A man accused of murdering a teenage girl in 1979 was back in court today, as prosecutors present some of their evidence against the 60-year-old defendant, hoping to show the judge there’s enough to take the case to trial.
It goes without saying that making an arrest in a 40-year-old cold case is a rare triumph for law enforcement, but one that comes with unique obstacles for prosecutors. If the case goes to trial, 60-year-old Prentice Foreman could face the death penalty. But the big question posed by the defense was how reliable is the evidence, decades and decades later?
Today’s hearing began with testimony from the coroner division chief, who worked with Bakersfield police a few years back to get the evidence that helped lead the crime lab to get DNA match. But the defense was quick to point out that vaginal swabs weren’t preserved correctly-posing the threat of cross contamination.
Prosecutors didn’t deny that within the last 40 years, the coroner’s office and BPD have made some mistakes when it comes to the case, stating quote: “nothing is perfect”. But they say that doesn’t change the fact that DNA from those swabs match the 18-year-old victim Dawn Koons and the defendant, Prentice Foreman.
The defense also argues that autopsy report are unreliable, written by experts who are now deceased.
Again the prosecution didn’t fully disagree and brought on a pathologist who examined the case in recent years.
That pathologist testified the teenager died from asphyxiation, though he couldn’t say exactly how because there aren’t any clear-cut injuries pointing to a specific method like strangulation. However, as brutal crime scene photos were presented to the court, he pointed out she was nude with bound hands and a pillow case over her face, plus a phone cord was tied around her neck.
He says it’s clear Koons was murdered as a result of someone cutting off her airflow. The preliminary hearing continues tomorrow for day five. That’s something we rarely see as most preliminary hearings are done within a day.