On March 4, 2004, David Allen Jones was released from prison after DNA testing proved that he did not commit the three murders for which he was convicted. The DNA profile obtained from the evidence in Jones’s case matched that of a serial murderer already in prison for attacking women in the Los Angeles area.
In 1992, four homicides were committed near the 97th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles, California. All four victims were believed to be prostitutes.
The first victim was found, strangled, on September 30, 1992, at the school. On November 16, 1992, a school custodian discovered the second victim’s partially nude body. The 32-year-old victim had been strangled and was found at the bottom of a stairwell that led to a boiler room. On December 16, 1992, a motel employee found the third victim in a carport near the school. This 42-year-old victim had also been strangled. The fourth victim was found about half a mile from the school. She was found partially nude, strangled, in an alley.
Jones was convicted of the first three murders and acquitted of the last.
There were no eyewitnesses to the murders. In late December 1992, David Allen Jones was arrested for an unrelated crime. A team of detectives interviewed him about the string of serial murders of prostitutes. The detectives took Jones to each of the four crimes scenes. Jones eventually confessed to all four murders. Jones had an IQ of 62, classifying him as mentally retarded.
The Biological Evidence
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) had the rape kits from all four murder victims subjected to serological testing. All four kits contained biological material from a person with type A blood. Jones is blood type O. Although this discrepancy was presented to the jury, Jones was convicted of three of the four murders.
In 2002, the Post Conviction Assistance Center (PCAC) was appointed to represent Jones as he pursued postconviction DNA testing pursuant to California’s new postconviction DNA statute. Unfortunately, two of the four rape kits collected had been destroyed. PCAC continued to investigate the case in order to prove that the serial killings in the area continued after Jones was in custody and that killings both before and after his arrest were committed by a signature serial killer with type A blood. During the course of this investigation, PCAC learned that the LAPD’s newly formed Cold Case Unit was pursuing a serial killer who killed women in the same area from 1990 to 2000. The LAPD has already obtained cold hits on some of these other murders and had, through the state’s DNA database, identified the actual killer: Chester D. Turner. Turner was already in prison on a rape charge.
DNA testing was conducted on the two remaining rape kits in Jones’s case. Testing excluded Jones and established that the DNA profile found belonged to Turner. Although the rape kits from the other two cases had been destroyed, the signature nature of the homicides and other evidence established that these victims were killed by the same man and not by David Allen Jones. On March 4, 2004, Jones was released from prison and his murder convictions were set aside. Jones later filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angles and settled for $720,000. He also filed for state compensation and received $74,600.
Turner has been charged with 10 additional murders.