Prosecutors in the retrial of Denny Ross on Monday delivered on their assertions from opening statements, tying his DNA to tests of forensic evidence found in the 1999 slaying of Hannah Hill on her pants, underwear and fingernail clippings.
The testimony by LabCorp forensic biologist Meghan E. Clement, lasting more than two hours, was heard by a Summit County jury in the fourth week of the state’s case against Ross.
Hill was 18 when she disappeared on the night of May 19, 1999, after leaving her parents’ Kenmore home.
Her body was found one week later in the trunk of her car on a street in the Ellet area of Akron, a little more than one mile from Ross’ apartment in Springfield Township. She was beaten and strangled, according to autopsy results.
Prosecutors, in both the retrial and the first trial of Ross in October 2000, have theorized that she was killed inside that apartment during a sexual encounter with Ross.
Clement testified that she tested eight sections of material from Hill’s underwear and obtained DNA profiles from six of those areas.
“I concluded that the profiles from the panties at those six locations were the same as the profile from Denny Ross,” she told the jury.
Test results for DNA profiles from Hill’s brown corduroy pants were next. Eight cuttings of material were tested, and Clement said all eight matched Ross’s DNA profile.
She then told the jury the probability of randomly selecting someone else with the same DNA profile in those eight locations was “one in 1 billion, 260 million for the African-American population, 1 in 944 million for the Caucasian population and one in greater than 6 billion for the Hispanic population.”
Finally, Clement testified about the nail clippings from both of Hill’s hands.
In tests before the 2000 trial, she said, positive results were obtained from three genetic areas of the nails — all three consistent only with Hill.
However, in more sophisticated DNA tests the state requested in February 2005, results from one set of nails, on Hill’s left hand, matched the profile of Ross, Clement said.
Akron attorney Larry Whitney, one of three lawyers on the Ross defense team, asked Clement only one question in his cross-examination: Was anything inconsistent in those DNA tests results “with having an intimate encounter between two young adults, Denny Ross and Hannah Hill?”
“No,” Clement replied.
Ross, who was first interviewed by Akron police detectives inside his apartment on May 26, 1999, hours after Hill’s body was found, told investigators then that he and Hill had “messed around” and that they had “kissed and stuff” during her late-night visit. He denied in that interview ever having intercourse with Hill.
Ross’ first trial, which took place 10 years ago next month, ended abruptly during deliberations after the jury had voted unanimously to acquit him of murder, aggravated murder and rape.
Retired Common Pleas Judge Jane Bond, who presided over the first trial, declared a mistrial over alleged misconduct by one juror. That decision sent the case into years of state and federal appeals, primarily over the issue of double jeopardy.
Ross is charged in his retrial with two counts of murder, tampering with evidence, abuse of a corpse and felonious assault.
Ross is serving a 25-year prison sentence for the 2004 attempted murder and rape of another Akron woman while he was free on bond during the Hill appeals.
Under a gag order current Judge Judy Hunter has imposed, all parties involved in the retrial are prohibited from commenting about case details outside of court. She told potential jurors Aug. 13, the first day of jury selection, that the retrial could take six to eight weeks.
Jeff Reidel, a video engineer from Cleveland, is recording the proceedings for the national news show Dateline NBC.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or email@example.com.