Mississippi police: DNA led to charges in 1990 killing, rape

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi police say they have charged a man in the Labor Day 1990 killing of one woman and rape of another, using DNA to connect him to the crime scene.

Michael Wayne Devaughn, 52, of Rienzi is charged with capital murder in the slaying of 65-year-old Betty Jones and sexual battery in the rape of 81-year-old Kathryn Crigler, Starkville Police Sgt. Bill Lott said at a news conference Monday.

Jones and Crigler, who were friends, were attacked at Crigler’s Starkville home Sept. 3, 1990.

Devaughn was arrested Saturday and remained in the Oktibbeha County Jail on Monday with bail set at $11 million. He awaited an initial court appearance Monday evening, and it was not immediately clear whether he is represented by an attorney.

Lott said Jones’ throat was cut shortly after she answered the door, and she died in the home. He said Crigler was raped and injured in her own bedroom.

Crigler had only one leg because of a previous amputation, and she dragged herself to the kitchen, pulled the rotary phone off the wall and asked an operator to call 911, Lott said. Officers had to break a window to get into Crigler’s home because the attacker locked the door.

Evidence of sexual assault was taken from Crigler in the hospital, the kit was sealed and DNA evidence was tested years later, Lott said. Crigler died in a nursing home Nov. 11, 1990, the investigator said.

Lott said DNA was not widely used in crime investigations until the mid-1990s.

“The science has allowed us to get to where we are today,” said Lott, who has worked for the Starkville Police Department since 1997. He started investigating the attacks on Jones and Crigler in 2004 and sought a laboratory evaluation of the rape kit in 2005.

Starkville Police Chief Frank Nichols praised Lott for persisting in investigating the cold case.

“He refused to give up,” Nichols said at the news conference.

Nichols said DNA was tested from about 60 people. In an interview with The Associated Press, Lott would not say why investigators compared Devaughn’s DNA with DNA from the rape kit.

When Devaughn was arrested Saturday, he was in the Tishomingo County jail in northern Mississippi on drug charges unrelated to the 1990 attacks.

District Attorney Scott Colom said he will prosecute the death penalty case against Devaughn “to the full extent of the law, as fast as we possibly can.”

“It’s already been too long,” Colom said, speaking directly to the victims’ families. “We’re prepared to do everything we can to help you through this process and to make sure justice is finally received for the victims.”

Betty Jones’ grandsons, Jason and Simon Jones, were children when she was killed. They recently recorded a podcast about her slaying.

“I think, over the years, we’ve lost hope many, many, many times, over and over again,” Jason Jones told the Commercial Dispatch . “That hope would be reignited every Labor Day — there’d be this broad coverage that was like ‘Hey, remember that case?’ I feel like it was always a reminder that there was still no resolution.”


This story has been corrected to show Devaughn is charged in the killing of one woman and sexual assault of another.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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