News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 30, 2013

Trial for ’79 death centers on DNA

Defense says evidence against Richard Boswell is incidental

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — DNA evidence will be used to try to convince a jury that a Riley man strangled a 20-year-old woman in 1979 and dumped her body in a remote area north of Riley.

But the defense team for the accused man, Richard Boswell Jr., points to another man convicted of murdering women in a similar fashion, in the same area, at about the same time.

So came the opening statements on Monday in the second murder trial for Boswell, 55, who was arrested in October 2010 and charged in the May 1979 death of 20-year-old Kathy Jo Baker and the attempted killing of her then-2-year-old son.

A trial in Vigo Superior Court 6 resulted in a mistrial in January after a witness made reference to the defendant’s criminal history.

Judge Michael Lewis called 50 prospective jurors into Vigo Superior Court 6 on Monday morning to begin jury selection. Twelve jurors and two alternates were selected by 1:30 p.m.

Boswell was arrested in October 2010 after an Indiana State Police investigation into the cold case murder linked Boswell to the killing through DNA evidence, which was recovered on a shirt that Baker was wearing the day she died.

The original investigation showed that Baker and her young son went missing from their home, prompting a search of the area.

The next day, people in the area followed up a tip of a child crying and found him near his mother’s body. The child had been struck on the head in an alleged attempt to kill him.

Trial prosecutor Dan McGlone told the jury that when Baker’s body was recovered, her bikini top and bottom had been removed, but the bikini bottom had been rolled up and stuffed down her throat. She was still wearing a T-shirt, however, and McGlone said that the T-shirt evidence was preserved for many years until the case was reopened a few years ago after a tip about a possible killer in the case.

That tip turned out to go nowhere, McGlone said, but since technology had changed, it did present the opportunity to examine the T-shirt for DNA evidence. Some DNA samples from various individuals were found, including one DNA match to Boswell, who has already in the state database because of his criminal record.

Defense attorney Luther Garcia told the jury that the Boswell DNA found on the shirt was a tiny amount, and could have come from incidental contact because Boswell knew Baker’s brothers, and had reportedly been at the Baker home on one occasion to fix a lawn mower.

Garcia also stated that testimony that is expected to come from a convicted killer, still in prison, should be discredited because the inmate has a history of relaying jailhouse confessions to authorities if he thinks it will get him transferred to a better prison facility.

While Baker’s death occurred in May 1979, Garcia pointed to other murders that occurred in September and December 1979 with similar traits. A man named Buddy Riley was convicted of those murders, but he died in prison and was never charged in the Baker murder, Garcia said.

Testimony in the Boswell trial is expected to commence at 8:30 a.m. today. The trial is scheduled to run through Friday.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@trib Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.