DNA evidence links inmate to 21-year-old murder scene - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

DNA evidence links inmate to 21-year-old murder scene

DYERSBURG, Tenn. (AP) - A Dyersburg man was indicted for a 21-year-old murder based on genetic evidence that linked him to the crime.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation charged Harold Bernard Schaffer, 42, with the 1985 stabbing death of William "Junior" Pierce at his Dyersburg hardware shop.

Schaffer, who is currently serving time on cocaine and forgery charges, was indicted Monday by a Dyer County grand jury on a first-degree murder charge.

John Mehr was TBI's local agent when Pierce's body was found by a customer on May 17, 1985. Mehr, who is now TBI's regional supervisor in Jackson, continued pursuing the case using DNA evidence found at the scene.

"It was long time in coming," Mehr said. "Hopefully, this will start the conclusion. I never gave up hope that this case would be solved."

Mehr used evidence collected at the crime scene, which provided a blood sample that was initially too small for testing.

In February of 2005, Mehr resubmitted the sample for a more sophisticated DNA scan that matched it to an inmate being held on a 13-year sentence at the Whiteville Correctional Facility.

Mehr said finding a suspect for a 20-year-old crime "is an example of how we can reap the benefits of scientific advances."

The State Gazette in Dyersburg found a lengthy criminal history for Schaffer with records dating back to 1982.

As a juvenile, Schaffer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the 1980 beating death of an 18-year-old Dyersburg High School student, according to the newspaper.

He has been in and out of prison since 1988 on forgery, robbery, burglary and drug charges.

In an April interview with the newspaper, Pierce's widow said she still held out hope that investigators would find the person or persons responsible for the murder.

"It's been a long time," she said. "I wish to God I knew who did it."

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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