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A Texas man who spent nearly four years charged with the 1984 cold case murder of his own grandmother is no longer facing charges in the case.
Charles Sedigas, 58, was charged in December 2018 with the 1984 stabbing of his grandmother, Vera Burleson, 56, according to Waco CBS affiliate KWTX. However, McLennan County, Texas First Assistant District Attorney Sharon Pruitt filed to dismiss the charges against him on Friday, Aug. Sept. 30.
"Laboratory results excluded the defendant as a DNA contributor to the physical evidence analyzed," she wrote in her motion to dismiss the charges, obtained by KWTX.
Burleson was found stabbed to death in her home in Bellmead — a northeast suburb of Waco — on June 25, 1984. Police say she had three knife wounds to the face and head, as well as multiple blunt force injuries, according to the arrest affidavit reviewed by Waco Fox affiliate KWKT.
"This was a very brutal murder, very mean, sadistic, cold-blooded, nothing short of that," McLennan Sheriff Parnell McNamara told KWTX in 2018.
The case quickly went cold but, in August 2017, McLennan's cold case unit received permission from the Bellmead police to reopen the investigation, according to KWTX. After 16 months and more than 50 interviews, a witness allegedly told sheriff's investigators that, the day before Burleson's body was discovered, Sedigas — who would've been 20 at the time — said that he was going over to his grandmother's house, KWTK reported.
According to the witness, Sedigas returned hours later with blood on his clothes and, in response to questions, told her, "I killed Grandma, I stabbed her."
The witness further told police that Sedigas threatened to kill her if she told anyone, and later burned something in a barrel at his home.
McNamara told KWTX that Sedigas had long been a suspect in the case but the witness' statement was the first that police were able to directly connect him to the crime. Sedigas, he noted, had a criminal history that included federal drug charges for which he served time. (Federal Bureau of Prison records reviewed by Oxygen.com reflect that he was released in 2007.) He was living and working 25 miles northeast of Bellmead at the time of his arrest, and was held on a $1 million bond.
He was indicted by a grand jury in February 2019, according to Temple, Texas NBC affiliated KCEN.
However, Sedigas was released on his own recognizance — albeit with an ankle monitor — in May 2021, after his defense lawyers conducted a DNA analysis of biological material found under Burleson's fingernails, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald. With less than a month to go before his trial, the defense presented prosecutors and the court with an analysis that showed the DNA from the evidence on the victim's body did not match Sedigas' DNA.
His release "angered many in the law enforcement community," the paper reported.
"Law enforcement investigators have relied on biological evidence from fingernail scrapings for decades in homicide cases because this is often the best evidence to identify the murderer," Sedigas' defense lawyer Alan Bennett said at the time.
Prosecutors asked for a continuance in the case in order to conduct their own analysis of the evidence.
"I am pleased that the DA's office is now taking a closer look at this evidence so they can properly identify the person who killed Vera Burleson and bring closure for her family, including Mr. Sedigas," Bennett added.
Nearly 15 months later, prosecutors filed an affidavit to dismiss the case against him.
"I have tremendous respect for the work the Cold Case Unit does, and it is very important. But they dropped the ball here," Bennett told KWTX last week. "The team traveled to several states interviewing potential witnesses with second-hand information. But they never tested the biological evidence that had been in their possession from the beginning. The fingernail scrapings taken from the victim Vera Burleson were analyzed by the local [Texas Department of Public Safety] lab at our request.”
He noted that the prosecutors' office had the results of the DNA tests performed by the state's crime lab for two years before dismissing the charges against his client.
"We hope that Chuck can get on with his life now, but it has been terribly disrupted since his arrest in 2018," Bennett told the station. “We also hope that the Cold Case Unit will one day be able to solve this horrible crime and bring Vera Burleson’s killer to justice.”
It's unclear if the DNA evidence from Burleson's fingernails has been run for other matches or what, if anything, such a search might have turned up.
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