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Man found guilty in 1984 slaying of SMU student

Jurors found Donald Andrew Bess guilty Monday in the 1984 sex-assault slaying of SMU student Angela Samota.
Donald Bess, right, was convicted in the 1984 slaying of SMU student Angela Samota.

DALLAS Jurors found Donald Andrew Bess guilty Monday in the 1984 sex-assault slaying of SMU student Angela Samota.

The Dallas County jury deliberated only about an hour before returning the verdict that could bring a death sentence for Bess, 61, who was linked to the case by DNA evidence in 2008.

Bess' attorneys admitted early in the case that his DNA was found in Samota's body, but they argued there is no proof that he killed her.

Prosecutors allowed for no such doubt. In closing arguments, lead prosecutor Pat Kirlin told jurors that he wants to believe Samota, 20, died quickly after she was sexually assaulted. She was stabbed 18 times. Ten of those wounds were through her lungs or heart.

I can't help but think Angela was gone in an instant and didn't have to live through that paid that this man -- and no one else -- inflicted on her, Kirlin said. We know it was him.

Then, standing in front of Bess, Kirlin looked at the defendant and said: You and no one else ... are responsible.

Prosecutor Jennifer Bennett said there is no other explanation other than that Bess raped and killed Samota.

He was evil preying on innocence, Bennett said.

Defense attorney Robbie McClung called Samota's death tragic, but he said that tragedy was not caused by Bess.

But what's even more tragic is if we focus on righting a wrong and create another wrong, McClung told jurors. The facts are not there.

Last week, retired Dallas Police Senior Cpl. Virgil Sparks, lead investigator on the murder case, said he believes that the attacker was in the apartment when Ben McCall, Samota's boyfriend, knocked on the door.

I believe that when McCall knocked on the door, she tried to get up or call out, Sparks said. He said he believes that it was this action that caused her assailant to stab her repeatedly in the chest.

He also believes that the suspect cleaned up quickly and left the apartment while McCall was searching the neighborhood for Samota.

M.G.F. Gilliland, the doctor who performed the autopsy, repeated her statement that the murder occurred very close to intercourse. She also testified that her findings were consistent with Samota not sitting up or standing after intercourse.

Dr. Sarah Williams, the forensic serologist who tested the body fluids in 1984, testified that the amount of intact sperm found in the samples tested tells her two things.

One, that it's seminal fluid, and two, that the sample was taken pretty much at the time of intercourse, Williams said. Seminal fluid breaks down within minutes of intercourse and by four to six hours after intercourse the chances of finding intact spermatozoa is rare, she said.

Dr. Claudia Werner, an obstetrician-gynecologist, explained the lack of bruising and trauma found on Samota's body as being consistent with that of women who submitted to a sexual assault under threat of force.

David Spence, trace evidence supervisor at the Dallas County crime lab, conducted a blood spatter analysis earlier this year based on crime scene and autopsy photographs. He testified that voids in the spatter patterns are consistent with an assailant being partially on top of Samota during the stabbing.

It would be consistent with the assailant on the bed, facing the headboard and striking with a right hand, he told jurors.

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