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Drew Whitley

Other Pennsylvania Cases with Perjury or False Accusation
At approximately 3 a.m. on August 17, 1988, 22-year-old Noreen Malloy was shot to death during a robbery at the McDonald’s restaurant she managed in Duquesne, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh.

Jerome Wilson, who was on his third day at the restaurant, had been waiting outside the back door to start his 3 a.m shift. Wilson was interviewed by police at about 4:10 a.m. and did not identify the shooter. Other McDonald’s employees working that night were also interviewed, and no witness was able to identify the assailant beyond a general description.

Witnesses described the person who accosted Malloy in the parking lot as a 6’ to 6’3’’ Black man with a thin build. He was also said to be wearing a yellow or beige-colored trench coat with a belt secured around the waist, a stocking mask, a white or beige hat with a brim, dark pants, and white tennis shoes. The attacker had a small handgun in his right hand and grabbed Malloy by the neck with one arm, aiming the gun at her head with the other arm. The attacker said, “Give me the bag. Give me the bag,” and Malloy said she didn’t have it. Malloy was able to escape, which caused the attacker to fire a shot into the air. The attacker chased Malloy and fired a second shot, which hit her in the back. The attacker ejected the casing from the semi-automatic handgun. After shooting Malloy, he struck her in the face with the gun, grabbed her purse, and fled.

Officers discovered two .25-caliber shells and a stocking mask in the parking lot of the McDonald’s.

On August 18, 1988, Detectives interviewed Gary Covington, who reportedly had information regarding the murder. Covington claimed he had a conversation with Wilson, a close friend, in which Wilson identified the attacker as Drew Whitley. Wilson lived in the same neighborhood as Whitley. When interviewed by detectives a second time, Wilson was hesitant to provide more information but eventually identified the assailant as Whitley.

Wilson identified Whitley by his distinct facial structure, height, and voice. Although Wilson said he was certain of his identification, he testified that the robber held Malloy with his right arm and pointed the weapon with his left. Other witnesses said the assailant used his left arm to hold Malloy and right to hold the gun. None of the eight other witnesses to the murder described any discernible facial features of the shooter because he was wearing a stocking mask.

Officers discovered during an interview with Covington that he was the owner of a .25-caliber automatic handgun with a missing pin.

On the night of the murder, Ki Mihaly, a food-services manager at Three Rivers Stadium, drove some of his workers to the Braddock and Duquesne communities after a baseball game. Mihaly was not aware of the murder, but he noted police activity as he drove past the McDonald’s. Sometime between approximately 3:00 a.m. and 3:15 a.m., Mihaly picked up Nathan Meador, who was hitchhiking about two miles from the murder scene. Mihaly’s description of Meador was similar to the descriptions of Malloy’s assailant. Mihaly had handed Meador his business-card case and told him to take a card because Mihaly was in search of more workers. Mihaly dropped Meador off in the town of Forest Hills. Meador called Mihaly on August 19, 1988, at approximately 1:30 p.m., seeking an employment opportunity. At 5:40 p.m. on August 19, 1988, Mihaly reported Meador to the police. Mihaly also turned over his business-card case to be tested for fingerprints, because Meador had held the case.

On August 17, 1988, the day of Malloy’s killing, Drew Whitley, who was on parole, had been scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on an unrelated charge of theft by deception. He was jailed the next day, August 18, 1988, on a parole violation for not reporting the theft charge within 72 hours.

During the investigation, police seized Whitley’s tennis shoes and found a drop of blood on them which was identified as Type A, the same as Malloy’s. Dried blood was also discovered underneath Whitley’s fingernails. Whitley volunteered to have the dried blood tested, but it was never tested against any other genetic material. During police interviews, Whitley asserted his innocence. When questioned about his tennis shoes, he said his son had bled on them the day before. Serological testing showed that Whitley’s son also had type A blood.

The evidence suggested that Malloy fought her attacker. Dried blood was found under her fingernails. But Whitley had no scratch marks or evidence of a physical altercation.

In the days after Malloy’s murder, seven residents reported that an individual had searched hedges along Inland Avenue, a street that included part of the assailant’s flight path. Residents described the person as in his early 20’s, dark skinned, thin build, and roughly 6 feet to six feet 3 inches tall. Officers did not arrange a line-up because Whitley was their lead suspect and was already in custody.

Whitley’s mother, Hati Whitley, provided an alibi for Whitley. She stated that Whitley told her he saw his girlfriend, Barbara Brown, with an alcoholic beverage at 2:30 a.m. on August 17, 1988, in the Mon View Heights Apartments as she was coming home from a local bar. Brown said that she left the bar at approximately 2:15 a.m. and walked with a group of friends to a friend’s apartment in the complex.

On September 1, 1988, officers interviewed Meador. He denied being in the area the night of the murder and said he did not hitchhike.

On November 18, 1988, officers interviewed a woman named Nicole Bufkin. Bufkin stated that a week earlier, she had visited her boyfriend, Kevin Tench, in prison and Tench had said that Whitley admitted to the murder. Bufkin identified Whitley from a photo array.

On November 21, 1988, officers interviewed Tench. Tench asserted that he did not have any information regarding Malloy’s murder, and he did not know Whitley by name. However, when Tench was given a polygraph examination, he was found to show deception in his answers to several questions, including whether he was in the area of Kennywood Park at the time of the murder, whether he knew who killed Malloy, and if he knew Whitley.

On December 23, 1988, officers interviewed Bryan Mayes, who reported seeing Tench about an hour before the murder walking toward Kennywood Park, where witnesses recall the assailant escaping after Malloy’s murder. Mayes said he knew Tench had stolen Newport cigarettes from a beer store and described to officers Tench’s physical characteristics and clothing on the night of the murder. However, Tench was not investigated further because he was only 5’9” tall, which was inconsistent with the descriptions of the assailant.

A fingerprint examiner compared Whitley’s fingerprints to those found on Mihaly’s card case and concluded that Whitley was not the source. Although officers stated two fingerprints pulled from the crime scene were “available for any future comparisons you desire,” these prints were not compared to the prints of Meador or Tench.

On February 8, 1989, Gary Starr, a convicted murderer on death row, wrote to authorities claiming Whitley confessed to the murder six months earlier while he was in a jail cell close to Starr’s. Starr was in solitary confinement at the time, and Whitley was only near him for five days. Starr said that Whitley admitted he threw the murder weapon over a hillside across the street from the McDonald’s restaurant.

On February 10, 1989, Drew Whitley was charged with second degree murder, robbery, and reckless endangerment. At the time, he was still in jail on the parole violation.

Before the trial, Whitley’s lawyer moved to suppress the evidence seized from the execution of the search warrant on Whitley’s home. Whitley’s attorney said “that in securing the search warrant that the police failed to inform the magistrate of some inconsistent statements, and that in doing so, failing to inform the magistrate, violated the defendant's Fourteenth Amendment rights.” At the hearing, the prosecution explained that the affidavit of probable cause for the search warrant relied upon Wilson’s identification of Whitley as the shooter. Whitley’s counsel noted that Wilson had failed to identify Whitley during the first interview. The motion was denied.

At Whitley’s trial in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Starr testified that Whitley confessed to the murder. The defense established that Whitley was only in close proximity to Starr for five days while another person who was Whitley’s cellmate for 90 days stated Whitley consistently maintained his innocence. Starr was then questioned by the defense about his reason for bringing this information to the attention of the authorities. Starr denied receiving an inducement for his testimony at trial. Despite this, Starr’s death sentence was later reduced to life in prison.

Dorothy Menges, a criminalist with the Allegheny County Crime Laboratory testified that after comparing hairs found on a dark brown stocking mask at the murder scene with Whitley’s hairs, she had concluded that the two samples had “many, many overlapping characteristics.” Menges also stated that no saliva or blood was found on the two Newport Light cigarette butts found in a stairwell near the scene of the murder and therefore the evidence was inconclusive. She noted that both Malloy and Whitley’s son had blood type A, and that type A blood appeared in around 40% of the human population.

Wilson was the only eyewitness who testified against Whitley at trial.

Whitley testified and explained the type A blood found on his shoe by saying that his son had type A blood and had bled on them the day before.

Whitley’s lawyer did not raise the issue of Covington’s gun at trial.

During closing arguments, the prosecution pointed to the hairs and blood as strong evidence of guilt.

On July 24, 1989, the jury convicted Whitley of second-degree murder, and on September 6, 1989, he was sentenced to life in prison.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court denied his direct appeal on April 3, 1991.

On May 26, 1992, Whitley petitioned to have evidence from the stocking mask tested for DNA. However, Whitley’s petition to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania was denied, and his conviction was upheld.

On June 7, 1995, Whitley filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief. Sanford Middleman was appointed to represent him.

On November 3, 1995, two of the hairs recovered from the mask worn by the perpetrator were tested for DNA, but the tests were inconclusive and damaged the samples. All other samples from the mask were thought to be lost after a flood in the police department’s storage area.

On November 20, 1998, the trial court denied Whitley’s petition.

On December 21, 1999, the trial court appointed Robert Crisanti to represent Whitley and reinstated his rights to appeal. On September 5, 2000, Whitley appealed the trial court’s denial of his 1995 petition. He argued that his trial attorney had been ineffective for failing to challenge the admissibility of Menges’s testimony about the hair analysis.

On December 12, 2000, the trial court denied Whitley’s petition.

Around this time, the Innocence Institute of Point Park University began an investigation of Whitley’s case.

On February 20, 2001, Whitley appealed to the Superior Court again. His appeal was denied on July 12. The denial was affirmed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on December 31, 2001.

On May 9, 2005, police said they had rediscovered the 41 hairs from the killer’s mask, which were thought to have been destroyed in the flood. On September 21, 2005, after the Allegheny County District Attorney agreed to reopen the case, Judge Walter Little approved new DNA testing.

On February 28, 2006, Mitotyping Technologies completed DNA testing on six representative hairs of the 39 non-rooted hairs from the stocking mask that were suitable for testing. They reported that Whitley was excluded as the source of all the hairs. On April 25, 2006, the prosecution then decided to send five more hairs to the lab for testing. Whitley was also excluded as a source of these hairs.

During a court hearing on May 1, 2006, after reviewing the results of the DNA tests, Judge Anthony Mariani overturned the conviction and then granted a motion to dismiss the charges against Whitley.

Later that day, the Allegheny County District Attorney Office published a letter that stated that the prosecution had concealed the existence of an arrangement between Starr and the government, contradicting Starr’s trial testimony.

In 2007, Whitley and his attorney, Lawrence H. Fisher, filed a complaint against Allegheny County and detectives for his wrongful conviction. The case was dismissed, after the court ruled that the officers were protected by qualified immunity.

Whitley died in October 2022. He was 66 years old.

– Yaneli Garcia and Chiara Rignot

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Last Updated: 11/27/2023
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Robbery, Other Violent Felony
Reported Crime Date:1988
Age at the date of reported crime:32
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes