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Cold Justice: DNA proves one person on earth could've done it

Kelly Siegler (l.) pictured with Yolanda McClary......celebrating a successful investigation.
Kelly Siegler (l.) pictured with Yolanda McClary......celebrating a successful investigation.
Yolanda McClary

When there's a DNA match in the quadrennials it doen't take a math major to figure out who committed a murder, according to the Jan. 24 episode of Cold Justice on TNT, season two. Most prosecutors and investigators will tell you a DNA match in the millions is powerful evidence. When you get past the billions and the trillions, then you can safely assume there is only one person on planet earth who could have committed the murder.

When seventy-eight year Willie Louise Kellum's body is found after being sexually assaulted and strangled to death, the community of Camp Hill, Ala. is puzzled in 2005 as to who could possibly have a motive for murdering this nice lady who no one could believe would have any enemies.

When former prosecutor Kelly Siegler and former Las Vegas Police Department investigator Yolanda McClary hit town, the grateful chief of police opens his files to them and the array of possible suspects included therein. The town of 800 does not have the finances to afford modern technology in the investigation of this case.

Since this victim was raped before she was murdered, Siegler and McClary wisely decide to send her panties off to the DNA lab for testing in the hopes the perpetrator left some evidence behind on his victim's clothing. While they are awaiting results on the DNA testing, Siegler and McClary scour the town interviewing witnesses and possible suspects.

On the morning of Feb. 21, 2005, Willie Louise Kellum stops in at a grocery store in her hometown of Camp Hill, Ala. That was the last place she was seen alive. A cook for forty years at the local Headstart, she attended the United Methodist Church every Sunday with many family and friends.

Her grandson called 9-1-1 later that same day when he discoverd her body with a cord wrapped around her neck.

McClary said, "We prove the rape, we prove the murder."

Her words were to prove prophetic as the DNA did match one of the suspects. But before the DNA results come back, the investigators weed through the suspects. Her grandson Douglas lived with her and the cord that was used to strangle her came from his headphones.

In fact, when Chief of Police Roosevelt Findlay entered the dark crime scene he almost shot Douglas. He said, "My finger was on the trigger when I recognized it was Douglas."

"Would a grandson rape and murder his own grandmother?" Siegler asks rhetorically before answering her own question. "I don't know."

Her blouse was pulled up and her trousers leg pulled down leading detectives to believe a rape was involved.

McClary said, "Really hope we get DNA."

Another grandson Eric Freeman is also on the list of suspects. He's also staying at his grandmother's house and there are phone calls from his phone to his grandmother's phone near the time of the murder.

When confronted by the TNT team, Eric breaks down, tears sprawling down his cheeks. "I think it might've been happening to her when I tried to call her all those times," he said.

When the grandson's are eliminated it all comes down to Merkis Heard, who is in prison on another charge. His ironclad alibi which held up during the first investigation in 2005 crumbles under the interrogation of retired Houston investigator D.D. Shirley.

It seems that while he told police he was with girlfriend Latoria during the day of the murder there is a gap a mile wide in his story. Latoria admits to police she didn't see him for a three hour period on the day of the murder.

McClary then announces all three of the stains from the victim's panties matched the DNA of Merkis Heard to the tune of one in 3.64 quadrillion. Slam dunk.

As Siegler said, there is no argument with DNA evidence. (Unless you were involved with the O.J. Simpson murder trial of the century).

Siegler met with DA E. Paul Jones who said he would present the case to the grand jury and request indictment for capital murder.

Looks like Heard will not be paroling out of prison in seven years after all.

Cold Justice came along at the perfect time in history to solve many murders which were committed before the use of DNA to help solve the 200,000 unsolved cases in rural America.

Wichita Falls, Tex. attorney Gary Southard said this was one of his favorite shows after Siegler and McClary discovered a man who'd been indicted for murder in Texas had never been prosecuted.

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