To: Martin D. Yant, Investigator

CC: Elizabeth Kelley, Attorney for Clarence Elkins; Donna J. Robb, Journalist, Plain Dealer

From: Brent E. Turvey, MS, 329 Harbor Dr., Suite 211, Sitka, AK 99835, Office: 907-747-5121; Cell: 831-254-5446

Date:  June 24, 2002

Re: Ohio v. Elkins, CR 98-06041: DNA Evidence

In May of 2002, I was contacted by Investigator Martin Yant and asked to provide consultation on the above-mentioned case.

This case involves the rape homicide of Judith Johnson, a 58-year-old grandmother who was beaten, strangled, and anally raped with a foreign object in her own home on June 7th of 1998. It also involves the assault on Brooke Sutton, the 6-year-old granddaughter of Johnson, who was beaten, strangled, and anally raped with a foreign object during the same incident. Sutton, however, survived the attack.

According to investigative and court documents reviewed by this examiner, the sole defendant in this case, Clarence Elkins, was convicted of a lesser charge of murder (aggravated murder was sought), attempted aggravated murder, rape, and felonious assault. This conviction was based almost entirely on statements made by Brooke Sutton implicating Mr. Elkins. There is no dispute that each statement given by victim Sutton (then 6 years old) has been significantly different, none of which have yet to fully explain all of the facts and all of her injuries. Furthermore, according to the post-conviction petition filed in May of 2002, victim Sutton has recanted her trial testimony and statements implicating Mr. Elkins.

Of greatest significance in this case is the hair evidence collected from both victims, associated directly with the sexual assaults.

According to an evidence submission sheet dated June 9th, 1998, prepared by S.A. Charlie Snyder of the Ohio BCI in conjunction with the Barberton Police Department, among the items of evidence submitted to the Ohio BCI were:

Item B1 – “One white envelope containing on black hair – from victim Johnson / Anus (Trace)”

Item B18 – “One brown paper bag containing one box with rape evidence from victim Sutton. (Serology)”

According to a Certificate of Analysis prepared by LabCorp, dated May 4, 1999, that laboratory conducted PCR DNA analysis of hair evidence from evidence items B1 (a black hair from Johnson’s anus described as Item 2) and B18 (a slide with three hair fragments collected from the victim’s rape kit, the longest of which was analyzed).

According to the Certificate of Analysis, Item B1, the black hair collected from victim Johnson’s anus, is “consistent with the genetic material in this sample originating from: Brooke Sutton, Judith Johnson, or someone maternally related to them.” That is to say, this hair may have originated from one of the victims, one of their family members, or from someone else with similar PCR profiles. However, Clarence Elkins is entirely excluded.

According to the Certificate of Analysis, a foreign hair collected from victim Sutton’s rape kit (Item B18) does not belong to anyone tested. In their words “Clarence Elkins, Brooke Sutton and Judith Johnson are excluded as the contributor to the genetic material in this sample.”

Given the circumstances, only the victims or an offender could have contributed hair samples that would have been found associated with the victim’s anal areas. And only the victims or an offender could have contributed hair samples that would have been subsequently collected and placed in to a victim’s rape kit. Therefore, as it stands, this DNA evidence alone completely excludes Clarence Elkins, pointing to another offender.

However, this DNA evidence does not preclude the involvement of two offenders. To completely investigate this possibility, the following is mandatory:

1.  Further DNA testing of Item B1 (such as Mitochondrial aka mDNA testing) is mandatory to determine this hair’s actual origin. If mDNA testing provides a genetic match to both Johnson and Sutton, then an argument may be made that it is not a foreign hair and it is unrelated to a second offender. If mDNA testing does not provide a genetic match to Johnson and Sutton, this would be confirmation of a second offender.

2.  Only one of the hairs (labeled Item 1) from B18, victim Sutton’s rape kit, was tested. Further DNA testing of Item B18 (such as Mitochondrial aka mDNA testing) is mandatory to determine the origins of these remaining two hairs. If they provide a genetic match to Item 1, this may further solidify a single offender theory. If they do not provide a genetic match to Item 1, this points directly to additional offenders.

In any event, Clarence Elkins has already been completely excluded by ALL of the established DNA evidence in this case. That is to say, the DNA evidence proves unequivocally that the foreign hair, which must have come from the offender, collected in to victim Sutton’s rape kit (B18), did not come from Clarence Elkins. Given the overwhelming DNA evidence, the undisputed fact that NO physical evidence associates Clarence Elkins with the crime scene or the crime, and the proven tenuousness of eye-witness ID (especially that of a frightened 6 year old child), this examiner is at a loss as to why Mr. Elkins has been convicted of any crime related to this case.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.


Brent Turvey, MS
Forensic Scientist