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Mon Jun 24, 2019, 12:01 PM

How Many Murder Cases Did Celeb Forensic Scientist Henry Lee Botch?

Before he became a true-crime celebrity, forensic scientist Henry Lee took the stand at a wildly bloody murder trial in Connecticut. It was spring of 1989 and the then-50-year-old Chinese-American hadn’t yet worked on his splashiest cases, from O.J. Simpson and JonBenet Ramsey to Scott Peterson.

In the Connecticut trial, Lee faced a difficult task. As the star witness paid by the state, he was asked to back up the prosecution’s story that two homeless teenagers had butchered 65-year-old father Everett Carr—slitting his throat and stabbing him 27 times at his daughter’s home—without getting any blood on themselves, or leaving behind a shred of physical evidence.

Lee wore a crisp suit as he took a seat next to the judge. When questioned, he testified that a reddish-brown stain found on a towel in the bathroom was “identified to be blood.” Despite the violent and messy nature of the attack—which left walls and floors in the home soaked in blood—he said it was possible that the killers had fled without a drop of blood on their clothing.

His testimony bolstered the state’s claim that 17-year-old Shawn Henning and 18-year-old Ricky Birch had used the towel to clean themselves up after a “burglary gone bad.” It played a huge role in convicting the friends, who were sentenced to decades behind bars.

The problem is, it wasn’t true. There was in fact no blood on the towel, and it had never actually been lab-tested, the Connecticut Supreme Court recently concluded. The ruling could lead to the exoneration of both men, who are in their fifties. The case features bombshell new DNA evidence—possibly pointing to a female killer—and witnesses who have since recanted, including a jailhouse snitch and a friend of Henning’s who testified he’d confessed to being at the home.


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