SHELBY A DNA analyst with the State Bureau of Investigation lab testified on Thursday about creating a DNA sample from a cigarette butt obtained from Donald Borders, charged with the rape and murder of 79-year-old Margaret Tessneer in 2003.
Karen Winningham said she compared the sample to a DNA profile generated from a semen sample in the 2004 case in 2004. The two matched, she said.
The cigarette butt was collected from Borders in May 2009 when a Gaston County Police officer went to serve a warrant on Borders for assault on a female.
Winningham developed a second profile from Borders’ cheek swab and when she compared it to the semen sample “they were exactly the same.”
Thursday marked the fifth day the prosecution has presented evidence in the trial of Borders, 54, of Cherryville.
Tessneer was one of three elderly women found dead in their beds in 2003, with doors unlocked and phone lines cut or yanked out.
SBI agent Mark Boodee described in detail the DNA testing process before he told the jury about testing items collected in the Tessneer case. In 2004, he generated a DNA profile from vaginal swabs, ran it through a digital database with profiles of other unsolved cases and didn’t get a match.
Borders’ attorney, David Teddy, posed questions to both Boodee and Winningham, raising issues of possible cross-contamination of evidence in the SBI lab and other issues.
Under cross examination, Boodee and Winningham said they hadn’t passed certification exams in December 2011. Both testified they took the exam again and passed.
Responding to a question from Teddy, Winningham admitted that in her test of a phone box cover from Tessneer’s residence, DNA showed up in a negative control sample, something that could possibly cause contamination.
Also testifying Thursday was SBI agent Russell Holley, who analyzed vaginal swabs from Tessneer and found “a moderate amount of sperm.”
When he tested stains on a cushion on Tessneer’s mattress Holley said analysis indicated “the presence of blood.”
In testimony earlier this week, experts have said they believed the most likely cause of Tessneer’s death was asphyxiation.
The trial resumes Friday at 9:30 a.m.
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