Man convicted in 1985 infant murder hopes DNA can get him new trial
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A man who twice was sentenced to death for the murder of a 15-month-old girl says new DNA evidence should get him another trial.
Drew Terrell was sentenced to death for the 1985 murder and sexual assault of infant Laura Hampton, the child of a woman who shared a Little Village apartment with Terrell and his mother. Terrell’s lawyers have said modern testing showed DNA samples taken at a hospital, and later by the medical examiner in the 1980s, showed DNA from at least three men — none of them a match for Terrell.
At a hearing Wednesday at the Leighton Criminal Court Buildling, prosecutors and Terrell’s lawyers put dueling DNA experts on the stand.
The defense expert said it was impossible for the crime to have happened the way prosecutors say, without Terrell leaving behind some of his own DNA.
The state’s expert noted that the DNA from the different men was found inside the infant’s heart as well, likely from men who donated blood used for the multiple transfusions the child received.
“The DNA evidence does not match (Terrell), and it’s not consistent with the confession,” defense attorney Daniel Coyne told the Chicago Sun-Times. “That’s a pretty big point.”
According to court records, Terrell, who had just turned 18 around the time of the murder, initially told police that he’d found the girl’s body near fallen stereo equipment.
When confronted by detectives about the nature of the child’s injuries — her vagina and anus were badly torn — Terrell admitted to brutally beating and maiming the child, police said. Terrell made conflicting statements about his confession at trial.
Mark Ertler, head of the State’s Attorney Forensic Science Unit, said that the new DNA evidence was not significant enough to assume that jurors would reach a different verdict if Terrell were to get a new trial.
Terrell was sentenced to death in 1986, and again in 1989 after an appeal, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison by former Gov. George Ryan.
Marketter Hampton, Laura’s mother, sat through the three-hour hearing Wednesday, as she has every hearing in her daughter’s case and Terrell’s appeals. Hampton said she had questions about the DNA evidence, but remained convinced of Hampton’s guilt.
Hampton, who now lives in Minnesota, planned to fly back for the next court date in February.
“Listening to this is like someone stabbing you in the heart with a knife this long,” Hampton said. “I’ve been to the trials, the sentencings. It’s like putting salt on the wound, and alcohol and everything you can think of to make it hurt.”