DNA and fingerprints linked a medical transport worker to the rape and murder of an elderly woman in her home, a prosecutor told the court Tuesday in closing statements.
A defense attorney, however, argued that the victim had consensual sex with her client. She also accused the prosecution of ignoring a second man’s DNA at the crime scene.
Kevin Thomas Ford, 63, faces a murder charge and a special circumstance allegation of murder during a rape or burglary. A guilty verdict could result in imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
The case stems from the May 20, 1987, death of Grace Hayden, 79 in Normal Heights. Investigators arrested Ford in North Carolina last year.
He worked as a driver for elderly patients in San Diego at the time of the victim’s death. Ford drove Hayden and other patients to medical checkups, according to Deputy District Attorney Valerie Summers.
She said a receipt collected by investigators showed he drove Hayden two days before her body was found.
The prosecutor alleged in her closing arguments that Ford strangled and smothered Hayden during the rape. The suspect left behind semen, she told jurors.
Hayden suffered injuries to her face and the back of her head that indicated a “horrible struggle,” Summers said.
“The final moments of this woman’s life, which should have been in peace, were violent, sexually violent, and just nothing but pure terror,” the prosecutor said.
Authorities found a knife and a flashlight that did not belong to Hayden at the scene, according to Summers. Someone emptied the victim’s purse, leaving the contents on her bed. In addition, two burners on her stove had been left on.
A single fingerprint left on Hayden’s stovetop linked Ford to the crime.
According to testimony, investigators failed to match the fingerprint using a San Diego County database. They submitted it to a national database, though and identified Ford. Authorities had his prints on file due to a 2015 arrest on suspicion of making criminal threats.
Semen samples also connected Ford to the murder scene, Summers said. The prosecutor added that the defendant told investigators that he didn’t know Hayden. At trial, however, he testified he lied because he didn’t want to get in trouble.
He also wrote a letter to his wife saying he thought police could target him someday.
He wrote, “I didn’t know how good their evidence was,” according to Summers. She told the jury, “Well, now he knows, as do you.”
Defense attorney Courtney Cutter conceded Ford had sex with the victim. She said, however, that the prosecution based the rest of its case on assumptions.
In her closing argument, Cutter said the prosecution conveniently ignored the presence of a second man’s DNA on vaginal swabs of the victim. The identity of the second DNA contributor remains unknown.
The attorney also noted that investigators failed to find Ford’s fingerprints anywhere else in Hayden’s home. That includes on the knife or flashlight the killer used, or the items the perpetrator searched.
“We’re left with guessing at what things mean, and no matter how much you want them to mean one thing, it doesn’t make it proof that that’s so,” Cutter said.
The trial for Ford, who remains in custody, began last week at the downtown San Diego courthouse.
– City News Service
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