This letter is in response to Chuck Hubbard’s “Take it or leave it” column, “Englebert contests his convictions” in the Wednesday, Oct. 13 edition.
There is a definite link between the investigation of Harry Englebert’s case for indecent liberties and subsequent conviction and former Alleghany Detective Ricky Lyall, who is currently serving 10 years in federal prison for drug-related charges.
Ricky Lyall was indicted on 15 charges, including drug related charges, falsifying police reports, and extorting his two drug informants for money and “sexual favors.” It was not known by Harry’s attorneys during his trial that Lyall, himself, was under federal investigation.
This corrupt detective was the one who interviewed the minor aged and “mentally diminished” boys, individually, behind closed doors for as long as four hours. There were no tape recordings or video of these interviews. Why was this type of interview allowed? It should be a state law that all interviews are videotaped. Lyall’s handwritten notes were the only recordings of the interviews.
Lyall used his power as “the law” to intimidate these boys to get them to say what he wanted them to say. Lyall stated at his own trial that it was his “selfish ambition” to be sheriff of Alleghany County that was his downfall. He used Harry’s case to make a name for himself. Lyall knew Harry’s case would receive much news media coverage.
One witness said he knew Lyall wrote down things he didn’t say, but didn’t know he could change it. We have no idea what Lyall told the boy and his parents. It could have been the possibility of financial gain as was evident in a civil suit when parents asked for several million dollars. This case was dismissed by former Judge Mike Helms. This boy recanted his original statement of abuse that was made in his interview with Lyall. The boys in Harry’s trial still have the right and opportunity to change their original statements made to Lyall under duress.
The mother of one of the boys stated in a letter to “Communities In Schools” that her son’s grades had improved and he had begun to trust people since having Harry as a mentor. Her attitude changed after her interview with Lyall.
Lyall was the trustworthy “hometown boy” who knew some of the jurors. The verdict would have most likely been different had the jury known the true devious character of Lyall and the fact he was under federal investigation.
The public placed trust in Lyall, and he betrayed every citizen of Alleghany County. How can he be credible in this case? “Crucial testimony” of the boys consisted of “yes” and “no” answers to leading questions by the prosecutor. The presentation of evidence was a few “Goose Bumps” videos and Harry’s Christmas list of gifts for family, friends, and boys to whom he was assigned. There were no explicit home videos as was reported by a sheriff’s deputy, or physical, medical, or scientific evidence.
It is the prosecutor’s job to get a guilty verdict even if the person is innocent. Guilty until proven innocent was the theme of Harry’s case. Harry was offered a plea bargain, but refused because he would not admit to crimes he did not commit.
It has been almost eight years that Harry, our beloved family member, has missed holidays, birthdays, vacations, and graduations. We have gained family members and lost precious loved ones. There was a time we just about lost Harry to health complications. Even in prison, Harry continues to be an inspiration to us with words of encouragement and reminding us of God’s promises.
The overwhelming support through visits, letters, cards, and prayers has given Harry the strength to face each new day and whatever challenges it holds. We humbly thank everyone who has supported Harry during this nightmare from the bottom of our hearts.
Our prisons are full of innocent people, but we know one who truly is beyond the shadow of a doubt.
LORETTA E. BRANCH
LISA E. DOWELL
Statesville, N.C. 28677