A man was found guilty today of murder for the 1984 slaying of a woman at an auto repair shop in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood that was solved through a DNA match more than two decades later, prosecutors said.
A San Francisco Superior Court jury this afternoon found Dwight Culton, 62, guilty of first-degree murder for the death of 43-year-old Joan Baldwin at the former Earl Scheib auto shop at 555 Bryant St.
Baldwin worked at the auto shop and had been staying there overnight temporarily with the permission of her manager, Assistant District Attorney Michael Swart said.
She was found dead at the shop the morning of April 6, 1984.
Investigators believe she was killed sometime overnight.
A bloody fingerprint was found on Baldwin’s inner right thigh, and in November 2006 a DNA hit linked it to Culton–a former employee at the auto shop–after he was arrested on an unrelated parole violation.
Authorities also matched a fingerprint from Culton’s left thumb to a photograph of the bloody fingerprint left on the body, Swart said.
District Attorney George Gascon said after the verdict was read this afternoon that the case was “not easy to put together.”
“This was great teamwork” by police and prosecutors “in bringing a brutal murderer to justice,” Gascon said.
The case had drawn headlines last month when former crime lab employee Debbie Madden was called to the witness stand because she had processed the DNA evidence back in 1984.
Madden, a civilian criminalist at the lab, has admitted to taking small amounts of cocaine spilled from evidence in late 2009. Her actions prompted the dismissal of hundreds of drug cases by the district attorney’s office and the closure of the drug lab in 2010.
Culton’s defense attorney had questioned Madden’s reliability as a witness, but Swart said, “The verdict shows that wasn’t a major issue for the jurors.”
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News