Criminalist Billie Quinn lived and breathed the evidence. People lied. But DNA never let her down. Or could it?
For the case that put her fight for justice in the media spotlight also brought her to a killer's attention. A very special killer -- one who claimed to know the truth about her mother's disappearance many years ago. And who was now determined to show Billie exactly what happened...in a reenactment starring Billie herself.
It was up to her to choose -- learn the truth and die, or bring this killer to justice and never know her mother's fate.
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August 07, 2006
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Excerpt from Trace of Doubt by Erica Orloff
You couldn't really call it a playground.I gingerly stepped over used condoms, empty beer cans and wine bottles -- the cheap stuff -- and cigarette butts. I saw syringes and tattered underwear and the trash of human existence -- fast-food wrappers, old tires and broken glass. Eventually I made it onto the basketball court. There was no net -- just a rim bent off to the right. I looked up at the projects that surrounded this little concrete court of human misery.Windows were broken, and the sounds of loud music and screaming and yelling in Spanish, English, Creole and Arabic drifted down. Smells wafted in the heat: Chinese food, the steamy air of the subways rising through grates, urine, gasoline."Charming," Lewis LeBarge said, surveying the landscape. "Remind me again why we're subjecting ourselves to this hellhole?"We stood near the periphery of the court. A heated game was going on in full streetball fashion -- hurled elbows and shoves that would have earned a foul in the NBA were just the way the game was played here. The shirts were playing the skins, with the skin team bare-chested, their tees wrapped around their heads to absorb the sweat from playing on an unseasonably hot June day."We're checking out Marcus Hopkins's story." Lewis wiped at his brow. He wore his trademark clothes -- black Levi's jeans, snakeskin boots that added an inch or so to his already lanky, six-foot, one-inch height, and a white oxford cloth shirt. I wore jeans and a fitted black T-shirt, with my long, black hair pulled into a high ponytail, and I was sweating, too. "No pay, shit conditions, I swear we're insane for doing this, Billie," he said in his New Orleans drawl."Insane?" I snapped. "This from a man with a collection of human brains in formaldehyde," I referred to my boss's penchant for the macabre as head of the state crime lab in Bloomsbury, New Jersey.The two of us were making this particular field trip for the Justice Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to freeing wrongfully imprisoned men, through the use of DNA testing. Ever since we'd solved the Suicide King murders, the publicity meant the foundation was inundated with requests that we investigate the cases of hundreds of prisoners.Deciding which cases to take wasn't easy.Allof them said they were innocent. My guess is a fraction of them really were. We weeded through some of the ugliest crimes of humanity to try to discern which men were truly innocent, and we relied on DNA and old-fashioned detective work, interviewing and common sense to try to piece together reasonable doubt -- or if we caught a break, proof of outright innocence. And all this we did on the side, in addition to our full-time jobs at the lab. What we had first signed on to do out of curiosity and Lewis's crush on one of the foundation's founders, we now did out of passion.Marcus Hopkins was a baby-faced kid from the Bronx determined to get out of the projects. Unlike a lot of ghetto kids, he didn't pin his hopes on the NBA, or a rap contract, but on academics. When a rape occurred on the basketball court of the projects, Marcus was named as the rapist by the victim. No DNA tied him to the victim, and he had an airtight alibi -- he was at work two bus lines away, sweeping out the supply room of a burger joint.The crime was completely out of character for Marcus, and his public defender was confident at first. But then witnesses began piling up, placing him at the crime scene -- despite what his employer said. Then his boss turned out to have a record -- an old conviction for assault from fifteen years prior, but enough that a jury might discount his testimony in the hands of a tough prosecutor. Before long, the public defender was urging Marcus to take a plea. Marcus drew eight years in adult prison. With his pretty face, it was brutal.We had a small spot of blood on the victim's shirt. It wasn't hers, and it wasn't Marcus's, thus bolstering his claim of innocence. L