Associated Press
March 14, 2001

New Evidence in DNA Murder Case


BOSTON (AP) -- In 1983, Betty Ann Waters was a college dropout with two children and no plans. Then her brother, Kenneth Waters, was accused of beating and stabbing a woman 30 times, convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

His conviction motivated her to return to school and earn a law degree in the hopes of helping him earn his freedom.

That could happen as early as Thursday. Waters found DNA evidence that could clear the way for a new trial for her brother, and his release after nearly 20 years in prison.

''Betty Ann's energy and dedication meant everything,'' said attorney Barry Scheck, whose organization, the New York-based Innocence Project, helped on the case.

The case began in 1980, when Katharina Brow was found dead in her Ayer trailer home. Kenneth Waters, who worked at a nearby diner, was charged.

His attorney argued that he was in court on the morning of the murder to face a charge of assaulting a police officer. But authorities were never able to confirm the exact time he was in court, and the jury convicted him of first-degree murder and armed robbery in May 1983.

His sister knew what her new career would be.

''The idea was that I could learn something and maybe try to help him,'' said Betty Ann Waters, now 46, who lives in Middletown, R.I. ''I thought all along the way I might not be able to do it. But I wanted to try.''

She enrolled at the Community College of Rhode Island for an associate's degree and later transferred to Rhode Island College, where she earned a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education because she planned support her family by teaching while attending law school.

For a few years, law school seemed like an impossibility. The closest ones were in Boston, which would require three hours of traveling each day.

Then Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I., opened a law school in 1993. Two years later, Waters began school and started researching her brother's case. After graduating she focused on her brother's case, and to this day has taken only a handful of other cases on behalf of friends.

The breakthrough came when she hounded the clerk at the courthouse where her brother had been tried, and learned that a box of evidence with her brother's name on it was in the courthouse basement. The box contained the knife used in the murder and pieces of cloth with blood samples on them.

''She did re-investigation. She got recantation from the witnesses. She came to us with a strong case,'' said Scheck, whose organization helps inmates challenge their convictions based on new DNA evidence.

On Tuesday, the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office announced that the DNA collected from the evidence she found does not match her brother's DNA. The office said it would not oppose a motion for a new trial and that it was re-examining the case to determine what charges they might press at a new trial.

Scheck said Kenneth Waters could be released on bail as early as Thursday. He also said lawyers are pursuing new evidence that could lead to the real killer.

Betty Ann Waters said she will continue to work on the case even after her brother's release. She hopes to continue doing legal work on similar cases of the wrongly convicted.

''I always thought I didn't know what I would do if he couldn't get out,'' she said. ''Now I'm not sure what I'll do when he does.''

Copyright 2001. Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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