Nearly two decades after Victoria Witherspoon Carr was stabbed to death, the case of the man charged with her death is moving toward trial.
On Monday, Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern heard several motions from Adolphus Hollingsworth's defense attorney Steve Brown that sought to have DNA testing, bloodhound evidence and any reference to Hollingsworth's accidental release from a Texas jail this year excluded from trial.
Over protests from the defense, Stern also reset Hollingsworth's trial for Jan. 6. It was originally scheduled to begin next week, but prosecutors requested more time for a witness in the case to return from out of state.
Prosecutors said Hollingsworth, Carr's estranged husband, murdered the mother of two and disposed of her body near Billy Goat Hill in East Chattanooga in August 1997.
Her body was discovered in May 1999, but the case remained cold until January of this year. Prosecutors announced Hollingsworth's arrest soon after the television show "Cold Justice" became interested in the case. He was indicted Jan. 22.
On Jan. 7, Brown said, DNA samples including evidence from Carr's 1988 Ford Mustang and from her biological daughter were sent to a private lab that works in conjunction with the show's production company.
"In preparation of them coming here to begin our investigation together, that's one of the things they wanted to do was to send whatever we could to the lab ahead of time," Detective Ben Phillips testified Monday.
In an effort to discredit that DNA evidence, Brown pointed out that the evidence could have been tested at any time but was rushed to fit the show's production schedule.
District Attorney General Neal Pinkston said the results "are what they are" either way.
"They are what they are, and I was glad we could get the testing done in just a few days," Phillips said.
Stern said the private lab's testing methods would have to hold up in court, but the results wouldn't be excluded beforehand.
Hollingsworth's attorney also addressed a motion to exclude mention of Hollingsworth's accidental release in Texas. After his indictment in Hamilton County in January, an Amarillo, Texas, jail where he was being held let him go because they could not find an outstanding hold on him in the Hamilton County, Texas, system. U.S. Marshals later apprehended him in Ohio.
Though Hollingsworth's attorney sought to have that information excluded from trial, Assistant District Attorney General Lance Pope pointed out that Hollingsworth was told before his release that he had been indicted in Tennessee.
Brown wanted that information kept from a jury. Stern ruled otherwise.
"I will let them know that he was arrested in Texas, he got released - it seems like it helps your client to be able to talk about that it was a mistake - but that he ended up in Ohio and had to be brought in," Stern told Brown.
Also heard Monday was a motion Brown filed to dismiss the case based on the destruction of Carr's Mustang, which was found in her mother's backyard smelling of gasoline and with branches stuck in the bumper. Brown argued that the state should have preserved that evidence for examination by the defense, but Stern ruled that the photos provided by investigators were sufficient.
Finally, Pinkston filed an amended indictment that includes language meant to protect one of the charges filed against Hollingsworth from running out the 15-year statute of limitations. Though it's been more than 15 years since she disappeared, Carr's body was "concealed" until May 1999, the indictment states. That means a lesser charge, in this case second-degree murder, still can be filed.
There is no statute of limitations for first-degree murder. Hollingsworth's next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 17.
Contact staff writer Claire Wiseman at 423-757-6347 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @clairelwiseman.
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