|In its regular column "Weird News," the Village
Viewpoint recently ran this story:
DNA testing: Be careful what you ask for.
Tim O’Neill was abandoned as an infant and throughout his childhood
was shuttled from foster home to foster home. As a teenager, he got into
some trouble, but nothing of any serious note. He finally hit the big
time when he was arrested for grand theft auto, felony hit-and-run, and
vehicular manslaughter, after stealing a car and running over a
O’Neill was convicted on only circumstantial evidence and
questionable testimony from eye-witnesses. He was sent to a minimum
security state prison near San Diego. From the time of his arrest he
vehemently denied any involvement in the crime.
As the millennium came to a close and DNA testing became more
prevalent, O’Neill – a model prisoner – requested a DNA test of
the evidence in the crime. The D.A. approved the request after
determining that a DNA test could ultimately exonerate him.
Unfortunately, the result was not what O’Neill had hoped for –
the DNA was a match. To make matters worse, O’Neill’s DNA matched
the DNA evidence in an unsolved rape and murder that had taken place
previous to his arrest. O’Neill was subsequently indicted and sent to
trial for rape and murder.
O’Neill was transported from the state prison to downtown San Diego
County lockup for the trial. However, during the transport, the Sheriff’s
vehicle was blasted in an intersection by large sedan that had run a red
light and caused a multiple-vehicle collision. In the ensuing confusion,
O’Neill car-jacked the sedan and escaped.
O’Neill and the stolen vehicle were found the next day in east San
Diego County. He was suffering from head trauma and extensive blood
loss. He did not deny stealing the vehicle, but insisted that his name
was not O’Neill, and denied any knowledge of the events leading to his
arrest. The trial was set back pending resolution of his mental capacity
to stand trial. But prior to the capacity hearing, O’Neill confessed
not only to the rape/murder, but to the vehicular manslaughter he had
for so long denied. The DNA evidence proved sufficient to overcome any
question regarding the veracity of his confession, and he plea-bargained
a life sentence.
That should have been the end of the story, but an enterprising
investigator at the City Attorney’s office found O’Neill’s sealed
juvenile court record, and had it opened through the court. The
investigator discovered that O’Neill had been convicted of petty
larceny during his youth, and had spent six weeks in a youth outreach
program in Colorado – during the time that the rape/murder had taken
place. O’Neill had the perfect alibi.
Further investigation revealed that O’Neill had a twin brother
named Michael Decker who was also abandoned as an infant, and who had
been adopted and lived a normal life in suburbs of north San Diego
County. Decker’s fate, however, found perpendicular synchronicity the
day he got drunk, stole a large sedan, and ran a red light in east San
Diego, colliding with a Sheriff’s vehicle and then fleeing the scene.
It seems O’Neill had not jacked the other vehicle at all, and had
simply escaped during the crash. Decker could not have known that the
Sheriff’s car was transporting his twin brother to trial for a crime
he had committed. He could not have known that he would be mistaken for
O’Neill, who had done so much time for his crimes. He could not have
known that his confession would both seal his fate and exonerate the
brother he never knew he had.
O’Neill has yet to be found. San Diego Sheriffs are still looking
for him, but this time to tell him he is free.
Tim O’Neill is a 31 year-old white male with brown hair and eyes,
medium build, 5'10'’, about 160 pounds. If you have any information as
to Tim O’Neill’s whereabouts, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org