Court denies DNA testing for convict
Combs had 'bragged to one classmate that he killed the victim and enjoyed doing it.'
WARREN -- Timothy A. Combs, co-defendant in the 1985 murder of a 12-year-old boy, has been denied his request to have the state conduct DNA testing on evidence from the case.
Combs, who along with Danny Lee Hill was convicted in the murder of Raymond Fife, had requested that the 11th District Court of Appeals overturn a decision in Portage County Common Pleas Court refusing to allow Combs to have DNA tests conducted by the state. Combs was tried in Portage County.
LuWayne Annos, an assistant Trumbull County prosecuting attorney, says she is pleased by the court's ruling "if for no other reason than it's one less thing for the victim's family to be concerned about. We like finality in this office for the sake of the family."
Combs was sentenced to life imprisonment with parole eligibility after 30 years on his aggravated murder conviction, life imprisonment on rape and felonious sexual penetration convictions; and 10 to 25 years of imprisonment on aggravated arson and kidnapping convictions. All sentences were ordered to be served consecutively.
Annos said a 2003 law allows incarcerated defendants to request DNA evidence that they could use to possibly get a new trial. This is the first time the 11th District court has been asked to decide this type of case.
Combs filed the appeal on May 14, 2004, requesting that biological samples be tested from the victim's body and clothing. Combs stated that DNA testing would have changed the outcome of his case because his conviction was based upon a "coerced confession from an underage defendant."
The Trumbull County Prosecutor's office opposed the DNA testing, stating that it would not have changed the outcome of the case. Annos noted that the testing would have been paid for by the state.
The district court's decision said the reason the outcome of the case would not be affected by the DNA evidence is that "little forensic evidence" connected Combs to the case. The only forensic connection between Combs and Fife was Combs' tube sock, which contained blood that could have been Fife's.
Blood typing revealed that the victim could have served as a source of the blood on the tube sock, and that the blood could not have come from Combs, the ruling states.
Combs' own statement during interrogation described how he and Hill committed the crimes, the ruling states. From this statement, "there can be no question that [Combs] affirmatively implicated himself in the crimes," it reads. "Further [Combs] bragged to one classmate that he killed the victim and enjoyed doing it."
Even if DNA testing excluded Fife as the source of the blood on the tube sock, a reasonable jury "could still find [Combs] guilty of the charges set forth in the indictment," according to the ruling.