Evidence from the decades-old Lake Waco triple murders case soon will be sent to an Arkansas laboratory for DNA testing, marking what could be one of the last chapters of an effort to prove the wrong men were convicted of the grisly crime.
Judge Matt Johnson of Waco’s 54th State District Court last week signed an order authorizing the testing. It will be performed by Arkansas Genomics, a private laboratory located in Little Rock.
A defense team working on behalf of Anthony Melendez has been trying to get the evidence tested for years. They think it will clear him of the 1982 murders, which took the lives of three teenagers.
Melendez, now 53 years old, pleaded guilty in exchange for two life sentences. But he later recanted, saying he lied about his involvement to avoid a potential death sentence.
There is no definite timetable for when the testing results might be available, said Waco attorney Walter M. Reaves Jr. But it likely won’t take longer than a few months, assuming the evidence can be successfully tested, he said.
“I think it’s huge,” said Reaves, who has helped lead the exoneration effort. “We weren’t even sure we would get to this point a couple of years ago. The fact that we’re here and are getting to a place where we might be able to test something and get results is definitely positive.”
One of Melendez’s co-defendants, David Wayne Spence, was executed in 1997.
Suspect Muneer Deeb also was initially sentenced to death. But he was acquitted at a 1993 re-trial. He died from cancer six years later.
The final defendant was Melendez’s brother, Gilbert Melendez. He also pleaded guilty and got two life terms. He died in prison in 1998 of complications from HIV.
Earlier coverage of the Lake Waco Murders case begins at the link.