The attorney representing a man charged last month in the brutal 1979 murder of a Bakersfield waitress says he learned this week that a fingerprint matching a now-dead sex offender was found at the crime scene.
Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman disclosed that information, never previously made public, following a hearing Friday for Prentice Foreman, who faces the death penalty if convicted of slaying an 18-year-old woman at her southwest Bakersfield apartment nearly 40 years ago.
The Kern County District Attorney's office, meanwhile, says it has DNA evidence linking Foreman to the victim.
So the case may come down to one side's telltale DNA evidence versus the other's potentially incriminating fingerprint discovery.
Cadman also pointed to a 2009 article in Bakersfield Magazine quoting a retired police detective who said he believed the victim, Dawn Koons, was in the witness protection program and had ties to a man from South Africa who may have been in Bakersfield the day of her killing.
That detective, Louis Bayus, died in 2011.
"Back in 1979, Mr. Foreman spoke to the police about this case and offered to take a polygraph," Cadman said Friday. "The police apparently failed to take him up on this offer and Mr. Foreman never fled or hid, he just continued to lead his life. He was simply a neighbor of Ms. Koons and may have known her casually.
"Mr. Foreman is not guilty of this killing."
Cadman did not reveal the sex offender's name.
Prosecutor Gina Pearl said she would have no comment on Cadman's claim because the case is pending. She did, however, say the District Attorney's office did not waive the death penalty during Friday's hearing.
Foreman is next due in court Feb. 15.
Foreman was questioned just weeks after Koons' body was found, according to a probable cause declaration filed in court last month. He told investigators he was with his girlfriend during the time frame in which the killing occurred.
Koons was last seen the evening of Jan. 12, 1979. Her body was found four days later at her apartment in the 2200 block of South Real Road.
Police found her naked in a bathtub, her wrists tied. A pillowcase covered her head.
Foreman told investigators in 1979 that he didn't know the victim, and would just say "hello" to her when he saw her around the apartment complex, according to the declaration. He claimed he was never inside her apartment.
Semen taken from the crime scene was retested in recent years, and in October returned a hit matching Foreman's DNA profile, the declaration says. Detectives called Foreman on Dec. 15, but he refused to meet with them.
He was arrested Dec. 20 on a charge of first-degree murder with special circumstances and is being held without bail.