At 87, Pauline McCoy was still strong enough to hold a job and take care of herself and her little home in the Hyde Park community.
But few people could have survived the horrific injuries she suffered in December 1986. The doctor who performed her autopsy compared them to what happens to a person in a head-on crash in a vehicle without air bags.
But that wasn’t all she suffered, Dr. Kenneth Alonso testified.
She was stabbed at least 15 times. Most were superficial or shallow cuts to her chest, the front and back of her hands, under her right eye and genitals, Alonso testified. The only deep cut – and it nearly went through her body – was just above the pelvis, Alonso testified.
The inside of her body revealed more damage. Her sternum and ribs were fractured. There was hemorrhaging around her neck, likely caused by strangulation, Alonso testified. There was a hemorrhage on her heart. Her diaphragm was ruptured. Her lungs had bled on the inside. The large, resilient muscle that runs from the spine to the hip was significantly damaged, most likely by kicks to the back, Alonso testified.
More than a dozen possible suspects were interviewed and their fingerprints were compared to the one solid piece of physical evidence investigators had in 1986: bloody fingerprints left under a bathroom window. There were no matches. Jimmy Lee Riley was among those suspects.
It wasn’t that the original potential suspects were eliminated, testified Louis Cuendet, who was then the fingerprint examiner with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab. Too much was missing from the mystery print to make a match, he said.
The case grew cold and dormant.
In 2012, Richmond County Sheriff Investigator Ashley Pletcher was caught up on her violent crime case load and picked up the McCoy cold case file. She thought a good place to start was to have the original list of potential suspects ruled out by fingerprint comparison, Pletcher testified. She asked Investigator Tom Johnson of the department’s crime scene unit to help.
“Initially I didn’t have much hope for it,” Johnson said of the prints from the crime scene. But he scanned the prints and enlarged the one that provided the most detail, he testified.
Riley’s left index was a match. He asked co-worker Steve Fanning and Sgt. Jim Gordon to examine the enlarged crime scene print with Riley’s prints. Both verified the match.
The same material was sent to Cuendet at the GBI crime lab. This time, Cuendet also found Riley to be a match.
Two things changed between 1986 and 2012 that made the match possible, Cuendet testified: the crime scene prints had been chemically enhanced in 2004, and a newer set of Riley’s fingerprints proved to be more complete.
The prosecution is expected to rest its case this morning in Richmond County Superior Court.