Dog DNA key evidence in murder case

Published: Friday, July 10 1998 12:00 a.m. MDT

In what may be a first in U.S. history, DNA evidence from a dog's blood will be used against two men accused of killing a young couple in an attempted drug buy after first shooting their puppy.

Blood spatters from the dog, a pit bull-Labrador mix puppy named Chief, were found on a jacket investigators traced to one of the murder defendants, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday."The irony will be that the witness who could never speak, even when he was alive, will present the most eloquent of evidence," deputy prosecutor Timothy Bradshaw said in opening statements.

The murder trial of Kenneth Leuluaialii and George Tuilefano is believed to be the first U.S. criminal case in which dog DNA is being introduced as evidence.

The men are charged with murder in the shooting deaths of Jay Johnson, 22, and Raquel Rivera, 20, in their Seattle home on Dec. 9, 1996.

Prosecutors say the defendants, both 24, kicked down the house's door after Johnson refused to sell them marijuana, and then they opened fire.

Bradshaw told jurors they will hear from witnesses who say they saw Leuluaialii shoot Chief before he and Tuilefano allegedly killed the couple. The dog died 30 hours after being shot.

Analysis at the PE AgGen company laboratory in Davis, Calif., concluded there was a less than one in 150 million chance that the blood was from a dog other than Chief, Bradshaw said.

Defense lawyers argued that the witnesses, principally members of the same gang who have pleaded guilty to reduced charges, are unreliable.

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