Lawyer: Arizona man wrongly accused in 1979 Nevada slaying


This undated photo provided by the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office shows Charles Gary Sullivan, 73, of Flagstaff, Ariz., following his booking on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, into the Washoe County Jail in Reno, Nev. The auto dealer from Arizona is expected to plead not guilty in Reno in the cold-case killing of a California woman more than 40 years ago. (Washoe County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — An Arizona auto dealer jailed in Reno and named by Nevada’s attorney general as the suspect in several slayings of women in Nevada 40 years ago says DNA shows other people had contact with the one woman he’s charged with killing.

Charles Gary Sullivan’s attorney, David Houston, said Monday that DNA from a stain on Julia Woodward’s clothing might show Sullivan had contact with Woodward in 1979, but not that he killed her.

Houston said Sullivan’s murder charge should be thrown out because prosecutors failed to tell a grand jury that DNA showed Woodward had sex with other people, and they improperly compared the crime with Sullivan’s conviction in an unrelated 2007 sex attack in California.

“Even if you believe the DNA evidence, DNA says (Woodward) had sex with other people,” Houston told The Associated Press. “Why aren’t they looking for those people?”

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford’s spokeswoman, Monica Moazez, said prosecutors will respond in court but will not comment about the ongoing cold-case murder prosecution.

Sullivan, now 73, was arrested Aug. 28 in Prescott, Arizona. He pleaded not guilty Nov. 19 in Reno to murdering Woodward during an alleged sex assault in northern Nevada.

Woodward was 20 at the time and lived in the Bay Area town of San Rafael, California. A friend left her in February 1979 at San Francisco International Airport, where she planned to fly to the Reno and Lake Tahoe area. Her bludgeoned body was found the next month off a remote hiking and biking trail outside Reno.

Ford and prosecutor Michael Kovac declared in court filings that Sullivan also is the suspect in the killing of a 17-year-old casino waitress and the disappearance of a 23-year-old woman he once knew, both in the Reno area.

Waitress Jennie Smith’s skeletal remains were discovered in November 1979 off the same trail where Woodward’s body was found. The body of Linda Taylor was never located.

Sullivan has not been charged in the Smith or Taylor cases. He’s due for another court hearing Jan. 30 in the Woodward case.

Prosecutors said both Smith and Woodward had their eyes bandaged, their underwear and identification was stolen, and both were left wearing just one shoe. The grand jury was told that Woodward and the victim in the California case were both bound with self-locking plastic ties.

Houston said Sullivan wasn’t given proper notice of the Washoe County District Court grand jury proceedings, and DNA from Woodward’s clothes only showed that Sullivan had contact with Woodward “at one time.”

“Association is not enough to prove murder,” the defense attorney said.


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