Mark Reardon (@MarkReardonKMOX)By Mark Reardon

A friend of Lisha Gayle’s called me this week in tears. Gayle was the former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter from University City who was brutally murdered by Marcellus Williams in 1998, and this friend – who did not want to be identified – was barely able to speak because she was so upset. She was reacting to the news that Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens halted Williams scheduled execution because of supposed new DNA evidence at the crime scene that might somehow exonerate Williams. The governor says he’s going to appoint a Board of Inquiry to look into the case further.

Here’s what the governor said:

“A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment,” Greitens said in a statement. “To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt. In light of new information, I am appointing a Board of Inquiry in this case.”

The problem is this case has been looked into further, many times. Including by the Missouri Supreme Court in 2015.  Death penalty opponents are a curious bunch to me. Candlelight vigils, protests, calls for further investigation never ever focus on the victim of the crime. They ignore the *43* times Marcellus Williams plunged a butcher knife into Lisha Gayles body, including 7 fatal wounds, and the knife eventually twisting into her neck. The claim by Williams’ attorneys is new DNA evidence unavailable during the trial in 2001 proves his innocence. Except it doesn’t.

Williams ended up bragging about the murder while he was in jail in the St. Louis City workhouse to his cellmate Henry Cole. Williams gave Cole details that only the killer would know. Upon his release, Cole went to University City police to tell them what Williams had relayed to him, bragging at one point how the little “mother ____” (Lisha) fought.

The story Cole told the cops included information that was never made public. A very similar story was told by Williams to his then-girlfriend Laura Asaro. Cole and Asaro didn’t know each other and had never spoken. But the stories matched up. Must have been a complete coincidence, right? Asaro testified that the day of the murder Williams got into her car and had a bloody shirt and scratches on his neck. He claimed he had gotten into a fight. Asaro also saw a laptop computer in the car and shortly after the murder, Williams sold that laptop to a guy named Glenn Roberts. Police eventually recovered that computer and the serial number matched up with the computer Lisha Gayle’s husband owned. Asaro told police that Williams had admitted that he killed Gayle. Police then searched the car that Asaro picked him up in and found the Post-Dispatch ruler and calculator belonging to Gayle.

He must have been framed. There’s no way a guy like Williams, who also at one point hit a jail guard over the head with a metal pipe in an attempt to escape, could possibly be guilty of such a heinous and violent crime, right? Even when every bit of evidence points to his guilt, he’s the true victim here, according to his supporters.

The new DNA evidence isn’t really new. St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch told me this week that the DNA extracted from the knife in 2016, NOT when the crime was committed, did not prove that either the weapon belonged to Williams or that it did not belong to Williams. It was inconclusive; they could not say it belonged to anybody. You can listen the entire interview with McCulloch here:

Don’t be confused, Marcellus Williams is a cold-blooded killer whose fate should have been sealed with the help of a needle this week. It’s shameful that in all their recent coverage of this case, our local paper – the folks who at one point employed Lisha Gayle – are willing to completely ignore the damning evidence of Williams’ guilt.

Lisha’s friend who called me in tears could barely get her words out. She’s doesn’t understand how her friend’s killer would now be somehow considered a victim in this case.

I can’t either. It’s disgraceful. Here’s hoping that the Board of Inquiry appointed by the governor will come to the same conclusion as the jury in 2001. Marcellus Williams deserves to die for his vicious crime.

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