In April of this year, I posted a pretty lengthy blog post about the murder of Harold and Thelma Swain, an older African American couple in Waverly, Georgia who were gunned down in cold blood by a white male assailant as they worshiped at Rising Daughters Baptist Church. In 2003, Dennis Perry was convicted of the murder, and he has served almost 17 years of two life sentences for the double homicide. This week, Dennis's conviction was overturned, and he is out on bond after the judge ordered that he be released on his own recognizance.
Reports from Fox News indicate a judge overturned Perry's 2003 conviction based on DNA evidence from the crime scene that matched another suspect, Erik Sparre, aged 57. Sparre, who was originally a suspect, was dropped from the list of suspects by police when he was able to produce an alibi for the time of the murders; however, his alibi was recently proven to be false. Once Dennis Perry's attorney found out that the alibi was not legitimate, they requested DNA tests. The tests revealed DNA found at the scene did not match Perry, and instead matched Erik Sparre. The DNA sample used to match the DNA found at the scene of the murders was provided by Sparre's mother, Gladys Sparre. In a strange twist to this story, Gladys Sparre was found dead in her Waynesville home on Sunday, July 19th. She had been seen alive as recently as Friday, July 17th. At this time, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations is investigating and awaiting the results of an autopsy.
So what happens to Dennis Perry? Keep in mind that at this point, he is out on bond. For now, it is up to the District Attorney for that judicial circuit as to whether or not Dennis Perry will be retried. Judging from all the evidence stacking up against Erik Parre, I doubt that Perry will be retried, and it is likely that an indictment of Parre could be an option. The Georgia Innocence Project was behind Perry much of they way. My earlier blog in April about this case outlines the problems with evidence presented by prosecutors, as well as the information about the attempts to free Dennis Perry. The GBI reopened the case in May, and the district attorney commented they were waiting on the GBI to wrap-up that investigation before making a decision either way. Perry's attorneys from the Georgia Innocence Project are calling on the district attorney and state to drop all charges against Perry in light of the evidence discovered recently pointing to the fact his DNA did NOT match any DNA found at the murder scene.
So, as I always do, I pose a few questions.
1. Why was the alibi for Erik Parre not thoroughly investigated? Or was it?
2. Where is all that missing evidence that supposedly pointed to Dennis Perry as the killer?
3. Have the sheriff and district attorney in the original case commented on the recent findings?
4. What motive might Erik Parre have had to kill the Swains? Did he know them at all?
5. What happened to Gladys Parre? Was she murdered? If so, could it have been in retaliation for providing a hair sample for DNA testing?
6. Did Gladys Parre willfully provide the DNA sample?
Hopefully, the GBI will wrap-up their investigation soon. Here is a clip from First Coast News out of Jacksonville, Florida, the major metropolitan area nearest Waverly.