Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gauen: Legal Finality Elusive in 1970s Kidnap-Murders

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gauen: Legal Finality Elusive in 1970s Kidnap-Murders

Article excerpt

On March 29, 1978, somebody raped a 58-year-old woman in her home in Alton, stabbed her 33 times and fled with a misplaced certainty that she was dead.

Very much alive, she picked out a past sex offender named David Gray as her attacker, although his mother provided him with an alibi.

Gray was in prison for 20 years before an inconvenient fact emerged. DNA testing, invented in the interim, showed that a semen stain almost certainly left by the rapist was not his.

I recall the philosophical conversation I had at the time with Madison County's then-state's attorney, William R. Haine. As a layman, I told him, my common sense suggested that Gray should go free. Haine saw it through a lawyer's eyes.

"He was convicted in a fair trial by a jury and his conviction was upheld by the appellate courts," he explained in a quote I published at the time. "There has to be some finality, at some point, in the legal process. The question for us to decide is what role this evidence would have played in the trial years ago."

Haine eventually did let Gray walk. No one else was ever arrested.

That concern for finality stuck in my head. Crime victims crave it, as a foundation for some closure. The woman in Alton surely took comfort in thinking her attacker was behind bars; she did not live to see him freed.

Sometimes the road to finality has curves. O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder in a criminal trial but found responsible by a civil jury.

In the St. Louis area, few such roads have included more twists than the crimes associated with Gregory Bowman.

Just 24 days after that Alton rape, Elizabeth West, 14, disappeared while walking home from a play at the old Belleville West High School. Her body turned up later, strangled and presumably raped.

Belleville's panic intensified when Ruth Ann Jany, 21, disappeared downtown about 2 months later, after using what was then a newfangled banking device an ATM. Her bones were found the next year.

Shortly after Jany disappeared, a woman escaped from a man who abducted her outside a Belleville laundromat. Bowman was identified and convicted. He already had served a prison term for kidnapping a teenager elsewhere in 1972. …

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