Friday, March 7, 2003
Murder suspect's wife: 'He killed Liddie and Joe'
By JOHN MUNFORD
The wife of accused murderer Carl Millard Patton Jr. testified in court Thursday that she witnessed her husband shoot Liddie Matthews Evans and Evans' boyfriend Joe Cleveland at the Patton's home in DeKalb County over 25 years ago.
"He and Joe were going back and forth with a gun, playing with it, cutting up," Norma J. Patton said of her husband. When the time was right, Carl Patton shot Evans twice and then shot Cleveland once, she testified.
Mrs. Patton said her husband wanted Evans and Cleveland dead because he thought Cleveland had told Evans about another murder Cleveland and he had committed together.
Before Evans and Cleveland were shot to death, Carl Patton Jr. and Cleveland about a month prior had killed Patton's uncle Fred Wyatt and his wife at the time, Betty Jo Ephlin, testified Maj. Bruce Jordan of the Fayette County Sheriff's Department.
Because of Mrs. Patton's testimony that the murder occurred in DeKalb County, State Court Judge Fletcher Sams dismissed the murder charges here in Fayette County. District Attorney Bill McBroom said murder warrants for Patton had already been secured in DeKalb County due to the testimony of Mrs. Patton.
Mrs. Patton has received immunity from prosecution from Fayette, DeKalb and Clayton counties for the murders even though she admitted to having helped plan and execute the killings.
Family members of the victims wept as they heard the details of the deaths from Mrs. Patton in open court.
After the killings, the Pattons dragged the bodies out of the house to a camper in the backyard, Mrs. Patton said. Mrs. Patton said she then began cleaning up the blood from the house.
Mrs. Patton positively identified the photos of Cleveland and Evans as the two persons killed by her husband in their home.
A sofa cushion with a blood stain on it was confiscated a quarter-century ago from the camper in the Pattons' residence, police said. Detectives used modern-day DNA technology to use samples from DNA from Evans's daughter and her father to create a composite sample of Liddie Evans's DNA, said Jordan, who led the investigation.
The blood from the sofa cushion matched the DNA compilation sample of Liddie Evans, Jordan testified. Detectives were unable to get a DNA sample directly from Liddie Evans's remains when her body was exhumed late last year, Jordan said.
Blood was also found in the wooden floorboard of the camper, which had been painted over to hide the blood, Jordan testified.
Norma Patton testified that she helped dispose of Evans's body in the Flint River between Clayton and Fayette counties and Cleveland's body at another location in the river the day after the killings.
Carl Patton Jr. and Norma Patton were originally arrested for the murders days after Evans's and Ephlin's bodies were found in the Flint River. The arrest was based on blood found in the trunk of the Pattons' vehicles, Jordan testified.
Evans's body was found just on the Fayette side of the Flint River, and Jordan ran across the old case file when he was writing a true crime book on murders in Fayette County.
Jordan decided then that the physical evidence in the case if it could still be found could help solve the murder. After some time, several pieces of physical evidence were found that tied Carl Patton to the murder, Jordan testified.
Most of the physical evidence was found in the evidence room of the Clayton County Police Department, which is the agency that also investigated the murders since two of the victims were found in Clayton's jurisdiction, Jordan said.
The concrete blocks chained to some of the murder victims and the sleeping bag Evans's body was found in will also be used in the case, Jordan explained.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation's crime lab was also key in deciding to reanalyze the evidence from the 25-year-old case, Jordan said.
It took the GBI some time to find its original case file on the murders, so detectives worked for about a month using information from newspaper accounts that were published at the time, Jordan said.
Mrs. Patton agreed to cooperate with authorities minutes after the sheriff's department arrested her husband at their Locust Grove home almost two weeks ago, Jordan said.
Another witness who claimed to have known Carl Patton from a series of drug transactions after the murders will testify that Carl Patton admitted to "killing the people that were found in the river" but not his uncle, Fred Wyatt, Jordan said.
Wyatt's death was originally ruled an accident after his body was found in a car that had been struck by a train. His remains were exhumed by the GBI a year later and it was found that he actually died from a gunshot wound to the head, Jordan said.
Norma Patton testified that she heard her husband and others talk about how Wyatt died and that her husband was familiar with the area where the vehicle was struck by the train because Carl Patton had lived there for years.
Jordan also spoke of several other witnesses who will help prove the murder case against Carl Patton. One witness saw Carl Patton burn a sofa, a suitcase and other items, Jordan said. Mrs. Patton testified that Carl Patton was worried about physical evidence being found on them.
Although Liddie Evans's mother Margie has died, she was interviewed by detectives before her death, Jordan said. The victim's mother said at the time that her daughter had told her Cleveland had murdered several people along with Carl Patton.
Jordan said he first ran across information on the case while doing research for his book in 1997. He declined to act on his hunch then because he was busy working on the Beverley Watson missing persons case that turned into a homicide case.
Fayette County Sheriff Randall Johnson, who was in his first year in office when Evans's body turned up here in 1977, authorized reopening the case last year, Jordan said.