Clarksburg rape case DNA match identified
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A man who defense lawyers say matches DNA in the 2001 home invasion robbery and rape of an elderly Clarksburg woman has been identified.
Lawyers for Joseph Buffey, the man who has spent more than a decade in prison for the crime, said Thursday morning that a recent database hit indicates that Adam D. Bowers' DNA was found at the scene of the woman's rape.
Bowers, 27, is currently serving time on charges of unlawful assault and breaking and entering. According to one media blog, Bowers had broken into the home of a woman and punched her in the face several times before making off with cash and a bottle of pills.
Buffey's lawyers mentioned Bowers' criminal past in a previous court motion.
Harrison County Circuit Judge Thomas Bedell on Thursday permitted Innocence Project lawyer Nina Morrison to release the man's name to the public, but postponed a ruling that would release Buffey from prison on bail.
But while Harrison prosecutors have confirmed that police have launched an investigation into Bowers' possible involvement in the rape and robbery, they say the evidence in the case still does not point to Buffey's innocence.
"Basically, the DNA test has revealed that, at the very least, there was most likely another perpetrator at the scene," Harrison County Prosecuting Attorney Joe Shaffer said. "Our position at this time is that it does not necessarily exonerate Mr. Buffey."
In 2002, before the West Virginia State Police lab returned initial test results on sperm samples found at the scene of the rape, and against the advice of his trial attorney, Buffey entered a guilty plea to two counts of sexual assault and one count of first-degree robbery.
A judge later sentenced him to 40 years in prison on the robbery and consecutive 15- to 35-year terms on the sexual assaults.
Buffey told his attorney at the time that he knew the test results would come back negative and insisted on going ahead with the plea anyway, according to portions of a transcript from appeals proceedings.
During the initial stage of the investigation, police believed that the woman, known in court filings only as Ms. L, had just one attacker, Shaffer said. Because Buffey pled to being the sole perpetrator of the crime, investigators did not have a chance to determine whether a second person was at the scene, he said.
David Romano, the assistant prosecutor representing the state in Buffey's current appeal, said that investigators have known since the first test results came back in 2002 that an unknown profile was found at the scene. Buffey's DNA was never found, but that doesn't mean he wasn't at the scene and didn't commit the crime, Romano said.
"He said he did it. You do not always need DNA when you have penetration," Romano said. "This does not change anything unless someone comes forward and says something dramatic."
Morrison and Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck would not comment on whether Buffey and Bowers know each other. They declined to allow Buffey to testify during Thursday's hearing.
"It's not a stranger," Romano said. "The real issue is whether Mr. Buffey has a connection. They refused to make a representation one way or the other."
During the course of the appeal, Buffey's lawyers accused former Clarksburg Police Detective R.G. Matheny of coercing a "quasi-confession" from Buffey during an hours-long interrogation that lasted until the early morning. In that confession, he told the investigators that he "first encountered the lady in the dining room" and that she "flipped out" and began yelling and screaming, according to court filings.
Buffey then asked the officers if they wanted to "know the truth."
"I didn't do it," he said, according to court filings.
Matheny also was accused of lying to grand jurors in an attempt to push through an indictment. According to Morrison, Matheny gave four blatantly false pieces of information during the grand jury session:
Buffey said during the interrogation that he never blacked out, according to the interrogation transcript. Later, another investigator asserts that Buffey told them he blacked out.
Buffey told the detectives that he did not know the entry point to the house, and then eventually guessed incorrectly when pressed. The police report from the Salvation Army break-in did not include that the perpetrators had stolen a flashlight, and Ms. L did not describe the knife in as much detail as Matheny provided to the grand jury, court filings indicate.
"Did he get some things maybe not precise? I don't know," Romano said Thursday. "It's not relevant."
Romano said that the grand jury proceedings do not trump the fact that Buffey pleaded guilty to the crime. Bedell set a full hearing in March that will examine the new evidence in the case.
Reach Zac Taylor at email@example.com or 304-348-5189.