On September 22, 1994, the body of a 14-year-old Cambodian woman, Nary Na, was found dead near a creek in Dallas, Texas. Her boyfriend, Entre Nax Karage, reported her missing to a police officer and soon after, he became a suspect in her murder. He was charged and convicted and spent almost seven years in prison before DNA evidence proved his actual innocence and helped find the real perpetrator.
The victim’s body was discovered by two young boys. She had a coat hanger wrapped around her neck. The victim suffered many traumas, including multiple blunt force injuries and bruises on her neck. It was determined that her cause of death was the result of blunt force injuries and ligature strangulation.
The Investigation and Identification
Nary Na left Karage at the video store while she borrowed his car to drive to the local grocery store a block away. She knew she had to return in time to drive him to work at 3 p.m. When Nary Na had not returned by 2:30, Karage began to worry and asked the video store owner to drive him around to look for her. When he could not find her, he asked family and neighbors to help him search. Karage finally reported her missing at around 10 p.m.
A Dallas police homicide detective brought Karage down to the police station at 11 p.m., where he would be informed that Nary Na’s body was discovered hours earlier behind the Shopping Center. Shocked and horrified, Karage denied any involvement in the vicious attack on his girlfriend. Throughout his interrogation, he cooperated in every way, submitted his clothing, a DNA sample, and agreed to a CAT scan to find bruises or other injuries; Karage even requested a polygraph test to help prove that he was not at all involved. Technicians did a “presumptive” blood test on the clothes he had worn that day, using a chemical that finds miniscule amounts of blood that are not otherwise visible. It came out positive, but it could have easily been “rust or vegetable-type products.” There was no proof that Karage had had any contact with blood that day.
After nearly seven hours of interrogation, Karage submitted to the detective a written statement insisting on his innocence. Still, detectives had no other suspect. Three years later, Karage received a notice in the mail that he was being accused and brought to trial.
Karage received a two-day bench trial on November 13, 1997. The prosecution introduced circumstantial evidence and questioned Karage’s version of events, arguing that he lacked a solid alibi. The prosecutor also claimed that Karage was the only person in Nary Na’s life who had a motive to kill her, and that he was already a jealous individual.
The victim’s father testified that Karage was often jealous of Nary Na and occasionally exhibited his jealousy by striking her. Other sources confirmed his jealous tendencies, but claims were made that he only physically harmed her on one occasion. The prosecution theorized that Karage had beaten and strangled his girlfriend after discovering that she cheated on him.
Additionally, the victim’s blood was found in the trunk of Karage’s car, which was located in the grocery store parking lot hours after her body was discovered. Law enforcement believed that Karage staged the search for his girlfriend to distract the police and avoid having attention drawn to himself as a suspect.
The judge sentenced Karage to life in prison because “it was such a violent death.”
Post-Conviction and Exoneration
Karage appealed multiple times, but each one failed and Karage was not granted a new trial. He had spent about 6.5 years in prison before he was able to convince authorities to run the DNA found in his girlfriend’s case through the database of serious offenders, which was created in 2001 (4 years after his conviction, 7 years after his arrest). The DNA matched a local man named Keith Jordan, who had been convicted of the aggravated kidnapping and sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl the same year as Nary Na’s murder, and the cases were very characteristically similar.
In December 22, 2005, Entre Nax Karage was granted a full pardon by Governor Rick Perry. As of 2012, Karage had received $245,700 in state compensation. Summary courtesy of the Innocence Project, http://www.innocenceproject.org/. Reproduced with permission.