BENNINGTON, Vt. – A man recently charged in the 1986 killing of a popular country club golf pro had the charges against him thrown out on Friday because of an evidence error involving one of the victim's hairs.
The Bennington County state's attorney dismissed the charges against David Allan Morrison after it was discovered that a hair from the victim thought to have been found in Morrison's car and sent to an FBI lab for analysis actually was found in the victim's car, the state Department of Public Safety said.
Morrison was charged in Vermont last year with murder in the death of 36-year-old Sarah Hunter, a Manchester Country Club golf pro who disappeared in September 1986. Hunter's body later was found in woods in Pawlet, a short drive north of Manchester. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.
Morrison, who worked near a gas station and convenience store where Hunter had stopped on the day she was last seen, was a top suspect immediately, but investigators couldn't find the necessary evidence to bring charges. He left Vermont in 1988 and was arrested later that year on charges of attempted murder, sexual assault and kidnapping in Chula Vista, California. He pleaded guilty and was serving a sentence of 20 years to life there.
After police said DNA linked Morrison to Hunter's death, he was charged in 2012, but he refused to sign an extradition waiver and it took nearly two years to get him transferred to Vermont. He pleaded not guilty last year.
The Bennington County state's attorney's office said it also had learned other physical evidence thought not to exist actually was with the state police. It said it's directing the evidence be tested by the FBI and it will decide whether to refile the case after receiving the results.
Department of Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn said he's ordered an investigation into the evidence mistakes.
Morrison, who remains locked up in Vermont, will be returned to California to serve out his 20-years-to-life sentence there, authorities said.
The Manchester Country Club, where employees said Hunter was well liked, has held a youth golfing clinic and a women's invitational tournament named after her.
"She was very outgoing, always had a smile on her face — just happy to be alive, happy to be around people," said golf course superintendent John Ottaviano, who had been looking forward to playing in a tournament with her when she disappeared. "She was helping people to improve a game that they liked and she loved."