Yogurt Shop DNA Remains a Mystery

After four months of searching, a match still has not been found for the DNA that defense attorneys hope will exonerate their clients

It's been more than four months since Travis Co. prosecutors said they expected to quickly find the donor of unknown male DNA found in the body of Amy Ayers, the youngest of four victims brutally murdered in a North Austin yogurt shop in 1991. No match has yet been found – but apparently not because the state hasn't been looking. Courthouse sources say that as many as five dozen people have been tested, but still it appears no match has been found. The male DNA lifted from two vaginal swabs (one collected at the crime scene on Dec. 6, 1991, and the other collected later at the Travis Co. Medical Examiner's Office) has yet to be matched, prompting defense attorney Carlos Garcia to request that the state now test the DNA against samples taken from "alternate suspects" – including executed serial killer Kenneth McDuff.

Indeed, Garcia and attorney Joe James Sawyer, who represent defendants Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen, respectively, argue that the existence of the unknown DNA – combined with the lack of any other physical evidence tying their clients to the scene of the grisly crime – supports their clients' claims of innocence. "They got the wrong guys," Garcia said outside court last week. Scott and Springsteen were each previously convicted in the case, but their convictions were tossed on appeal because prosecutors improperly used – and the judge improperly allowed into evidence – statements each man made as evidence against the other, in violation of the Sixth Amend­ment right to cross-examine witnesses.

As many as 50 individuals have confessed to the quadruple murder (some more convincingly than others), but whether prosecutors will seek to have the mystery male DNA profile checked against any of those suspects remains to be seen. Notably, prosecutors Gail Van Winkle and Efrain De La Fuente declined to respond to Garcia's open-court request. Still, it would seem that, at least publicly, the existence of the unknown male DNA isn't exactly causing prosecutors to lose much sleep, even though most court watchers agree that its discovery dealt a deep blow to the state's embarrassingly wobbly case. While no date for either man's retrial has yet been set, Van Winkle told the court Aug. 20 that the state is "pretty much done with the investigation of this case."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

yogurt shop murders, Carlos Garcia, Joe James Sawyer, Amy Ayers, Michael Scott, Robert Springsteen, Gail Van Winkle, Efrain De La Fuente

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