Second Trial Begins in Pair of 1985 Rapes; Man Convicted in 1986 Served 17 Years before DNA Evidence Exonerated Him
Mann, Jennifer, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
ST. LOUIS - Prosecutors offered eyewitness identification but no physical evidence to convict Lonnie Erby of rape in 1986.
With Erby long since exonerated, prosecutors this week hope physical evidence will overshadow victims' spotty memories to convince jurors that Johnnie Moore really committed the crimes.
Moore, 55, is on trial in St. Louis Circuit Court in the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl July 26, 1985, and of a 16-year-old girl Oct. 1, 1985.
Both were forced off St. Louis streets and into vacant buildings, where they were raped and sodomized at knifepoint. Each identified Erby as her attacker after Erby was caught, days after the second assault, peeping into another teenager's window. The 14-year-old picked him from a photo array and lineup, the 16-year-old from just a lineup.
But in 2003, DNA testing - not available at the time of the crimes - pointed to Moore, not Erby, prosecutors said in court. After several years, while Moore was locked up for other crimes, the match was confirmed. He was indicted in December 2010.
"The DNA in this case - the science - is what solved it," Assistant Circuit Attorney Christine Krug said in opening statements Tuesday. "It couldn't be anyone other than Johnnie Moore."
Moore's public defender, Kevin Gau, argued otherwise.
He pointed out that the 16-year-old's clothing showed not only her DNA and Moore's but also that of a third, unidentified person. Moore's DNA also was found on the 14-year-old's jeans, but so was that of another person besides the girl.
"After 27 years," Gau told the jurors, "you'll probably be left with more questions than answers, and that's because the science doesn't solve the case."
Krug said the 16-year-old had consensual sex with her boyfriend the morning of the rape.
The Post-Dispatch generally does not identify victims of sexual assault.
TWO TEENS ATTACKED
The 14-year-old was heading from her house on Maffitt Avenue to a nearby store when a man grabbed her from behind, put a knife to her throat and forced her into an empty garage. …