The blood of a long-missing 7-year-old girl allegedly killed in 2006 will be key evidence in a double murder trial in which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
“Blood doesn’t lie,” said 11th Circuit deputy solicitor Shawn Graham in the state’s opening argument Tuesday at the Lexington County courthouse.
The blood of Angelica Livingston was found in the West Columbia apartment where she lived with her grandmother, Portia Washington, 53, after both were reported missing in June 2006, Graham said. Neither has been seen since. Washington’s live-in boyfriend, Kenneth Lynch, is charged with murdering them.
“(Lynch) left behind her blood, smeared in a carpet,” Graham said.
In remarks that took only eight minutes, Graham sketched a web of circumstantial evidence against Lynch, 52. Graham said he hoped to persuade Circuit Judge Eugene Griffith of Newberry to find Lynch guilty of killing not only Livingston, but also Washington. If Griffith finds Lynch guilty, a second phase of the trial will follow as prosecutors try to convince the judge to give Lynch the death penalty.
In its brief opening remarks that took less than two minutes, defense lawyer Ben Stitely told Griffith the prosecution’s case is seriously flawed.
Police disregarded evidence that would have shown someone else committed the crime, Stitely said. “We are just asking you to listen.”
The case – which is expected to take up to three weeks to try – is unusual because the defense chose to try it in front of a judge, without a jury.
But it is also unusual in that neither Livingston’s nor Washington’s bodies have been found.
As lawyers argued Tuesday, Lynch, a stocky man with a shaved head, sat attentively at the defense table. He wore a coat and tie and ankle chains. Extra officers were in the courtroom. People wishing to attend the trial had to pass an additional metal detector.
Using simple words and speaking slowly, Graham drew a picture of the missing pair’s last day and explained the prosecution’s version of how Lynch fled West Columbia in Washington’s car and was nabbed by border police at the U.S.-Canadian border a week later on the West Coast.
“Saturday, June 10, 2006, was a normal day for Angelica and Portia,” Graham told the judge. “They went to have their hair done, they went grocery shopping and they went back to their apartment they shared with Mr. Lynch at that time. They were getting ready for church.
“That was the last day they were heard from or seen. They leave behind friends and family that know they wouldn’t run away,” said Graham as some spectators began to weep and dab their eyes.
“Lynch murdered them. He stole Portia’s car and he ran and he lied to cover up his horrific crimes,” Graham said.
Four days later, on June 14, 2006, a Texas state trooper stopped Lynch in Washington’s car near El Paso – “the 2005 Ford Focus she (normally) wouldn’t let him drive,” Graham said. Lynch told the trooper he was going to Arizona pick up his wife.
“He doesn’t have a wife. And he doesn’t have a girlfriend because he left her dead.”
On June 17, 2006, in Washington state, Lynch tried to enter Canada but was detained by the U.S. Border Patrol because South Carolina authorities had put out a missing persons bulletin for him, Graham said.
Seattle police then found Washington’s car abandoned in that city, its registration and license tag missing, he said.
“Lynch is on the run, and he’s not coming back. He’s not visiting the bears in Canada; he’s not on vacation,” Graham said. Neither did Graham have much money, he said. “A man on vacation doesn’t ... not have money to get home and abandon a car with no tags.”
On June 18, 2006, Lynch gave statements to Washington police that he rode from South Carolina to Oregon with a friend in a Cadillac and said “he used to live with a lady named Portia and her granddaughter, and that he left to see Canada.”
On June 19, 2006, an FBI agent and a Seattle detective met with Lynch, who “continues to lie,” Graham said. “He said he quit his job and left South Carolina to go to Georgia with a friend. He said he hadn’t taken a car.” Then he switched stories, claiming that Washington gave him the car.
“That car was Portia’s freedom ... probably the most prized thing she’d owned in her life. She was current on her payments, and she never would have given it to Mr. Lynch.”
Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.