Eight years after his mistakes in the Alan Gell case became public, agent Dwight Ransome left the SBI. During that time, his work in another case caused more trouble.
In his investigation of the death of Stacey Pollard in Greenville, Ransome did not follow leads and failed to use independent evidence such as phone records or insurance policies to corroborate witness interviews.
The pattern was familiar. In the Gell case, his misconduct led to a record $3.9 million settlement with the former death row inmate who was acquitted after a second trial in 2004.
In February 2006, Ransome took charge of the investigation of Pollard's drowning death. Pollard's wife, Michelle, was a Pitt County sheriff's deputy and a focus of the investigation.
Stacey Pollard's family has sued Michelle for wrongful death.
Ransome and the SBI are not defendants in the case, but court records paint a picture of a slipshod investigation.
Retired at full pension
The problems with the Gell case were well-established in 2002, when a judge ordered a new trial. A jury acquitted Gell in 2004; prosecutors in the case were reprimanded later that year.
Ransome continued as a supervisory agent until the settlement with Gell in 2009, when he was reassigned to a desk job. He retired in May with 30 years' credit and a full pension.
Attorney General Roy Cooper said the SBI has learned from the mistakes Ransome made in the Gell case.
"It took [litigation] for people in the bureau to recognize some of the mistakes that were made by this particular agent," Cooper said.
In the months after Stacey Pollard's death, Michelle Pollard gave three versions of the night her husband died. First she said she wasn't at the pool. After failing a polygraph, she said she pushed him in as a joke. Then she said she only dreamed she pushed him in.
Michelle Pollard said she and Stacey had an ideal marriage, but there was plenty to suggest otherwise.
Multiple sex partners
Ransome learned that just hours after Michelle Pollard's husband was buried, she was in her home having sex with a man and woman.
The chief of homicide investigations at the sheriff's office also admitted to Ransome that he was having an affair with Michelle while Stacey was alive.
Ransome obtained Michelle Pollard's phone records but never examined them.
He never visited the crime scene. And he waited 18 months to talk to the Pollards' neighbors.
One neighbor, William Gardner Stocks II, said that Michelle Pollard did not appear wet or upset the night of her husband's death.
David Sutton, the Pollard family's lawyer, quizzed Ransome about that.
"Now, given that her husband had just been pulled dead from the pool a few minutes earlier, and she told you they had a perfect marriage, did this statement in any way cause you any concern or pause to think?"
"No," Ransome replied.
"Why would it?" Ransome said.
The investigation was closed in January 2009 with no charges. The civil lawsuit against Michelle Pollard continues.
In January, Michelle Pollard was convicted of obstruction of justice for tipping off a suspected drug dealer that the dealer was under investigation.
She was released from prison last week.
Cooper declined to comment on the Pollard case.