DENVER (AP) — The Colorado Court of Appeals has overturned the conviction of a Longmont man who was found guilty of killing his ex-wife in 1987 and dumping her body in a Boulder County canyon.
Kevin Elmarr was sentenced to life in prison after he was convicted in 2009 of first-degree murder in the strangulation death of Carol Murphy, whose throat had also been slit. Her nude body was found May 23, 1987, by hikers near a trailhead in Lefthand Canyon.
The appeals court said Thursday a district court judge erred by excluding evidence pointing to six other suspects.
Elmarr was linked by DNA to the slaying. A jury deliberated 16 hours before finding him guilty.
Elmarr denied being with his ex-wife the day she was killed and told investigators he hadn't been intimate with her for years. One of her lovers probably committed the crime, he said.
An attorney for Elmarr argued that tests could not exclude her boyfriend, Willy Taylor, testimony that the judge later allowed. But the judge denied evidence about the other five suspects. The court said two of the other suspects should have been presented as suspects, including her new husband, Curtis Murphy, who witnesses said threatened to kill his wife a week before her death, and a man who confessed to the crime.
The trial court said Curtis Murphy's death threat was not directly tied to the crime and there was no evidence the victim came near Carol Murphy that day.
The court said testimony should have been allowed about another suspect, Clifton St. Denis, who told police he was in the area where the victim was found and may have killed the woman. He was later confined to a mental hospital, after he confessed to strangling his roommate in 1987 and threatened another woman with a knife in Boulder later that year, according to court records. He also claimed he killed two other people.
The trial court excluded the testimony from St. Denis, saying the evidence was not conclusive. He later denied any involvement in the murder.
"By presenting circumstantial evidence that St. Denis had committed the murder, (the) defendant attempted to cast doubt on the perpetrator's identity. Accordingly, the court should have evaluated the totality of the circumstances to determine whether the evidence was admissible," the appeals court ruled.
The public defender had no immediate reaction to the ruling. The attorney general's office said it had not decided whether to appeal.
By Steven K. Paulson, AP Writer (© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
for more features.