Maj. Ken Autry says despite the public doubts and accusations to the contrary, local law enforcement didn't bungle the investigation into Sgt. Marni Glista's killing.
No one could have known a serial killer was at work in the Augusta area, he said.
Until the Oct. 8 attack on 18-year-old Crisilee Barton, who survived, there was nothing to connect Sgt. Glista's case with any of the other known homicides of young women in the Aiken-Augusta area, said Maj. Autry, spokesman for the Richmond County Sheriff's Department.
Sgt. Glista, 21, was attacked and strangled in her Oakridge Drive home in west Augusta on Labor Day. She died four days later.
Richmond County investigators huddled with South Carolina authorities to compare that homicide with the Aug. 4 death of 17-year-old Jessica Carpenter of Aiken, he said.
"We met with them and did comparisons," Maj. Autry said Wednesday. "But they couldn't connect theirs over there, and we couldn't connect ours with theirs."
Lab results released Wednesday afternoon showed no DNA match linking the man charged with killing Sgt. Glista, Reinaldo J. Rivera, to Ms. Carpenter's death.
When Richmond County investigators started working on Miss Barton's rape and stabbing at her home on Circular Drive, they saw similarities to the Carpenter case and said so immediately, Maj. Autry said.
"Not that they'll end up being the same perpetrator," he said. "We're still in the process of finding that out. But I said to the media immediately I saw similarities."
To assist in the investigation of Sgt. Glista's death, Richmond County sought the best outside help possible, calling in experts from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the FBI, Maj. Autry said.
"We had profilers from the GBI with their expertise and went over the information and went over the scene with us, and gave their opinion of what it looked like and what it was with what we had to work with, and they agreed with us," he said.
"We also got the FBI in, and we were drawing from their expertise and their lab work to bring this case to a conclusion. Now we all know in the aftermath of this that this was a serial killer that perpetrated this crime, but there was absolutely nothing to indicate that when we started out in the Glista case."
As important as it is to let the public know they've taken Mr. Rivera off the street, it's just as important to let it know what investigators did to try to find Sgt. Glista's killer, he said.
"Then they can make their own minds up as to whether we proceeded reasonably during the course of the investigation of that case," he said.
Michael Frank, spokesman for the Aiken County Sheriff's Office, said Aiken officials would certainly have warned the public if there had been any evidence linking the cases.
In addition to Ms. Carpenter's homicide, Aiken County has two others. Mr. Rivera has been charged in the deaths of Tiffaney Shereese Wilson, 17, and Melissa Faye Dingess, 17.
"Until last week, there was no evidence linking these cases," Lt. Frank said. "Had there been evidence linking these cases, Sheriff (Howard) Sellers said he would have been very willing to alert the community. But in the absence of evidence that links these cases, to go out and say to the community, `Beware,' you are causing people to fear. You are inciting panic when you do that."
Staff Writer Greg Rickabaugh contributed to this article.
Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228.
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