Jackie Johns trial update: in 2007, investigators said that DNA analysis of blood in Jackie Johns’ abandoned car linked Gerald Carnahan to the crime scene, and he was charged with first-degree murder. He’s now on trial in St. Louis County Circuit Court, Missouri.
Two former crime scene investigators took the stand. Both Dwight McNiel, a former sheriff of Christian County, and Gene Gietzen, a former Springfield Regional Crime Lab employee, talked about finding Johns’ abandoned Camaro on U.S. 160, and going to Columbia to witness the autopsy of her body. They spoke about 189 items that were pulled from Johns’ car as evidence. Gietzen told defense attorney Dee Wampler that one of those items puts Gerald Carnahan either inside her car or with Johns that night. Wampler called into question the time since the crime took place, that the evidence passed through many hands, and might have degraded since it was taken.
Questions about physical evidence gathered from Jackie Johns’ car and during the autopsy of her body in June 1985 dominated the third day of testimony. McNiel and Gietzen testified about what they saw and photographed during the procedure and about the evidence that was collected. “She had been beaten severely about the face and there was significant bruising,” McNiel said. Greene County Prosecutor Darrell Moore asked McNiel to identify several pictures that were taken during the autopsy. Those picture were displayed on an overhead projector for the jury.
Pictures taken at Lake Springfield showed what appeared to be mud obscuring much of Johns’ face and body. In autopsy photos, some of that mud appeared to have been cleaned off. In those shots, dark, purplish bruises or dried blood covered most of Johns’ face, which was disfigured by significant swelling and bruising. Another photo showed a deep, red open wound in front of her right ear (which itself was sliced or tattered), which McNiel said appeared to have been caused by the bumper jack. The open head wound ran “all the way through the skull plate,” McNiel said. He said Johns also had bruises on the back of her hands and knuckles, as well as “some contusion and tearing in the vaginal area.”
Wampler conducted lengthy cross-examinations of both witnesses, repeatedly questioning how the investigation was conducted and how evidence was stored. One of the things he asked about was whether scrapings from Johns’ fingernails were gathered during the autopsy. McNiel said that fingernail scrapings were done, but he did not know where they might be. Gietzen, however, said that he didn’t think any fingernail scrapings were taken. “I don’t recall any fingernail scrapings being given to me.”
Jackie Johns disappeared in the summer of 1985. Her nude body was pulled from Lake Springfield by fishermen. For 25 years, Gerald Carnahan has been the chief suspect in the rape and murder of Jackie Johns. You can read more here.