Relatives of strangled women and girls packed a Kansas City courthouse yesterday to stare at the man prosecutors say killed their loved ones. Lorenzo Gilyard, 53, faces more murder charges than anyone in Missouri history; he is accused of strangling 12 women and girls, mostly prostitutes, between 1977 and 1993, the Kansas City Star reports. Gilyard’s attorney said his client claims innocence.
Court records say DNA linked Gilyard to all 12 victims. Eleven DNA samples were from bodily fluids left on victims, and a 12th sample came from a hair on a victim’s sweater.
The Star says were it not for a $111,495 federal grant, Gilyard might never have been arrested.
Gary Howell director of the Kansas City police crime lab, says that with a deluge of current cases, unsolved killings from long ago without known suspects are not a priority. It can take n years re-analyze evidence in such cases, he said. Every time the lab does, its backlog deepens.
In February 2003, the lab got some help from the National Institute of Justice, part of the U.S. Justice Department, when it received a “No Suspect Casework DNA Backlog Reduction Grant,” part of a $15 million federal program. The money weren to overtime pay so that 16 of the lab’s forensic scientists could come in nights and weekends, before and after their shifts, to examine old unsolved cases. For 13 months, they amassed 2,500 overtime hours in a marathon of investigation that was at times intense, crazy and frustrating
More than 600 unsolved murders and rapes sat in front of them. Because the grant lasted only a year, they chose 85 cases with the best chances of being solved.
They selected 85. Details have not been disclosed because the Gilyard case is pending, but various clues led investigators to Gilyard even though they were not seeking him at first.