DNA test in, Laughman may be freed
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
BY PETE SHELLEM
Of The Patriot-News
An Adams County man imprisoned 16 years for the rape and murder of his elderly neighbor apparently has been exonerated by DNA testing.
Barry Laughman was convicted of first-degree murder in 1988. The conviction was based largely on the testimony of a state trooper who was later discredited and Janice Roadcap, a state police chemist accused of doctoring records in a Harrisburg murder case.
Laughman, who was 24, confessed to the crime. But with an IQ of 70, he was functioning at the level of a 10-year-old, experts said.
Subsequent tests showed his blood type differed from that identified in semen left on the victim, 85-year-old Edna Laughman, a distant relative.
DNA samples taken from Edna Laughman were thought to be lost for the past 10 years until May, when The Patriot-News traced them to a former Penn State professor now in Germany. Dr. Mark Stoneking had preserved the extracted DNA and returned it for testing in July.
Laughman's attorney, David Foster, said yesterday he plans to ask Adams County Court to release his client, who is now 40, and dismiss the charges. Under the law, the DNA results should at minimum entitle him to a new trial.
"The DNA test results have come back and have conclusively established Barry Laughman's innocence of the murder of Edna Laughman," Foster said.
If the DNA answers one question, it raises a larger one: Who killed Edna Laughman?
Adams County District Attorney Paul Dean said an investigation is continuing.
However, he said the DNA excluding Barry Laughman does not necessarily clear him.
"At this point in time, simply the DNA sample having excluded Barry Laughman doesn't prove absolutely he wasn't there," Dean said. "A lot of work still needs to be done. I perceive this for the defense as one step in a much larger battle. If we have nothing further than what we have right now, I'd have to oppose any motions for bail or release."
Foster said he would ask for Laughman to be released on bail pending the outcome of the case. Laughman is serving a life sentence.
Laughman's family and friends, who include relatives of the victim, were ecstatic at the news. They said they knew he was innocent.
"You just gave me the best news of my life," said Tressa Laughman, Barry's niece.
|Who Killed Edna Laughman?