Public Spitting Links Man to Murder

ByABC News

J A C K S O N V I L L E, Fla., March 23, 2001 -- Police tailing a suspect in thestabbing death of a waitress in 1998 got the evidence needed tocharge the man when he spit in a parking lot.

A DNA sampling of the spittle, swabbed up by a detective, pinnedthe man to the 1998 killing, police said.

Robert Eric Denney, 19, is now charged with first-degree murderfor the Nov. 26, 1998, stabbing death of Corey Parker, a waitressin Atlantic Beach.

DNA tests on Denney's saliva matched similar tests on hair andblood at the victim's apartment, police said in records obtainedthis week by The Florida Times-Union.

The spit was collected last summer outside Denney's workplace inEaston, Md. He was arrested Nov. 28.

Denney had been a neighbor of Parker. She was stabbed 84 times,the state attorney's case file shows.

Suspect Suspected the Police

Denney, scheduled for trial in Duval County in July, apparentlysuspected police were watching him last year, according tointerviews and records in the case file, and was meticulous aboutkeeping cigarette butts and other traces of possible evidence fromthem.

While doing surveillance on July 26, detectives watched Denneyspit on the ground as he paced and smoked cigarettes outside hisemployer's back door. Sgt. Billy Carlyle of the Jacksonville BeachPolice Department noted where the spit fell.

When Denney left work, Carlyle scraped up the spit and took itto the FBI lab in Washington.

Police asked for a saliva sample from Denney earlier that day atthe Easton Police Department, but he refused. In addition, Denneynever drank from a bottle of water given to him, kept a cigarettebutt after smoking with an officer and refused to seal an envelope.

"This is the third time you have tried to get me to put my lipson something, the water, the cigarette and now seal theseenvelopes," Denney told the detectives.

'Very Paranoid'

Denney's boss, John Garufi, told officers that Denney "becamevery paranoid" at work and saved his cigarette butts in a garbagebag and took them home at night.

Denney was interviewed, along with other neighbors, afterParker's body was found. But he didn't become a suspect untilformer co-workers at Barbecue Ltd in Jacksonville Beach calledpolice about their suspicions in June. By then, Denney had moved toMaryland.

His father, Michael Denney of El Paso, Texas, said Thursday hisson had struggled with drugs and alcohol problems from time to timebut was not a violent person.

"My son has absolutely nothing to do with this murder," Denneysaid in a telephone interview.

Denney's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Patrick McGuinness,declined to discuss the case.

Parker, a native of Rochester, N.Y., moved to the beach becauseshe loved the ocean, her father said in an interview after thearrest in November.

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