Austin man convicted of killing wife pushes for DNA testing



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Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:36 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 24 at 10:38 AM

An Austin area man convicted of killing his wife has joined forces with the family of a victim in a similar murder case. They are now both part of a federal lawsuit pushing for DNA testing that they say could solve both crimes.

It's been nearly three decades and Pat Stapleton still doesn't know who brutally murdered her mother.

"Certainly they know of all the advantages that are available now and they haven't done a thing," said Stapleton.

Stapleton's mother, Mildred McKinney, was found dead in her Williamson County home in November of 1980. Stapleton found her mother's lifeless body under stacks of furniture.

"It was a sick character that did it to my mother. I can't believe they could do those things," said Stapleton.

About five years later a woman named Christine Morton was found dead in her home just a few blocks away from where McKinney lived. That's not where the similarities end.

"Both women were found in their bedrooms, both were bludgeoned to death. Both had furniture or household items piled on top of their bodies and both of them the sliding glass door was unlocked, in both of them there were fingerprints that have not been identified," said lawyer for both families, John Raley of Cooper and Scully.

Raley took on the case pro-bono and is working with a group called The Innocence Project to find McKinney's killer and to prove that Christine Morton's husband, Michael, is innocent. Despite the similarities of the crime scenes, Michael Morton's been in prison since 1986 convicted of killing his wife.

Raley says DNA samples and fingerprints that were lifted from both McKinney's home and Morgan's home were never tested. He believes if they were, it would prove Morton's innocence and could lead to the real killer.

The technology to test the samples wasn't available at the time of the murders, but even now, Raley says it still hasn't been used.

"What does it take to take a few specimens and send them off to a lab," said Stapleton.

Raley filed suit in an Austin court on Tuesday asking the court to test those DNA samples and run the fingerprints through a national database.

"If there's evidence in the system nationwide then it could be matched up with whatever we have here," said Stapleton.

The Williamson County District Attorney's Office says it isn't commenting on the case because the case is still open. However, District Attorney John Bradley says the court is still pursuing McKinney's murderer.

In the meantime, Stapleton says she'll continue waiting for justice.

"Hopefully I'll have a breathing spell someday soon," she said.