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Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2003

DNA technology leads to arrest in 1980s deaths

August 16, 2003

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— A Kansas City man was charged with raping and killing two women in the late 1980s in a case broken by police using new DNA technology.

Michael L. Gorman, 43, was arrested Tuesday and charged Wednesday with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of rape in the deaths of Christina L. Williams, 24, in 1988 and Connie Tindall, 82, in 1989.

Gorman denied raping the victims and denied killing them. He was being held without bond after a court appearance Thursday.

Williams was seen early on April 1, 1988, with two men in a white Pontiac Bonneville in Blue Valley Park. She was found, partially nude, later that day, dead of a single gunshot wound.

A witness told police that Williams had been with a man named Michael, and an anonymous tipster told police that a man named Michael had committed the killing. Gorman told police he sometimes drove a white Pontiac Bonneville, which belonged to a friend. He denied killing Williams.

Court records gave this account of the second slaying, which occurred Aug. 1, 1989:

A neighbor found Tindall's body slumped over her couch about noon and called police. Tindall had been raped, beaten and strangled in her home. Gorman lived on the same block.

Officers found Gorman's fingerprints on Tindall's telephone, and prosecutors charged him. The charges were later dropped because Gorman had dated Tindall's granddaughter, giving him an explanation for the fingerprints.

Shortly after both crimes, police suspected Gorman and collected hairs from him. But at the time, authorities lacked the sophisticated techniques that now are available. The hairs and other evidence sat in storage for years.

Earlier this year, Homicide Sgt. Barb Eckert came upon the two slayings as she leafed through unsolved cases. She saw the potential for using new DNA technology and asked the crime lab to compare Gorman's hairs with DNA from the crime scenes.

Technicians matched DNA from Gorman's hairs to DNA found on both women. The test results came back Sunday.

"This is an example of another case that never would have had charges filed without DNA evidence," said Ted Hunt, the assistant Jackson County prosecutor handling the cases. "It shows how important DNA is in solving crimes nowadays."

The Jackson County prosecutor's office counted 14 rape or murder cases in which "cold" DNA hits have led to charges. A cold hit generally means that DNA linked someone to a crime who had never been a suspect. Authorities often find the connections by checking crime scene DNA against that of convicts.

Gorman's case isn't considered a cold hit because police already suspected him.

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