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Daughter Trying To Clear Her Executed Father’s Name Is Denied Request For New DNA Testing In Murder Case

Sedley Alley, who confessed to murdering Suzanne Collins with a screwdriver in 1985, later said his confession was coerced. He was executed in 2006.

By Dorian Geiger
Sedley Alley Ap

A Tennessee judge has denied a request by the daughter of a convicted killer — executed 13 years ago — to have DNA evidence tested in an effort to clear her father’s name. 

The estate of Sedley Alley, who was executed in 2006 for the 1985 rape and murder of Marine Lance Cpl. Suzanne Collins, had a request denied on Monday by Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Paula Skahan to test DNA evidence that may clear the convicted murderer. 

“This Court does not wish to minimize the Alley family's sincerely-held belief that Sedley Alley is innocent of the rape and murder of LCpl. Collins,” Skahan wrote, according to court documents obtained by Oxygen.com. “The estate of Sedley Alley does not have standing to bring the post-conviction DNA claim presently before the Court."

Skahan argued that state law doesn’t allow DNA testing on behalf of “the estate of a deceased inmate.”

“Obviously, we agree with the judge’s opinion,” Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich said in a statement. “The law is very clear that the defendant’s estate has no standing in this matter. After 34 years of appeals by the defense, the Collins family continues to be the only victim in this case.” 

Police said Collins had been out for a jog when she was fatally attacked and raped near a Naval base in Millington, Tennessee in 1985. Alley, who originally confessed to hitting the woman with his vehicle and then later killing her with a screwdriver, told police he had also violated the woman with a tree branch, according to court documents.

“After sticking the screwdriver in her head and her collapse, he decided to make it appear that she had been raped,” earlier court records obtained by Oxygen.com stated. “He took off her clothes, and dragged her by the feet over near a tree. There he broke off a tree limb, inserted it in her vagina and ‘pushed it in.’ He then ran to the car and drove away.”

However, Alley later said he was innocent and told his family his confession had been coerced by police, according to the Innocence Project, a nonprofit that works to exonerate the wrongfully convicted. Alley, who was later diagnosed with multiple personality disorder, and who was supposedly drunk the night of Collins' killing, later claimed he had “amnesia and was unable to recall the events of that evening.” DNA from the crime scene has never been tested, the organization has also stated.

"If Mr. Alley were alive today, he would be entitled to DNA testing under the Powers ruling and the plain language of the post-conviction DNA analysis statute," Innocence Project director Barry Scheck told Oxygen.com in October. 

Scheck claimed he had been contacted by police in St. Louis who told him they had information on a potential new suspect in the case. Scheck suspects that Thomas Bruce, who’s been charged with killing a woman and raping two others — and who was in the same avionics class as Collins — could be the real killer, according to the New York Times. Bruce is in custody in Missouri. 

“Watching my father die was so painful,” April Alley previously said, according to the Associated Press. “I’m hoping I can get the answer, one way or another, that I want.”

Alley, who had filed a petition for post-conviction DNA analysis in 2004, and again shortly before his execution in 2006, had both of those requests denied by a criminal court of appeals.

Representatives for the Innocence Project weren’t immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

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