DNA ties Fresno defendant to murder scene

FRESNO, Calif.

A smashed taxi cab with a dead man in the driver's seat puzzled Fresno Police investigators for months, starting in March 2009.

The bloody scene disguised some clues, including the bullet wound to the back of the head of the victim, Jose Martinez. His cab had crashed into a palm tree so hard, the blood wasn't surprising.

"I mean, it's just T-boned into the palm and the front of the car is just smashed," said prosecutor Robert Romanacce.

But a few things didn't add up: like the driver's watch removed from his wrist, then placed on top of his forearm. And the fact that police couldn't find Martinez's wallet.

Months later, the same blood that confused investigators led them to Koua Xiong. DNA testing pointed to him as a passenger in the cab at the time of the accident.

"That's the bulk of the case: dead taxi driver, Mr. Xiong's blood all over the car, including inside the pockets of the victim," Romanacce said.

Prosecutors say Xiong denied being in the cab and even tried to escape through a ceiling when police interviewed him about the case. But in opening statements Tuesday, his attorney said the evidence doesn't really prove anything.

"You'll be asked whether the presence of DNA means that a person is responsible for first degree murder," said public defender Scott Baly.

Xiong was on probation at the time of the murder. He faces life in prison without parole if he's convicted.

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