DNA disproves evidence used to convict two in 1986 Chicago murder, lawyers say

Kim Boyd autopsy

Chicago Police Department

Part of the autopsy report from the investigation into teenager Kim Boyd’s death.

Recent DNA testing supports the contention of two inmates that they have spent years in prison for a rape and murder they did not commit, a newly-filed petition states.

Demetrius Henderson and Curtis Croft were convicted of the 1986 murder and rape of Chicago teenager Kim Boyd based on statements that they raped Boyd, persuaded two other men to rape her, then murdered her. For years, a rape kit taken from Boyd after her death sat in storage.

Henderson and Croft urged the DNA samples to be tested using technology that did not exist at the time of the crime. A judge recently signed an agreed order to allow further testing, leading to the discovery that the DNA taken from Boyd’s body matched neither Henderson nor Croft, the newly filed petition asserts.

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Croft and Henderson

Illinois Department of Corrections

Curtis Croft, left, and Demetrius Henderson.

The petition, filed Friday by the inmates’ lawyers in Cook County Circuit Court, seeks to overturn the convictions based on the DNA results.

The DNA finding stands in contrast to the statements that the police obtained and prosecutors used against the men at trial. Both men have said the police used physical force during their interrogations, and that the confessions police attribute to them are false.

Their statements to police and other testimony used in the convictions “cannot exist in the same universe as these DNA results,” said Tara Thompson, an attorney with the Exoneration Project, who is representing Henderson.

Thompson said the new evidence signals that someone else had sexual contact with Boyd prior to her death and could know more about what happened.

Henderson, 18 when the crime was committed, was originally sentenced to death. Croft, a juvenile at the time, was given a life sentence.

At the trial, in addition to the statements taken by police, prosecutors relied on the testimony of Anthony Woodard, 15 at the time of the crime, who said he saw Boyd being raped and heard Henderson plot to kill her. Woodard recanted his testimony in a 2007 affidavit, saying he was coerced by police.

In the new petition, Thompson wrote the DNA testing discredits the evidence. “Ultimately, this means that all of the evidence that contributed to Croft and Henderson’s convictions — their own purported confessions as well as the testimony of Anthony Woodard — is now invalidated by science,” the petition states.

Party gone wrong?

At 9:35 a.m. on July 13, 1986, police responded to a call that a young woman was found in an alley in the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Boyd, who was declared dead at the scene, had been stabbed 40 times and dragged by a vehicle, according to the autopsy report.

Days later, Anthony Woodard’s brother, Alonzo, told police he had gone to Croft’s home with a group that included Anthony Woodard, Kevin Campbell, and Boyd. Others, including Henderson, were at the party.

The police report shows that Alonzo Woodard told them the group was drinking at Croft’s house in the early morning hours when a couple of young men went into a room with Boyd. He heard Boyd yelling to “stop, don’t do it.” He knocked on the door, according to the police report, and Henderson told him to go home, saying that he would take Boyd home. Alonzo Woodard said he, his brother and Campbell left.

Police reports show the officers then confronted others at the party. Their versions conflicted, and implicated each other. Croft, according to the police reports, told them that Henderson killed Boyd while Croft was present. Croft told police, according to the report, that Henderson and Alonzo Woodard raped Boyd; then Henderson proposed killing the girl, but Croft disagreed. Croft then told police, according to the report, that Henderson put Boyd in the trunk of the car, that they drove over her five times in an alley, and that Henderson stabbed her several times afterward because she was still alive.

The police reports show Henderson at first denied knowing of Boyd’s death, but then agreed to talk after police brought Croft to repeat his statement to Henderson. According to the report, Henderson said that he, Croft, Campbell and Alonzo Woodard all raped Boyd. The report states that Henderson told police he then suggested to Croft that they needed to kill Boyd, that Croft agreed, and that Croft put Boyd in the trunk of a car.

Henderson told police, according to the report, that he and Croft drove off and lost the other three teens, that he stabbed Boyd several times after taking her out of the trunk, that Croft then stabbed her several times, and that they eventually ran her over with the car several times.

Anthony Woodard told police, according to their report, that Croft and Henderson sexually assaulted Boyd, and that Henderson kicked her. The report also states that he heard Henderson saying Boyd had to be killed, and that Croft said that Boyd was in the trunk.

According to police reports, when Alonzo Woodard was interviewed a second time he changed his story, saying that he, Croft, Campbell and Henderson had all sexually assaulted Boyd, that Croft had hit her, and that he heard Croft and Henderson were going to kill her.

After the interviews, police charged Henderson, Croft, Campbell and Alonzo Woodard with the sexual assault and murder of Kim Boyd.

Teens are tried

Murder indictment

Cook County Circuit Court

The indictment on charges of murder for Demetrius Henderson, Curtis Croft, Kevin Campbell and Alonzo Woodard.

Before the four were tried in 1987, Henderson and Croft both tried without success to have their statements suppressed, saying they had been illegally obtained by police. Henderson said police denied him a phone call to his family, and his statement was given only after the police officers had punched him in the ear and hit him in the head with a telephone book. After he was hit by two officers, Henderson testified that he cried and decided to give up and do what the officers wanted. He said they told him he was already implicated in the murder by someone else, and that they told him what to say.

“I did not have no other choice but to do what they tell me to do,” Henderson testified.

Croft testified that during the nine hours he was held at the police station after his arrest, he asked repeatedly to make a phone call and to use the bathroom. Each time, he said, the police and later the prosecutor who took his statement told him, “Just one minute.”

Croft also testified that he was handcuffed to the wall for the entire nine hours, and that one police officer, who had grabbed him by the throat during his arrest, also slapped him two or three times at the station.

Cook County Circuit Judge Richard Neville ruled at the end of the hearing that the statements were voluntary and could be admitted into evidence.

Henderson, Croft, Campbell and Alonzo Woodard were tried simultaneously before Neville. Only Henderson was tried before a jury.

Anthony Woodard’s testimony mirrored his statement to police: he saw Henderson and Croft rape Boyd, Henderson talked of killing her, and Croft later said she was in the trunk of the car. At trial, he added a new detail: that Croft had forced his brother and Campbell to sexually assault Boyd at knifepoint, and stated that he remained in the room while the assault occurred because Croft was armed.

“He had a knife, I wasn’t taking no chance in leaving,” Anthony Woodard said.

Croft and Henderson were both found guilty of murder, sexual assault and kidnapping. Alonzo Woodard and Campbell were found guilty only of sexual assault.

Escaping execution

Nearly a year after the murder, Neville sentenced the four men.

Campbell and Alonzo Woodard were sentenced to 28 years in prison. Prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Croft, 17 when the murder occurred, to the maximum sentence.

“I find it extraordinary that someone of Mr. Croft’s age could participate in a crime like this for the reasons that began with a party at his home, it leads me to believe that there is a serious defect in Mr. Croft’s character,” Neville said before sentencing Croft to life in prison.

Henderson, 18 at the time, was eligible to receive the death penalty, which prosecutors urged.

“We are given the gift of life only once and that applies to you and to Kim Boyd,” Neville said to Henderson, as he sentenced the defendant to death. “You have altered your own destiny, Mr. Henderson, by committing these unconscionable crimes against Kim Boyd.”

Henderson would go on to spend 16 years on death row, until 2003, when then-Illinois Gov. George Ryan commuted all the state’s death sentences to life in prison.

Demetrius Henderson death sentence

Cook County Circuit Court

Demetrius Henderson is sentenced to death for the murder of Kim Boyd.

Allegations of abuse

After the trial, Croft and Henderson continued appealing their convictions.

Henderson asked the court to appoint an expert in hearing disorders to examine him, claiming that when he tried to get his confession thrown out, his trial attorney failed to present medical evidence that he suffered ear injuries and hearing loss at the hands of the police. The request was denied.

Hearing a similar claim from Henderson in 2002, a panel of three judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit found a “lack of any conclusive support for Henderson’s theory.”

As part of a court petition Henderson filed in 2007, his ex-girlfriend Yolanda Harris signed an affidavit stating she saw Henderson at the police station after he was arrested, with what appeared to be blood trickling down his face.

Harris stated that she tried to tell the state’s attorney’s office Henderson looked like he had been abused by the police, but she was never called as a witness.

In the same 2007 court petition, Henderson included an affidavit from witness Anthony Woodard, who alleged police intimidation and recanted his testimony in an affidavit.

Anthony Woodard wrote that he never saw Henderson having sex with Boyd the night of the party and that, fearful of being charged with the murder himself, he testified against Henderson to protect himself and his brother Alonzo Woodard.

Cook County Circuit Court

Anthony Woodard’s 2007 affidavit recanting his testimony

The police “indicated that if I did not lie to help in their investigation I would be charged with the death of Kim,” Anthony Woodard wrote, adding, “Up until I gave testimony at the grand jury I continued to lie cause my [brother’s] attorney told me that this would probably be the best way to help my brother.”

Alonzo Woodard, who is no longer in prison, gave a similar affidavit, stating Henderson never forced him to have sex with Kim.

“For me and my brother that night will never go away,” Alonzo Woodard wrote. “I hate I was placed in a situation where it was either me or someone else having to go to prison.”

The attorneys for Croft and Henderson say that the claims of their clients – repeatedly rejected by courts – must be reconsidered in light of the new DNA results.

Thompson said they are still investigating what may have happened to Boyd that night.

“What this DNA evidence points to is unknown perpetrators to this crime who are not accounted for in [Henderson’s] confession, in [Anthony Woodard’s] statement,” Thompson said. “These are people who are not accounted for in any of the other statements and these statements are not true.”