Published November 17, 2014
A 78-year-old sexual predator recently cleared of killing a blind upstate New York woman in 1972 pleaded not guilty Monday to a federal charge he failed to register as a sex offender.
Willie James Kimble was acquitted in March of bludgeoning to death Annie Mae Cray at her Rochester home on Oct. 29, 1972 — the week before Richard Nixon was re-elected president. It was one of the nation's oldest cold-case murders to come to trial.
Kimble showed no reaction as he was arraigned on a charge that carries a maximum 10-year sentence. He's been locked up since his acquittal and earlier this month was denied bail on grounds he might flee and poses a serious risk of endangering others.
Kimble has already spent two decades in prison, including seven years for the attempted rape of a 6-year-old girl in July 1973 and 10 years for raping a 17-year-old girl in 1981.
In the Cray slaying, investigators in 2009 uncovered DNA evidence on a semen-stained bed blanket linking Kimble to the attack.
Kimble skipped town while the murder was re-examined and, after a lengthy hunt, was tracked down in his native Sarasota, Fla., in January 2010.
Cray, 52, who had worked as a domestic, had gone blind from untreated glaucoma and was largely confined to home.
Police said she answered a 6 a.m. knock on the front door from her killer. Her husband, Ezra, who died in 1990, said the intruder clubbed him unconscious with a firewood log that was used to crush his wife's skull.
Ezra Cray told police he didn't see his attacker but suspected Kimble, a cousin by marriage who lived a few blocks away.
During the trial in March, the defense theorized Cray was killed by her husband during a drunken quarrel. A jury deliberated for four hours before finding Kimble not guilty.
Genetic profiling came into widespread use in crime detection in the 1990s. While DNA evidence has been used to overturn 86 wrongful murder convictions since 1989, it has become an equally vital tool in closing dozens of murder cases many years after they happen, forensic science experts say.