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DNA Tests on Suspect Lead to Dismissal of Slaying Counts : Courts: A Van Nuys man remains under suspicion in the killings of two female transients, but his attorney believes charges will not be refiled.

August 27, 1992|JAMES QUINN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Double-murder charges against a 35-year-old Van Nuys man accused of raping and killing two female transients were dismissed Wednesday because DNA tests showed that someone else sexually assaulted one of the victims.

Steven C. Leigh, described as a satanist and white power advocate, remains a suspect in the murders of Dawn McGrath, 21, and Jamie J. Jensen, 13, found shot Jan. 20, prosecutors said.

However, Leigh's attorney, Bruce C. Hill, expressed confidence that charges would not be refiled because "the evidence against him is very, very thin."

Leigh, held without bail since his arrest in March because he faced a possible death penalty, was expected to be released from jail late Wednesday, his attorney said.

The victims, both shot twice in the back of the head, were found at roadside locations three miles apart in Pacoima and Mission Hills.

Police said they believe the victims, whom they described as drug users with no fixed addresses, were killed at the same time by at least two people.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Cindy Ulfig moved to dismiss charges Wednesday shortly before a preliminary hearing was to start.

Ulfig told San Fernando Municipal Judge Nora Manella that a comparison of cells of DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, taken from semen found in Jensen, who had been raped and sodomized, "ruled out Leigh in the sexual aspects of the case.

"That means that we can't prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, but we still think he might have been one of the two or more involved in the murders," the prosecutor said outside court.

Although no testimony was given in the case, affidavits filed to support a search of Leigh's mobile home indicate that police began investigating the Department of Water and Power equipment repairer a month after the murders.

The probe was triggered by a woman's telephone complaint that Leigh was a satanist who boasted about being the last to have sex with McGrath and talked frequently about the killings, court records indicate.

In sworn statements, police said several neighbors and acquaintances of Leigh quoted him as saying, "You can't believe the power I got from that 13-year-old," and also expressing a fascination with human sacrifice.

In Leigh's trailer, police said, officers found many satanic and white power publications, a metal swastika, handcuffs and a rifle and a pistol not used in the slayings.

Los Angeles Police Detective Bob Bogison, who refused to discuss details of the case, said that investigators do not disagree with prosecutors' decision to dismiss the charges but said the case is "far from over. There are a lot of people we still have to talk to."

Defense attorney Hill said that if the case had not been dismissed, he was prepared to call to the stand eight people who saw Leigh at a birthday party the night of the murders.

He also said that since Leigh was charged, police have "turned up at least 10 or 12 people who had animosity to Miss McGrath, including several who made threats against her."

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