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Dennis Perry

Key evidence goes missing in Georgia church murders

Dennis Perry

Sheriff's deputies were so eager to solve the murders of a southern Georgia church deacon and his wife that they sent a key piece of evidence – a pair of eyeglasses – to "Unsolved Mysteries" to film on TV.

As the state's lead investigator on the case tells it, the glasses were never returned.

"They're still laying out there in a studio somewhere in TV-land," said former Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) special agent Joe Gregory.

Without the glasses or most physical evidence from the crime scene, Camden County officials still convicted Dennis Perry, who enjoyed 20/20 vision and had no need for a prescription to correct extreme far-sightedness.

Twenty-two years after the murders, it remains itself an unsolved mystery whose face the glasses fell off and whether Perry – now serving two life sentences – really killed Harold and Thelma Swain.

One evening in March 1985, a stranger interrupted bible study at the Baptist Church in Spring Bluff, Georgia, and asked to speak with Harold Swain, a leader in the local African-American community.

The white young man with shoulder-length hair scuffled with Swain, then shot him fatally in the chest and head, witnesses said. Thelma Swain ran to help her husband and also was shot dead.

In the bloody vestibule sheriff's deputies found the pair of metal glasses, its right ear piece wrapped in tape, its frame pocked with what appeared to be welding spatter and its hinges holding two Caucasian hairs. Because it didn't belong to either victim, investigators concluded it must have been the shooter's.

The case remained cold when "Unsolved Mysteries" filmed a segment about it in 1988.

As Gregory tells it, producers "contacted Sheriff Bill Smith and wanted those glasses" for the show.

"Without asking anybody, he just up and sent them out there which totally broke the chain of custody in this case," Gregory said.

Smith, who is still sheriff, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Gregory said he never saw the glasses after host Robert Stack appeared on camera holding them in his bare hands.

"These are the glasses found on that night. Were they dropped by the killer?" said Stack, his voice gravelly and grave. The show triggered hundreds of tips.

One came from Camden County resident Jane Beaver who said a composite sketch of the shooter looked like Dennis Perry, a boy her daughter used to date. Beaver said that Perry had phoned her daughter the weekend before the murder to say he was visiting his grandparents' home in the Swains' neighborhood.

Investigators initially cleared Perry as a suspect after establishing that he was at work hours away near Atlanta the day of the killings. Also, Vanzola Williams – the witness who got the best look at the shooter – did not pick him out of a photo line-up.

Instead, she pointed to another suspect, Donnie Barrentine.

Perry "didn't do it, plain and simple, and that's why we cleared him," Gregory said.

"Unsolved Mysteries" went into re-runs and Beaver continued through the 1990s calling the show's phone center pointing at Perry. She also went further, showing his picture to the church ladies who were the main witnesses to the murders.

Thirteen years after the killings, Sheriff Smith hired a special investigator to work exclusively on solving the cold case. Following Beaver's lead, investigator Dale Bundy pursued Perry as a suspect. Bundy said Perry admitted to the murders the day of his arrest.

Perry tells it differently.

"Dale Bundy started elaborating the story, with me saying ‘I don't know.' He was trying to put words in my mouth," he said. Bundy declined comment.

Sheriff's deputies have no tapes showing Perry confessed, according courtroom testimony.

And by the time of his trial, they could not account for the missing glasses.

"They remain, as of this moment, not any longer in existence," Chief Assistant District Attorney John Johnson wrote in 2001.

Robert Stack died in 2003. An "Unsolved Mysteries" producer told The Post she doesn't know what happened to the glasses or whether the pair on TV were actual evidence or a prop.

Had the glasses been preserved, they likely would have pointed to the Swains' killer, Gregory and others say.

Johnson, the prosecutor, downplays the importance of the glasses, saying, "They might, they might not have had anything to do with the case."

Also missing were a metal phone box with visible fingerprints investigators believe the shooter left when he cut the phone lines outside the church; a mirror from the church vestibule; tapes of witness interviews; photos of the crime scene; photos of police lineups; and investigators' notes documenting that Perry had been at work six hours away the day of the murders.

"It's physically impossible to be at two places at one time. Even if he had a jet plane at his disposal he couldn't have done it," Gregory said.

At trial, Jane Beaver's daughter, Carol Ann, poked holes in her mother's testimony by saying she didn't know whether Perry was in Camden County the week of the murders, 13 years earlier. She testified that Bundy "was insinuating I knew more than I did and I didn't know anything."

The jury never heard the evidence that may have helped Perry most.

The hairs caught in the mysterious glasses had been preserved and tested for DNA before trial. Results showed no match to Perry. His lawyers didn't enter them into evidence because they also didn't match Barrentine, the alternate suspect on whom they based their defense strategy.

Vanzola Williams identified the North Florida man out of a lineup shortly after the murders. And three witnesses testified that, shortly after the shootings, Barrentine bragged at a party about having killed a black couple in a South Georgia church.

Though Barrentine was the prime suspect the year of the murders, District Attorney Glenn Thomas wouldn't grant a warrant for his arrest because he deemed the witnesses at the party to be "dope-heads and prostitutes."

Before Perry's trial, prosecutors gave Barrentine immunity in exchange for his testimony, in which he said he didn't kill the Swains.

Five years later, Johnson said he "can't remember" why he wrote in the immunity grant that "Donnie Barrentine was a witness to the death of Harold and Thelma Swain" and that Barrentine "was present at the scene."

"At this point, I can't answer that question," he said. "We wrote it that way and we went forward with it. That's all I can tell you at this point."

Before trial, Perry refused a plea deal offering him reduced charges of voluntary manslaughter and 12 years in prison. Then he was convicted, facing execution until he agreed to two life sentences in exchange for waiving his rights to all appeals.

"Everything was snatched out from under me," said Perry, who lost his construction business, his double-wide mobile home and his wife.

Now serving his seventh year behind bars, Perry, 45, is unable to stem the flow of his tears.

"I can't believe I'm sitting here getting choked up about…glasses," he said, sobbing in his prison whites. "But how do they lose evidence in a capital case? How do whole boxes of evidence slip through their fingers?"

Daniel Perry's diligent struggle for justice for his brother, Dennis

Feb. 2003: Dennis was convicted of a double murder

A plea from Georgia

injusticebusters received this message.

Dennis and Daniel Perry

Dennis and Daniel Perry in happier times

I would like to ask anyone a question. If there was an 18 year old murder and 8 yrs of investigation ensued. And all 8 yrs of the information was lost along with all the evidence in the case by an incompetent sherrifs office, except for the only DNA found which exonerates a suspect, should a DA be allowed to begin a case without any evidence, circumstantial or otherwise? What if they hire a guy to investigate it for 40,000 dollars of drug money and he takes a sole picture of anyone fitting the description to taint the only witnesses? Do you believe this can happen in the U.S.? It did. Ask me about it.

In a time when we are convicting innocents and sending otherwise free people to their deaths, we need a change in the power the prosecutor has. If the District Attorneys were some foreign entity murdering our innocent defendants we would spend billions of dollars and even give our lives to defend our innocent victims of this Justice system. I bet you never looked at that way. Did you know the Medical Examiners office is controlled by the DA? The DA can fire him or cause him grief! If the DA wants someone to be convicted he can do what ever he wants with the evidence. The DA can hide the innocence of a person! The DA should not control the M.E. or the evidence. I suspect Hundreds or maybe thousands of COMPLETELY INNOCENT people are being held against their will right now in OUR prisons! There is a conflict of interest in the DA. He is an elected official and if he doesn't get convictions he's gone! Please Help we are in a race against time. What can we do? Contact me with your ideas. Daniel Perry at

From the family website:

. . . Dennis was accused of a double murder that happened 18 years ago. He was cleared in the very beginning by Joe Gregory, the investigator for the GBI. There was a picture line up of 12 people which included Dennis. It also included a guy that had bragged about doing the murders. The eyewitnesses of the murders picked the guy that was bragging, not Dennis. But Mr. Gregory did not stop there in trying to clear Dennis. He checked to see if Dennis was at work that day. Joe called Dennis' supervisor, he told Joe Dennis was at work pouring concrete until around 6 PM that day. Dennis worked in Atlanta. The murders happened in south GA, 6 hr. away, about 8:40 PM!

After the witnesses picked the guy bragging, the sheriffs office, headed by sheriff Bill Smith, mysteriously let him go! Not only that, they also lost the picture line-up. In fact since then, the great sheriff has lost all the evidence related to the murders except one hair, which excludes Dennis 100% as a possible suspect! When asked on the witness stand how and why he no longer had any of the evidence his reply was quote unquote "I DON'T KNOW "!!!

During the 5 months before the trial, Dennis was offered several deals, the last being manslaughter eligible for parole in 40 months. The 40 month finished the day that Dennis was convicted! He would not take any deals! Yet he was convicted without any evidence in an 18 yr. old murder.

Bill Smith is still the sheriff in this town. I guess you should be very careful if you happen to pass through Camden Co. Ga. especially if you look like someone he wants to target for one of his unsolved crimes. . . You may not know Dennis, nevertheless a small amount of checking would let you know Dennis IS innocent. . .

Daniel F. Perry Jr.

Lost evidence key in slaying defense
Jacksonville man on trial for deaths

BRUNSWICK -- During testimony yesterday in the trial of a Jacksonville man accused of the 1985 slayings of a husband and wife at a Camden County church, defense attorneys questioned how key evidence could have been misplaced.

Dale Westling, an attorney representing Dennis Arnold Perry, expressed concern about the methods used by the Camden County Sheriff's Office to safeguard evidence.

The evidence was found at Rising Daughter Baptist Church after police said Harold and Thelma Swain were gunned down during a Bible study class.

The missing evidence includes the following:

A pair of glasses investigators say were worn by the man who shot the couple.

An empty Pepsi bottle which may have had the fingerprints of the attacker.

A tape-recorded interview with witnesses.

Photographs of possible suspects.

A box containing telephone wires to the church which were found cut after the shootings.

Buttons from a shirt believed to be worn by the attacker.

"There was no crime scene integrity," Westling said. "There was a significant amount of tangible evidence [now missing]."

Westling also criticized investigators for allowing church officials to clean blood from the floor before samples could be used as evidence.

The man ultimately responsible for safeguarding the evidence, Camden County Sheriff Bill Smith, was blunt with his response about what happened: "I don't know."

Smith testified all the evidence should have remained intact after lead investigator Butch Kennedy quit his deputy's job in 1992, and he didn't know what happened.

"I don't get directly involved in the process," Smith said.

Though only two men are responsible for holding evidence and releasing it to investigators, Smith said nobody has ever been reprimanded for losing evidence that could hold the key to a conviction.

Despite the missing evidence, John Johnson, assistant district attorney for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, said he was confident evidence will show Perry is guilty.

During opening arguments, attorneys for the prosecution and defense agreed a clean-shaven, slender man with shoulder-length hair entered the church and confronted 66-year-old Harold Swain. The two men argued and Swain was shot four times by the man. Thelma Swain, 62, ran into the church vestibule to help her husband and was shot once in the chest by the assailant, who fled in a battered brown car.

Johnson told the six-man, six-woman jury that Perry, 41, became a suspect a few years after the shootings when an episode of the television show Unsolved Mysteries depicted the crime. A woman called investigators and said the police composite drawing on the show resembled her daughter's boyfriend, Dennis Perry.

Until that time, investigators said Perry was never a suspect.

Johnson also said witnesses will testify Perry was in Camden County the day of the shootings, even though Perry told police he was in Atlanta that day. Perry is the only one capable of the shootings, Johnson said.

Westling, however, said investigators never followed leads against another possible suspect, even though the other suspect was arrested on weapons charges three months after the Swains were gunned down and the suspect matched a composite drawing.

The trial before Superior Court Judge Amanda Williams is expected to last about a week.

The trial was moved to Glynn County because of pretrial publicity.

Witness testimony differs in slaying
Descriptions vary of 1985 shooting

BRUNSWICK -- Testimony yesterday by eyewitnesses to the 1985 shooting deaths of a husband and wife at a Camden County church showed how time can challenge one's memory.

Witnesses agreed the man who shot 66-year-old Harold Swain and 62-year-old Thelma Swain was a young male with shoulder-length blond hair. They also agreed the assailant and Harold Swain argued just before the shootings.

But they agreed on little else.

Prosecutors say Dennis Arnold Perry, 41, of Jacksonville is the man responsible for the deaths. Perry was arrested in January 2000.

The case baffled investigators for nearly 15 years until it was reopened and new evidence was found that prosecutors said links Perry to the crime.

Defense attorneys argue their client was never a suspect until four years ago, when a woman said Perry resembled the police composite drawing shown on the television show Unsolved Mysteries.

Some witnesses yesterday said the man who asked to speak to Harold Swain at a Bible study class in Rising Daughter Baptist Church wore glasses with thick lenses and dark frames, while others said the man was not wearing glasses.

Vanzola Williams said she was leaving the church early to pick up her daughter when she was startled to see a man standing in the vestibule. Williams said the man said he "wanted to speak with someone." When Williams asked who the man wanted to speak with, she said he pointed at Harold Swain.

Williams described how Swain suggested he and the man go outside to talk, but the man insisted on staying in the vestibule.

Williams said she heard gunshots as she was walking toward her car in the parking lot. She ran into the pastor's study in the rear of the church to call police, but the phone was dead. Investigators later discovered the phone lines were cut.

Another witness, Vandora Baker, said the man walked down the main aisle of the church. But three other women inside the church that night said the man who shot Harold Swain four times and Thelma Swain once looked into the church through a doorway in the vestibule but never entered the main area of the church where worshipers gathered.

Three witnesses said Harold Swain never acted like he knew the young man who asked to speak to him on March 11, 1985. But one woman, Cora Fisher, was allowed to testify by Superior Court Judge Amanda Williams through a written deposition taken before the trial because the witness has health problems.

Fisher testified that Swain knew the man who asked to speak to him. Fisher testified she was afraid for her life for 16 years because she was afraid the man who shot the Swains would kill her.

Witnesses who were at the church that night testified they hid in different parts of the church until they knew it was safe to leave the building.

Fisher was the only witness who identified Perry as the assailant from a photograph shown by investigators. She testified there was "no doubt" Perry was the man who shot the Swains. The only difference between the photograph and her memory from the night of the shootings, Fisher said, was Perry's hair was darker than the man who showed up at the church that night.

Testimony is scheduled to continue today at the Glynn County Courthouse.

The trial was moved from Camden County because of pretrial publicity.

Witness offers likely motive for killings

Jurors in the double murder trial of Dennis Arnold Perry heard for the first time Wednesday what prosecutors offered as a motive in the killings at a Camden County church.

Jane Beaver, the mother of Perry's girlfriend at the time of the shootings in 1985, testified that prior to the slayings, Perry made threats against a man she believed was Harold Swain, one of the victims.

According to Beaver, Perry did not identify his intended victim by name.

"He said, 'I always wondered what it was like to kill a n-----, and now I'm going to get me one,'" Beaver told the jury in Glynn County Superior Court.

Perry is charged with the March 11, 1985, shooting deaths of Harold and Thelma Swain, who are black, at the Rising Daughter Baptist Church in Woodbine.

Beaver said Perry told her prior to the shootings that he was angry with a black man who lived near his grandfather in Dover Bluff because the man refused to lend Perry money to travel to Jonesboro. Beaver testified that the Swains lived in the same neighborhood as Perry's grandfather.

Perry's defense attorney, Dale Westling, questioned Beaver about her feelings toward Perry in 1985, asking her if she had ever called Perry "white trash."

While Beaver denied calling Perry "white trash," she said she was not happy about her daughter's relationship with Perry, whom she suspected of using illegal drugs.

Police investigated Perry as a possible suspect after Beaver called "Unsolved Mysteries" after the television show aired a segment on the murders, assistant district attorney John Johnson said in his opening statement.

Beaver said she called the Camden County Sheriff's Department to report Perry as a possible suspect on multiple occasions in the days after the shootings, but never received a response from police.

About seven years after the shootings, Beaver testified that she took photos of Perry to two women who were at the church when the murders occurred, and that both witnesses said the photos looked very similar to the shooter.

When cross-examined Wednesday by Westling, Beaver testified that the women said they were not absolutely sure that the man in her photos was the same man in the church years ago.

Beaver told the jury she was later contacted by Dale Bundy, who was hired by Camden County Sheriff William Smith in 1998 to reinvestigate the Swain murders.

Westling questioned Beaver's ability to remember specific statements allegedly made by Perry in 1985, when Beaver was unable to recall numerous other specific dates relevant to the case.

Beaver's daughter Carol Ann Raborn, Perry's girlfriend at the time of the murders, also took the stand Wednesday.

When questioned about a telephone call she allegedly received from Perry the day before the shooting, telling her that he was in Camden County on a motorcycle trip with his brother, Raborn said she could not confirm the date of the telephone call.

Ronald Rhodes, formerly a special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, testified that when he interviewed Raborn in November 1998, she said she had received a phone call from Perry the day before the murders, informing her that he was in Camden County.

Under Westling's cross examination, Raborn testified that she felt she was being led on by Rhodes at times during the interview, and that he may have put words in her mouth. No tape recording was made of the 1998 interview.

Wednesday's testimony began with the cross-examination of Butch Kennedy, a former detective with the Camden County Sheriff's Department who was the lead investigator on the case in 1985.

Westling used Kennedy's testimony to reiterate that several pieces of physical evidence from the crime scene are missing, including two Pepsi bottles, a pair of eye glasses possibly worn by the shooter, a smudged mirror and photos of police lineups.

Kennedy also testified that one witness at the church, Vanzola Williams, identified another man in a police lineup as the possible shooter. Kennedy said Perry was not a suspect in the original investigation.

The prosecution is seeking the death penalty and was expected to continue its case Thursday. The trial was moved from Camden County to Glynn County to avoid pretrial publicity.

Camden resident testifies in '85 shooting trial
She says suspect had been angry

BRUNSWICK GA -- Prosecutors produced their first witness yesterday who they say links Dennis Arnold Perry to the shooting deaths of a couple at a Camden County church in 1985.

The witness, Jane Beaver, said Perry told her less than a week before the shootings that he was upset after he was ridiculed by an African-American neighbor of his grandfather.

The Camden County resident also described her quest of more than a decade to link Perry to the shooting deaths of Harold and Thelma Swain, African-Americans, during a Bible study class at Rising Daughter Baptist Church.

Despite repeated attempts to get investigators to consider Perry a suspect, Beaver said her first contact with an investigator was about a year before Perry's arrest in January 2000. Testimony did not reveal why investigators never returned any of Beaver's calls about the case.

Perry, 41, of Jacksonville, was arrested after a composite sketch of the assailant was shown on television.

The trial, which was moved from Camden County to Glynn County because of pretrial publicity, could possibly conclude this week, court officials have said.

Beaver said she had photographs of Perry, who dated her daughter before the March 11, 1985, shootings, which she showed to some of the witnesses who saw a man enter the church.

Defense attorney Dale Westling, however, questioned Beaver's methods for showing the photograph. Beaver testified she told witnesses she had a photograph of a man who looked similar to an artist's rendition of the assailant.

At first, Beaver denied telling witnesses the photo resembled a possible suspect but later testified, "I probably did say something similar to that."

Westling asked Beaver how she could be so positive about her conversation with Perry, where he made the alleged threats more than 18 years ago but couldn't remember a conversation with a witness years later when she showed the photographs.

Westling also asked how Beaver could be certain Perry was threatening to kill Harold Swain when he never named the neighbor of his grandfather who upset him. Westling pointed out that at least six neighbors, including the Swains, living near Perry's grandfather were African-American.

Beaver's daughter, Carol Ann Raborn, said she was questioned after Perry's arrest about a telephone call investigators said she received from Perry the day before the shootings. Perry called to say he was in Camden County but he had to leave to go to Jonesboro.

Raborn testified she told investigators she couldn't recall when that conversation took place. The interview with authorities was upsetting, Raborn said, because they asked "leading questions."

"I didn't like it too much," Raborn said. "He was insinuating I knew more than I did."

Ron Rhodes, a former special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, denied Raborn's claims about leading questions, but said the interview was never recorded.

Supposed confession center of trial

The prosecution rested its case Thursday, halfway through the fourth day of the double murder trial Dennis Arnold Perry Thursday, after investigators testified about what they considered to be a confession.

John Johnson, chief assistant district attorney, rested the state's case after three witnesses testified that Perry had made statements after being arrested in January 2000 that they said implicated him in the killings. Perry is charged with the March 1985 shooting deaths of Harold and Thelma Swain at the Rising Daughter Baptist Church in Camden County. He faces the death penalty.

Detective Dale Bundy, hired by Camden County Sheriff William Smith in 1998 to work exclusively on the Swain murders, told the jury that Bundy had essentially confessed to the murders after he was taken into custody in Florida and interviewed. Former Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Ron Rhodes and Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent Terry Mullen also testified that Perry confessed to the slayings.

Rhodes testified in Glynn County Superior Court that his report was based on his memory of the conversation. No audio or video recording was made of the interview. When Perry was taken into custody by police on Jan. 13, 2000, he initially denied any involvement in the killings, all three witnesses testified.

Dennis Perry and Nanny

Perry then made statements later that night that Bundy said was a confession, he told the jury.

"I said, 'You were at the church that night?' He said, 'Yes,'" Bundy recalled on the witness stand.

Bundy also testified that Perry had said the gun went off accidentally and that he would take the killings back if he could.

All three witnesses agreed that the interview ended when Perry said, "I want to stop. You're trying to put words in my mouth."

Rhodes testified that at that point during the interview, he tried to tape record the conversation, but Perry refused to speak on tape.

Bundy, Rhodes and Mullen all testified that they did not try to coerce a confession out of Perry.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Dale Westling, Rhodes told the jury that he tape-recorded most of the witness interviews during the investigation of the Swain murders, but decided not to tape record the interview with Perry. He said he did not want to distract Perry when the tape ended and had to be changed.

Perry became a suspect in the murders after a segment on the television show "Unsolved Mysteries" aired showing a composite sketch of the shooter. The mother of Perry's former girlfriend called in to suggest Perry as a possible suspect. While prosecutors spent Thursday morning attempting to prove that Perry confessed, the defense spent Thursday afternoon trying to prove that the wrong man is on trial for murder. The jury heard the testimony of three witnesses who said they heard another man make statements at a party in Mariana, Fla., about shooting a black preacher and his wife in a church in Georgia, after the murders occurred.

Joe Gregory, a retired GBI special agent who assisted in the original investigation of the case called as a defense witness, testified that he tried to get an arrest warrant for a man other than Perry the summer after the murders, but was told by the district attorney that he needed more evidence.

Gregory told the jury that that suspect had been brought to the attention of investigators by police in Telfair County, who had arrested him on weapons charges.

Vanzola Williams, who was at the church the night of the killings, identified that suspect in a lineup as the shooter, but said she was not absolutely sure, Gregory testified. Gregory also said that Ms. Williams was shown a photo spread of similar-looking men, which included Perry, and that she had not picked him out. Gregory was retired from the GBI when Perry was arrested in 2000, and told the jury that he went to Bundy and offered him information on his past investigation, but was turned away.

"I can't remember his exact words," Gregory said in court. "He was not interested."

The man Gregory had investigated, Donnie Baritine, took the stand Thursday and told the jury that he was not involved in the Swain murders. The trial was moved from Camden to the Glynn County Courthouse to avoid pretrial publicity.

The defense was expected continue its case Friday. Superior Court Judge Amanda Williams is presiding.

'Confession' under fire
Duval man tried in church deaths

BRUNSWICK GA -- The prosecution concluded its case yesterday against a Jacksonville man accused in the 1985 shooting deaths of a couple in a Camden County church.

The case ended with testimony by investigators who arrested the suspect and took what they described as his confession.

The statement, however, was never videotaped or recorded and no original notes exist from interviews with Dennis Arnold Perry, 41, of Jacksonville.

Perry was arrested Jan. 11, 2000, after a composite sketch was shown on a television show. He faces the death penalty in the shooting deaths of Harold and Thelma Swain, who were attending a Bible study at Rising Daughter Baptist Church.

The trial was moved from Camden County to Glynn County because of pretrial publicity.

Camden County sheriff's investigator Dale Bundy testified that he and other investigators wrote statements from memory after interviewing Perry. Bundy told the court Perry offered a "confession."

Perry refused to talk with arresting officers after an initial interview, which he ended after accusing officers of "putting words in my mouth," Bundy said.

Perry told officers he "could have ridden to Camden County" the day of the shootings, but he couldn't remember for certain, Bundy said.

"He said, 'I might have gotten drunk or stoned and did something I don't remember,''' Bundy said.

Bundy also testified Perry admitted to being at the church the night of the shootings, but that information was never in a police statement written by any officer involved in the arrest.

Former Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent Ron Rhodes said he took notes of Perry's statements after his arrest but shredded them after he transcribed them in typing.

Terry Mullen, a special agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which assisted with Perry's arrest, said Perry has said he didn't remember a lot of what happened because he was "drinking a lot and using drugs."

"He said he could have been at the church, but couldn't remember," Mullen said.

When Mullen said he didn't take notes or record the interview, defense attorney Dale Westling asked how the investigator could recall events for testimony about Perry's statements to arresting officers.

"Show me in this report where it says Dennis Perry said, 'Yes, I killed Mr. and Mrs. Swain,'" Westling said.

"It doesn't say that," Mullen acknowledged.

When he first began his testimony, Bundy explained how he was hired in 1998 by the Camden County Sheriff's Office specifically to review evidence and witness statements from the shootings.

Bundy testified how his first interview with a woman from the church helped make Perry a prime suspect.

Once Perry became the focus, Bundy said he showed other women at the church Perry's picture from a mug shot taken by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office from a DUI arrest in the early 1990s.

Westling asked Bundy why he showed witnesses only one photograph, especially when the average person can recognize the front and side profiles of a police mug shot.

"You don't believe today, Mr. Bundy, that showing [witnesses] a single mug shot of Dennis Perry was suggestive or tainted?" Westling asked.

"No," Bundy replied.

Westling also expressed surprise that Bundy could take less than a week after being assigned to the case to make Perry the prime suspect, when two other investigators spent a total of 16 years on the case and couldn't make an arrest.

Bundy responded that Perry had already been identified by witnesses as a prime suspect.

After the prosecution rested yesterday afternoon, witnesses for the defense included Charlie Williamson, a former co-worker of Perry. Williamson said he was certain Perry worked the day of the shootings with him in the Atlanta area because a few days later, an artist's rendition of a suspect was published in an Atlanta newspaper and he joked with Perry about the similarity in appearances.

"I kidded him about it," Williamson said. "He had a twin brother."

Another defense witness, Donnie Barrintine of Marianna, denied killing the Swains after Westling asked if he committed the crime. But two other witnesses said Barrintine bragged about shooting two people at a church in Georgia.

John Johnson, the assistant district attorney prosecuting the case, showed a timecard from the week of the shootings and said it would be impossible for Barrintine to drive six hours to Camden County to shoot the Swains because he worked that day.

But Westling said the timecard showed Barrintine had the day off work.

"That's not what the timecard says," Westling said.

Superior Court Judge Amanda Williams ended the dispute by telling the attorneys, "We'll let the jury decide that."

Jacksonville man found guilty of murder

BRUNSWICK GA -- Dennis Arnold Perry, a Jacksonville man accused in the 1985 shooting deaths of a couple in a Camden County church, was found guilty yesterday of two counts of murder.

After the unanimous verdict from the six-man, six-woman jury was read, John Johnson, the prosecuting attorney, met with family members of the murder victims and returned to the Glynn County courtroom with a plea bargain offer.

Perry, 41, accepted two consecutive life sentences for the shooting deaths of Harold and Thelma Swain at the Rising Daughter Baptist Church in Camden County on March 11, 1985.

In return, Perry agreed not to appeal the conviction. He must serve a minimum of 20 years before he is eligible for parole, Johnson said.

Family members agreed to offer the plea bargain to ensure they didn't have to go through another trial in appeals court and to give closure to the murders that have haunted them for years, Johnson said.

The case was described as especially challenging for the prosecution because the evidence was 18 years old, some witnesses had died and memories had faded over time.

"In the 25 years I have been a prosecuting attorney, this is the most difficult case I have had to try," Johnson said.

"The family of Harold Swain is at peace with that verdict. I'm glad this is over and this case is closed."

Helen Umphrey, Perry's mother, described the verdict as "a travesty of justice."

"I have no faith in the legal justice system any more," Umphrey said.

Perry's family members said they would continue investigating the murders until they find evidence that could implicate someone else because they think the jury prosecuted the wrong man.

The trial, which began Monday, was in Glynn County because prosecutors were concerned pre-trial publicity could make it difficult to find a jury that hadn't heard about the double homicide.

During closing arguments earlier yesterday, defense attorney Dale Westling said the prosecution's case against his client revolved around "suggestive and tainted" work by investigators, who took less than a week to make Perry the prime suspect in 1998, after other detectives spent years on the case without making an arrest. Perry was arrested near his Jacksonville home on Jan. 11, 2000.

Westling said Camden County Sheriff's Office criminal investigator Dale Bundy was hired to solve the crime and he was willing to abandon proven investigative techniques to make an arrest.

Witnesses identified Perry as the man they saw in the church the night of the shootings based on one mug shot of Perry taken when he was arrested for DUI in Jacksonville in the early 1990s.

Westling criticized investigators for losing "tangible evidence" that could have proven his client's innocence or guilt.

He also criticized investigators for never recording interviews of statements they said Perry made after his arrest. Investigators argued in testimony this week that Perry ended the interviews after he accused police of "putting words in my mouth."

"The evidence is not only lacking, it's non-existent," Westling said.

Johnson, however, defended the investigation that led to Perry's arrest, saying Bundy looked at the evidence for the first time in 1998 and "got information other investigators were unable to do."

Johnson said an earlier witness testified Perry threatened to kill Harold Swain two weeks before the shootings for ridiculing him after Perry asked to borrow money. Johnson said Perry didn't name Harold Swain when he said he was going to kill the man, but he didn't have to.

"We know ... Dennis Perry was talking about Mr. Swain," Johnson said.

Jurors began deliberating at 4 p.m. and reached a verdict about 7:30 p.m.