didn’t speak to anyone else who knew Danyé, not even his brother, Javon. He didn’t pursue anyone who might remember Danyé’s cell phone passcode, like his ex-girlfriend Dasha. And while the report claims that the neighborhood was canvassed, meaning that officers spoke with neighbors regarding whether they’d seen or heard anything unusual, this appeared to not be the case.

Contrary to standard police procedure, there were no records of individuals they had spoken to in their canvass, simply an “x” checking a box. So, podcast investigators decided to conduct their own canvass, knocking on doors in the neighborhood to ask whether the police had spoken to them about Danyé’s death. Not a single person they spoke to recalled any interactions with investigators.

Even more unusual revelations were buried within the report. For example, investigators attempted to get a hold of Danyé’s pants, which were inexplicably found rolled down to his ankles when he died, but by that point they had already been sent on to the funeral home and returned to his mother, meaning no DNA evidence could be extracted from them. A DNA swab was performed on the bedsheet, though it’s unclear how it was handled.

According to the pathologist, the lab swabbed the portion that was tied to the tree, though this seems impossible given that the sheet had been untied by an investigator and placed in Danyé’s body bog. This appears contrary to common police procedure, where the knot should be preserved and the ligature should be placed in a bag separate from the body.

Notwithstanding the source of the DNA swap, the results of the test indicated that two or more males had left traces on the sheet. One of those was Danyé, but the sample was unable to be used to determine the source of the other DNA. Normally when this happens, new sampling can be requested, but despite Melissa’s well publicized pronouncements that she believed her son was the victim of a homicide, this never took place.

Clearly, the bedsheet is a crucial part of this case, but even so, there’s a great deal of uncertainty over details as simple as the sheet’s color, the question of why Danyé would use an awkward fitted bedsheet when he had multiple other methods of taking his own life at his disposal, and how Danyé would know how to make such a complicated knot and tie it himself. A fresh look at the sheet itself could provide answers to some of these crucial questions, but first, Melissa would have to get it back.

With the case officially closed, Melissa waited months to be notified by Detective Anderer that the evidence was approved for release. Further months were lost due to the COVID-19 outbreak, before Melissa went to the County Police Department in June 2020 to collect what she believed was her son’s murder weapon. When she arrived, she was told that she needed a letter stating that the evidence was cleared for pickup. Melissa, however, had not been made aware of this requirement when an investigator called County Police to inquire. According to her, she was never informed the evidence had been approved for release to her and never received a letter. The officer at the County Police headquarters told her she’d have to talk to Detective Anderer himself, but he had the day off that day, and County would be closed the next day for its first recognition of Juneteenth as a holiday. Melissa was told to call him the next week.

The following Tuesday, she received a call from Sergeant John Wall, Detective Anderer’s supervisor at the time of the investigation. He claimed that Anderer released the property, filled out the proper forms, and had the letter sent to notify Melissa in January 2020. After that, she would have thirty days to retrieve the evidence. Of course, it’s hard to respond to a letter that one never received, and Melissa states she had no idea about this procedure.

Sadly, the bedsheet was indeed destroyed, and along with it any hopes of new DNA swabs, examining the sheet for damage or even finding out where it came from. To Melissa, the destruction of the evidence convinced her further that the police did not take her son’s death seriously -- and may even be actively hostile toward her. Now, without the bedsheet, her hope turned toward her son’s cell phone.

Melissa had her doubts that her son’s ex-girlfriend Dasha would remember the passcodes, but she had to try. Accessing his phone could unlock the mysteries of Danyé’s whereabouts and state of mind on the night of his death. Unfortunately, Melissa’s skepticism was proven correct, as none of the codes provided by Dasha worked.

Not all hope was lost, however. The controversial field of data forensics is dedicated to cracking codes and unlocking phones where the passcodes aren’t available, but it’s far from a sure thing. Still, with few other options, Melissa agreed to ship her son’s phone to a specialist in Texas. In the meantime, all she could do was wait, and pursue the most prominent lead she had: the bedsheet.

Her few remaining hopes were trapped in Danyé’s phone, and so a lot was riding on whether the data forensics specialists in Texas would come through.

For more on the discrepancies surrounding the police report and the investigation into Danyé’s death, be sure to listen to Episode 7 of ‘After the Uprising,’ and follow ‘After the Uprising’ on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for further updates and insights on Danyé’s story.