About this Video
March 11, 2009
About the Video: By Scott Sandlin And T.J. Wilham
Journal Staff Writer
Traveling magazine salesmen Travis Rowley and Michael Lee once faced a death penalty prosecution in the December 2007 beating deaths of Tak and Pung Yi in their Northeast Heights home.
Today, the prosecutors are expected to announce they will drop charges against the men, who have been in jail since Dec. 7, 2007.
Career criminal Clifton Bloomfield confessed last fall to killing the Yis, and testimony at a recent evidentiary hearing suggested Rowley and Lee were miles away without a means of being near the crime scene at the time the Yis were killed.
Prosecutors have said, without giving specifics, that other evidence places the two at the crime scene and the charges are expected to be dismissed without prejudice, meaning they could be refiled if new evidence emerges.
Bloomfield was in jail awaiting trial in the murder of a nurse in the Northeast Heights when police charged him with the murder of Tak Yi, 79, and his wife, Pung Yi, 69. The victims were both beaten; Tak Yi's skull was crushed and Pung Yi was raped.
Bloomfield was linked to the Yi murders when forensic scientists got a match on his DNA from a federal database in a previous conviction.
He pleaded guilty to the Yi murders and three others in a deal in which the death penalty was taken off the table. He is serving a life sentence out of state.
District Judge Reed Sheppard had scheduled a motions hearing Tuesday for Rowley.
Rowley was brought from jail for the hearing and spoke from a seat in the jury box in whispers with one of his attorneys, Randy Chavez. He appeared excited and at one point wiped his eye as they spoke.
Chavez said afterward only that they were preparing for trial next week.
The Journal, however, has learned that the District Attorney's Office has decided not to pursue the case at this time.
Defense attorneys have been unsuccessful in obtaining a pre-trial release on bond or with conditions, even after Bloomfield confessed to the killings.
The court conducted a bond reduction hearing in November, ruling that bond should remain at $2 million cash only.
Rowley's attorneys have filed motions in the criminal case alleging prosecutorial misconduct, and they have also filed a separate federal civil lawsuit. "Details given by Rowley demonstrated he had no knowledge of the murders apart from news accounts," the lawsuit claimed.
The Yis were a prominent Northeast Heights couple, and their killings sparked outrage across the city. In response, Mayor Martin Chávez proposed an ordinance prohibiting door-to-door solicitors from bothering residents who signed up for a "no-knock" list. The City Council rejected it, partly because the administration hadn't proposed a way to enforce it.
The city filed a lawsuit against the firm that employed Rowley and Lee, accusing the company of negligent hiring.
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