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Special hearing in Chain of Rocks murder case concludes for the week

Special hearing in Chain of Rocks murder case concludes for the week

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ST. LOUIS • A special review of Reginald Clemons' death sentence in the 1991 Chain of Rocks Bridge double murder case ended for the week on Thursday.

Lawyers for both sides intend to call at least one more witness each, which will be done through depositions out of the public eye.

The attorneys will then submit legal briefs by Dec. 1 to Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Michael Manners, who the Missouri Supreme Court appointed as "special master" to review the case.

After that, the parties may reconvene for final statements before the judge. Manners is expected to take several months before submitting all the evidence and a final recommendation to the high court, which would then begin its process of reviewing Clemons' appeal. 

Ultimately, the court could decide anything from upholding the conviction or vacating it, to ordering a new trial.

After the hearing Thursday, family of the victims, Robin and Julie Kerry, said they are one step closer in their more than 20-year wait for closure.

"I'm glad, for all intents and purposes, it's over," said Virginia Kerry, mother of the two young women. "Now I can start burying everything again. I don't have to deal with these people who say he's innocent."

For Clemons' family, it's also been a hard journey.

Bishop Reynolds Thomas, of the New Life Worship Complex, said fighting his son's case has plunged him into bankruptcy. But it was worth it, he said. He still firmly believes his son is innocent.

"After 20 years, we took it as far as we could," he said. "Now we just take it one day at a time."

Thursday's hearing brought several state witnesses who testified they saw Clemons without any apparent injuries after the police interrogation in which he claims his confession was beaten out of him. Among those who took the stand were a fingerprint technician and a family friend.

Several lab technicians also were called to speak to the testing of biological evidence. Items tested included a rape kit taken from Julie Kerry, a used condom found on the bridge, and pants and boxers taken from Marlin Gray, one of three men convicted of the crime separately from Clemons.

The evidence was re-tested in recent years with new DNA technology.

Stacey Bolinger, of the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Lab, said the rape kit did not have sufficient DNA evidence to test. Julie Kerry's body had been in the Mississippi River for three weeks and was moderately decomposed when two fisherman found it. Robin Kerry's body was never recovered.

There was male DNA from at least two individuals on Gray's boxers and from at least three individuals on his pants. Clemons could not be eliminated as a source of it, she said.

Also on the clothing was the same female DNA that was found on the condom. Kim Gorman, formerly of the St. Louis police crime lab, testified that DNA had "a very high likelihood" of belonging to one of the Kerry sisters.

Jennifer S. Mann is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Related to this story

April 5, 1991 • Sisters Julie and Robin Kerry are raped by men they encounter on the old Chain of Rocks Bridge and are forced off to their dea…

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