SANTA ANA (CBSLA) – An attorney for the family of a man found guilty in the 1979 rape and murder of a Fountain Valley mother is arguing that the suspected Golden State Killer may in fact be responsible for the killing, and that his client, who has since passed away, was wrongly convicted.
William Lee Evins died in prison of a heart attack in 2013, but his family still wishes to clear his name, attorney Annee Della Donna said.
Donna believes the March 7, 1979, murder of 28-year-old Joan Virginia Anderson, a mother of three, has eerie similarities to the M.O. of the Golden State Killer, Joseph DeAngelo, who was arrested in April and is jailed in Sacramento, awaiting trial and is facing 12 murder charges in Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Orange and Ventura counties.
“The facts are just unbelievably similar” to the Golden State Killer’s M.O.,” Donna said. “It’s striking how similar they are to every other murder and rape he did.”
DeAngelo is also a suspect in more than 50 rapes and more than 100 burglaries across the state dating back to 1974.
In Orange County, DeAngelo is charged with the 1980 killings of Keith and Patrice Harrington in Dana Point, the 1981 killing of Manuela Witthuhn in Irvine, and the 1986 killing of Janelle Cruz in Irvine.
The District Attorney’s Office has agreed to review Evins’ case and check DeAngelo’s DNA to see if he is connected to Anderson’s murder, Donna said.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Evins, a contractor, was working on an addition to the Anderson home at the time of Joan’s murder. He was not arrested until 17 months later, in Texas, when an acquaintance told investigators that Evins had confessed to the murder, the Times reports.
“It was a perfect setup to blame one of the contractors,” Donna claims.
That acquaintance, Randy Wanner, was hypnotized by police during a preliminary hearing to help him recall details, the Times reports. Evins’ attorneys appealed, and the state Supreme Court ruled in 1984 that the hypnotism was improper evidence.
“He was going to be released, he had his bags packed to go home to his wife and two children and suddenly a jail informant was in his cell,” Donna said.
That prolific snitch, James Dean Cochrum, proved controversial as well as he had also testified in four other cases. Cochrum testified Evins confessed to him, so Evins was ordered to stand trial.
At this point, Evins had spent five years in a jail awaiting trial. However, he took a plea deal, pleading guilty to second-degree murder, and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
His remained in prison until his death in 2013, with every parole bid being denied.
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