Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Convicted killer says DNA exonerates him

October 10, 2007

By Mary Pickels, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

A Fayette County man sentenced to life in prison after his conviction in the 1982 beating death of a North Union store clerk is seeking a new trial based on DNA testing.

Charles M. Adams, 58, who is in SCI-Fayette, filed an appeal under the Post Conviction Relief Act. He will appear before Common Pleas Judge Steve P. Leskinen this morning.

Adams' petition is based on results of DNA testing showing none of the victim's blood was found on Adams' clothing or shoes.

He claims that authorities failed to follow a court order to analyze some items collected at the crime scene, including clothing, knife and blood samples.

Adams was still at Associated Hardware on Jan. 6, 1982, when state police arrived to investigate Harry Frankhouser's death at the former store along Route 40.

Adams was convicted in October 1983 of first-degree murder and attempted robbery.

Over the years, Adams, formerly of Uniontown, has repeatedly requested new trials and post-conviction hearings, filing numerous motions on his own.

In one document, he referred to himself as the "most convenient suspect," and he claimed that the state was using "stall tactics in fear of exposing the error of their ways."

In July, Fayette County District Attorney Nancy Vernon said that authorities cooperated with a court order by using DNA technology that was not available in the early 1980s. She said at the time that she did not believe Adams discovered any evidence that could prove his innocence.

In a petition filed in July, a defense attorney argued that the testing by police constituted newly discovered evidence that could warrant another trial.

Adams has maintained that he went to the store to purchase a 12-cent O-ring for a leaky faucet, according to court records.

He claimed three men jumped on him, with one cutting him and another punching him.

Adams claimed he found Frankhouser's body after the men left through the front door. He said he never touched Frankhouser, a shovel near the body or the cash register.

Authorities said Frankhouser, 68, had multiple stab wounds, cuts and blunt-force injuries.

Adams was treated for cuts on his left index finger and bleeding on his right palm.

Mark Mehalov, Adams' court-appointed attorney, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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