Campbell foster parents released, no charges filed
on September 1, 2009
Citing insufficient evidence, the Alameda County District Attorney’s office cancelled an arraignment hearing for Louis Ross, jailed last week with his fiancee on suspicion of murdering five-year-old Hassani Campbell, officials said Tuesday.
Despite doubts surrounding the strength of the investigation into the high-profile case, Oakland police officials said the department will continue to investigate the whereabouts of the boy. His foster parents — Ross and fiancee Jennifer Campbell — say the boy went missing in Rockridge a little over two weeks ago, but investigators still question that claim and may re-arrest the couple, said Oakland Police chief Howard Jordan.
“We respect the D.A.’s opinion, but we have some more work to do here and we’re going to work diligently to try and solve this case,” Jordan said.
At the press briefing, Officer Jeff Thomason passed out photographs and videos of Campbell at a Fremont Wal-Mart before he went missing. According to Thomason, the video — which shows a young boy accompanied by two adults in the store aisles — is part of the evidence that makes investigators believe the boy never went to Shuz of Rockridge, the College Avenue business where Ross and Campbell say he disappeared.
Thomason said nobody other than Ross and Campbell can independently verify that they saw the boy at Shuz, and that the Wal-Mart video is the last image they have of him before he vanished. “We don’t have any independent source putting him at College Avenue that day,” Thomason said.
Oakland attorney John Burris, who is acting as an advisor for the accused couple, said the evidence is still too weak to have justified an arrest. He believes that investigators lack convincing evidence to substantiate claims that Campbell was dead or missing prior to August 10, when Campbell and Ross reported that he had disappeared from a car parked behind the Rockridge shoe store.
“My feeling about this is that the evidence they did have was no more than a suspicion,” Burris said in an interview this afternoon. “The D.A. did the right thing.”
Burris said he questions the use of another piece of evidence — an angry text message sent from Ross to Campbell regarding their care for the boy — as a foundation for building a murder case. Jennifer Campbell, who worked at Shuz at the time of Hassani’s reported disappearance, and Ross, who was unemployed and pursuing a career in the medical field, were experiencing normal tensions in their relationship when the boy disappeared, Burris said.
He said the investigation was “excruciating and very challenging” for Ross and Campbell, who is six months pregnant. “They were in the process of building a family,” Burris said.
Officials at Oakland Police Department could not be immediately reached for a response to Burris’ comments. Burris is a high-profile attorney who has worked with clients including Barry Bonds and Tupac Shakur, and has a record of victories against the Oakland Police Department including a $10.9 million class action lawsuit in the high-profile Riders Case.
He filed a $25 million lawsuit earlier this year in the January shooting of Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale BART station.
A reward of $10,000 is being offered for by the Oakland police for information that helps locate the missing boy. Anyone with information is asked to call (510) 777-8572 or (510) 777-3211.
Image: This still is from a video, released by Oakland Police today, which purports to show Hassani Campbell at a Fremont store shortly before he disappeared.
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