Lecture 20, 21 : Some famous cases involving DNA Evidence

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1987: Colin Pitchfork

Colin Pitchfork

Sir Alec Jeffreys

The first criminal caught using DNA fingerprinting (England), using the DNA profiling method published in 1985 by Sir Alec Jerreys.

Two teenage girls were murdered in the small town of Narborough, Leicestershire, in 1983 and 1986. These events sparked a murder hunt that was only to be resolved by a innovative DNA mass intelligence screen. This eventually led to the conviction of a local man, but not before the prime suspect was proved to be innocent.

In 1983, 15-year-old schoolgirl Lynda Mann was found raped and murdered in the Narborough area. Forensic scientists visited the scene and a semen sample taken from her body was found to belong to a person with type A blood and an enzyme profile that matched only 10 per cent of the adult male population. Unfortunately, with no other leads or forensic evidence, the murder hunt was eventually wound down.

Three years later, Dawn Ashworth, also 15, was found strangled and sexually assaulted in the same area. Police were convinced that the same assailant had committed both murders, and the FSS recovered semen samples from Dawn's body that revealed her attacker had the same blood type as Lynda's murderer.

The prime suspect was a local boy, Richard Buckland, who revealed after questioning, previously unreleased details about Dawn Ashworth's body. Further questioning led to his confession, but he denied any involvement in the first murder of Lynda Mann.

Convinced that he had committed both crimes, Leicestershire police contacted Dr Alec Jeffreys at Leicester University, who had developed a technique for creating DNA profiles.

Using this technique, Dr Jeffreys compared semen samples from both murders, against a blood sample from Richard Buckland, which conclusively proved that both girls were killed by the same man, but not by him. Surprised and disappointed, the police contacted the FSS to verify Dr Jeffrey's results and decide which direction to take the investigation.

Richard Buckland became the first person in the world to be exonerated of murder through the use of DNA profiling. Dr Jeffreys said: "I have no doubt whatsoever that he would have been found guilty had it not been for DNA evidence. That was a remarkable occurrence."

Leicestershire police then decided to undertake the world's first DNA mass intelligence screen. All adult males in three villages, a total of 5,000 men, were asked to volunteer and provide blood or saliva samples. Blood grouping was performed and DNA profiling carried out on the 10 per cent of men who had the same blood type as the killer.

All of the mass screening work was carried out by the FSS, a painstaking task that took six months to complete. When they discovered that no profiles matched the profile of the killer, it seemed that all possibilities had been exhausted.

However, the investigation took a strange twist when a year later a woman overheard her colleague, Ian Kelly, bragging that he had given his sample whilst masquerading as his friend, Colin Pitchfork. Pitchfork, a local baker, had apparently persuaded Kelly to take the test for him. Pitchfork was subsequently arrested and his DNA profile was found to match with the semen from both murders. He was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment for the two murders in 1988.

1987: Tommie Lee Andrews

Ref: Tru TV crime library

In 1987, Florida rapist Tommie Lee Andrews was the first person in the United States to be convicted as a result of DNA evidence, for raping a woman during a burglary.

In May of 1986, a man entered the Orlando apartment of Nancy Hodge and raped her at knifepoint. Grabbing her purse, he left. During the succeeding months, he raped more women, taking care to keep them from seeing him, and on his way out he always took something that belonged to them. In six months, he had raped more than twenty-three women, and he proved to be maddeningly elusive. However, he had made one mistake: He left behind two fingerprints on a window screen. When another woman eventually called him in as a prowler, his prints were matched to those from the window screen and they had their man: Tommie Lee Andrews.

Although his blood group matched semen samples taken from several of the victims, and the single victim who had caught a glimpse of him had made a positive identification, proving him to be a serial rapist would be difficult. There was too much potential in each of the other cases for reasonable doubt. Hence, the Florida DA decided to try DNA technology.

This was the first case to introduce DNA typing into a US court, and after a long Frye hearing, judge allowed the evidence into the case. However, the prosecutor made a misstep by stating impressive odds that he could not substantiate, and the jury was hung. Andrews was then tried on the second rape charge and convicted. Months later, the first rape charge was retried and the DNA evidence was brought in with more clarity and power. After that trial, Andrews' prison sentence stretched from his initial 22 years for rape to 115 years for serial rape.

RFLP fingerprint in Andrews case

1989: Joseph Castro

Frst significant court challenge to DNA When DNA evidence was first introduced, it was not significantly challenged in court. This all changed with People v. Castro

This 1989 decision by the New York Supreme Court was based on a pretrial hearing that lasted three months. The court determined that "DNA identification theory and practice are generally accepted among the scientific community. The court determined that DNA tests could be conducted and allowed into evidence as long as they showed the blood on the defendant's watch was not his, but tests could not be conducted to show the blood belonged to one of the victims"

Joseph Castro was charged in the Bronx in 1987 of murdering his neighbor and her two-year-old daughter, and a bloodstain on his watch was analyzed for DNA. The principal evidence was the probable blood of the victim on the watchband of Joseph Castro. Lifecodes, the first DNA laboratory in the U.S. to do RFLP testing, did DNA analysis and concluded the frequency of Castro's DNA type to be one in 100 million.

Dr. Richard Roberts, an associate of James Watson, the Noble prize- winning co-discoverer of the double-helix structure of the DNA molecule, testified for the state. The defense countered with Dr. Eric Lander (who later went on to head the human genome project), an MIT scientist, among others, challenging the match criteria used by Lifecodes as well as other laboratory procedures.

After a lengthy, heated battle the trial court excluded the DNA evidence (and Castro pleaded guilty, receiving a lesser sentence than if the DNA had been admitted). What had been widely accepted in the press and hailed as a major advance was now viewed skeptically, even as unreliable by one New York Times reporter. The fact that Castro was based "on technical aspects of a particular case and not the fundamental scientific validity of DNA technology" was obscured to the general public.

1992 - 1996: NRC 1 and the end of the "DNA wars"

Following P. v. Castro DNA was to suffer one final setback. In 1992 the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council issued a report strongly endorsing DNA technology but which also created considerable confusion in the area of match probability. The proposed solution created a firestorm in the forensic DNA community. The FBI (lead by their chief DNA scientist, Bruce Budowle) and most population geneticists attacked the concept as pure politics and bad science. The upshot was a second NRC report (NRC 2, 1996) . The groundwork for such a favorable report had been set in an article in the 27 October 1994 issue of Nature, co-authored by Bruce Budowle and Eric Lander. As former combatants, their joining in an article proclaiming the end of the DNA wars became self-fulfilling.

pdf of Lander and Budowle 1994

Bruce Budowle

Eric Lander

1989: Gary Dotson

First person whose conviction was overturned using DNA evidence.

Sixteen-year-old Cathleen Crowell, who feared she had become pregnant after having consensual sex with her boyfriend, made a rape allegation as a plausible explanation to tell her foster parents.

On the night of July 9, 1977, a police officer happened upon her standing beside a road not far from the shopping mall in the Chicago suburb of Homewood, where she worked in a Long John Silver's seafood restaurant. Her clothing was dirt-stained and in disarray.

Crowell tearfully told the officer that, as she walked across the mall parking lot after work, a car with three young men in it darted toward her. Two of the men jumped out, grabbed her, and threw her into the backseat. One of them climbed in beside her, and the other joined the driver in the front. The man in the back tore her clothes, raped her, and scratched several letters onto her stomach with a broken beer bottle.

Crowell was taken to the South Suburban Hospital, where a rape examination was performed. It had not occurred to her that police would pursue her case. Police made her make a composite sketch, and Crowell says they pressured her to pick Gary Dotson from a mug book, pointing out how much he resembled the sketch. Dotson was arrested even though he then had a mustache that he could not have grown in the five days since the alleged incident. Crowell identified Dotson as her rapist at trial in July 1979 and he was convicted. The trial also featured false and misleading forensic evidence, as well as alibi testimony from four of Dotson's friends, whom the prosecutor branded as "liars."

In early 1985, Crowell told her New Hampshire pastor that she was riddled with guilt because she had sent an innocent man to prison. On her behalf, the pastor contacted a Wisconsin lawyer who tried to resolve the matter. The lawyer first contacted the Cook County State's Attorneys Office but found the prosecutors unresponsive. The lawyer next contacted the media. The resulting public sympathy caused a judge to release Dotson on $100,000 bond pending a hearing one week later. At that hearing, the same judge called the recantation less credible than the original testimony and sent Dotson back to prison. Dotson's attorney petitioned the Governor of Illinois, James R. Thompson, for clemency on April 19. The Governor denied clemency but accommodated the popular view that Dotson was innocent by commuting his sentence to time served.

This put Dotson on parole, which meant that he could be returned to prison without a trial. On August 2, 1987, Dotson was arrested on a domestic violence charge against his live-in girlfriend and mother of his child. He was ordered held without bond on August 27, and -- even though the girlfriend refused to cooperate and charges were dropped -- Dotson's parole was revoked. He now faced over 16 years in prison. On Christmas Eve 1987, the Governor gave Dotson one last parole. The Prisoner Review Board revoked the parole on February 17 because Dotson had been late calling his parole officer.

On August 15, 1988, the governor and prosecutors were notified that DNA testing had positively excluded Dotson and positively included Webb's then-boyfriend, David Bierne, as the source of the semen stain. It was August 14, 1989, before a judge and the prosecutors joined in dismissing the original conviction and dropping any charges. Dotson had been released the previous year when his six-month technical parole violation had been served.

1993: Kirk Bloodsworth

First convicted Death Row inmate whose conviction was overturned using DNA evidence.

Case details (from a CNN article )

Bloodsworth won his freedom after taking a DNA test. In 1992, when the science of forensic DNA testing was in its infancy, Bloodsworth pushed for a test in which the DNA in a small semen stain on the girl's panties would be compared to his DNA. It was not a match. The state of Maryland set him free and paid him $300,000 for wrongful imprisonment.

Robert E. Morin, the attorney who got Bloodsworth tested, said the DNA results made believers out of people who ignored Bloodsworth's assertions of innocence for nine years.

"Kirk, from the moment he was arrested to the time he was released, said he did not do it, he didn't know who did. Nobody believed him. Friday afternoon we got the results of the DNA tests. Monday morning he was out of prison -- and everybody believed him," said Morin, now an associate judge on the District of Columbia Superior Court.

"The scary thing is what if we hadn't gotten those DNA tests? He'd still be in prison saying he is innocent," Morin said.

"This is a very perplexing case because it makes you come to grips with how fallible the criminal justice system," he said. "I think the jury system is a great system but it does not mean they are right all the time."

With Bloodsworth's release, the state had to let go of the one person it was absolutely convinced had raped and killed little Dawn Hamilton on July 25, 1984. The case remains unsolved 16 years later.

The jury convicted Bloodsworth of first-degree murder and rape in March 1985. A Baltimore County Circuit judge sentenced him to death later that month.

Bloodsworth said he sympathizes with the girl's family, but he was not the monster who killed Dawn -- strangled her by stepping on her neck -- flung her panties on a tree and inserted a stick into her vagina. Dawn's battered body was found in some woods in the working class Baltimore suburb of Rosedale. Baltimore County authorities were sure he was the culprit: He lived and worked near the crime scene; he was seen frequently walking near the woods; he resembled the police sketch of the suspect; he fled the area shortly after the crime.

"The more I got involved in preparing for the case ... the more convinced I was that we had the right guy," said Robert Lazzaro, one of the two prosecutors in the case, who is now in private practice in Baltimore County. "In my mind, he testified and acted consistent with someone who (was guilty). He didn't act like someone who was unjustly accused. ... I never would have prosecuted a case I didn't believe in."

Lazzaro said this week that Bloodsworth's features matched those of the man police were looking for: a tall man with a mustache and flaming red hair. Further, two boys identified Bloodsworth as the man they saw walk out of the woods around the time of the crime, Lazzaro said.

Bloodsworth argued that the suspect was described as a thin man, 6 feet 5 inches tall and blond. The thick-waisted Bloodsworth stands about 6 feet tall. He said he had bright red hair at the time. He said he had never seen Dawn.

Lazzaro said Bloodsworth returned to Cambridge some two days after the crime without telling anyone. He said Bloodsworth testified that he left "because his wife was angry that he had not bought her a taco salad from Taco Bell. I was like, 'Come again?' He didn't exactly help himself."

Bloodsworth said he left two weeks after the crime because his marriage had fallen apart and he wanted to be back among friends and familiar surroundings -- not because he wanted to escape the police. He said he told his mother-in-law that he was going home, adding that he was puzzled as to why his ex-wife filed a missing persons report.

Bloodsworth said the authorities were under intense public pressure to find Dawn's killer. "They were really trying to correlate stuff that really didn't add up," he said in a recent interview aboard his boat. "I have thought about this 16 years and I cannot imagine that they would precipitate thinking I was guilty over ... saying I did a terrible thing. The terrible thing I said I did was leave my wife.

"They wouldn't take that as an answer. When they say they will use anything you say against you, that means they'll turn it around any way."

The girl's panties, which were found hanging from the tree a few yards from the battered body, were tested for biological evidence, said Ann Brobst, the other prosecutor.

With the technology available at the time, the FBI determined that the panties and the other evidence did not contain anything that would help or hurt the state's case against Bloodsworth, said Brobst, who remain an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore County.

During their appeal to Maryland's highest court, Bloodsworth's lawyers raised doubts about the prosecution's case, saying information about other possible suspects was not revealed during the trial, Bloodsworth said.

He said one man who more closely resembled the police composite showed up at a Baltimore hospital shortly after the crime, demanding psychiatric help because he had done something terrible.

Brobst said Baltimore County police chased down that lead and the other 100 or so leads they received, but turned up nothing. She recalled another lead about a "creepy guy" who used to hang out near the woods where Dawn was raped and killed.

In prison, Bloodsworth said he wept constantly over the depths to which his life had sunk. He wrote everyone from "Donald Trump to the president of the United States" proclaiming his innocence, hoping that someone "would pick up this letter and say, 'Wait a minute, let me talk to this guy.'"

"But nobody wants to listen to somebody who's an accused child killer," Bloodsworth said.

To preserve his sanity, he said, he wrote poetry and read some 3,000 books ranging from "gestalt psychology to Stephen King."

One of those books planted the DNA seed in Bloodsworth's mind. "The Blooding," by former Los Angeles cop Joseph Wambaugh, tells how British police used DNA to solve murders in the Yorkshire area. He read the book in 1987; a friend had mailed it to him.

He began thinking once again about the semen stain on the girl's panties. He talked to Morin about testing that semen stain for DNA. The stain was smaller than a dime.

Morin reminded Bloodsworth that the FBI had tested the panties in the 1980s but had found nothing.

In 1992, Morin sent the panties a California forensic DNA testing lab.

Morin said Bloodsworth was lucky that the authorities had not destroyed the panties because of the earlier determination that it contained nothing of criminal value. The panties were locked up along with the rest of the evidence, and the stain had been air-dried. DNA can remain in dried samples of body fluid for years, Morin said.

Bloodsworth said Morin paid the $10,000 fee out of his own pocket; Bloodsworth's family had exhausted its life savings defending him and appealing his dual convictions.

A year later, in April 1993, the DNA results came back.

The lab said, "This is not his semen, he is excluded. I said, 'You're kidding me.' Then I called (Bloodsworth) and told him. ... Oh, it was a wonderful phone call, it was the type of phone call a lawyer dreams of. He started crying," Morin recalled.

1994: O. J. Simpson

DNA Expert Bruce Weir (then North Carolina State University, now at University of Washington)

One the the first very high profile cases to use DNA evidence. When prosecutors heavily relied on --- and through expert witnesses exhaustively presented and explained --- DNA evidence. Given the extremely high profile of this case (it took over much of day time TV for several months), it was one of the first cases which fully introduced the public to DNA evidence. The case also brought to light the laboratory difficulties and handling procedure mishaps which can cause such evidence to be significantly doubted (hint: don't have your detectives make racial slurs and bring the blood sample from the suspect to the crime scene) .

1994: Snowball

1994: First use of non-human DNA to identify a criminal, thanks to Snowball the cat.

In 1994. Shirley Duguay of Prince Edward Island went missing and was later found in a shallow grave.

Among the most compelling pieces of evidence in the case was a leather jacket covered in Duguay's blood and over 2 dozen white feline hairs.

RCMP investigators recalled that during a previous interview with the estranged husband, Douglas Beamish, that he had a white cat named Snowball.

The detectives confiscated the cat and drew blood in which they intended to use DNA fingerprinting to compare it to the DNA found in the white hairs from the jacket, but they found that no one in the world had done this before. After contacting the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity, a laboratory specialising not in forensics, but in the study of genetic diseases, detectives and scientists were able to develop a method in which to test the feline DNA.

The test included a fail-safe method of randomly testing 20 other cats from the isolated Prince Edward Island, in order to establish the degree of genetic diversity among cats in the area, to rule out the possibility that the hairs found in the jacket came from a close relative of Snowball,or if all the cats on the island had a common ancestor,rendering the DNA test useless.

The tests revealed that the hairs did come from the cat; Beamish was subsequently convicted for the murder of his wife.

1995: The Bogan case: Trees do tell tales

First use of Plant DNA in a murder trial .

One Sunday morning, a boy riding his dirt bike through a dry wash in the desert saw the nude body of a woman, lying face down in the brush near a cluster of palo verde trees. She had been strangled to death. A man in the vicinity volunteered that he had seen a white truck leave the area "pretty quick" at about 1:30 that morning. The police found a pager a few feet from the body. It was registered to Earl Bogan, but used primarily by his son, Mark, who drove a white pickup truck and lived about 18 minutes from the scene. In the bed of the truck, police found two seed pods from a palo verde tree. Still other evidence suggested that Mark Bogan was the culprit. Bogan maintained that a female hitchhiker had "swiped" his pager from the truck and run away. He denied having been in the area where the body was found.

An enterprising detective observed that one of the palo verde trees -- later designated as "PV-30" -- had a fresh abrasion on one of its lower branches. He contacted Dr. Timothy Helentjaris, a professor of molecular genetics at the University of Arizona, who compared DNA from the seed pods found in the truck with the DNA in seed pods from the palo verde trees at the crime scene. He also analyzed DNA from other palo verde seed pods collected at various sites around the county. He concluded that the seed pods found in the truck originated from PV-30.

On appeal from the resulting murder conviction, Bogan argued that the professor's testimony should have been excluded. During a Frye hearing, Dr. Helentjaris had testified that the odds of a random match were one in a million, but the trial judge ruled that estimate to be inadmissible. Instead of giving his calculation, Dr. Helentjaris testified at trial that the samples from the truck bed "matched completely with ... PV-30," that he felt "quite confident in concluding that these two samples ... most likely did come from [PV-30]," and that he was "quite comfortable" in concluding that PV-30's DNA would be distinguishable from that of "any tree that might be furnished" to him. Reasoning that forensic scientists routinely testify about "matches" in hair, fingerprints, and other items without giving statistics, and that there was no disagreement about the generally acceptance of the laboratory techniques used to ascertain the DNA "match" here, the court of appeals affirmed the conviction.

2003: Jeffrey Gafoor

In 2003, Welshman Jeffrey Gafoor was convicted of the 1988 murder of Lynette White, when crime scene evidence collected 12 years earlier was re-examined using STR techniques, resulting in a match with his nephew. This may be the first known example of the DNA of an innocent yet related individual being used to identify the actual criminal, via "familial searching".

Case details (from BBC news)

When Lynette White was found murdered on Valentine's Day 1988, few forecast it would take 15 years to find her murderer.

Jeffrey Gafoor's guilty plea at Cardiff Crown Court on Friday ended a mystery that had seen three innocent men jailed, an independent review of the investigation and a wide-ranging police DNA sweep, casting a shadow over the city for more than a decade.

Three men were found guilty of the murder in 1990.

But when their conviction was found to be a miscarriage of justice, it seemed the killer might never be found.

It was only the painstaking discovery of fresh DNA evidence from the scene of the killing in James Street, Butetown, that began the trail to the murderer.

An independent review into unsolved murders in south Wales paved the way for a fresh inquiry, which got under way in September 2000.

As part of that new inquiry, a fresh DNA sweep of Lynette White's flat was carried out.

Police managed to find a new DNA sample - spots of blood - from a skirting board and sent it for analysis to independent company, Forensic Alliance.

Scientists there found the DNA of an individual who police had never questioned in connection with Lynette White's murder.

Detective Constable Paul Williams, who worked on the reinvestigation, said: "Incredibly, officers revisited the scene at James Street and took a skirting board from the scene and sent it to Forensic Alliance.

"They painstakingly removed paint and fortunately found a DNA profile."

After 14 years, police had finally built up a profile of the man who killed Lynette White.

The next breakthrough came when the DNA profile - dubbed Cellophane Man because of previous DNA evidence found on a piece of cellophane - was sent to Forensic Alliance's laboratory in Oxford.

DNA expert Andrew MacDonald explained: "We searched the national DNA database and couldn't find an complete match.

"South Wales Police instigated a mass screen which ruled out about 300 people.

"We also ruled out the people from the initial investigation, none of whom provided a match for Cellophane Man. "We had to think what else we could do to track him down.

"One of the (DNA) components was quite rare - you'd only expect 1-2% of the population to have it.

"We searched the National DNA Database for all the people who had that component.

"From that search we got 600 hits back.

"(It was narrowed to) a list of 70 people - one of them stood out head and shoulders above the rest.

"It was a really exciting moment to find that this person had so much in common with Cellophane Man."

That partial match was with a youth who was not born when the 1988 killing took place, but who had had dealings with the police.

But testing of the 14-year-old's family found a close relative whose DNA matched that of Cellophane Man's and he was instantly suspected as Lynette White's murderer.

That relative's name was Jeffrey Gafoor.

Detective Constable Williams said police were "amazed" by the link between Cellophane Man and the teenager.

"When we had the youth profile it was surprising, he wasn't born at the time but I knew the net was closing in," he said.

"The youth provided a partial match with Cellophane Man, who we now know as Jeffrey Gafoor.

"That is why we had to look at his family. "I was one of the officers who obtained a mouth swab from Gafoor that was then sent to Forensic Alliance who fast-tracked it.

"Within 24 hours we had the full hit on the database."

Jeffrey Gafoor was arrested and charged with Lynette White's murder in March this year.

He may never have been brought to justice if DNA technology had not advanced so quickly since the time of the brutal killing.

2003: Scott Pederson

Scott Pederson

One of the first uses of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) evidence.

On December 23 or December 24, 2002, Laci Peterson disappeared. She was eight months pregnant with a due date of February 10, 2003, and the couple had planned to name the baby Conner. The exact date and cause of death for Laci and Conner were never determined. Peterson initially reported his wife missing on Christmas Eve, and the story quickly attracted nationwide media interest.

Sole piece of physcial evidence was a fair found warpped around a pair of pliers found in Scott' boat. Mitochonidral DNA evidnece was used by the FBI to show that it was consistent with Laci, who had never been on the boat.

At this point in time, mitochondrial DNA was rarely been used as evidence in California court cases and it cannot provide a definitive match. Peterson's lawyers challenged the evidence as unreliable, arguing that the statistics used to determine the chances of a genetic match are faulty.

Superior Court Judge Al Girolami said prosecutors could tell a jury that the mitochondrial DNA from that specific strand of hair could be found in one out of every 112 whites.

2004: Alegandro Avila

Alegandro Avila

Professor Michael Hammer

One of the first high-profile cases to use Y STR markers and allow the Y-autosomal matches to be computed using the product rule. Dr. Michael Hammer (U of Arizona) was one of the expert witnesses called on Y STR markers.

On July 15, 2002 in Stanton (Orange county), California, Samantha Runnion was playing a board game in the front yard of her home with her six-year-old playmate Sarah Ahn. Avila, who was cruising the area, approached the girls asking if they had seen his Chihuahua dog. Samantha, who cared for animals and even owned a cat, approached the vehicle and asked "How big is it?" Avila then snatched the girl, threw her into the back of his vehicle, and drove off. Samantha kicked and screamed, but Avila did not let her go. She screamed to her friend "tell my grandma, tell my grandma". Her lifeless, naked body was found the next day in neighboring Riverside County. She was sexually molested and posed.

Sarah Ahn, the only eyewitness to the abduction, provided a portrait of the kidnapper. The drawing revealed a Hispanic male with a mustache, slicked black hair, brown eyes, and between 25-35 years old. The abductor drove a light green Honda. On July 18, investigators received a tip to look into Alejandro Avila, who had been acquitted in 2001 of sexually molesting his ex-girlfriend's nine-year-old daughter and her cousin. The police soon discovered that Avila, who lived with his mother and sister, came home very late the night Samantha was abducted and could not account for his whereabouts. As the investigation continued, the evidence against Avila became more damning. According to court documents, calls from Avila's cell phone were made in Samantha's neighborhood on the day of her abduction. His bank card was used to rent a motel room the same day; Samantha, who was kept alive for several hours after the kidnapping, is believed to have been molested and ultimately killed in that room. Avila's DNA was found on Samantha's body, and her DNA was found in his vehicle. Avila was formally charged for Samantha's death July 23, 2002 and was held at the Orange County Jail until his conviction in 2005.