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Peggy Hettrick

Peggy Hettrick

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New witness found in 1992 Lawless murderSunday, July 26, 2009By Bridget DiCosmo ~ Southeast MissourianAngela Mischelle Lawless[Click to enlarge] Scott County investigators say they still hope DNA tests will provide a forensic link to the 1992 murder of Angela Mischelle Lawless, and the recent discovery of a new witness in the case, one who says he tried to tell his story shortly after the murder occurred, may help further narrow the field of suspects.

Around 1 a.m.


8, 1992, Dallas Butler was riding his Honda motorcycle along Interstate 55 in Benton, Mo., toward his mother's house in Mississippi County, on the way home from his job as a bouncer.

He saw two vehicles, a small, dark sedan and a lighter Ford truck, parked near the northbound exit of I-55, and pulled up to ask if they needed help.

There, he saw a woman of small stature in the driver's seat of the car, head bowed, hands on the wheel, he said.

Her hair wasn't disheveled and she didn't appear to be injured, Butler said.

A man Butler described as about 160 pounds, slender and wearing a red hat stood near the car and told him they didn't need help.

Butler said he thought the girl might have had car trouble and was upset, or had too much to drink, and the man was trying to help her.

"Something kept pulling at me the whole time I was sitting there," Butler said.

Butler said the man seemed nervous and anxious.

"When I left, I was uneasy," he said.

The next morning, he saw a television broadcast reporting that a girl had been killed at the same exit ramp.

Several days later, he said he went to the Scott County judicial building and told a young woman at the front desk what he'd seen, saying he thought it might help in the murder investigation.

Butler said he was told he'd be contacted by sheriff's deputies but that he never heard from anyone in relation to the case.

Months later, Joshua C.

Kezer, then 18, was charged with the murder, and Butler remembers seeing his picture on television.

Butler told his mother it wasn't the man he'd seen that night but that he figured investigators had other witnesses in the case and would have contacted him if they'd needed him, he said.

"I kept telling myself that if they wanted me they'd be in touch," Butler said.

"I never heard a word from anybody." Butler said he's not certain he would recognize the man he saw at the exit ramp but that he would willing to try.

"If I had to rate myself on a scale of one to 10, I'd give myself a stout seven," Butler said of his ability to recognize the man.

Scott County investigator Branden Caid said he has no reason to doubt Butler's credibility.

Butler is willing to look at a lineup, Caid said, and investigators are trying to gather photographs of some of the people of interest in the case as they would have looked at the time of the murder.

Hopeful about DNA Nearly three months have gone by since the Scott County Sheriff's Department sent evidence to a lab in the Netherlands for DNA analysis.

A portion of DNA samples have been tested at the lab of DNA analyst Richard Eikelenboom., Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter said the most recent round of analysis on clothing worn by Lawless pinpointed DNA from a male donor.

The results were promising, Walter said, but further testing is temporarily on hold because of financial constraints.

"We have no money," Walter said Friday.

"It's very, very expensive." Scott County used $10,000 from the law enforcement restitution fund to pay for some of the testing, but the total cost is about $39,000, Walter said.

Walter said he looked at other labs in the U.S.

with the capability to do the "contact DNA" testing of skin cells that the Netherlands lab has mastered.

"They were just a little bit cheaper than some of the other labs here in the States," Walter said.

Eikelenboom's lab, featured last week on a CBS "48 Hours Mystery" profile of the 1987 Peggy Hettrick murder in Colorado, is also less backlogged with cases than some of the domestic labs, Walter said.

[email protected] 388-3635
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