Samantha Harer: Here's Why Flores Wasn't Re-Interviewed

CHANNAHON, IL — About 10 hours after Samantha Harer died on Feb. 13, 2018, a detective with the Will-Grundy County Major Crimes Task Force obtained a DNA buccal swab from off-duty Crest Hill police officer Phil Flores.

“I gathered a buccal swab from Flores’ mouth and placed them in an envelope,” Romeoville Police Detective Dan Zakula stated in his report. “The envelope was sealed and given to the Channahon police to be entered into evidence.”

During last year’s federal lawsuit deposition, Channahon Deputy Police Chief Adam Bogart was asked if his department lost the original buccal swab for Flores.

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“I don’t know,” Bogart responded.

“Was it entered into evidence?” questioned attorney Jennifer Bonjean, who represents Samantha Harer’s parents, Kevin and Heather.

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“To the best of my knowledge, no,” Bogart testified.

“Do you know where it is as you sit here today?”

“No.”

“Did your department do any type of internal review of what may have happened to this piece of evidence that was placed into the chain of custody?”

“We tried checking through reports … He didn’t specify in his report which officer. Ultimately we never discovered, like I said, don’t know where it’s at,” Bogart testifed.

Two of Samantha Harer’s neighbors said they heard someone slammed into a wall and someone screaming, “Let me go! Let me go!” Image via Channahon police

Phil Flores Retains Joliet Lawyer

By the spring of 2018, Bogart called Flores after realizing he did not have Flores’ DNA sample to send to the Illinois State Police crime lab for comparison purposes.

“And what did he say to you?” Bonjean inquired.

“A lot of expletives, and I said, ‘Hey, we would like to get the buccal swab from you,'” Bogart testified. “He said, ‘No, I’m not doing that. I have to talk to my attorney.’ The next thing I knew I got a call from an attorney so we can establish collecting that DNA sample.”

“Did you re-interview him at the time he came in to give the buccal swab?”

“No, I did not.”

“Did you ask Phil Flores’ attorney whether Phil would come in for a second interview?”

“I didn’t have to, because he made it very specific to me that Phil is not answering any questions.”

“When did Phil’s attorney tell you that Phil would not be answering anymore questions?”

“That spring conversation during the buccal swab question,” Bogart testified.

“Then when you later found out he was positive for the GSR (gun shot residue), you didn’t even bother to ask him to sit for an interview, right?”

“Because it’s my belief that when you invoke the right to counsel, it pertains to the same investigation,” Bogart answered.

That summer, Illinois State Police lab results showed the gunshot residue tests on Harer were negative. The GSR tests on Flores were positive.

“I recall being informed that he had tested positive on his right hand from Assistant State Attorney Mike Fitzgerald,” Bogart testified.

Bonjean asked if Bogart tried contacting Flores for a follow-up interview, given the development.

“No, not at that time. He had retained counsel,” Bogart answered. “Joe Mazzone, I believe.”

“But that aside, the point is, you did not even ask his attorney whether he would be willing to sit for an interview after you learned that the gunshot residue had come back positive, correct?”

“The answer to that is correct.”

During Samantha Harer’s last night alive, Crest Hill police officer Phil Flores stayed on her living room couch, watching movies on Netflix, he has testified. Image via Crest Hill

Bogart Asked About Gun Shot Residue Tests

Within hours of Harer’s death, Flores was interviewed by Joliet Police Detective Carlos Matlock and Will County Sheriff’s Investigator R.J. Austin. Flores said Harer fatally shot herself after locking herself in her bedroom while he was in her living room.

The Will-Grundy task force met that day to discuss the status of its investigation.

“Would you agree that if it came out during this meeting, it was disclosed during the meeting that the presumptive GSR test is positive, that would have impacted your strategy for interviewing Mr. Flores?” Bonjean wondered.

“I don’t know how it would have impacted,” Bogart answered.

“Really? You don’t know? If you received information that he tested positive for GSR, it wouldn’t have impacted your investigation at that point?”

“It is not definitive how he fired a gun or not. Maybe you look for an explanation as to how it got there, sure,” Bogart replied.

“What if any Joe Blow gang banger in your interrogation room tested positive for GSR, it is pretty much in your investigation in those circumstances, right?” Bonjean asked.

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“I mean, why are you so quick to throw out GSR when a cop is sitting in there? I don’t understand it. We know you take that seriously when it’s not a cop sitting in the interrogation room.”

“I had no training in GSR prior to that day,” Bogart testified.

“As you sit here today, you are saying that you didn’t understand the implications, presumptive GSR test on February 13, 2018? You can correct me if I’m wrong.”

“Whether it means he was shooting a gun, buying a gun, touched a gun, I don’t know,” Bogart answered.

“By the time that you learned from the lab that it was in fact positive, right, not just presumptive, but the lab, Phil wasn’t speaking anymore, correct?”

“Correct.”

“He had invoked his constitutional right to not speak to you about any questions you may have, correct?”

“Correct.”

“So as you sit here today, you do not have the benefit of knowing out of his own mouth why he thinks he was positive for GSR, correct?”

“Not to my knowledge.”

Areas on the sweatshirt of Officer Phil Flores where blood stains were present. Image obtained from Channahon Police

‘We Know You Like Phil’s Version Better’

On the morning of Harer’s death, two other tenants in the same Channahon apartment building told detectives they heard a voice yelling ‘Let me go’ and the sounds of someone being slammed into a wall, according to testimony.

“Did you find that Phil Flores’ explanation for what the neighbors had heard made sense?” Bonjean asked Bogart.

“Yes. His statement was that Samantha was yelling for him to go, ‘You have to go, telling him to leave.’ There was a heated argument … Phil said she said one thing, they said that she said another, it was some of the same language, actually. Let me go and you have to go.”

“So you would not consider the accounts of two separate neighbors who have zero skin in the game as facts that contradicted Phil’s accounts of what happened?”

“The only contradiction are the words that were used,” Bogart testified.

“It wasn’t just words. It was banging and let me go, right? That’s what they said, correct?

“Right,” Bogart responded.

“Like something was hitting the wall, right?”

“Door was slamming like Phil suggested,” Bogart testifed.

“We know that you like Phil’s version better. That’s clear,” Bonjean declared. “Okay. We know you like that version better because that’s the one that you keep going to. That is not my question. My question is can we agree that what the neighbors reported is different than what Phil reported?”

“We can agree that they said there were bangs,” Bogart answered.

“If the neighbors said they heard a struggle, the presumptive GSR test is positive for gunshot residue and you have a dead woman with a gunshot in her head, do you think you would have arrested Phil if he were an 18-year-old Black kid?” Bonjean asked.

“I would consider all facts. I would let them make the determination as to arrest and charges,” Bogart testified.

“Had you viewed the video and that person said exactly that it sounded like someone was throwing someone against the wall, would you agree that that account was inconsistent with what Phil Flores was telling you?”

“I don’t know how they made that determination. I don’t know how they came to that conclusion,” Bogart replied.

“Did I ask you anything about how the neighbor came to that conclusion?” Bonjean remarked. “Maybe because he had a brain … Did you have any reason to believe that they had an interest in persuading you in the narrative that was not true?”

“No.”

“And with Phil we can agree he isn’t guilty of anything. He has an interest in the outcome of this investigation, right?”

“Yes.”

“Were you curious why Phil Flores had blood splatter on him?”

“Yes.”

“And from listening to the 911 call and listening to his interview with (Detective) Matlock, you are, of course, aware that he always maintained that he was not in the room when she pulled the trigger, correct?”

“Yes.”

Adam Bogart testified he knew Samantha Harer from her days in college as a Channahon police intern. Image via Channahon

Blood Evidence Gets Disposed

Bonjean turned her focus to several items from Harer’s bedroom containing her blood.

“Should you have recovered the door to Samantha Harer’s bedroom?” Bonjean asked.

“What do you mean by recovered?” Bogart replied.

“We know it existed. We have seen pictures of it. Did you inventory it?”

“It was never logged in evidence,” Bogart testified.

“Where is it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you know why it wasn’t logged into evidence?”

“I don’t know specifically. (Channahon Detective Andrew) McClellan can answer that question.”

“Do you remember seeing a laundry basket with blood on it in Ms. Harer’s room?”

“I recall seeing the pictures today.”

“And do you know whether that was placed into the evidence log?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you know why it was not placed into the evidence log when it had blood on it?”

“I don’t know.”

“I can represent to you that it was returned to Samantha Harer’s family with no blood on it. Do you know why that is?”

“No, I don’t know,” Bogart replied.

“Do you know who made the decision not to take those pieces of evidence and place them into the chain of custody?”

“Specifically, no.”

“Do you know why they were not inventoried?

“Specifically, no.”

Samantha Harer’s bedroom door had several blood stains and smears but Channahon police chose not to save it as physical evidence. Image via Channahon

Bogart Cites ‘Trust’ Issues With Dave Margliano

Retired Channahon police detective Dave Margliano is the chief investigator for Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow. After Bogart sought help from the Will-Grundy Major Crimes Task Force immediately following Harer’s death, Joliet Police Capt. Rich Demick offered to send Margliano to the scene, and Bogart texted back, “No Dave.”

“You said, no Dave. Why did you say that?” Bonjean asked.

“I had some trust issues with Dave,” Bogart testified. “Dave has somewhat of a reputation at times to be, just he’s not assigned to the task force, he’s not part of the task force. Dave thinks himself kind of a big shot. I didn’t need any egos out on the scene that day.”

That year, Margliano wrote a memo outlining several questions he had about the case after reviewing Flores’ interview statement and his 911 call claiming Harer shot herself.

“Dave was asking some pretty good questions from his memo,” Bonjean told Bogart. “Are you sure you didn’t want Dave because he might ask hard questions about a police officer related shooting?”

“I would have asked those questions, too,” Bogart replied. “We don’t know when Dave prepared that report. So I don’t know if he came up with those questions at the day he was there. He didn’t pose them.”

According to Bonjean, one of Margliano’s main questions was, “How did Flores go into the room after the shot and exit it leaving an eight-inch gap?”

“Do you see that?”Bonjean asked.

“Yes,” Bogart testified.

“Is that a question that ever crossed your mind in the course of your investigative duties?”

“No,” Bogart answered.

“All right, let’s go to the next one. Margliano says Flores (stated) firearm was on the floor between her legs about four inches from her vaginal area. (Margliano) asks, why was the gun between her legs and not to the side?”

“Nothing I considered,” Bogart replied.

“Why didn’t you consider that?”

“I didn’t analyze the statement.”

“The question is if she shot herself in the head by pointing a gun to her right temple, yeah, I guess it would be her right temple, the exit wound was to the left temple, why was the gun between her legs and not to her side? That’s what he’s asking,” Bonjean noted.

“I don’t know,” Bogart responded.

“I know you don’t know. I’m asking, did you consider that question?”

“No,” Bogart testified.

Another of Margliano’s questions dealt with Harer’s Smith & Wesson gun.

“Flores stated she slammed the door and locked it. He was gathering his belongings and heard the sound of chambering a bullet. He went to the door and tried to pick the lock, stating to her, ‘Don’t do this,’ and he heard a pop. He forced the door open and found her on the floor with the gun between her legs bleeding from the head.

“Then (Margliano) asked a question, ‘Chambering a round, I think it was already chambered, it was for self-defense. What did he use to pick the lock?'”

Channahon’s Adam Bogart helped oversee the Samantha Harer death investigation that led to no charges for Crest Hill officer Phil Flores. Image via Channahon

Bonjean reminded Bogart of several other questions Margliano raised:

  • Why pick a lock if he thought she was going to commit suicide?
  • Why would Flores say ‘Don’t do this?’
  • Is there any evidence of the door being forced open?
  • Why didn’t Flores mention Channahon Police Officer Kevin McRaven touched the body, but mentioned a gun between her legs?
  • Maybe she got the gun out to defend herself from him?

“As you sit here today, do you recall whether Phil Flores ever explained why he said ‘don’t do this?'”

“No,” Bogart replied.

“Is there any evidence whatsoever that the door was forced open? Do you know?”

“I don’t know,” Bogart answered.

“If you had inventoried the door, you would be able to possibly see that?

“I don’t know. I’m not an expert,” Bogart told Bonjean.

“Do you have to be an expert to know whether you think you force open a door as Phil Flores did, that there might be evidence of a forced door, a door being forced open?”

“I don’t know if you need to be an expert or not, but tool marks, that’s something that the lab deals with.”

“They deal with it if you inventory the door and sent it to them to deal with. Did you do that?”

“No, I wasn’t in charge of the crime scene that day,” Bogart testified.

“As you sit here today, can you tell me whether there is evidence that the door was forced open?”

“Not that I know of,” Bogart said.

“And that’s because you don’t have the door, right?”

“We don’t have the physical door. There are photographs.”

“Margliano asked, maybe she got the gun to defend herself from him? Is that something that you had considered to be part of your investigation?”

“Who would I ask that question to? I don’t understand,” Bogart answered.

“How about Phil Flores? How about the guy that was there?” Bonjean asked.

“You are asking me if I would ask him? I don’t understand the question,” Bogart replied.

“Oh, God. Have you ever interrogated a suspect in your life?”

“Yes.”

“Beautiful.”

“And no one ever asked him whether she pointed a gun at him, right?”

“Not that I recall.”

“Right, because you just assumed he told you the truth, right?”

“I didn’t conduct the interview.”

“All right. You did realize when you conduct homicide investigations the person who is killed is never there, right?”

“Not to answer any questions, yes, I realize that,” Bogart said.

“What you did know is that you have two neighbors who told you that there had been a heated argument, and they heard someone say let me go, right? You knew that, correct?”

“Yes.”

“There had been some type of disruption in the room that had been heard including banging or slamming, right?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. She had to pick up her gun at some point to shoot herself in the head. Can we agree with that?”

“Yes.”

“Do we have an obligation to determine whether or not she was defending herself … I think that’s what her parents would like to know.”

“With all the evidence that we did gather from interviews and stuff, that’s not the conclusion that the evidence led us to,” Bogart said.

“And you didn’t look at the door to see if it was forced open, right?”

“I didn’t myself. I don’t know if somebody else looked at it or not.”

“Right. As far as you know, Phil Flores was never even asked the question when he was interrogated or questioned whether or not she had pulled the gun out and directed it at him at any point, right?”

“I don’t recall if that was asked or not.”

Eventually, Bonjean asked her final deposition question.

“All right. Sitting here with the benefit of everything you know about this case, Deputy Chief Bogart, with the benefit of everything you know in connection with this case, do you still stand by the findings of your investigation in that this was a suicide on the part of Samantha Harer?”

“Yes.”

“OK. I have no further questions for the deputy chief.”

Ex-Crest Hill cop Phi Flores testified he had a hard time dealing with the circumstances of Samantha Harer and how she passed. Image via Google Maps

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