Impressions of a murder trial

Jessica Lewis

Growing up in the peaceful surroundings of the Otselic Valley, you develop a sense of ease. It’s not that you think bad things can’t happen to you, it’s just that living in such a small town, it’s too easy to believe you know who is safe and who is not. I think that’s why the community was so stunned by the death of little Shyanne Somers in June of 2007.

Despite the fact that South Otselic is a small town, I didn’t personally know the Somers family. My sisters knew Shyanne’s brothers and my niece was a member of the same cheerleading squad that Shyanne was on, and although I was never formally introduced to the family, those connections were enough for me to want to see for myself what George Ford, the accused murderer, had to say for himself on Friday in Chenango County Court.

I can’t honestly say that I went into the courtroom with an open mind, or that I believed the strange, random stories originally told by Ford in his statements to police. Luckily for me, I’m not the reporter in charge of reporting the case in a fair and unbiased manner.

I can honestly say, that I hoped seeing the defense’s case and hearing Ford’s story would make me believe that what happened was an accident. I hoped I could believe the man wouldn’t intentionally murder a little girl, the daughter of a friend. I left feeling less convinced than ever that any part of Ford’s story was true.

The prosecution’s case hinges on a key piece of evidence, a GPS tracking unit that Ford’s wife installed in his car because she suspected an affair. The unit showed Ford’s route on the night in question, including a three hour period behind an abandoned house on Will Warner Road in Otselic.

Anyone familiar with the South Otselic area would know that to get from Ford’s summer residence to the Somer’s home would probably take less than five minutes in the worst of conditions. The homes are only about a mile apart on the same stretch of County Route 26. Yet the defense would have us believe that at midnight Ford decided to drive the long way around, going up Stage Road and down Will Warner Road to eventually come back out on 26, a trip that during the best of conditions would probably take an extra 20 minutes.

Ford listed reasons for the indirect route. He wanted to see if a friend was home and the little girl wanted to see his horses. Of course there is no way to verify either reason as Ford passed by his friend’s house, claiming he didn’t see a car outside and the little girl is the only one who could validate the claim about wanting to see the horses. However, I would think it nearly impossible to see much of anything on a darkened road, lined with trees in the middle of the night.

Ford would also have us believe that the only reason the GPS tracking device showed no movement at an abandoned house on Will Warner Road for three hours was because he took it out of the truck, threw it out at the house and then went back to retrieve it after accidentally running over the little girl. Is that possible, sure, but it hardly seems likely. Even if you could find the small device in the middle of the night on the darkened lot, why would you go back to find it, only to try to throw it away at the police station the next day.

Ford cried on the stand as he recounted his version of the story from that night, but I didn’t feel any sympathy for him. I felt sorry for the family of the little girl who went to sleep that night trusting in a friend to keep their daughter safe and woke up to devastation and questions that remain unanswered.