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Tests Inconclusive in Murder Case

December 12, 2000 GMT

PERRY, Ga. (AP) _ Tests conducted on fingernail scrapings in the 1981 slaying of a Georgia college student have proven inconclusive.

The DNA tests neither link Ellis Wayne Felker to the death of 19-year-old Evelyn Joy Ludlam nor clear him of the crime, for which he was executed, Forensic Science Associates of Richmond, Calif., said Monday.

``It reaffirms what I have said all along,″ Houston County District Attorney Kelly Burke said. ``Scientific evidence is but a small part of the prosecution process.″

Ludlam was reported missing the day she met with Felker about a job at his leather shop. Her body was found in a Twiggs County creek two weeks later.

Felker was convicted and sentenced to death in 1983. He professed his innocence through his execution in 1996 at age 48.

Hoping technology unavailable at trial might determine Felker’s involvement, The Boston Globe, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Macon Telegraph and CBS News obtained court permission in July to perform tests.

The Telegraph withdrew Monday, saying impending hair tests would contribute even less. CBS backed out in October after no sperm appeared in evidence from Ludlam’s body.

If DNA testing had proved Felker did not commit the crime, it would have been the first time DNA evidence exonerated an American inmate who was put to death. DNA evidence has cleared eight death-row inmates.

Felker, who had already served time for aggravated sodomy, was convicted largely on circumstantial evidence. A state crime lab investigator testified that 22 of the 180 hairs found on Ludlam’s body and clothing appeared similar to Felker’s, based on visual examination under a microscope. At the time, DNA technology was not available.