Opening Arguments in Fresno Cold Case

September 14, 2009 7:34:17 PM PDT
Trial began Monday for a man accused of murdering a Fresno woman more than three decades ago. Susan Vallin was 21 years old when she was found dead in a central Fresno alley. Police say she had been sexually assaulted and stabbed but the case went cold until last year. Tuesday, jurors saw gruesome crime scene photos and the victim's bloody clothing. It was D.N.A. evidence taken from that clothing that led police to Larry Banks just last year. Banks sat quietly as a prosecutor told jurors how he brutally murdered Vallin more than 32 years ago. "The evidence is going to show that on May 10th, 1977 Mr. Banks attacked Susan Vallin in this alley. He continued to beat her as he demanded sex from her and after he was finished with her, he killed her," said prosecutor Lynmarc Jenkins.

Prosecutors say banks lived within a two minute walk from the victim's house. They'll be presenting D.N.A. evidence that they say links him to the crime. "In the corner of the alley, a blouse was found. And around her legs, her jeans were found. And you're going to hear about Mr. Bank's DNA on both of those items," said Jenkins.

The witnesses in this case are all being asked to recall details from three decades ago. The first to testify was former Fresno resident Catherine Meyers who lived near the scene of the crime. She said on May 10th, she heard a "gurgling" scream and then looked outside, where she saw a man running away with a knife. But she testified she never saw the suspect's face.

Bank's defense attorney told jurors there will be no physical evidence that Vallin had been sexually assaulted. They're also questioning the D.N.A. evidence collected so long ago. "You're going to find out that Larry Banks cannot be excluded as a contributor. You're going to hear and you're going to find out that there were other contributors to that D.N.A." said attorney Antonio Alvarez.

The defense is pointing to another man, the victim's boyfriend at the time. He's been convicted of rape but police said they were able to rule him out as a witness. Tuesday, jurors also heard from the victim's nephew. He was only ten years old when she was killed and he was the last person to see her alive.

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