Two Roanoke women killed less than six months apart. Their unclothed bodies left about a mile from each other. Both strangled during or after sex.
For almost a quarter-century, any connection between the slayings of Cynthia Denise McCray, a 21-year-old black woman dumped under an Interstate 581 overpass, and Audrey Anne West, a 33-year-old white woman propped on her son’s teddy bear pillow in Old Southwest, was cloaked by their differences. In West’s case, investigators doggedly pursued her ex-husband, who was cleared years later by DNA testing.
A computer finally made the connection in 2007. After the development of DNA testing and the state criminal DNA database, a fresh analysis of evidence from the mid-1980s homicides led to a surprise suspect: a man who had spent nearly all the time since the slayings behind bars, serving a decades-long sentence for the rape and sodomy of a 14-year-old.
William Ray Hagy Jr., 49, known as “Ray” in his life outside prison and as “Shaky” behind bars, goes on trial today in Roanoke Circuit Court in the 1984 slaying of McCray. The case against him will rest on the new DNA tests and on the word of a jailhouse snitch — a convicted swindler who said Hagy implicated himself in prison conversations.
Hagy faces other trials, for the 1985 rape and killing of West, and the abduction and rape of a teenager in 1984. Those cases and McCray’s were linked in 2007, when a cold-case detective submitted old evidence for testing that wasn’t available in the 1980s.
Retired Roanoke police Officer Covar Gardner, who spent decades with the force and helped investigate both the McCray and West cases, said last week he’s still shocked that Hagy was implicated in both. “His name never came up. He was never suspected of anything,” Gardner said. Similarities between the West and McCray slayings “didn’t set off any alarms,” Gardner said. The two women just “lived totally different lives.”
Both homicide investigations went dormant. Roanoke Detective L.P. Manning, the police department’s cold-case specialist, unearthed McCray’s files in 2007. He decided to submit DNA evidence to the state lab so it could be compared with state databases of prisoners and felons. About the same time, the son of West and Urick asked the detective to take another look at West’s killing. Manning submitted DNA evidence from her case, too. Both cases matched Hagy, whose DNA had been catalogued for other convictions. Read the disturbing full article here.