Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Conviction in date slaying

A Doraville woman who wanted to pay a handyman for fixing her air conditioner with a date paid instead with her life.
The handyman, Robert Lee Vaughn, 46, of Decatur, was convicted Tuesday of malice and felony murder in the 1999 slaying of Agnes Lee. The nine-woman, three-man jury deliberated just three hours.
Robert Lee Vaughn of Decatur was convicted of felony murder for the 1999 death of Agnes Lee. The jury spent three hours deliberating the case.

Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Dawson Jackson sentenced Vaughn to life in prison.
A key to the case was the jury's interpretation of DNA evidence taken from a single strand of hair found twisted around a bolt under Vaughn's SUV.
Vaughn had been accused of strangling Lee, 49, of Doraville, and running her over with his car. Her nude body was found April 1, 1999, by a construction worker in an office building parking lot near Jones Mill Road in Norcross.
According to testimony, Lee had tried to repay Vaughn for fixing the air conditioner by going out with him.
Detectives searched Lee's apartment, but found few clues except for the name "Robert" written in the March 31 square of a wall calendar. A worker at the apartment complex told police he saw Lee with a man at her place that night. He said the man was driving a new, gold Ford Explorer.
Police searched for the Explorer for a month and made little progress until Lee's adult daughter found Vaughn's phone number in her mother's address book. Detectives tracked Vaughn down and discovered he drove a gold Ford Explorer and had gone on a date with Lee the night she went missing, authorities said.
When police first approached Vaughn to ask him about Lee, he fainted, former Gwinnett police Detective David Henry testified.
Investigators found a strand of hair underneath the Explorer, and traces of human blood inside the vehicle, Henry testified. DNA tests showed the hair could have been Lee's, medical experts testified during the trial. But tests could not determine who the blood belonged to.
During closing arguments Tuesday, Vaughn's defense attorneys disputed the accuracy of the DNA tests conducted by the FBI. Prosecutor Tom Davis called two experts, including the FBI examiner who conducted the DNA test, and both agreed the hair could be Lee's.
During the two-week trial, Vaughn's attorneys called three experts who disputed the findings of the DNA tests and questioned the methods used to conduct them.
Some of the testimony given by the state's DNA experts was also contradictory, said Thomas Lenzer, one of Vaughn's attorneys.
"Their experts do not even agree with each other," said Lenzer. "You can tell from the evidence that it is unlikely that the hair came from Agnes Lee."
When Vaughn was first questioned by detectives, he denied seeing Lee the evening she went missing. But later, during a two-hour videotaped interrogation, Vaughn admitted that he had gone to dinner with Lee.
"Why did he lie repeatedly about the last time he'd seen Agnes Lee?" asked Davis. "Because he knows he killed her that night. This case doesn't just stand or fall because of the hair. There is other evidence that points to his guilt."


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