DNA links dead man with no criminal record to 1987 killing

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A man with no criminal record who died 11 years ago has been linked to a 1987 killing and rape in South Carolina through DNA testing, according to a sheriff.

Roger Switzer went unpunished while he was alive because he was never charged in a crime and never had to submit DNA to a state database before he died of natural causes in 2008, Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright said Monday.

But advances in DNA testing allowed the State Law Enforcement Division to link genetic material found in the December 1987 hammer attack that killed 44-year-old James Larry Smith in his Taylors home to Switzer as well as to the rape of Smith’s girlfriend just before he arrived home, Wright said.

State agents used new DNA techniques to crack the case, said Wright, who didn’t provide specifics. But several recent cases have been solved through DNA samples submitted to private genealogy sites by the relatives of people who authorities say committed crimes.

Switzer lived in the same neighborhood as Smith. Although the DNA provided some answers, investigators don’t have others, the sheriff said at a news conference.

“It’s very heavy for the Smith family not to know the reason why. I don’t have a motive. I wish I had a motive,” Wright said. “But I don’t have a motive.”

Smith’s girlfriend was attacked first by someone who threw a tablecloth or something similar over her head and hit her several times with a hammer before raping her, Wright said.

Smith came home a short time later and also was beaten with the hammer. He went into a coma, dying more than four months later, the sheriff said.

An obituary for Switzer said he was a lifelong church member, a U.S. Air Force veteran and owned his own lawn service. Contact information for his family to respond to the sheriff’s news conference could not immediately be found.

The sheriff said Switzer’s family was devastated by the news. He said both Smith’s family and Switzer’s family asked for privacy outside of Smith’s brother, who was at the sheriff’s news conference.

“Thank you to sheriff’s office for working on this case — not giving up on this case. Thirty-one years is a long time,” Jerry Smith said. “At least we’ve got some closure. We know who did it. We don’t know why. We’ll probably never know.”

Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.

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