Investigators say DNA match prompts new probe

Saturday, July 24th 2004, 11:39 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ It could be several weeks before investigators can conclusively link an incarcerated man's DNA with the seven-year-old murder of a University of Oklahoma ballet dancer.

Authorities announced Thursday that they had an unconfirmed DNA match that linked a 25-year-old man, already serving time in an Oklahoma prison, to the 1996 rape and murder of Jewell ``Juli'' Busken.

Now homicide investigators are starting their case anew, said Cleveland County District Attorney Tim Kuykendall.

``Based on the DNA, I'm confident that we have the guy that raped and killed Juli Busken. We don't want to stop with DNA and assume that's a slam-dunk case,'' Kuykendall said. ``Investigators are doing a thorough job, tracking every lead. It's a brand new investigation now that they have a name to associate with the crime.''

Kuykendall said it could take homicide investigators up to three to four weeks to interview people associated with the suspect and conclusively link the man to the crime.

``He's already locked up; he's not going anywhere,'' Kuykendall said of the suspect.

Police have not named the suspect, who has not been charged in this case but is serving a six-year sentence for a 2003 prison escape.

Kuykendall said the suspect, who would have been 18 at the time of Busken's death, was once charge with rape but the count was dismissed.

Homicide investigators in Busken's case used forensic evidence recovered from the crime scene and entered it into the Combined DNA Index System Program, a state database of DNA profiles.

Police believe Busken, 21, was abducted from the parking lot of her Norman apartment building Dec. 20, 1996. She had just finished her last semester at OU and was getting ready to go home to Benton, Ark., for the Christmas holiday.

Busken had dropped a friend off at the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City about 5 a.m. that day and had returned to her Norman apartment, police said.

A neighbor called police after hearing what she described as a bloodcurdling scream and a car door slam.

Detectives believe Busken was killed sometime between 5:39 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., when a fisherman reported seeing what he thought was debris. He found the body at that spot four hours later.

Busken's 1991 Eagle Summitt was found about a block and a half from her apartment. Investigators said it showed signs of ``having being driven quite a bit.''

Her body was found later that day at Lake Stanley Draper in southeast Oklahoma City. She had been raped and shot in the head.

``Her name has been etched in my mind,'' said Kuykendall, who was in his first term of office when Busken's murder occurred. ``It's a case I can't forget about. Hopefully we've finally figured out who killed and raped Juli Busken.''

Criminal charges of murder, rape, forcible sodomy and kidnapping have been filed against a ``John Doe,'' who matched the DNA profile in March 2000. Kuykendall said the charges would be amended to include a suspect's name when police complete their investigation. Kuykendall said he will seek the death penalty.

As officials searched for suspects in the case, DNA samples were taken from nearly 200 people.

Twin brothers and their father were suspected in the murder, as well as a man who was charged with the rape of a 17-year-old girl in May 2002. DNA evidence cleared all the men in the Busken case.

A DNA sample was taken from the current suspect in April 2003, according to the state Department of Corrections. A state law requires inmates convicted of sex crimes, as well as burglary and assault, to give a DNA sample.

The suspect has two second-degree burglary convictions.

David Van Bebber, Busken's brother-in-law, said his family wouldn't comment on the case until someone had been charged.

``This has been 7 1/2 years of hearing they might have someone, then they don't,'' said Van Bebber, an attorney in Springdale, Ark. ``At this point, it's premature until somebody gets charged.''