This was not the couple's first argument. Tustin police had intervened on several occasions when arguments had escalated to physical confrontations.
On this particular Sunday morning Kevin decides to defuse the situation by going out and getting a couple of burgers from the local Jack in the Box. However, instead of going to the outlet across the street from his apartment, he drives to a Jack in the Box more than fifteen minutes away.
This spur of the moment decision will change his life forever.
At 01:35 am, warm burgers in hand, Kevin arrives back at his apartment. His first concern is that the door to the apartment is ajar. He enters and calls out Dianna's name. The only noise he can hear is what he later describes as a snorting or snoring sound coming from the bedroom. He enters the bedroom to find his wife lying on the bed among a tangle of blood-stained sheets.
Dianna Green had been raped, strangled and hit on the forehead with a blunt object. At first, Kevin thinks his wife has been shot in the head, but it later turns out that the object she was hit with contained a nail or a bolt which caused a bullet-like entry wound to the middle of her forehead.
Kevin checks to see if his wife is still alive. She is. Barely. Police and ambulance arrive within minutes and Dianna is transported to hospital. Doctors detect a faint fetal heartbeat, but Dianna's head injuries are so severe doctors believe that an immediate caesarean section would endanger the lives of both mother and baby. Twenty-four hours later, doctors remove a baby girl from Dianna, but are unable to save her. Dianna lapses into a coma.
Kevin remains by her side.
With very little evidence recovered from the crime scene and no signs of a forced entry to the apartment, police investigators zero in on Kevin Green as the prime suspect. They ask him about the volatile nature of his marriage to Dianna. Had he ever struck his wife during an argument?
On the night Dianna was attacked did she deny him sex?
Yes. But it wasn't a big issue.
Nevertheless, did they argue about that?
What did they argue about?
Something and nothing. It was just a trivial argument. One of many.
They don't believe him. Police investigators are relentless. The questioning goes on for several hours. They are convinced Kevin brutally attacked his wife after losing control. They think he raped her and then bludgeoned her with a piece of wood. Unfortunately, there is no direct evidence, and the detectives have no other suspects.
The young Marine doesn't realize it, but the circumstantial evidence is piling up against him.
They ask him if he attacked his wife after losing his temper. No, he didn't. Did he rape her? Absolutely not. Kevin remains calm and answers every question thrown at him. Police are becoming frustrated. They believe that he didn't use the local Jack in the Box across the street from his apartment, but chose to drive to one fifteen minutes away to create a timing alibi. Conveniently, they say, he was gone for more than half an hour, rather than the couple of minutes it would have taken to cross the street, thereby giving an "intruder" time to enter the apartment and attack Dianna.
Detectives ask Kevin if he knows of anybody else who might be responsible.
No. But he did see a black man in the parking lot close to his apartment around the time he left to get the burgers. He saw the same man about to get into a van when he returned. The man appeared to hide his face as he passed him. Unfortunately, Kevin gives police a generic description that could fit any young black man. Investigating detectives do not believe him, but with no hard evidence they are unable to charge him.
The investigation grinds to a halt.
Dianna has sustained severe brain damage which affects her memory. She also struggles to string a sentence together and requires constant medical care, which includes extensive speech therapy sessions.
Despite suffering severe memory loss, just three months into her recovery, Dianna drops a bombshell. She contacts police and tells them she has now remembered what happened the night she was attacked. She tells detectives that she was beaten and raped by her own husband, Kevin.
Police immediately arrest Kevin Green and charge him with assault with a deadly weapon and the second degree murder of his still-born daughter. He is taken into custody, but it will be almost a year before the case comes to trial. Despite accusing her husband of battery and rape, it appears that Dianna is still suffering from amnesia and aphasia - a loss or impairment of the power to use or comprehend words.
Kevin Green's defense team, shocked by Dianna's condition, request that an independent psychiatrist evaluate her mental state.
The request is denied.
Dianna testifies that she and Kevin got into a fight when she refused him sex because of her pregnancy. Neighbors remember hearing the couple fighting on the night of the attack. It is also noted that the couple had heated arguments on numerous occasions during their seven-month marriage. Dianna tells the court that Kevin hit her with a key retractor which caused the blunt trauma injuries to her head, and then he raped her. The prosecution use Dr Martin Brenner, a psychiatrist, to confirm that Dianna Green is a reliable witness.
The prosecution present forensic evidence suggesting that Dianna was brutally raped and produce semen samples found at the scene. Unfortunately, DNA profiling will not become available for another seven years so the sample cannot be used to link anybody to the crime. The only evidence that in any way connects Kevin Green to the crime is his wife's testimony, and it is very persuasive.
The jury deliberates for ten hours, and on November 7, 1980, Kevin Lee Green is found guilty of the second degree murder of his unborn child, the attempted murder of his wife, and assault with a deadly weapon. He is sentenced to 15 years to life.
Kevin is incarcerated in Soledad Prison where he continues to proclaim his innocence. He requests and passes a polygraph test. It makes no difference.
In 1982, two years into his sentence, his appeal reaches the district court. The conviction is affirmed. Kevin petitions the Supreme Court of the State of California but gets no response.
By 1984, knowing he is innocent but with appeals and petitions going nowhere, he is on the brink of suicide. His lowest moment comes when he learns that he is to be dishonorably discharged from the USMC. Discharged Marines are ineligible for any veterans benefits and often encounter difficulty in securing gainful civilian employment. It is the final blow. Kevin remembers the moment he decided to accept his situation. 'I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't keep fighting,' he recalls. 'It dawned on me that I needed to get on with my life.'
He studies computers and earns a degree.
Kevin continues to maintain his innocence, but over the years he becomes a model prisoner. He works as a warden's secretary, giving tours of the prison to college students and organizing Christmas parties. Jerry Smith, spokesman at Soledad Prison said, 'Kevin had a very good rapport with both inmates and staff and it was built on respect,'
Kevin quickly realizes that he is never going to admit to something he didn't do, even if he has to serve out the full sentence. 'I never considered admitting guilt as a possibility.'
In 1996, after serving 16 years, Kevin's luck changes. Detectives from Tustin and Costa Mesa are working on a batch of unsolved murders which go back as far as the seventies. They link the killings and sexual assaults against several women aged between 17 and 31 to a single perpetrator, named as former Marine, Gerald Parker, also know to police as the 'Bludgeon Killer'. With DNA profiling now available detectives discover that the semen sample found at Kevin Green's apartment also matches the DNA of Gerald Parker. They have their man.
Fortunately, Parker is incarcerated in a local prison and detectives quickly set up an interview with him to discuss the twenty murders they have linked to him.
Although confronted with irrefutable evidence, Parker refuses to cooperate until detectives mention the Kevin Green case. Parker tells detectives that as a former Marine himself it has always bothered him that he did this to a fellow Marine.
Apparently, being in the USMC for seven years was the only good thing he ever did in his life. He offers a full confession.
Gerald Parker was the black youth that Kevin Green saw loitering outside the apartment on the night of the attack.
In his testimony to an Orange County Grand Jury, Parker said, 'Out of all the murders and the crimes that I committed over the years that was the one that bothered me the most.'
He is sentenced to death. As of February 9, 2015, he is still on death row awaiting execution. With California suspending capital punishment for an indefinite period, it is more than likely that Gerald Parker will eventually face a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Kevin had the judgement overturned and after receiving $650,000 in compensation, he gave Dianna $50,000 for the legal fees she had incurred whilst suing him.
Despite the DNA evidence and Gerald Parker's confession, Dianna still insists that her husband was in some way involved. While she concedes that he may not have struck the 'final' blow she still says that Kevin raped and beat her that night and got everything he deserved. She also says that if Kevin had not left the door open when he went out none of this would have happened.
For his part, Kevin feels that while he lost sixteen years of his life it was nothing compared to the damage Dianna suffered during this ordeal. She has lost most of her hearing, most of her sense of smell, and has trouble writing or articulating a thought. Despite her continuing animosity towards him, Kevin Green has consistently excused his former wife's attitude, accusations and actions over the years. He understands that she is angry, frustrated and bitter and concedes that she was as much a victim of the system as he was.
One of the first things Kevin did after his release was to visit the grave of his unborn daughter to tell her that he did not kill her.
He moved to Missouri to be closer to his family and has since remarried. In the years since his release he has spent much of his time talking to law classes and criminal justice conventions about his case. He hopes that prosecutors and investigators will focus more on the facts rather than trying to achieve unrealistic targets.
To this day, Kevin Green believes that well-intentioned family members and investigators planted suspicions in his ex-wife's head. It was these false memories that cost him sixteen years of his life.
Dianna D'Aiello and Kevin Lee Green
Victims of the system
Information and pictures courtesy of:
On the case with Paula Zahn: 'Painful Memories'
Los Angeles Times
Tustin Police Department
Motto of United States Marine Corp