Part II: The Case of Mark Scribner – The Investigation Begins

“Scribner had been employed by King Transportation Company, on and off, for approximately two-years, and had reported for work at approximately 18:30hrs on October 9, 1995, as the night driver of Cab #63. 

The previous driver of the car that day was identified as D. P., who washed the vehicle immediately prior to turning it over to Scribner. 

During an initial interview, R. C. reported that Scribner was a good employee, and recalled that he had been the victim of a strongarm robbery in the City of Daytona Beach approximately two-weeks ago. 

That incident was not reported to police. 

According to R. C., King Transportation’s night dispatcher was identified as R. T., who would be able to confirm Scribner’s runs for the previous evening.”

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As the sun began to rise over the gruesome scene, the forensic processing was completed, and the taxi covered and loaded onto a flatbed wrecker for escorted transport to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s crime laboratory in Orlando. 

To preserve items of trace evidence, the victim’s hands were covered with paper bags and securely taped in place before his body was carefully placed inside a non-porous human remains pouch – often called a “body bag” – and custody of the body transferred to the Volusia County Medical Examiner’s office for post mortem examination to determine the manner and cause of death.     

In forensic science, Locard’s exchange principle holds that the perpetrator of a crime will bring something into the crime scene and leave with something from it, and that both can be used as evidence:

“Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even unconsciously, will serve as a silent witness against him. Not only his fingerprints or his footprints, but his hair, the fibres from his clothes, the glass he breaks, the tool mark he leaves, the paint he scratches, the blood or semen he deposits or collects. All of these and more, bear mute witness against him. This is evidence that does not forget. It is not confused by the excitement of the moment. It is not absent because human witnesses are. It is factual evidence. Physical evidence cannot be wrong, it cannot perjure itself, it cannot be wholly absent. Only human failure to find it, study and understand it, can diminish its value.”

The process also requires meticulously documenting the chain of custody for each item of evidence, literally from the crime scene to the courtroom.

Who collected it, who transported it, who processed it, where and how it was securely stored – a continuous, unbroken record of possession that preserves the integrity and authenticates each item from point of discovery until its introduction in a court of law.   

As Detective Sergeant, my job was to assume responsibility and coordinate all aspects of a multifaceted investigation – including ensuring everyone on the team maintained strict adherence to investigative processes, protocols and the legal requirements of proving or disproving a crime. 

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“At approximately 06:30hrs, I assigned officers to conduct a coordinated search of the area for any additional items of physical evidence.  Officers and investigators covered a geographical area from Sickler Drive in Daytona Beach, north to the 300 block of Riverside Drive, and from the west bank of the Halifax River to the west shoulder of Riverside Drive. 

This search included the rooftops of all surrounding buildings, all boats in the adjacent marina storage yard, all trash receptacles, and a thorough inspection of the rear maintenance area of the shopping center and marina.

The canvas failed to reveal any additional items of physical evidence or witnesses to the incident.

A call was placed to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team, who initiated an underwater search of the adjacent waters of the Halifax River immediately east of the scene with negative results.”

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Homicide investigations require a multidisciplinary approach – that begins with building positive relationships with outside agencies.    

The use of specialized units, crime scene technicians, forensic pathologists, experienced prosecutors, and myriad subject matter experts is all part of this team concept.

As our investigation continued, I assigned veteran Investigator James Patton to identify the victim’s next-of-kin and, if out-of-town, to locate a law enforcement agency to make the death notification. 

Our department has a long-standing compassionate rule that no death notification – one of the most difficult tasks a law enforcement officer can perform – would be done by telephone.  Once the next-of-kin were identified, the family’s local law enforcement agency would be provided the details so the tragic news could be delivered to the family in-person.      

In addition, Inv. Patton was directed to begin the process of piecing together Mr. Scribner’s background – painstakingly recreating the last 24-hours of his life – as we began to build a picture of who he was and any risk characteristics (other than the obvious danger of being a nighttime cab driver) that may have contributed to his victimization. 

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“At approximately 07:00hrs, Investigator Stephen Aldrich obtained the dispatch records from King Transportation Dispatcher R. T. 

These logs determined that, at approximately 22:00hrs on October 9, 1995, Scribner had been dispatched to the 7-11 convenience store at 301 South Peninsula Drive, Daytona Beach.  After accepting the fare at the store, Scribner advised via radio that he was enroute to the Halifax Shopping Center with two passengers.  

Dispatcher R. T. recalled attempting to communicate with Scribner approximately 15-minutes after his final transmission but received no answer. 

The logs provided by King Transportation support the recollections of Dispatcher R. T.; however, the audio recording of dispatch communications with drivers for the time in question was inoperative and failed to record the final transmission of Mr. Scribner. 

The victim’s personal vehicle was located at King Transportation, and Inv. Aldrich conducted a cursory search of the interior, locating a large envelope containing a return address for a “Johanna Scribner – East Taunton, Massachusetts.” 

The information was transmitted to Inv. Patton for follow-up and the vehicle was towed to the Holly Hill Police Department for safekeeping. 

At approximately 13:30hrs, Inv. Aldrich arrived at the City of Daytona Beach Police Department’s Code Enforcement Division.  That agency supplied a copy of Mr. Scribner’s taxi drivers permit which contained both his photograph and signature. 

In addition, Inv. Aldrich drove to the 7-11 convenience store at 301 South Peninsula Drive and took possession of the store’s surveillance video which many have captured the exterior of the building at the time Mr. Scribner picked up his final passengers.   

At approximately 15:00hrs, the manager of the 7/11 store contacted the Holly Hill Police Department after seeing television media coverage of the incident. 

The manager reports that overnight, a clerk at the store located a large knife in a trash receptacle located just outside the main entrance to the store at approximately 02:00hrs. 

The knife was described as a large hunting-type knife, silver in color, and was initially observed laying on top of garbage inside the trashcan. 

The clerk who discovered the knife removed it from the bin, showed it to a coworker, and placed it in a storeroom. 

At approximately 15:30hrs, Inv. Aldrich arrived back at the 7-11 store to take custody of the knife and determine any relevance it may have to this case.  During an interview with the clerk who discovered the knife, Inv. Aldrich learned that it was discovered when the employee was emptying the trashcan immediately outside the main entrance. 

The knife is described as silver in color with large finger grooves in the handle with the scales missing from the grip.  The very tip of the knife blade is missing/broken off and there are considerable stains on both the blade and handle.” 

At approximately 09:00hrs, October 11, 1995, Investigator Patton attended the autopsy examination which was performed by Dr. Ronald Reeves at the Volusia County Medical Examiner’s office at Halifax Hospital Medical Center. 

Inv. Patton brought the knife recovered from the 7-11 store for comparison. 

According to Dr. Reeves, Scribner died as the result of multiple stab wounds to the upper-rear torso. 

The knife penetrated the victim’s body in a downward direction, with at least one of the thrusts lacerating the aorta resulting in massive internal bleeding and death.   

When examining the knife located at the 7-11 store, Dr. Reeves concluded that the knife is of similar type as that used to inflict the wounds. 

At approximately 10:00hrs, Inv. Aldrich and Inv. R. B., analyzed the in-store video from the 7-11 store.  A close and methodic review of the video reveals that at 22:01hrs on October 9, 1995, two white male subjects entered the store via the main entrance, having approached from the north (International Speedway Boulevard). 

The first subject entered – followed immediately by the second – and the pair walked to the area of a fountain drink dispenser before approaching the clerks’ station. 

The clerk, identified as A. G., can be seen handing one of the subjects two packages of cigarettes, as the first subject is seen exiting the store at a brisk pace drinking from what appears to be a large fountain drink held in his right hand. 

Moments later, the second subject can be seen exiting the store carrying the cigarettes in his left hand. 

After the pair exits, each walked across the front of the store from left to right in a northerly direction.  (According to A. G., neither subject paid for the merchandise taken from the store.)

At 22:08hrs, both subjects are seen walking south from right to left across the front of the store toward a bank of pay telephones located along the southwest wall of the storefront. 

At 22:13hrs, a Checker Cab operated by Mark Scribner is seen arriving at the 7-11 store, entering the parking lot from the north. 

The two subjects are then seen approaching the vehicle from the area of the telephones, with one entering the rear passenger seat, immediately behind the driver, while the other enters and assumes the seat next to the driver in the front seat. 

This segment of the tape concludes with Scribner driving the cab away from the parking lot onto South Peninsula Drive.”

To enhance the visual quality of the video, investigators took the tape to Beach Photo of Daytona Beach, where several still photographs were taken from the original tape and enlarged to show detail. 

The tape was also taken to Media Photo-Graphics at 1625 Ridgewood Avenue, Holly Hill, and additional still photographs were taken and enlarged for definition, using computer video enhancement equipment. 

From these photographs, PIP Printing of Daytona Beach reproduced flyers requesting information on the identity and whereabouts of the subject’s depicted on the video.  These flyers were posted in prominent locations throughout the beachside of Daytona Beach to elicit information relative to this case.”

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The media keeps the public informed of criminal incidents and has a valuable role in the investigative process in generating information and investigative leads from the public. 

During my career, I recognized the importance of developing strong, trusting relationships with members of the local media – some of whom remain lifelong friends.

In this case, the team made critical decisions about what information to release – and what elements to hold-back – as a strategic balance between seeking quality external leads and while keeping secret critical elements only the killer would know. 

Former Daytona Beach News-Journal reporter Brendan Smith, and incredibly talented writer who now serves as a freelance journalist in Washington D.C., did a masterful job of covering this disturbing story from the beginning – and was integral in developing information that led to its successful conclusion.    

Video may help solve cabbie death

By Brendan Smith – The Daytona Beach News-Journal

Police hope a grainy surveillance video will help them catch a pair of men suspected in the stabbing death of a cab driver Monday night. 

The video shows two young white men buying a pack of cigarettes before departing in a cab at 10:13pm Monday from the 7-Eleven convenience store, 301 S. Peninsula Drive.

They were cabdriver Mark Clyde Scribner’s last fare.

Scribner’s body was found at 3:15am Tuesday by Holly Hill Police on a routine patrol behind the Halifax Shopping Center, 231 Riverside Drive.

Scribner, 39, had been stabbed six times in the back and had attempted to flee before collapsing about 120 feet south his can on a service roadway behind the shopping center.  Scribner told the taxicab dispatcher he was taking the men to the shopping center before the dispatcher lost contact with him. 

Police think Scribner was robbed of less than $100.

Scribner moved from motel to motel and had no permanent address.  A native of East Taunton, Mass. He had worked for Checker Cabs for about 18 months. 

Johanna Scribner, the driver’s mother, said in a telephone interview Wednesday from Massachusetts that Scribner was an easygoing man who never got angry. 

Scribner was single and had no children.

“Even if they wanted to rob him, why kill him?” Mrs. Scribner asked.  “I don’t know why anybody would do that because he couldn’t have had too much money.”

“All he ever wanted was to marry somebody and have a family,” she said.  “I always said whoever married him was lucky because he was not a violent one.”

The surveillance video provides general descriptions of the two suspects but needs to be enhanced before facial features will be visible, Sgt. Mark Barker said. 

Cab drivers from cab companies in the Daytona Beach area have called police with tips that are being investigated, Barker said.

Some drivers have also expressed concern for their own safety.  Several cab drivers who were interviewed said partitions should be installed in cabs to protect the driver from violent passengers. 

But some cab company owners said partitions cut off ventilation and make the passenger feel like he’s in a police car instead of a cab. 

“With the heat here in Daytona and when it’s cold here, the partitions are just not user-friendly for the passenger,” said Dale King, Jr. president of Kings Transportation Group, which owns Yellow Cab, Checker Cabs and City Cabs.

King said his company is reviewing the possibility of installing surveillance cameras in cabs or panic buttons that would alert dispatchers and the police that the cab driver was in danger.

King said there had been about five robberies over the past year from the 55 cabs in the Kings Transportation Group. 

Tony Ciulla, owner of Southern Komfort Taxi Company, said he encouraged his drivers to carry weapons to protect themselves. 

But King said his company discourages drivers from carrying weapons because drivers often can’t reach them if a passenger has already pulled a weapon. 

Both suspect’s in Scribner’s murder are described as white males, 18 to 22 years old with blond hair. 

The shorter subject, at about 5 feet 7 inches, was wearing baggy black calf-length shorts, a black t-shirt, a blue bandana, and black high-top basketball shoes. 

The other suspect, at 5 feet 10 inches, was wearing black pants or jeans, a black shirt, and black and white Converse sneakers. 

Anyone with information on the crime or the suspects should call police at 947-4184.

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“On October 12, 1995, at approximately 21:30hrs, a subject identified as M.K. of Holly Hill came to the police department to report the following information:

On Monday, October 9, 1995, at approximately 21:30hrs, he placed a telephone call to a friend, identified as C.N., who resides at 527 Mobile Avenue, Daytona Beach.  At the time of the call, C.N. stated that she was leaving for a short while and asked that he call back later. 

At approximately 00:30hrs, October 10, 1995, M.K. telephoned the residence at 527 Mobile Avenue, and during the call, C.N. advised it would be alright for him to come over to the house. 

M.K. states he put down the telephone to ask his father for a ride to Mobile Avenue, and when he returned to the telephone, a subject identified as Kris Benson was on the line. 

M.K. advised Benson he was going to ride his skateboard over to the Mobile Avenue home and recalled that Benson asked him what route he planned to take.  Benson then advised M.K. he would meet him in the Seabreeze Boulevard area.

M.K. stated he then told his mother he was leaving and rode his skateboard to the area of Seabreeze Boulevard to meet Benson.  As M.K. approached the 300 block of Seabreeze Boulevard, he observed Benson standing on the south side of the street and the pair greeted each other with a handshake.  

According to M.K., he and Benson then skateboarded east on Seabreeze Boulevard to Atlantic Avenue, then south on Atlantic Avenue where they stopped at 527 North Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Hot Grill. 

At the pizzeria, Benson purchased an order of French fries from a large amount of currency carried in his pocket. 

According to M.K., the pair sat inside the restaurant for approximately 30-minutes, eating the French fries and watching television.  After departing Daytona Hot Grill, M.K. recalls he and Benson rode their skateboards south on Atlantic Avenue to Benson’s Mobile Avenue home. 

As the pair passed through the Main Street intersection, M.K. states they were stopped by an unidentified Daytona Beach police officer who advised them to refrain from skating on the sidewalk.

Once at the Mobile Avenue home, Benson entered the residence while M.K. remained outside to smoke a cigarette, and a few moments later, Benson exited the home and asked M.K. to accompany him to the 7-Eleven store on Atlantic Avenue just north of Mobile Avenue. 

After purchasing a pack of cigarettes, Benson and M.K. returned to the residence where they listened to music for a while. 

When others at the home left to go swimming at the beach, M.K. remained at the home in the company of Benson and another juvenile identified as Josh Keith. 

M.K. recalled that at some point Keith came out of a backroom of the home and made mention to Benson of an incident that had occurred earlier that night.  While M.K. cannot recall Keith’s exact comments, he does remember that it caused a harsh reaction from Benson, who ordered Keith to be quiet and not discuss the matter in M.K.’s presence. 

Several moments later, M.K. remembers that Benson changed his mind and stated to Josh Keith, “I guess we can tell him,” then Benson turned to M.K. and said, “If I tell you something, you can’t tell anyone.”

According to M.K., Benson then asked if knew anyone who had killed someone before, then stated, “Well, I killed someone tonight.” 

At first, M.K. stated he did not believe that Benson has committed a murder.  Then, Benson elaborated, stating, “Did you see any lights behind the shopping center?” – meaning on M.K.’s ride over the Seabreeze Bridge earlier in the evening. 

M.K. reports that Benson then said, “The cab and the body are probably still back there.”

According to M.K., he was uncomfortable with what Benson had confessed to him and terminated the conversation.  For a while, M.K. sat in the home and listened to music until the others returned from swimming.

When the group returned to the Mobile Avenue home, M.K. states he and C.N. walked to the beach so she could collect some belongings left behind.  As they walked, the pair began discussing the homicide. 

According to M.K., C.N. asked if he had heard about the incident, and he explained how Benson confessed to the killing earlier.  M.K. recalled that C.N. stated that the act was “fucked up,” and that the cabdriver was just trying to make a living, and Benson had to “screw it up for him.”

M.K. stated he turned to C.N. and told her he did not want to talk about it anymore. 

When the pair returned to the Mobile Avenue home, they entered the house and walked into a backroom where Jason Keith, his brother Josh Keith, a subject identified as K.S., and Benson were gathered. 

When M.K. sat down, he heard Benson say to a subject known only as “Buck” – “What are you doing next Wednesday? – to which “Buck” facetiously replied, “I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow.”

Then Benson said, “Well, next Wednesday I’m going to have an axe. . .” 

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The City of Holly Hill Police Department has been blessed with a wealth of talent, dedicated public servants who provide quality essential services to the residents.  In 1995, I was fortunate to work with an exceptional group of criminal investigators. 

I will have more about their individual achievements and accomplishments in the epilog. 

Holly Hill Police Department Criminal Investigations Division 1995
(L to R) Inv. James Patton, Inv. R. B., Det. Sgt. Mark Barker, Inv. Jeff Miller, Inv. Stephen Aldrich

Please join me next week for Part III: The Investigation Continues

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