SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — For decades, the man convicted of murdering Duane McCormick has claimed he was innocent.
Over the years, people have come forward saying another man admitted to killing McCormick. Now, long-awaited DNA results are in and they do not link that second man to the brutal Sioux Falls crime.
McCormick was discovered dead in March of 1981. The murder weapon was a hammer.
Reporter in 1981: As I understand he had a roommate. Is that roommate a suspect in this case?
Investigator: I would just say we haven’t located the suspect yet.
Authorities would eventually arrest McCormick’s roommate, Jeff Howard, in Georgia. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The state’s case against Howard hinged on one particular witness who went by the name “Pete” Farley, who was a convicted felon, with a long criminal history.
“After Jeff was convicted, we started having people come out of the woodwork, saying that Pete had actually confessed this crime to them and had taken steps to essentially frame Jeff for the crime,” Andrew Markquart, attorney with the Great North Innocence Project, said.
Farley is now dead, but some of his own family members suspect he was involved in the crime.
As KELOLAND Investigates reported in September, the Great North Innocence Project agreed to take on Howard’s case.
When we spoke with Markquart last fall, he told us attorneys were hoping to uncover new DNA evidence on the hammer, initially believed to be the murder weapon.
“So we’re hopeful that Pete Farley would have left a little bit of himself on that hammer and maybe it’s still there. We don’t know. It’s been 40-plus years,” Markquart said.
The DNA analysis is now complete. Researchers were able to find profiles of two people on the hammer’s handle, but the report says due to limited data, no conclusions can be made.
In a message to the Minnehaha County State’s Attorney’s Office, Markquart wrote quote, “The absence of Farley’s DNA does not tell us anything. There are any number of reasons Farley’s DNA might not be on the hammer all these years later. Among other reasons, he could have been wearing gloves. He could have wiped it down afterwards. It could have been contaminated over the years through other testing and handling.”
While Howard continues to claim he is innocent, McCormick’s family members told KELOLAND Investigates they are confident the correct man is behind bars.