Kentucky Convict Seeks DNA Testing in 1987 Murder
NEWPORT, Ky. -- A man who has served 26 years in prison for a 1987 murder in Kentucky will have a hearing to argue for DNA testing on evidence that he believes will clear him of the crime.
Campbell Circuit Court Judge Fred Stine on Friday scheduled arguments on May 24 in the motion by William "Ricky" Virgil, who was convicted in the death of Retha Welch. The commonwealth attorney's office asked for more time to prepare its arguments.
The Kentucky Enquirer reports that Virgil's attorney wants DNA tests done on semen and a cigarette butt recovered from the crime scene, as well as unidentified hairs and small spots found on Welch's body and clothes.
"Obviously, we don't want any more moss to grow under this case," said Linda A. Smith, Virgil's attorney and director of the Kentucky Innocence Project. "The man has already been in prison for 26 years."
Welch, a 54-year-old Christian minister and psychiatric nurse at the VA Medical Center, was found in her Newport apartment stabbed repeatedly and beaten. Virgil, who lived in Cincinnati at the time, admitted he knew Welch, but denied killing her.
Until recently, post-conviction DNA testing was only available to death row inmates in Kentucky, but the General Assembly passed a bill in March that opened the possibility for the testing for other inmates serving time for violent crimes and other serious felonies.
Smith said at the time, spots on the victim's clothes were too small for even blood typing.
"They couldn't even tell if it was human blood," she said.
Smith said that a recent ruling by the Kentucky Supreme Court in another case will boost her arguments for new DNA testing in Virgil's case. The high court ruled in favor of new DNA tests in the case of a 1992 Meade County murder.
"Protecting a dubious conviction at any cost is not in anyone's best interest, and I'm beyond stunned that the commonwealth's attorney would want to waste any more time in finding out the truth," she said.