Date of Crime
|Delaware County, PA
|Dec 16, 1981
Nicholas J. Yarris was sentenced to death for the murder of Linda Mae Craig. Four days after the murder, Yarris was arrested miles away from the crime scene after an altercation with a Chester policeman during a traffic stop. Yarris was high on methamphetamine at the time of his arrest and forced to go through withdrawal "cold turkey." Desperate to get out, Yarris tried to obtain special treatment from police by claiming a former associate he thought was dead had kidnapped, raped, and killed Linda Mae Craig, a murder victim he read about in the newspaper. The former associate was a drug dealer who Yarris thought had overdosed. Yarris's plan went awry when the associate was located still alive with an airtight alibi—his brother had overdosed.
Police told other inmates that Yarris was a snitch. Inmates then regularly beat and tortured Yarris for days. In order to escape the beatings, he suggested to police that he may have participated in the crime, but was not the murderer. The beatings stopped, and police charged Yarris with murder. A fellow inmate, Charles Cataleno, began giving false information about Yarris in exchange for conjugal visits and a sentencing deal. This inmate later testified against Yarris at trial. Yarris's alleged motive was that he was angry with his ex-girlfriend, and the victim allegedly looked like her. Tests on the semen left by the killer indicated the presence of B+ antigens, suggesting that the killer's blood type was B+. Yarris shared this blood type along with 15% of the population. However the victim's husband also had a B+ blood type. During the investigation, he stated that he had sexual intercourse his wife the night before her murder. When it became clear that Yarris was a suspect, the husband claimed to have worn a condom that night, even though he and his wife were incapable of having children. The prosecution failed to do other tests on the semen which might have eliminated Yarris as a suspect.
Yarris was the first American to request DNA testing which he did in Mar. 1988. He faced years of obstruction from the prosecution and the courts, but eventually in 2004 became the 140th American convict to be exonerated by DNA tests. Yarris currently resides in the UK and has authored a book there entitled Seven Days to Live to be published in July 2008. (IP) (Post-Gazette) (JD12) (DPI) [9/05]