Judge orders DNA testing in murder case

Jun. 12, 2013 @ 08:41 AM

It took 20 years for someone to be charged in a 1990 double-killing. A judge now doesn't want legal wrangling over proposed DNA testing of evidence to bog the case down and further slow it getting to trial.

Investigators found copious blood stains on bedding items, clothing and a semi-automatic handgun believed to have been used in the killing of Mark and Jeanie Secreast, who were found shot to death on Nov. 30, 1990. But no DNA testing has ever been performed on the stains, and officials are concerned that over the past 22-plus years the DNA in those blood stains likely has degraded.

On Monday, Judge Beverly T. Beal of Caldwell Superior Court tried to appease both prosecutors, who want to move the case forward, and defense attorneys, who want to be sure that the SBI's testing does not use up all of the useful blood evidence so they can have their own DNA testing done. He ordered the SBI's crime lab to test for DNA on the gun by July 12 and turn over the results to both prosecutors and attorneys for defendant William Eugene Murphy.

"It's just not possible to satisfy everyone and get the case moving down the trail," Beal told the attorneys. "The crime lab workload is heavy, and resources are limited due to the state's budget. Many rush requests (for evidence testing) have been submitted to the degree that there are more rushes than non-rushes."

If the test results are inconclusive and more tests are needed, the defense will have five days to file an objection if attorneys think further SBI testing would jeopardize their chances of getting their own testing done. If the defense does not object, other items taken into evidence must be tested by Aug. 30.

Beal also reminded the attorneys that the case's outcome would not rest solely on DNA evidence.

"The jury's opinion is the last word," Beal said. "Forensic evidence is only a part of the jury's consideration. I urge you to use extreme caution in testing."

The bodies of Mark Secreast, 29, and his wife, Jeanie, 27, were discovered inside their home by Jeanie Secreast's mother, Betty Barlow, after Jeanie Secreast failed to show up for work. An autopsy revealed both had been shot in the head. Jeanie Secreast also was shot in the chest, and Mark Secreast's throat was cut.

Murphy, formerly of 3968 Hollywood Ridge Road, who knew the Secreasts and was a pallbearer at Mark Secreast's funeral, was one of several suspects interviewed during the initial investigation. Murphy was charged with murder in April 2010 while he was already in the Caldwell County Detention Center for assault on a female.