Noted forensic scientist doubts murderer-rapist's guilt
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07/05/02
by Donna J. Robb
Plain Dealer Reporter

Akron - A renowned forensic scientist has added his name to the list of people who
say Clarence Elkins was wrongly convicted of rape and murder four years ago.

"Given the overwhelming DNA evidence and the proven tenuousness of
eye-witness identification, this examiner is at a loss as to why Mr. Elkins
has been convicted of any crime," Brent Turvey said.

Turvey studied evidence police collected from the Barberton home where
Elkins' mother-in- law Judith Johnson, 58, was murdered June 7, 1998.

Barberton detectives and Summit County prosecutors disregarded DNA tests of
pubic hairs found by investigators, Turvey said.

"The tests entirely excluded Clarence Elkins as the person who left those
hairs at the crime scene. But the police, based on the word of a traumatized
6-year-old [Johnson's granddaughter], were convinced they had their man, so
much so that they ignored the conclusive evidence and failed to run other
tests that could also have ruled Elkins out," he said last week.

Turvey holds a master's degree in forensic science, a bachelor's in forensic
psychology and is author of "Criminal Profiling: An Introduction to
Behavioral Evidence Analysis."

Barberton police have declined to discuss the case. Records show they did
not compare bloody fingerprints with Elkins' prints and failed to search
Johnson's yard, where her two daughters found their cat, strangled and
decomposing next to a C-clamp that may have been used in the attacks.

The 6-year-old survived being raped, beaten and choked, then testified the
man who killed her grandmother and hurt her was her Uncle Clarence. Her
first statements the morning of the slaying were that the attacker "looked
like" her uncle. By trial, her testimony and demeanor convinced the jury he
was the attacker.

This year, the girl, now 10, told her mother she remembered more: the killer
had brown eyes, not blue like her uncle's. A private investigator has
located a man who looks very much like Elkins and bore scratches on his back
and an arm the day of the murder.

The 28-year-old man had been rebuffed by Johnson. He still lives and works
in Summit County and has declined to discuss the case.

Elkins was sentenced to life for the attacks on the grandmother and
granddaughter.

The investigator, Martin Yant, and a Cleveland attorney have asked Summit
County Judge John R. Adams to throw out the conviction or give Elkins a new
trial. Adams, who was presiding over his first murder trial when Elkins was
convicted, has set a hearing for July 30.

More than 50 friends and relatives of Elkins gathered outside the county
courthouse this month on the anniversary of Johnson's murder. Supporters,
including Elkins' wife, Johnson's eldest daughter, held signs asking for
justice and freedom for Elkins.

"I'll never get my mother back," Melinda Elkins said. "But I want my
husband, our sons' father, back. The nightmare has gone on far too long."


To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

drobb@plaind.com, 800-628-6689

2002 The Plain Dealer.