The Wrongful Conviction of Alfred Trenkler
Key Factors Leading to Indictment
Thomas A. Shay (Shay Jr.)
In the ATF's investigation, Alfred Trenkler was targeted because of his brief acquaintance with Shay Jr. who was alleged, without any proof, to wish his father dead. After the Roslindale bomb explosion Jr. would call press conferences to talk about the bombing because of this, authorities became interested in Jr., and wondered why this kid was making all these statements to the press. Could it be he knows something? Following a press conference at a Boston bus station, Boston Police detectives brought Jr. to the homicide unit for questioning. They had placed a remote control toy truck by a large window in plain view of Jr. to get him talking about remote control devices. Jr. mentioned having such a toy when he was a kid, and, when asked, drew a picture of the transmitter. At the end of the interview, the police arrested him for a warrant unrelated to the bombing in order to put him "on ice." As is customary, the police went through Jr.'s property, finding his phone and address book, making copies of every page.
The Boston Police and the ATF quickly ''learned" of Alfred acquaintance with Jr., but they entirely misunderstood and, even worse, mischaracterized it to the media and the court. The government painted the acquaintance as being a sexual relationship with Alfred allegedly "needing'' Jr. While what it was, was a brief acquaintance which began by total chance in June of 1991 when Alfred, on the way home from a meeting with a client stopped by a Boston White Hen Pantry convenience store on Boylston Street where a friend of Alfred's worked. Jr. had asked Alfred's friend if he knew anyone driving south of Boston; the friend knowing Alfred lived on the South Shore, passed along the inquiry to Alfred, Alfred agreed to give Jr. a ride. Subsequently and coincidentally they crossed paths five more times in June, July and August of 1991 all on different parts of Boylston Street. Alfred would end up on Boylston Street 10 to 20 times per week for his work or driving a friend of his to and from work on Boylston Street. Jr. approached Alfred's car four times and would ask Alfred for rides to various places in and around Boston. The fifth and very last time Alfred crossed paths with Jr. was in early August 1991 when Alfred stopped by the Boylston Street White Hen Pantry Store where Jr. was hanging out in front of the store. Jr. came up with a story of a potential client at a radio station,WBCN, looking for a contractor for tower work. Alfred gave Jr. his newly printed business card with a voice mail phone number printed upon it for Jr. to give to his contact. A subsequent call by Alfred to the radio station resulted in the discovery of no work and no friend of Jr.'s, just another of his many lies. Jr. called Alfred's voice mail service many times with requests for rides or wanting to talk or just to hang out. Alfred returned only one of those calls to request that he stop calling because it interfered with Alfred's work and because Alfred knew that Jr. lied about the WBCN job just to get his phone number. There was no other contact between Alfred and Jr. after August 1991.
The prosecution's only motive for Alfred to have built the bomb for Jr. was to curry favor from a younger man. They created a motive without any evidence. Since Alfred's business was successful the government couldn't claim that Alfred helped Jr. for the insurance money even though they would try and conjure up fictional financial problems for Alfred. Therefore, it would have to be for sex. The prosecution used Alfred's assumed sexuality in an effort to discredit and disparge him. Alfred's sexual orientation should have never be allowed to be entered into evidence but because that was the prosecution's only motive it was permitted. A juror, Robert Woods put it best "Mr. Trenkler was convicted of being homosexual".
1986 Firecracker Incident
Shay Jr. knew a lot of people, but the suspicion of Alfred arose because he had assembled a harmless noise making device in Quincy, MA in 1986 as a prank for a friend, Donna Shea, the wife of a childhood friend, John Shea. The core of that device was an "M-21 Hoffman Artillery Simulator" , flash powder, fireworks, in a small plastic housing with wires for battery ignition, which Donna had acquired, ironically and indirectly, from her ex-boss. Alfred's role was to attach it to batteries and a remotely controlled relay to set off the simulator within a 50 foot range intended as a prank to wake up that very same ex-boss of Donna. The device ignited without harming either the ex-boss or his truck. Alfred's criminal case was "continued without a finding," for one year, dismissed and unbeknownst to Alfred, expunged from his record at the request of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts..
Since the 1986 prank had been expunged from Alfred's record, the only reason his name surfaced as a person of interest in this case was because Quincy Police Officer Thomas Tierney, who had arrested Alfred for the 1986 prank, took it upon himself to fax his personal copy of the 1986 fireworks incident to the Boston Police thinking there might be a connection to the Roslindale Bomb..
Later, police made the observation that Shay Jr. had an entry in his phone book for "AL BPR 553-0778." The police discovered that "AL" was Alfred Trenkler, the same Alfred Trenkler that was in the QPD faxed 1986 report and the phone number was Alfred's voice Mail service. To the police this was more than a coincidence, it was circumstantial evidence that Alfred must have had something to do with the Roslindale bomb.
Creating The Case
Putting together Alfred's 1986 prank with the fact Shay Jr. had his number, suddenly made Alfred a person of interest. Although this was just a bizarre set of circumstances and the firework incident was significantly different from the bomb, the authorities considered this evidence of Alfred's guilt, overlooking available witnesses, forensics, intent and all evidence that pointed in a total different and logical direction, Shay Sr.
Government's Prized Informant
Alfred was indicted for this crime on December 16, 1992 because of the firecracker prank and also because of statements made to the government by Shay Jr . It was widely known that Jr. would say whatever would gain him attention regardless of the consequences and because many (if not most) of his statements were untrue his statements alone were not enough for the government to win at trial.
In a cart-before the-horse scenario, the government had to indict Alfred to obtain its "overwhelming evidence," the testimony of government prized informant, William David Lindholm.