OKC Murder trial begins 13 years after killing

Tuesday, October 18th 2005, 11:46 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Jury selection continued Tuesday in the first-degree murder trial of a man accused in the beating and choking death of a Maryland man in an Oklahoma City motel room more than 13 years ago.

Investigators say they matched the DNA of Terrence DeWayne Gage, 35, to blood found in a room along with the body of Melvin Burns, 40, from Mitchellville, Md.

Burns was in Oklahoma City on Oct. 1, 1992, working on the city's new payroll and personnel system when police say he was killed at a motel.

Gage said he went to the victim's room to collect money and fought with Burns, but denied killing him, according to reports.

The victim's brother, Raymond Burns, said family and friends had given up hope police would make any progress in finding the person who committed the murder.

``I want to convey to other people in the same situation, where it has been years and they haven't found the person, that because of DNA you don't have to give up hope,'' he said.

According to court papers, police collected blood evidence at the scene they believed was from a violent confrontation between the victim and his attacker.

Police sent the blood evidence to a Dallas laboratory for DNA testing in October 2003.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation loaded the unidentified DNA profile into the Combined DNA Index System, a computer database of DNA samples from three sources _ offenders, unsolved cases and missing people.

The profile matched Gage, whom police interviewed on April 14, 2004, at the Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Facility in Vinita. He had been convicted of burglary, drug possession and false declaration of ownership to a pawn broker.

``It was just a complete mystery,'' Raymond Burns said. ``I know very little about DNA, but it's a blessing in disguise.''

Melvin Burns, an ordained deacon and a member of his church choir, had just taken a break from his work in Oklahoma City to fly home to Maryland to see his daughter baptized. He was killed shortly after he came back to Oklahoma City, his brother said.