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Douglas Jordan, Jr.

Other Tennessee Exonerations
At 6:30 a.m. on March 12, 1998, the body of 22-year-old Jennifer Byerley, who was deaf and mute, was found with her throat slashed alongside Wheeler Road in Blount County, Tennessee. The body was located about a half-mile from her apartment and about 1.2 miles from the End Zone, a bar near the Knoxville airport where she was last seen the night before.

Two employees at the End Zone, Mary Roberts and Earl Horton, connected Byerley to 27-year-old Douglas Jordan, Jr., who was a regular customer at the bar and lived a stone’s throw from the bar in the Airport Inn.

Jordan was questioned by detectives and at first said he conversed with Byerley in the bar by exchanging written notes and did not see her again after leaving at about 11:30 p.m. But after police searched Jordan’s room and found a crumpled piece of paper that had written exchanges between him and Byerley, Jordan admitted that he and Byerley came back to his room.

Jordan said he was interested in having sex only and when Byerley indicated she wanted to have a romantic long-term relationship, they quarreled and he asked her to leave. He denied having sex with her or killing her.

Police found blood around his bathroom sink, which Jordan said came from an injury he suffered in a car accident a few days before. He said scratches on his face were caused by the accident and by a skin condition that caused him to scratch himself.

In September 1998, Jordan was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. He went to trial in Blount County Circuit Court in October 2002.

End Zone employee Mary Roberts testified that Byerley usually hung out with Mexican friends when she was at the bar and that on the night before the murder, Roberts saw some Mexican men acting “inappropriately” toward Byerley, so she asked the men to leave. Robert said Jordan sat with Byerley in a booth and they passed notes back and forth before Jordan wadded the paper, tossed it into a trash can and angrily stalked out through the back door. Roberts said Byerley left soon after via the front door. Roberts said that when she saw Jordan the following day, his face had scratches which she didn’t remember seeing the night before.

Earl Horton, the bartender, testified that he followed Byerley out the front door when she left and saw her meet Jordan. He said he asked if they were okay and Jordan said, “Yes, we’re fine.” Horton said he saw Jordan two days later and noticed scratches on his hands and face that he didn’t recall seeing before.

An employee of a laundromat testified that about nine hours after Byerley’s body was found, Jordan brought in some sheets that were bloodstained and asked to have them washed. She testified that Jordan told her he “had an accident.” She said that she used bleach, but was unable to remove all the stains.

Blount County Sheriff’s Department Detective Scott Carpenter, who headed the investigation and was responsible for maintaining the “murder book,” an investigative file of all reports in the case, testified about his interviews with Jordan. He said Jordan admitted being angry with Byerley, but not angry enough to kill her. Carpenter said that after he (falsely) advised Jordan that DNA tests showed Byerley’s blood on his sheets, Jordan said, “Something ain’t right…They’s got to be something somewhere somebody ain’t seeing.”

Carpenter said Jordan also asked if there was “something else you all can do to check further than you have? I know that it might cost the taxpayers a lot of money but I pay my taxes, too.”

Dr. David Gilliam, who performed the autopsy, testified that the cause of death was strangulation and that her throat had been slashed open after death. He believed that the killer was right-handed based on the wound.

The prosecution presented evidence that only Jordan’s blood was found in his car and on his sheets. Jordan’s DNA was also found on the right front of Byerley’s overalls and on the rear tag of her bra—although it could not be determined if that DNA came from blood, skin or saliva. Jordan’s DNA was also found under the index and ring fingers of Byerley’s right hand.

Sandra Scott, testified for the defense that two days before the murder, she had lunch with Jordan and her best friend. At that time, Jordan had “scars all over his face and his nose and scars on his body” which Jordan said were the result of wrecking his car.

Carl Anderson, a life-long friend of Jordan’s, testified he came to the home of Jordan’s father just after a tow truck had delivered Jordan’s wrecked vehicle. Anderson said Jordan was “cut up…and scuffed up pretty bad.”

Mike Michaels, Jordan’s stepfather said that on March 8—four days before Byerley’s body was found—Jordan called him for help at 4:30 a.m. after the car accident. He said that Jordan lost control, went over a 12-foot embankment and hit a tree. He recalled that he and Jordan’s mother “pulled glass out of (Jordan’s) head for about an hour.”

Sharon Monterrosol testified that she met Byerley and Byerley’s boyfriend, Marco Villo-Gomez, in November 1997—five months prior to the murder—and that Byerley had a black eye. Monterrosol testified that a month later, she overheard Marco Villo-Gomez threatening to kill “her,” although he did not specify Byerley by name. Monterrosol said Villo-Gomez lived elsewhere, but often stayed with relatives in the same apartment complex where Byerley lived.

David Cockrill, who lived next door to Byerley, said he was awakened at about 3 a.m. on the day Byerley was killed by a disturbance in her apartment. He said he heard a male voice shouting angrily in Spanish, but he could not understand what was said.

The defense also presented evidence that in April 1998—a month after the murder—Villo-Gomez pled guilty to assaulting Byerley in October 1997—six months before her death. He was sentenced to jail for almost a year.

On October 18, 2002, the jury convicted Jordan of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

After his conviction was upheld on appeal, Jordan filed a post-conviction petition seeking a new trial and attorney Gena Lewis was appointed to the case. Subsequently, an amended petition was filed in March 2008 and three days of hearings were held.

Testimony at the hearings showed that in June 1998, Carpenter, the lead investigator, received a telephone tip from a woman who identified herself as Alicia Holloway and said that a Mexican national named Alfredo, whom she met at the Airport Inn—where Jordan lived—said he had killed Byerley and showed her a knife which he said he had used. Carpenter reported that on June 24, 1998, he interviewed Alfredo Vaesia, who admitted he knew a woman named Alicia, but he denied ever telling her that he killed Byerley. According to Carpenter’s report, Vaesia said he was in North Carolina at the time of the murder.

Carpenter did, however, confiscate a knife from Vaesia that fit the description given by Holloway. Carpenter did not investigate any further after concluding that no one by the name of Alicia Holloway existed.

The defense discovered that Carpenter had failed to disclose to the prosecutor and the defense a report from March 13—the day after Byerley’s body was found—that detailed interviews with Mexican nationals at the apartment complex where Byerley lived. That report listed 18 names of men who were photographed and fingerprinted. One of those men was Alfredo Vaesia—strongly suggesting that in fact Vaesia was not in North Carolina at the time of the murder.

The defense also showed that Carpenter additionally failed to disclose that on April 9, 1998—not quite a month after Byerley’s body was found, a witness reported finding a knife near a shed by the side of Wheeler Road, about a quarter of a mile from where the body was discovered. The knife had been turned over to the crime lab, but was never tested.

The trial judge denied the motion for a new trial, but in January 2011, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals vacated Jordan’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The appeals court ruled that the withholding of the evidence had prevented Jordan from having a fair trial. “We conclude that the state failed to disclose evidence that was both favorable and material to the defense in violation of (Jordan’s) right to due process,” the court said. Jordan was released on bond pending a retrial.

Further defense investigation revealed that Carpenter also had concealed a statement from Connie Collins, an upstairs neighbor of Byerley. Collins corroborated David Cockrill’s testimony that Byerley came home after she was seen with Jordan outside the bar. The defense also discovered evidence that Alicia Holloway was in fact a real person whose foster parents were still living in Blount County.

Jordan went to trial a second time in March 2015. Following presentation of the evidence that had been concealed and the evidence the defense subsequently discovered, the jury acquitted Jordan on March 28, 2015.

In March 2016, Jordan filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Blount County and Carpenter as well as District Attorney Mike Flynn and former assistant district attorney James Brooks, who was the trial prosecutor. In 2017, Jordan's lawyers amended the lawsuit and dismissed Flynn as a defendant. In July 2017, U.S. District Judge Pamela Reeves dismissed the suit, ruling that it was filed too late. In March 2018, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reinstated the lawsuit, ruling it was properly filed in time. The lawsuit was settled in August 2021 for $85,000.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/29/2016
Last Updated: 9/23/2021
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1998
Sentence:23 years
Age at the date of reported crime:27
Contributing Factors:Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No