A St. Louis County jury convicted Gerald Carnahan of first-degree murder and forcible rape on Thursday afternoon for the death of Jackie Johns 25 years ago in Greene County, MO. Barring a successful appeal, the 52-year-old man will spend the rest of his life in prison.
The murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of the rest of his life in prison without chance of parole. After a separate sentencing hearing, the jury then recommended a life (30-year) sentence on the rape conviction; that crime carries a range of five years to life in prison. Circuit Judge Michael Jamison then decided the two sentences will run consecutively.
Carnahan and his wife have two daughters, ages 6 and 8. His family has told reporters that his wife, who is from Asia, had no idea when she married him that he was a suspect for the crimes in 1985.
Investigators long believed that Carnahan raped and beat Jackie Johns, 20, of Nixa in June 1985 and dumped her body in Lake Springfield. They started looking at him as a suspect within a week of the murder but didn’t have enough evidence to charge him until three years ago. He was charged in 2007 after criminalists said that DNA evidence in semen found on Johns’ body matched Carnahan’s DNA.
Defense attorneys challenged the validity of the DNA evidence, based on how crime scene samples were stored and handled for 25 years. Defense attorney Dee Wampler said that the DNA evidence appears to be the reason in the conviction, even though defense attorneys raised questions about that evidence extensively during the trial. He said in an interview that it’s clear that jurors put great faith in the science of evidence analysis. Wampler said he believes he has 50 or more grounds for appeals, and plans to use them. Read more here.