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BELLEFONTAINE, Ohio (AP) — It’s unlikely that a suspect in two 1986 Ohio slayings can be charged a second time despite new DNA evidence, a prosecutor said.
Constitutional issues may prevent charging Terry Lowe again, including the fact that a person can’t be tried twice for the same alleged crime, Logan County Prosecutor William Goslee told the Bellefontaine Examiner.
A former prosecutor in 1994 dismissed a capital murder case against Lowe, who now lives in Lima. He was accused of fatally stabbing Phyllis Mullett, 37, in her Belle Center home and shooting 64-year-old town Marshal Murray Griffin when he tried to help the woman on the night of July 5, 1986.
The prosecutor’s office this winter received DNA testing results from more than 20 boxes of evidence collected days after the slayings. Testing on a drop of blood found on a sliding glass door at Mullett’s home shows a high probability that the blood came from Lowe, authorities said.
DNA extracted from inside a knot on a rope used to bind Mullett’s legs also pointed to Lowe, according to authorities.
Lowe could not be reached for comment. A telephone number was not available. His former attorney, Dennis Day Lager, said he continues to believe that authorities targeted the wrong man.
The state didn’t have sufficient evidence when Lowe went to trial and the case “cannot be reopened,” said Day Lager, who is now the public defender in Portage County.
Authorities had decided in 2010 to take another look at the case after learning about a cold case unit that received a federal grant to look at unsolved cases. Technology used in the latest DNA testing did not exist at the time of Lowe’s trial.
But constitutional issues that prohibit a person from being tried more than once and protect the right to a speedy trial most likely will prevent the filing of new charges, the newspaper reported.
Prosecutors also must consider the availability of witnesses and the strength of the evidence, even with the DNA results.
But Goslee’s staff is studying the prior case file and looking for any precedents in Ohio and other states.
He believes local authorities did the best they could with information available at the time.
“It’s a shame two good people were murdered and we can’t prove who did it,” said Mullett’s former husband, Dick Mullett.
Former Logan County Sheriff’s Deputy Phil Alloway was an investigator on the 1986 case.
He said Lowe once babysat Mullet’s children and disappeared a few days after the slayings. Lowe was later found at a motel with scratches on his arm and knee, the newspaper reported. Investigators never found a murder weapon.