Convicted murderers want DNA analysis in Meagher murder case

Posted at 8:42 AM, Aug 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-03 10:42:59-04

Twenty-two years ago the body of Donna Meagher was discovered on Colorado Gulch; she had been beaten to death.

On Tuesday, the two men convicted for her murder – Freddie Lawrence and Paul Jenkins – were back in court as part of an effort to challenge their life sentences.

The victim’s family took up two rows in the courtroom, as defense and state attorneys presented evidence from the 1997 case.

Lawrence and Jenkins have requested that the state conduct tests on DNA on evidence from the murder.

Both men appeared at the hearing via video.

Attorneys from the Montana Innocence Project told Judge Kathy Seeley that swabs and hair samples from the Meagher’s body could produce a male DNA profile that doesn’t match either of the two convicted men.

The defense also said that if the DNA does not match either Jenkins or Lawrence, the DNA can be entered into a national database.

“This is a way to find out if there is another perpetrator out there; perhaps if the DNA is present, we will find who that is,” said Larry Jent, defense attorney and board member of the Montana Innocence Project.

Assistant Attorney General Catherine Truman responded by saying the autopsy showed that Meagher was not sexually assaulted, and that type of DNA should not be re-tested.

However, both sides agreed on some items to be tested, including rope found on the victim, a cigarette butt found near her body, and fingernail scrapings.

While this process isn’t easy for Meagher’s family, her daughter hopes this will solidify the 1997 verdict.

“I am fine with them testing it. I believe that it’ll probably prove the people more guilty, and they’ll be where they are for life,” said Janelle Meagher. 

Both the defense and state have 10 days from Tuesday’s hearing to submit written arguments, and then Judge Seeley will decide whether the agreed items will undergo a DNA analysis.