|San Jacinto News-Times - Local News
Stories Added - October 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company
Hair obtained by Texas Innoncece Project
taken for DNA testing in Pennsylvania
San Jacinto News- Times
COLDSPRING – San Jacinto County Criminal District Attorney Investigator David Clark and a representative from the Texas Innocence Project took a tiny, one-inch hair fragment found at a 1989 murder scene and stored away in the county district clerk’s offi ce to Pennsylvania Monday for advanced DNA testing. The only piece of physical evidence in the conviction of Claude Jones, who was executed in 2000 for the murder of Point Blank liquor store owner Allen Hilzendager, has been sought after for years by the Innocence Project, the Innocence Project of Texas and the Texas Innocence Network who fi led motions in state court in San Jacinto County asking for a restraining order that would prevent offi cials from destroying the evidence and seeking a court order to conduct DNA testing that could determine whether the hair matches Jones’. The hair, which was found on a counter where Hilzendager was shot and killed, was central in Jones’ trial and post-conviction appeals. An expert for the state testifi ed at the trial that the hair was consistent with Jones. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals narrowly upheld Jones’ conviction in a 3-2 ruling where the majority specifi cally cited the hair evidence as the necessary “corroboration’ to uphold the conviction. Former San Jacinto County Criminal District Attorney Bill Burnett, who was one of the prosecutors during Jones’ trial, would not agree to the DNA testing without a court order. Prior to fi ling the suit, an open records request for the hair was fi led by the Innocence Project. Burnett refused saying that physical evidence is not covered under the Open Record’s Act. His action was upheld by a Texas Attorney General’s opinion. Other than the hair, the primary evidence against Jones was testimony from Timothy Jordan, who said that Jones told him he committed the murder. Jordan and Kerry Dixon were initially arrested for the November 1989 liquor store robbery and murder of Hilzendager. Jones was later arrested and he and Dixon were charged in the crime. In an affi - davit in 2004, Jordan stated that everything he reported at trial about the robbery and killing he learned from Dixon, not from Jones. Jordan’s affi davit also states that he testifi ed against Jones in an attempt to receive a reduced sentence in the case and an unrelated robbery. According to the Innocence Project, mitochondrial DNA testing on the hair evidence could establish Jones’ guilt; whether the hair comes from the charged accomplice Dixon, which would support a claim that Jones was innocent since Dixon denied being in the store; or that the hair came from the victim or some other individual, excluding Jones and contradicting the critical evidence against him at trial and relied on by the appeals court, would mean there was not legally suffi cient evidence to convict Jones, much less execute him.