The Washington Post
Wednesday, August 9, 2000

Alleged Burn Expert Faces Second Perjury Charge;
Officials Say Witness
Falsified Credentials
by Josh White
, Washington Post Staff Writer

 

  The executive director of the National Burn Victim Foundation,

who's charged with lying about his qualifications during a

high-profile child abuse case in Prince William County last year, was

indicted Monday on another charge of perjury in the same case.

 

  Prosecutors brought the additional charge of perjury against

Gary S. Stocco, 32, of West Orange, N.J., directly to a grand jury

Monday. Stocco also faces one charge of obtaining money by false

pretenses for billing the defense team in the child abuse case for his

services.

 

  Stocco was to have testified in the February 1999 murder trial

of Jennifer Talley, who was later convicted of felony homicide and

felony child abuse for her role in the death of 2-year-old Sade Naomi

Hatfield. Talley is serving a nine-year prison sentence.

 

  Sade was plunged into a bathtub filled with scalding water by

Talley's boyfriend, Billy Leon Smalls. Police and prosecutors said the

child was held in the water as punishment for wetting herself. Sade,

who did not receive medical attention, died a few days later. Smalls

was convicted of second-degree murder and is serving 30 years.

 

  Prosecutors said Stocco was prepared to testify that Sade's

death could have been accidental and that the pattern of burns could

have suggested that the child turned the hot water on by herself as

she sat in the tub. Other medical experts testified to the contrary.

 

Prince William authorities have alleged that Stocco, who has

testified across the country as a "burn expert" in dozens of trials,

falsified his credentials to be certified as a paid expert witness in

Talley's trial.

 

  Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert (D) said prosecutors have

evidence that Stocco has given conflicting testimony about his

educational background in various states and lied during a court

hearing in Talley's case, at which he testified that he doesn't have a

college degree.

 

  Stocco did not testify in Talley's trial because a Prince

William judge barred him from taking the stand after prosecutors

grilled him about his background.

 

  Ebert said yesterday that the additional charge of perjury

relates directly to statements Stocco made in Prince William and

allows prosecutors to cover a wider range of his statements to a

judge.

 

  The main fear prosecutors have is that Stocco, whose co-workers

have said has testified in many trials, might have had an effect on

many cases that have yielded convictions and acquittals at least

partly based on his testimony.

 

  "It's really an affront to the whole system, and the system

relies heavily on experts," Ebert said. "If experts are going to

perjure themselves, it could potentially cause a lot of injustice. We

expect more out of experts than we do out of someone who is just a

casual witness, and we should be able to rely on what they say."

 

  Stocco has been with the Basking Ridge, N.J.-based National

Burn Victim Foundation for about six years. He began as a forensic

burn investigator and took over as executive director of the nonprofit

group last year.

 

  The group's executive board has said publicly that Stocco

"discharged of his duties on all occasions consistent with the high

standards of truthfulness, competence and professional integrity upon

which he and the [foundation] stakes its good name and reputation."

 

  Ebert said Stocco appeared in court yesterday to face the

indictment. His trial is scheduled for Nov. 14.

 

  Also on Monday, a 55-year-old caregiver was indicted on charges

of murder, felony homicide and adult abuse and neglect that resulted

in the death of an elderly Manassas woman in April.

 

  Sarah Lucille Holland, of Douglas Street in Manassas, is

charged in the death of Christine V. Payne, 82. According to police,

Holland was acting as caregiver for Payne in Holland's Manassas home

and abused her over time, ultimately leading to her death.

 

  Payne was admitted to the emergency room at Prince William

Hospital on April 28. She was unconscious and suffering from several

bruises and scratches to the head, chest and stomach. Prosecutors said

that the injuries might indicate a pattern of abuse and that the abuse

led to a fatal injury to her head and neck.

 

  According to Manassas police, Holland told investigators that

the injuries happened as Holland was helping Payne out of the bathtub

and into bed. Holland called rescue officials to the scene when Payne

became unconscious.

 

  In a search warrant affidavit filed in Prince William County

Circuit Court, Manassas police say that Payne had "bruises and

scratches over her entire body" and that "some of these bruises

appeared to have occurred recently, while other bruises appeared

old."

 

  Holland did not appear in court yesterday, and a warrant was

issued for her arrest.