What was thought to be a lost piece of crucial evidence in the horrific 1985 bush-ax slayings of Ann Curry and her two children has been recovered, Muscogee District Attorney Julia Slater says in a motion filed late Friday.
The evidence is a palm print police found on a magazine inside the Rockhurst Drive home where eight-months’ pregnant Ann Curry, 24, daughter Erika, 4, and son Ryan, 20 months, were hacked to death Aug. 29.
Today as the shocking slayings’ 25th anniversary approaches, husband and father Michael Curry remains in the Muscogee County Jail, accused of killing his wife and children with the curved-blade landscaping tool commonly used to clear heavy brush.
Investigators believe Curry tried to give the appearance an intruder committed the killings, breaking out a window pane near the lock on a rear door. Police questioned Curry for hours the night of the slayings, but then released him without charge. Cold-case investigators arrested him May 20, 2009.
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A year after the homicides, another suspect emerged: Jeffrey Blacker, who was 24 in ’85, had escaped from Columbus’ West Central Georgia Regional Hospital the day before the Currys were killed. Blacker confessed in 1986 when detectives tracked him to a Kansas institution.
Bolstering suspicions of Blacker’s guilt was a palm print found on a Disney Channel magazine at the crime scene. Police were told after an initial comparison of that print to Blacker’s that “some similarities” were found. Later comparisons showed the two did not match.
In a followup interview in 1988, Blacker told detectives he had lied about committing the killings, because he wanted to be transferred from the hospital he was in. He also told police he knew to say he’d used an ax because his father had told him an ax was used in the crime. He told them he could give no detailed account of killing the Currys because “that’s all I could think of; I didn’t know any facts,” Slater writes in her court motion.
She also writes that when police had Blacker draw a picture of the ax he used, he drew a fictional weapon he called an “Atari wand.”
Blacker since has disappeared, and without his testimony the court has had to rely on what reports and evidence the police still have.
Two pieces were thought to be missing: Blacker’s initial confession and the magazine palm print.
Detectives’ account of Blacker’s 1986 confession hasn’t been found, but the palm print has:
It’s still on the magazine taken a quarter-century ago from the Curry home.
According to Slater, the latent print was never “lifted” with an adhesive and transferred from the magazine to a separate card. Police instead had sprayed the magazine with ninhydrin and let it dry. Ninhydrin reacts to the amino acid in sweat and makes the ridges of finger and palm prints appear in purple outline, Slater writes, adding:
“Having located the Disney magazine, the state then sent it to the identification unit of the Columbus Police Department to see if the print was still detectable and could be compared to the inked file prints of Jeffrey Blacker again. For the third time, it has been determined that the latent print on the Disney magazine does not belong to Jeffrey Blacker.”
During a June 3 court hearing, Slater said investigators had determined the magazine palm print came from a child’s hand.
Blacker’s 1986 confession was not recorded. It was described in a police report that still can’t be found, Slater says. But Gene Allmond, one of the detectives who interviewed Blacker, is available to be interviewed and cross-examined by Curry’s defense team, she says.
The palm print and confession are important because in weighing whether the long delay in prosecuting Curry denied him his constitutional right to due process under the law, Superior Court Judge John Allen cited those pieces of evidence as having placed the defense at a disadvantage.
Now that the print has been found, Slater wants Allen to reconsider its value.
She argues the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that in determining whether missing or lost evidence constitutes a due process violation, defense attorneys must show the evidence was so crucial that to proceed without it would be unfair, and that authorities disposed of it in bad faith, intentionally sabotaging the defense.
Blacker’s “only real value” to Curry’s defense is “as an evidentiary bogey man” to shift attention from Curry, she argues.