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Man's life may hinge on hair strand

30-year old case inches closer to trial as prosecutors, defense get ready for courtroom rumble
The life of a man accused of murder in connection with a shooting that occurred more than 30 years ago could hinge on a single strand of hair. Nathaniel Dennis, 60, is accused of gunning down a Dothan convenience store clerk to in 1981.

Several motions were argued Monday before a Houston Count judge, the most notable regarding a strand of hair investigators say links Dennis with the death of Russell Douglas. “This case turns on a single piece of evidence,” said defense attorney Andrew George. He and Co-counsel Harry Morgan of a Washington, D.C. law firm are part of a defense team that includes Dothan attorney Eric Davis.

At issue is the chain of custody for the hair sample used in a DNA test that led to the 2011 arrest of Dennis. “They want to keep documents out (of trial) regarding evidence collected by people that are now dead,” argued District Attorney Douglas Albert Valeska.

Also at issue is the admissibility of a statement Douglas allegedly made to a police officer minutes after he was shot. Valeska said Douglas told police officer (now Sergeant) Bruce Hudson he had been shot by an African-American male who then ran south along U.S. 431. Hudson still works with the department.

“It’s an interesting case. Enough issues have been raised I’m going to set a pre-trial hearing,” Conaway said. The judge suggested the age of the case makes it unusual. The hearing will likely be conducted in 2014 though the trial won’t be scheduled until 2015.

Conaway also ordered that attorneys and prosecutors not discuss the case in media reports until the trial is concluded. 

Dennis is serving a sentence of more than 630 years for violent crimes convictions in Virginia. He lived in Dothan for about a decade following the shooting death of Douglas.

WDHN is the chief investigative/political report for WDHN. Email Ken at ken@wdhn.com

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