DA delays gay murder trial
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Prosecutors are delaying the trial of a man accused of bashing in the skull of his longtime partner as they try to strengthen the case against him.
Timothy Stewart, 48, has been charged with murder in the death of Terry Rex Spray, 60, his domestic partner of almost 20 years. Spray was found August 3 in the garage of their apartment building at 1135 Ellis Street in San Francisco. He died September 18, and police arrested Stewart September 24.
Jury selection was to begin this week, but late last week, the district attorney's office was granted a first dismissal in the case. In an interview Friday, February 22, Deputy Public Defender Danielle Harris said prosecutors are moving "to look for evidence that would incriminate Mr. Stewart."
"This is just strictly a way for them to buy more time" and attempt "to find more evidence that might give them hope of getting a conviction," Harris said. "They're not going to find it, because it doesn't exist."
Prosecutors have "bought themselves three more months," she said.
"The evidence has gotten weaker" since December, Harris said. That's when, at the end of the lengthy preliminary hearing, Superior Court Judge Bruce Chan held Stewart to stand trial, but said if he were a juror, he would have a "reasonable doubt" of Stewart's guilt, based on the evidence he'd seen.
DNA testing that had been outstanding has come back since the hearing concluded, "and none of it is incriminating," Harris said. "None of it."
Asked Friday about new evidence, Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, said that after Stewart's arrest, an investigation revealed a shirt that had blood on it in the closet of a woman Stewart had moved in with. The required DNA testing would "hopefully" be completed within four to five weeks, Bastian said. He couldn't immediately say specifically when the shirt had been found.
During the preliminary hearing, a San Francisco Police Department criminalist said that material from Stewart and Spray's apartment door, the bar allegedly used to attack Spray, and the car of the woman Stewart had moved in with had tested presumptively positive for blood.
Blood taken from the bar matched Spray, while blood from the door of the couple's apartment matched Stewart, Bastian said. He said there were two or more contributors to blood found in the woman's car. Stewart was one of them, but there wasn't enough material to determine if Spray was, too, he said.
Bastian said DNA tests on the materials had been requested before the hearing, but they were done afterward.
Stewart isn't going to waive his speedy trial or hearing rights, Harris said. She said she'd offer to waive a new preliminary hearing.
"We don't want a preliminary hearing," Harris said. "We want a jury trial."
Bastian said prosecutors haven't decided whether they would agree to such a waiver.
Spray, who had worked as a nurse and had been a union president, has been described as a "tireless" advocate for others.
Stewart remains in custody. Assistant District Attorney John Rowland is prosecuting the case.