Wednesday, January 30, 2008

DNA reveals true rapist in '82 case, clears man of charges

Tests clear 1 man, pin crime on another who died in '98

By JENNIFER EMILY / The Dallas Morning News

DNA tests show that a transient serial rapist wanted for sex crimes in several states is the perpetrator in a case in which DNA revealed another man was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault, the Dallas County district attorney's office said Tuesday.

But there will be no justice for Sidney Alvin Goodyear in that 1982 sexual assault and burglary. He died 10 years ago in a Texas prison, even as Steven Charles Phillips sat behind bars for a crime he didn't commit, said Mike Ware, who oversees the conviction integrity unit for the DA's office.

Mr. Phillips, 49, is one of 15 men exonerated by DNA testing in Dallas County since 2001 – more than any other county in the nation.

"He's glad they identified the right person," said Mr. Phillips' attorney, Robert Udashen. Mr. Phillips could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Phillips had also pleaded guilty to eight related cases that authorities believe were committed by Mr. Goodyear. Mr. Phillips' attorneys say he pleaded guilty to the other crimes because he feared an even longer prison term after losing two jury trials.

His attorneys say they hope to clear Mr. Phillips in those cases as well.

Mr. Phillips, who was paroled in December in the last of those cases, had no criminal record from before the string of sex crimes, although he admitted to police that he had been a Peeping Tom.

Mr. Goodyear was serving a 45-year sentence for burglary with intent to commit sexual assault out of Harris County when he died of liver cancer in 1998 at age 50.

During the time between the 1982 rape for which Mr. Phillips was wrongly accused and when Mr. Goodyear was arrested in Harris County in 1984, Mr. Goodyear committed numerous sexual assaults and burglaries in California under the alias William Dixon Steen, according to a July 1985 Los Angeles Times article.

The crimes he committed in California in late 1982 were very similar to those committed in Dallas. In one of the California cases, he forced two women who had been playing tennis to take off their clothes, according to the article. He also held 14 women at an exercise class at gunpoint and sexually assaulted some of them. He sexually assaulted a clerk at a bathing suit store and exposed himself to schoolchildren.

A California prosecutor called Mr. Goodyear a "sick, sick man," according to the article.

Mr. Goodyear was arrested while working as a teacher at a California church camp in December 1982. He escaped from a court holding cell in January 1984. He was arrested the next month in Harris County and was jailed until his death.

The article says he was also wanted for prosecution in Kansas, Georgia and Missouri on numerous sex crimes.

Mr. Goodyear was extradited to California from Texas in 1985 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He pleaded guilty to 10 sexual assaults and robberies.

His job, possibly as a construction worker, allowed him to travel throughout the country, Mr. Ware said.

Authorities who investigated the case for which Mr. Phillips was wrongfully convicted believed that a single attacker victimized as many as 61 people at apartment complexes, gyms and spas in Dallas and Kansas City during a six-week period in April and May 1982. In those incidents, an armed man threatened to shoot his victims. In some cases, he left after forcing them to strip. He forced others to pose nude. He fondled them or forced them to fondle others.

Victims in the cases spoke of the perpetrator's striking blue eyes. Mr. Goodyear's eyes were blue. Mr. Phillips has green eyes.

Mr. Goodyear was a suspect in the Dallas County case for which Mr. Phillips was convicted, Mr. Ware said. A warrant was issued for his arrest but was never executed. Mr. Ware said that records he has reviewed don't indicate why Mr. Goodyear was never arrested.

After Mr. Phillips was cleared of the sexual assault and burglary last year, the district attorney's office suspected Mr. Goodyear might be the perpetrator. Prosecutors asked for the DNA from the sexual assault to be compared with blood saved from Mr. Goodyear's autopsy. A Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman said it's common for a sample of an inmate's DNA to be preserved from an autopsy.

Of the 15 DNA exonerations in Dallas County, this is only the third case in which prosecutors have identified the true perpetrator.

Jason Kreag of the Innocence Project in New York, another of Mr. Phillips' attorneys, said that nationally, the actual perpetrator is found just less than 40 percent of the time when someone is exonerated by DNA. Of the 212 DNA exonerations nationally, the real perpetrator was found in 80 cases, Mr. Kreag said.

In two other Dallas County exonerations, the men believed to be responsible have died, Mr. Ware said.

Entre Nax Karage was pardoned in 2005 for the 1984 murder of his girlfriend. DNA showed another man, now deceased, was responsible.

In the case of James Curtis Giles, who was exonerated last year in a gang rape, another man pleaded guilty just after Mr. Giles was convicted. But two other men prosecutors say are connected to the crime died.

Mr. Ware said the district attorney's office could be close to finding the perpetrators in other cases, but he declined to discuss them. He said finding the true assailant in cases where DNA exonerated a wrongfully convicted person remains a priority for the district attorney's office.

"It's extremely important," he said. "It's equally as important as exonerating the right person."

Michelle Moore of the Innocence Project of Texas, who handles post-conviction DNA requests for the Dallas County public defender's office, said that it's likely that the actual perpetrators in other cases in which Dallas County men were wrongly convicted are still alive.

"At some point, the DNA is going to come back to someone who isn't dead," she said. "It will be interesting to see how they handle it and what they do with these cases."

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