Like the other men of the Norfolk Four, Derek has no prior criminal record and was a most unlikely suspect for this crime.  Derek was born in San Diego, California when his father was stationed there by the Navy, but his family eventually settled in Clayton, North Carolina when Derek was fifteen.  Derek, who served as a Boy Scout for several years and played in the high school band, is a caring, shy, respectful, generous, and compassionate person.  Everyone who knows Derek says that he would help anyone in need and “give you the shirt off his back.”

Derek’s Character and Background

His caring nature likely stems from the fact that his older brother, Robert, was diagnosed with cancer at the age of two, before Derek was born.  Derek’s parents, Larry and Rachel Tice, had to devote a great deal of attention to Derek’s brother.  Derek learned from the example of his parents’ dedication and care, and he too would care for and protect his older brother, who often suffered ridicule from other children.  When Derek was in high school, his grandfather became seriously ill, which deeply saddened Derek.  His grandfather’s illness was one of the reasons Derek decided that he wanted to become a nurse. 

To realize that goal, Derek volunteered for nearly two years as an emergency medical technician in his hometown after he graduated from high school.  His supervisors and peers at the Clayton Rescue Squad vividly recall Derek’s deeply caring and compassionate nature, especially when he tended to patients.  Following his father’s footsteps, Derek served in the military, first in the United States Army and then in the Navy.  Among the many qualities that Derek’s parents instilled in him were obedience and a deep respect for others, including those in authority, which Derek always maintained. 

Derek’s False Confession

These exemplary qualities worked to Derek’s disadvantage in the interrogation room.  Detective Ford, a police investigator with a history of coercing false confessions, preyed upon Derek’s sensitivity and obedience.  Ford’s repeated assurances that Derek would die by lethal injection if Derek did not “confess,” convinced Derek that he had two options:  death or confession.  At around 1:45 am, after nearly twenty straight hours in the custody of Ford and Detective Wray, Derek submitted to Ford’s demands and signed a false statement confessing to a crime he did not commit.  Although Derek’s statement was demonstrably false – it was wholly inconsistent with the crime scene and the statements of Danial, Joe, and Wilson – and Derek’s DNA evidence did not match that found at the crime scene, the police, happy to have another suspect in custody, never stopped to wonder whether Derek might in fact be innocent.

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