Originally created 09/17/02

Blood stains are key in trial



Blood stains left on a washcloth nearly eight years ago could lead to the conviction of a 29-year-old Augusta man on trial this week in the slaying of his neighbor.

In her opening statement Monday, Assistant District Attorney Patricia Johnson told the jury that Russell Paschal made one crucial mistake when he killed 23-year-old DeCarla Harris in October 1994.

"He cut his own finger," she said.

Advances in DNA testing provided the evidence needed to indict Mr. Paschal in February 2001. Ms. Harris' brother found her dead in her Williamsburg Apartments home the morning of Oct. 5, 1994. Ms. Harris' 3-year-old daughter was straddling her body, trying to wake her mother up, police said.

Mr. Paschal was arrested for Ms. Harris' murder soon after, but a judge dismissed the charges, citing insufficient evidence.

Ms. Johnson told jurors that after cutting Ms. Harris' throat four times with a 12-inch butcher knife, Mr. Paschal used a washcloth to clean the blood off his hands, leaving his blood to mingle with the victim's.

Defense attorney Jerry Daniel, however, told the jury the DNA link could be explained because Mr. Paschal had suffered a nosebleed in the victim's home. On the night Ms. Harris was killed, Mr. Paschal was at his own apartment, Mr. Daniel said.

Connie Pickens, an assistant manager for the Georgia Bureau of Investigations' crime lab in Atlanta, testified that Mr. Paschal's DNA was a positive match to stains found on the washcloth. But she said she did not know how long the blood had been on the washcloth.

Testimony in the trial continues at 10 a.m. today.

Staff Writer Sandy Hodson contributed to this article.

Reach Ashlee Griggs at (706) 823-3552 or ashlee.griggs@augustachronicle.com.