New DNA Evidence Could Change Conviction in 1985 El Dorado Hills Murder

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EL DORADO COUNTY -- For more than a decade, an El Dorado Hills man has sat behind bars, accused of murdering a family friend. But Ricky Davis could soon be set free.

A brutal attack shook a quiet El Dorado Hills street in the summer of 1985. Fifty-four-year-old Jane Hylton was found dead inside of a friend’s home. She had been stabbed and slashed nearly 30 times.

"The case went cold for 14 years with no leads," said attorney Melissa O'Connell with the Northern California Innocence Project.

Then, in 2005, Davis was convicted. He was a family friend of Hylton who had been living in the house where she was found.

Connie Dahl, Davis’ girlfriend, served as the prosecution’s star witness, claiming that she bit the victim on the shoulder while helping with the murder.

"At the time of trial, the laboratory who was doing forensic testing in the case was unable to test for the saliva or any foreign DNA on the nightgown because the nightgown was, sadly, saturated in the victim's blood," O'Connell said.

Davis always maintained his innocence. It’s why O’Connell took on the case.

Using modern DNA technology, they were eventually able to test the nightgown for saliva.

"It came back to an unknown man," O'Connell explained. "So not only was Ricky Davis excluded, but Connie, the main witness, Ms. Dahl, was also excluded."

The same DNA of that unknown man was also found under Hylton's fingernails.

O'Connell took the new evidence to Superior Court, where a judge overturned the conviction.

Defense attorney Mark Reichel says it’s important to note that the courts did not vacate the conviction and declare Davis innocent.

"They can say, 'We think they’re entitled to a new trial where the defense has this additional right to present evidence and have the jury make that determination.' That’s what happened here," Reichel said.

Now, the El Dorado County District Attorney has 60 days to decide whether to retry the case while Davis remains behind bars.

"So, everyone wants to know why, if the appellate court found that there was this error and that he’s entitled to a new trial, why isn’t he out of jail?" Reichel said. "Well, he’s still charged. He’s just going to have a new trial.”

The District Attorney’s Office says it’s still reviewing the evidence and has not yet decided if it will retry the case. They declined an interview because the case is still pending.

Davis is due back in court on May 13.

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