DNA tests due by March 1 in Nemnich murder case

A judge Wednesday set a deadline of March 1 for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to finish testing for DNA evidence in the July 1975 slayings of a Grand Junction mother and daughter.

The order was issued by District Judge Brian Flynn during a motions hearing in the case of 65-year-old Jerry Nemnich.

Flynn’s move came after Nemnich’s defense earlier this month filed motions for sanctions against the prosecution, claiming several items of evidence from the crime scene are now missing.

Defense lawyers said in another motion they were denied access by CBI to review other items of evidence.

“It just seems illogical why you can have evidence at the police department, but when it’s stuck in this queue at CBI, nobody has access to it,” Flynn said.

Prosecutors on Wednesday handed over a list of some 24 items still awaiting testing. District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said CBI officials have told him the items, which were not specified during Wednesday’s hearing, are contained in sealed packages, and attorneys can’t do their own analysis until CBI lab agents finish their work.

“I’m told by CBI we’re at the front of the queue for testing,” Hautzinger told the judge. “I’ve told them we and the defense need this information as soon as possible.”

Nemnich’s blood, confirmed through DNA, was present in 1975 at the Grand Junction apartment of Linda Benson, 24, and her daughter, Kelley, 5, who were stabbed to death, authorities have said.

Nemnich pleaded not guilty in the murders and is scheduled for a three-week jury trial, starting April 19.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, acknowledged several items of evidence collected during the original investigation in 1975 are missing from the Grand Junction Police Department’s evidence room and remain unaccounted for: drapes from Linda Benson’s apartment; several rocks from outside the apartment; photographic slides; and a pocket knife belonging to Steve Benson, Linda Benson’s common-law husband.

According to a prosecution court filing, Steve Benson volunteered the existence of the knife to law enforcement in 1975, and gave it to investigators. It’s believed the knife was returned by investigators to Benson.

Prosecutors wrote in a court filing there is no evidence of bad faith on the part of police, suggesting the missing property reflects the age of the case ” ... and the fact the evidence has been handled by several generations of evidence custodians, officers, and detectives, using different generations of paperwork and evidence-management procedures.”

 


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