Virginia's Southside Strangler executed

JARRATT, Va., April 27 -- Timothy Spencer, convicted as the 'Southside Strangler' in the rape and murder of four women during a two-month killing spree in 1987, was executed Wednesday in Virginia's electric chair.

Spencer, 32, of Arlington, Va., was declared dead at 11:13 p.m. EDT, less than half an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court denied his request for a stay of execution.


Spencer became the first person to die based on DNA evidence. He also was the first capital murder suspect to be convicted based on genetic evidence.

Spencer's attorneys, through a series of appeals in state and federal courts, attempted to have the DNA tests redone, claiming at the time Spencer was convicted in 1988, the methods were experimental and unreliable.

Three criminal laboratories, however, concluded that semen discovered at the crime scenes came from Spencer. They testified there was 1 in 705 million chance that the semen came from someone other than Spencer.

'This was a DNA identification case,' said William H. Parcell III, assistant commonwealth's attorney in Richmond. 'If it hadn't been for DNA, we'd have never gotten the convictions.'

Spencer was sentenced to die for each of the four cases in which he was convicted.


Debbie Davis, 35, was the first of three women murdered during break- ins in Richmond. At the time of her death on Sept. 18, 1987, Spencer was living in a prison halfway house.

Dr. Susan Hellams, 32, was killed Oct. 2, and Diane Cho, 15, was murdered Nov. 22, during the crime spree in Richmond.

Spencer was arrested after the Nov. 28 murder of Susan Tucker, 44, of Arlington.

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