DETROIT - Bianca Jones was 2 years old when she disappeared six years ago, and her father, D'Andre Lane, was convicted of her murder. Lane is serving a life sentence in prison.
But Bianca's body was never found, and new witnesses said they've seen the little girl alive. The Local 4 Defenders spoke to a police officer and the prosecutor in the case, and they said the jury got it right.
The case was entirely circumstantial. Even the judge was surprised there was a conviction without a body. The key witness in the trial was a cadaver dog, which the defense team called unreliable.
ORIGINAL STORY: Bianca's mother pleads for public to keep searching for daughter
Lane's car was found still running just blocks from where he said he had been carjacked by a gunman who kidnapped his daughter. Police called his claim a desperate lie.
"They're not there to harm a child," retired Detroit police officer Lori Dillon said. "They don't want a child in the car. It's interrupting their crime. They want the car."
Lane's attorney, Terry Johnson, said police officers should not make assumptions.
"I don't know if it was necessarily a carjacking as much as it was a kidnapping," Johnson said. "I don't know if someone owed a debt to someone and this was a way of repaying that debt.
Johnson claims the police had an agenda.
"They started that evening with Mr. Lane, and they never took their foot off the accelerator," Johnson said.
Police said Lane's story didn't add up. He called a friend, not 911, and when he did talk to police, they said he didn't have much information.
"They're trying to pry information out of him," Dillon said. "'What happened?' And you can hear him barely talking."
Prosecutors think Lane tossed his daughter's body into a dumpster and lied about where he was.
"Once they realized that he spent 17 minutes east of Woodward (Avenue), unaccounted for, they tried to halt the trash pickup in that area, but it was too late," Dillon said. "The trash had already been picked up."
Police were especially convinced by dog trainer Martin Grime, who used a cadaver dog to sniff out the presence of a decomposing body.
"We had five hits," Dillon said. "The back seat, the car seat, the blanket, her bed and the trunk of the car. At that point, when our hearts sunk, we're, like, 'We're not finding this little girl.'"
Lane's attorney said the dog trainer is unreliable.
"There were other cases where it was found out the dogs weren't properly trained," Johnson said.
Johnson said police believe a barking dog more than three eyewitnesses who said they saw Bianca alive after the time police said she had died.
"She was alive when I left her in the morning," said Bianca's cousin, Treveon Lane.
Police insist the baby was dead in her car seat when Treveon Lane saw her. Eight days later, a Detroit police officer said she saw Bianca during a nonrelated police run. Then, a private investigator said he saw her nine months later.
"This little girl is alive," Michael Salisbury said. "I've seen her."
They're all certain someone knows where Bianca is.
"Somebody will say, 'The little girl's alive. Here's where you can find her,'" Salisbury said.
Johnson said Bianca is alive and in need of rescue. He said her father is an innocent man being held behind bars for life.
"Until this child is found, I don't believe Mr. Lane is going to be exonerated," Johnson said.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy released the following statement on the case:
"This was a heartbreaking case. Defendant Lane was the last one seen with Bianca, and since then, there have been no credible sightings of the child. Ms. (witness Anjali) Lyons was not pressured into testifying.
"We proved beyond a reasonable doubt in court that Bianca is no longer alive and that her father, D'Andre Lane, killed her."
The Defenders have an exclusive interview with D'Andre Lane from behind prison walls. You can watch the story Thursday on Local 4 News at 11 p.m.
Local 4 will have a Facebook Live discussion with Bianca's mother, Banika Jones, at 1 p.m. Friday to discuss each story in the weeklong series.
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