Memphis judge denies DNA test involving St. Louis area suspect

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A Memphis judge has ruled that the daughter of a man executed 13 years ago for murder does not have the right to seek DNA testing of the evidence in the case.

April Alley is the daughter of Sedley Alley, executed in 2006 for the 1985 murder of Marine Lance Cpl. Suzanne Collins. In May, April Alley petitioned the court on behalf of her father’s estate to order DNA testing.  Shelby County Judge Paula Skahan ruled against her on Monday.

The move came after investigators in a Missouri murder case contacted the Innocence Project about a possible connection between another suspect and Collins.

Prosecutors have opposed the testing. Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich previously said Sedley Alley’s guilt was proven with absolute certainty.

Alley confessed to the crime but later said his confession was coerced.

Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck represents Alley’s daughter, April Alley. Scheck told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Missouri authorities say Thomas Bruce took an avionics course in Millington, Tennessee, around the time that Suzanne Collins, a 19-year-old Marine, was killed in Millington. Bruce matches a vague suspect description distributed by police.

Bruce is jailed in St. Louis County, accused of sexually assaulting two women and killing a third in a Catholic Supply store last November.

Scheck argued in October that she should be allowed to petition for new DNA testing of a pair of men’s underwear recovered at the Tennessee scene on behalf of her father’s estate.

The Innocence Project and Tennessee counsel released the following statement:

“We are very disappointed in today’s decision and have already filed a notice of appeal. The petition simply asks for testing of available DNA evidence, which could be done within 30 to 60 days. It will now take months, if not years, to go through the courts to finally get to the truth in this matter.

April Alley issued her own statement on the judge’s decision as well:

“I’m heartbroken. Frankly, I’m numb. I’m very grateful for all who have supported me in this effort to find the truth. We will see this through to the end, no matter what it takes.”

Bruce’s attorney declined to comment.

The Catholic Supply store issued its own statement:

“This week marks one year since the tragic events occurred at our West County location. While this has been devastating to the Catholic Supply family, we have worked this past year to continue to fulfill our mission to bring people closer to Christ, and help our staff, customers and community along the path to healing. Please join us as we pray for the victim, survivors and all who were affected by this senseless tragedy.”

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