St. Paul man acquitted in 1992 cold case killing

The 1992 cold case murder of Annette Gail Seymour, whose partly clothed corpse was discovered outside the Cathedral of St. Paul with 11 stab wounds, has been cleared by a jury in St. Paul.

Jurors last week declared John Robert Capers, 68, not guilty of two charges of second-degree murder in the killing of Seymour on July 14, 1992, after deliberating for almost eight hours.

According to charges brought against Capers in December 2019 in Ramsey County District Court, authorities said they had connected Capers to Seymour’s murder in 2009 after a DNA sample recovered from her blouse matched a profile of Capers.

When asked about the results in 2011, Capers vehemently denied knowing Seymour or being connected to the 39-year-demise. old’s

Ramsey County Attorney’s Office spokesperson Dennis Gerhardstein issued the following statement: “While we had hoped for a different result, we accept the jury’s verdict. Our thoughts are with the victim’s loved ones and friends. We value the hard effort put in by our prosecution team and the St. Paul Police Department in bringing this cold case to trial.

Court-appointed public defenders Katie Conners and Aaron Haddorff defended Capers. Conners said on Tuesday that the jury should keep the presumption of innocence in mind.

After it had been 18 years since the murder when they first questioned him, she said, “trying to go back on where you were that day, who you were with, any of those specifics — is actually quite tough. Due to the length of time, he was unable to provide any evidence to support his claims, which is why the assumption of innocence is so crucial in our legal system.

Conners said that prosecutors claimed that the murder’s motivation was sexual assault. She claimed that Seymour’s autopsy did not include sexual assault as a contributing factor to her injuries and that there was no evidence that a sexual assault occurred.

Seymour’s corpse was discovered in a park next to the Cathedral of St. Paul by a bystander. By the eastern entrance to the former Selby Avenue streetcar tunnel, her corpse was found in the grass next to a retaining wall. She had nothing on except a black T-shirt.

She had been stabbed six times in the neck, once severing her carotid artery, and six times in the chest, back, arms, according to the autopsy. On her torso and face, there were cuts and bruises as well. Her blood alcohol content was 0.20 at the time of death.

Investigators identified her by her fingerprints and discovered that she resided at a neighboring apartment on Dayton Avenue.

Authorities said that Seymour and her husband, James Fletcher, had a contentious and distant relationship and fought many hours before to the discovery of Seymour’s death. The night before she died, police were at her residence, and the two had gotten into a fight. Not far from where her corpse was discovered, he said that she followed him out of the flat.

Even though the disagreement went on, Fletcher said that he ultimately told Seymour—who he claimed was intoxicated at the time—to go home. According to him, he observed her move away from him and back toward the Cathedral.

2008. Fletcher passed away.

According to the criminal complaint, the case stayed unsolved until 2009 when the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension analyzed several pieces of evidence and discovered DNA from a semen stain matched a profile of Capers, who was on a database of convicted offenders.

The Y-chromosomal testing done on the semen stain on the garment indicated a combination of two or more male males, according to a new report from the BCA published in 2011. Capers fit the prevailing profile.

A partial Y-chromosomal profile from blood scrapings taken from Seymour’s left hand was found to match Capers and all of his paternally linked male relatives, according to a study published by the BCA in 2011. Conners estimated that 1 in 1,000 people had a partial profile.

The Ramsey County attorney’s office was aware of Capers. According to Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Andrew Johnson, who spoke to the Pioneer Press in 2019, he was charged in 1987 with two house invasions, one of which involving the rape of an unidentified person.

After a jury was unable to make a decision in his case, Capers ultimately reached a plea agreement with the prosecution. After then, he had only minor encounters with the law: stealing, lying to the police, and misdemeanor-level domestic abuse.

One, though, was a narcotics conviction that required his DNA to be added to the offender database. When they reexamined the case’s evidence, detectives said they were able to connect him to the DNA sample retrieved from Seymour’s clothing in this way.

Conners said that there are “endless possibilities” as to how DNA may have found its way onto Seymour’s clothing.

DNA is very easily transferable, she said. “The semen stain was still there when they tested that clothing 17 years after the killing. How long had the clothing been worn before the murder, then? Therefore, there was just insufficient proof, and I firmly think that my client was innocent. I’m delighted the jury arrived at the correct decision because it was the right one.

Capers posted a $150,000 bail and was let out of prison in 2019. The jury “got it right, that they recognized this case for what it was, and that he was finally granted his freedom from this case,” Conners said. He added that he is “grateful, appreciative, and relieved.”

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