Table of Contents


I believe that I may finally be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And Dr. Massello may finally be facing the discrediting he so richly deserves.

Back in late 2014 I learned that Virginia had a new Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. William T. Gormley, who is both an MD and a PhD. I began a correspondence with Dr. Gormley in early J015, and he has been very gracious in answering my letters directly and honestly. First I described Massello's trial testimony in which he stated that my girlfriend, Marion Franklin, was dead in the last pictures I took of her. Dr. Gormley replied that if I had described Massello's testimony accurately it was incorrect. To take my perceptions and prejudices against Massello out of the picture, I had a transcript of Massello's trial testimony sent to Dr. Gormley. He reviewed it as well as his office's case file and wrote me saying that Massello was definitely wrong.

I wanted something more formal than Dr. Gormley's letters, so I asked Kitty Hailey, a Certified Legal Investigator who has been helping me pro bono, if she could go to Richmond and interview Dr. Gormley. She and her associate Tony Colagreco went to Richmond and interviewed Dr. Gormley on May 22, 2015 : Dr. Gormley's first words after introductions were, "Well, Dr. Massello was just wrong!"

Now let me give you a bit of background to put the affidavit in context. On June 3, 2003, Marion and I were working all day with Lew Rubins and Maria Shadoes, two internationally known bondage experts from Seattle. I had asked them to spend a day in the studio with us so that Lew could teach me about ways to insure safety in our future bondage shoots. Before meeting Marion I had never done any bondage photography and really hadn't had any interest in it. She was really into the idea and showed me a bunch of Polaroid pictures that a former boyfriend had taken of her in various ties. I saw the possibilities of fitting bondage images into my style of photography, and much to my surprise my queries to publishers produced a lot of interest in a book or series of books. A late friend of mine, one of the finest photographers and friends I have ever known, said to me one night over dinner in a NYC Japanese restaurant, "Bob, it doesn't matter what you photograph so long as you do your best possible job when you do it." I took that to heart. Not long after that I met another dear old friend, now gone, at one of the photo trade shows, and he pulled out a box of recent bondage images he had made. We were both surprised that we had found ourselves going in the same direction at the same time, and we exchanged critiques and ideas.

At any rate, I dived headfirst into this project, and wanted to be absolutely sure of the safety of the models who were willing to trust me and work with me on bondage images. I ended up working with a dozen different models while producing the images for the book Erotic Bondage: Art of Rope, and all of them liked the experience enough to model more than once. My arrest and incarceration put an end to the plans for other books in the series, but the publisher continued the series with other photographers.

Anyway, back to the day with Lew and Maria. We spent the day with me and Marion learning knots and rigging, with an emphasis on safety. When Lew and Maria left, and after Marion ·woke from a nap she had taken, she wanted to try _again on a set of pictures that Maria had suggested in an email. Lew and Maria were due to come back the next day and she wanted to have them ready to show Maria, who she idolized. This set of pictures was for Marion to pretend to be passed out and for me to tie her up. We had tried these pictures twice before, but Marion had not been satisfied with how they turned out. She did not think her acting was good enough, that she didn't look like she was really passed out. So we decided to try that set over again. Marion had been suspended earlier in a tie that Lew had done, and she really liked it, so much so that she refused to take the ropes off her waist and thighs when the went to lie down and nap. Because these ropes had supported her weight they had cinched very tightly, and Lew had warned me not to ileave them on too long. About halfway through this set we decided it was time for the ropes to come off, and the two of us worked to undo the knots and get the ropes off. Marion also removed the black, spider web pattern body suit she had worn all day. She also removed her sandals, which had criss-cross straps up to her knee, and the straps left a pattern on her lower legs. In the last pictures of this set I shot 3/4 view body shots in which her head and shoulders were not visible, so you could not tell from the pictures that her eyes were open.

These last photos, in which Marion was laughing and joking with me, are the ones in which Massello said she was dead! He said this because the impressions of the ropes were visible for the entire 43 minutes of this last set of photos. He claimed that such marks would vanish completely in a few minutes in a living person, and since the marks didn't vanish Marion had to be dead. In his testimony Massello said things like, "since we know that this person is dead," and so on. He never admitted the possibility that she might be alive. No one wanted to listen to me about this because Massello, the State's high and mighty expert had spoken, and so it must be as he said.

Here is Kitty Hailey's affidavit from her interview with Dr. Gormley:

After I called 911 that night when I realized that Marion was in trouble, the first detective to arrive was Captain Jim Lawson of the Radford Police Department. He was the one who told me that Marion had died at the hospital that awful night. In his testimony Lawson said that he had looked at all of the pictures and videos from my studio and office and had not seen anything that would support the idea that Marion was anything other than a willing, even enthusiastic, participant in all of our work together. But he, too, was ignored. He shook hands with me and wished me luck in the hallway outside the courtroom before I went to hear the jury's verdict.

The most infuriating thing about all of this is that this single man, Massello, has caused so much unnecessary pain and misery. He, and he alone, has made Marion's family believe that I took improper liberties with Marion's dead body and took time to make a number of photos of her dead instead of immediately calling 911. Marion's mother has said that what was done to Marion's body after she died has caused her terrible pain. But this simply did not happen, except in Massello's sick, twisted mind. Maybe being around so many dead bodies for so long has warped his soul. I don't know his motivations, but I do know that I have now spent more than nine years in prison over something that never happened.

I hope that at some point Marion's family will see Dr. Gormley's statements and realize that their pain about things happening to Marion after she was dead is just a sick fantasy of a very sick man. Massello seems incapable of admitting that he was wrong, that he made a mistake. Not only did he spout his medical nonsense at my trial and to the grand jury that indicted me in the first place, but he actually used my pictures to make a PowerPoint presentation that he showed to groups of pathologists demonstrating his idea that Marion was dead in the pictures. He has "educated" many others in his nonsense. Massello left Virginia in 2007, and has worked for the North Dakota Department of Health since then. Maybe North Dakota just couldn't do any better.


Dr. William Massello III was Assistant Chief Medical Examiner in Roanoke, VA, for 27 years. In early 2007 he left that job and took a job as State Forensic Examiner for North Dakota. The most polite thing I can say about him is that I think he is an arrogant and dangerous quack who is too stubborn to admit it when he is wrong.

The first newspaper story I found about Massello's incompetence was the case of Susan Jean Daniels, a Virginia Tech biologist who went missing. Not long after her disappearance, a skeleton was found in an old cabin in Giles County. These bones were sent to Massello for identification, and he pronounced that they were the bones of "a stray animal." Friends of Daniels were not satisfied and called in two forensic anthropologists from Radford University who immediately saw that the bones were human. Later testing proved that they were the remains of Daniels. Massello could not even tell human bones from animal, but instead of admitting that he did not know he made his totally incorrect pronouncement.

In 2000 Mickey Faville, a popular 5t h grade teacher, was found dead at her home. Massello said that she died from choking on a piece of chicken, ignoring the many injuries to her body. In 2012 the new Assistant Chief ME took a new look at the case and came to a radically different conclusion; that Mickey had been strangled to death. Based on these new findings her husband, Ward Faville, was indicted and tried for her murder. He was convicted, but committed suicide in the court's holding cell, cutting his wrists with a blade he somehow smuggled in. Dr. Amy Tharp was the new Assistant Chief ME who reopened the case.

Dr Tharp was also involved in a remarkably similar case. On January 27, 2005, Mindy Dickerson was found dead in her Pulaski County home. Massello did the autopsy and stated that she had died from encephalitis, an uncommon brain disease. Her family, friends, and some of the police did not believe this. After nine years of pressing they finally got the case reopened in 2014. Dr. Tharp disagreed with Massello once again, stating that Mindy died from manual strangulation. Mindy's husband Leslie Dickerson, now remarried and living in Texas, was charged with her murder and extradited back to Virginia. After eight months awaiting trial, the prosecutor had to drop the case because of Massello's incompetence. He had contaminated the crucial brain tissue samples with material from at least two other bodies, forcing the judge to rule the samples inadmissible. Massello testified that no one should expect samples from his lab to be uncontaminated because there is "nothing sterile about the morgue." But his questionable autopsy samples have been used to gain many convictions, including mine.

Massello has continued his spree of incompetence in North Dakota where he is under fire for questionable autopsies that favor oil companies in the deaths of oilfield workers. In the December 2014 issue of the trade publication ENERGYWIREM, assella cautioned against using his findings to settl~ legal questions. "Every body calls these things 'rulings, '" he said. 'n hey' re not rulings, they' re classifications and they mean absolutely nothing when it comes to legal proceedings." Whatever he chooses to call his pronouncements, they have been used to put a lot of people behind bars here in Virginia, and allowed real criminals to go free. Every case Massello was ever involved in needs to be reopened and looked at all over again. Massello has thoroughly discredited himself, his autopsies, and all conclusions drawn from them; and he did not need my help to do so. My case must be reopened.

The above cases were all well reported in The Roanoke Times (