FORT WORTH, TX - A teen confessed to killing a former high school acquaintance in 1986, but authorities didn't find out until nearly 25 years later when DNA testing of stored evidence led to that man living in Arizona, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Ryland Shane Absalon was 17 when Ginger Hayden was stabbed more than 50 times in 1984 before her first day of college. Her mother found her 18-year-old daughter's lifeless body and blood-soaked sheets in the morning when Hayden's alarm clock kept ringing.
Two years later, Absalon told someone at a drug treatment center that even though Hayden had a boyfriend, Absalon wanted her, so he got into her apartment, hid in her closet and repeatedly stabbed her after she fell asleep, prosecutors said.
"Sept. 5, 1984, was supposed to be a milestone in Ginger Hayden's life ... but turned out to be the date on her gravestone," prosecutor Lisa Callaghan told jurors during opening statements.
Absalon, 45, was living with his wife and young child when he was arrested in 2010 in Sierra Vista, Ariz. He is charged with capital murder and faces up to life in prison if convicted. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.
Defense attorneys had sought to have Absalon's alleged confession withheld, as participants in the program apparently were under orders to not talk about admissions made during therapy, and no one contacted authorities until news of Absalon's arrest surfaced. But state District Judge Everett Young ruled Monday that it was admissible.
Defense attorney Gary Udashen told the jury Tuesday that Absalon falsely confessed because he was sleep-deprived and pressured at the treatment center, where counselors also told him that anything he said would be confidential.
Absalon's DNA was in the apartment because he and his friends often hung out there, Udashen said. He also told jurors that DNA from an unknown man was found under the victim's fingernails, on a bedroom quilt and a bloody sock in the bathroom.
Udashen said that in the mid-1980s, Fort Worth police created a task force after being unable to solve the murders of more than eight young women in the same part of town where Hayden lived.
"Ginger is one of those seven to eight women who fell victim to this ... but Shane is not that person," Udashen said. "Ginger was his friend."
Mike Garvin, a former Fort Worth police officer who was on the task force, said authorities determined a serial killer wasn't responsible for the women's deaths. Garvin said the victims didn't die the same way or have connections to each other and that some cases were solved.
Garvin also testified that he obtained a search warrant for Absalon's apartment, which was directly above Hayden's, after Absalon's father said he saw a stain on his son's shirt that night. Absalon said he spilled strawberry soda on it, but police never found the shirt, Garvin said.
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