On night in June 1998, a man broke into the home of Judith Johnson. The 58-year-old woman was beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted. Her 6-year-old granddaughter Brooke, who was spending the night, was also assaulted but survived. When she ran to a neighbor’s house for help, she told them the man looked like her Uncle Clarence, son-in-law of Judith Johnson. Although there was no physical evidence linking Clarence Elkins to the crimes, he was charged and sentenced to life in prison.
Although Elkins’ niece later recanted her testimony (in 2002), Elkins’ requests for DNA testing and a new trial were denied. When a convicted rapist named Earl Mann who was living next door to Judith Johnson in 1998 was transferred to Elkins’ cell block, Elkins “picked up a cigarette butt that the man dropped on the prison yard and mailed it to his wife, Melanie Elkins. The DNA on the cigarette matched the DNA found on Melinda’s mother and her niece’s underwear. Mann pled guilty. After nearly seven years in prison, Elkins was released in 2005. 48 Hours Hard Evidence on TLC will air its report “Star Witness” on February 22 at 8pm.