Thursday, February 26, 2009

Group seeks new DNA tests in teenage girl's murder

Group seeks new DNA tests in teenage girl's murder

Associated Press Writer

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Innocence Project of Florida is asking the Hillsborough County state attorney's office for more DNA testing in the case of a Tampa man executed earlier this month, the group announced Wednesday.

Wayne Tompkins was convicted of murdering his girlfriend's teenage daughter in 1983. Her body was found a year later under the porch of the couple's home and she had been strangled with the belt of her bathrobe.

Tompkins, 51, was put to death by lethal injection on Feb. 11, despite efforts by his attorneys and the Innocence Project to have it delayed so more DNA testing could be done.
On Wednesday, the nonprofit organization's executive director sent a letter to the state attorney's office asking for help in answering questions about Tompkin's guilt and the identity of the remains. The group said the identification was based solely on the fact that both 15-year-old Lisa DeCarr and the body had a single occluded tooth.

The Innocence Project, which helps free wrongly convicted prisoners, called that method "wholly unpersuasive."

"More troubling are the signed affidavits from several witnesses stating that they had seen or had contact with Ms. DeCarr since the date of the supposed murder," the organization said in a news release.

The state attorney's office declined comment, saying they had not received the group's letter.
Tompkins was arrested in early 1984 after he robbed and sexually assaulted two convenience store clerks in separate attacks. He was charged with DeCarr's murder, and a cellmate testified Tompkins had confessed, saying he strangled the girl after she kicked him in the groin while rebuffing his advances.

That cellmate, Kenneth Turco, now says a prosecutor told him to lie to the jury. The state Supreme Court has ruled Turco's recantation a harmless error that would not have affected the outcome of the trial.

A few months after DeCarr's disappearance, her friend Jessie LaDon Albach, 15, also went missing and her remains were found in a vacant field in 1984. She had been strangled, and police said Tompkins was considered a suspect.

Tampa police said they are reviewing physical evidence in the Albach case.

The Innocence Project is requesting that DNA tests be performed on evidence in both cases. They asked the state attorney's office to have the examination done at a private lab and have offered to cover the cost.

Martin McClain, one of the Tompkin's defense attorneys, welcomed the request.

"I absolutely do think it's appropriate and it should be done," McClain said.

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