Cold Murder Case Ends in Guilty Verdict

Wednesday, May 4, 2011  |  Updated 3:59 PM PDT
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Cold Murder Case Ends in Guilty Verdict

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A man was found guilty today of murder for the 1984 slaying of a  woman at an auto repair shop in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood  that was solved through a DNA match more than two decades later, prosecutors  said.

A San Francisco Superior Court jury this afternoon found Dwight  Culton, 62, guilty of first-degree murder for the death of 43-year-old Joan  Baldwin at the former Earl Scheib auto shop at 555 Bryant St.

Baldwin worked at the auto shop and had been staying there  overnight temporarily with the pe

She was found dead at the shop the morning of April 6, 1984.  Investigators believe she was killed sometime overnight.

A bloody fingerprint was found on Baldwin's inner right thigh, and  in November 2006 a DNA hit linked it to Culton -- a former employee at the  auto shop -- after he was arrested on an unrelated parole violation.   

Authorities also matched a fingerprint from Culton's left thumb to  a photograph of the bloody fingerprint left on the body, Swart said.

District Attorney George Gascon said after the verdict was read  this afternoon that the case was "not easy to put together."

"This was great teamwork" by police and prosecutors "in bringing a  brutal murderer to justice," Gascon said.

The case had drawn headlines last month when former crime lab  employee Debbie Madden was called to the witness stand because she had  processed the DNA evidence back in 1984.

Madden, a civilian criminalist at the lab, has admitted to taking  small amounts of cocaine spilled from evidence in late 2009. Her actions  prompted the dismissal of hundreds of drug cases by the district attorney's  office and the closure of the drug lab in 2010.
 

Culton's defense attorney had questioned Madden's reliability as a  witness, but Swart said, "The verdict shows that wasn't a major issue for the  jurors."
 

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