Wednesday, March 12, 2003
Confessed multiple murderer faces more life sentences
By JOHN MUNFORD
The family of Liddie Matthews Evans has waited 25 years for justice, knowing in their hearts that Carl Millard Patton Jr. killed her.
Having confessed last week to two related Clayton County murders, Patton is expected to plead guilty Friday in DeKalb County Superior Court to shooting Evans and dumping her body just on the Fayette side of the Flint River in December 1977, a few days before Christmas.
Last week, Patton's wife Norma testified that her husband indeed shot and killed Evans, because he was afraid Cleveland had told Evans about two murders Cleveland had assisted Carl Patton Jr. with the previous month.
"He and Joe were going back and forth with a gun, playing with it, cutting up," Norma J. Patton said of her husband. When the time was right, Carl Patton shot Evans twice and then shot Cleveland once, she testified.
Mrs. Patton has received immunity from prosecution from Fayette, DeKalb and Clayton counties for the murders even though she admitted to having helped plan and execute the killings.
Carl Patton Jr. has already pled guilty for the two murders which occurred in Clayton County. Mrs. Patton said Cleveland helped her husband kill Fred Wyatt and Betty Jo Ephlin. Ephlin's body was found floating in the Flint River which led to the discovery of Evans' body. Wyatt's body was found in a car that had been struck by a train; detectives didn't figure out he was shot and killed until his body was exhumed a year later.
Although Evans' body was found in Fayette County, Mrs. Patton's testimony proved the killings occurred at the former Patton residence in DeKalb County, so that's where the murder charges were brought after they were initially filed in Fayette County. The Fayette charges were dismissed Thursday by State Court Judge Fletcher Sams.
It took three Fayette County detectives four months to interview a number of witnesses as far away as Texas in addition to the review and discovery of 25-year-old evidence that was tested for the victims' DNA to build a solid case against Carl Patton Jr.
When the case began in 1977, current Fayette County Sheriff Randall Johnson had been in office for less than a year. He authorized reopening the case last year after Maj. Bruce Jordan presented his belief the case could be solved using DNA technology.
A sofa cushion with a blood stain on it was confiscated a quarter-century ago from the camper in the Pattons' residence, police said. Detectives used modern-day DNA technology to use samples from DNA from Evans' family members to create a composite sample of Liddie Evans's DNA, said Jordan, who led the investigation.
The blood from the sofa cushion matched the DNA compilation sample of Liddie Evans, Jordan testified. Detectives were unable to get a DNA sample directly from Liddie Evans' remains when her body was exhumed late last year, Jordan said.
Blood was also found in the wooden floorboard of the camper, which had been painted over to hide the blood, Jordan testified.
Norma Patton testified that she helped dispose of Evans' body in the Flint River between Clayton and Fayette counties and Cleveland's body at another location in the river the day after the killings.
Carl Patton Jr. and Norma Patton were originally arrested for the murders days after Evans' and Ephlin's bodies were found in the Flint River. The arrest was based on blood found in the trunk of the Pattons' vehicles, Jordan testified.
Most of the physical evidence was found in the evidence room of the Clayton County Police Department, which is the agency that also investigated the murders since two of the victims were found in Clayton's jurisdiction, Jordan said.
The concrete blocks chained to some of the murder victims and the sleeping bag Evans' body was found in will also be used in the case, Jordan explained.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation's crime lab was also key in deciding to reanalyze the evidence from the 25-year-old case, Jordan said.