It's been called the most anticipated murder trial
in the Ozarks in the past quarter century, and it's underway this week in St. Louis County after a judge ordered a change-of-venue for a story well-known in southwestern Missouri.
For 25 years Gerald Carnahan
has been the chief suspect in the rape and murder of Jackie Johns
, a 20-year-old woman whose sports car was found abandoned -- the backseat covered in blood -- in July 1985. Several days later, fisherman in Lake Springfield pulled her nude body from the water.
Witnesses reported seeing Carnahan, now 52, parked in a convenience store lot where Johns stopped before disappearing. In 1986 a grand jury indicted him for lying to prosecutors and tampering with evidence regarding John's death. Those charges were later dismissed.
In the years that followed Carnahan has been in and out of trouble, spending two years behind bars for attempting to kidnap an 18-year-old girl in Springfield. He was sentenced to another 15 months in prison for scuffling with police in another incident. He also served another four years for burglarizing a business and setting it ablaze.
In 2007, Missouri Highway Patrol trooper Sgt. Dan Nash
asked to review cold cases within the department. He was handed the Jackie Johns file and found that authorities had preserved vaginal swabs taken from the the body. Nash got Johns' boyfriend at the time of her murder to submit DNA and found no match. He then got a subpoena to check Carnahan's DNA. The result came back positive.
Yesterday, attorneys in St. Louis County agreed on a panel of jurors to hear the case. The trial is expected to last two weeks.
For more details on the murder and investigation, check out The Crime Scene
-- a great blog dedicated to tracking crime in southern Missouri.