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Saturday, March 11, 2023

The Douglas Prade Murder Case

     At ten-thirty in the morning of Thanksgiving Day 1997, a medical assistant found 41-year-old Dr. Margo Prade slumped behind the wheel of her van in the doctor's office parking lot. The Akron, Ohio physician, shot six times with a handgun at close range, had fought with her murderer. Physical evidence of this struggle included buttons ripped from Dr. Prade's lab coat, a bite mark on her left inner arm and traces of blood and tissue under her fingernails.

     A few months after the murder, Akron police arrested the victim's husband, Douglas Evans Prade. Captain Prade, a 29 year veteran of the Akron Police Department, denied shooting his wife to death. He insisted that at the time of the killing he was in the workout room of the couple's Copley Township condominium complex.

     In 1997, DNA science, compared to today, was quite primitive. As a result, DNA tests of trace evidence from the bite mark and the blood and tissue under the victim's fingernails were inconclusive. DNA analysts were unable to include or exclude Captain Prade as the source of this crime scene evidence.

     Video footage from a security camera at a car dealership next to the murder scene revealed the shadowy figure of a man climbing into Dr. Prade's van at 9:10 in the morning of her death. A hour and a half later, the man exited the murder vehicle and was seen driving out of the parking lot in a light-colored car. Homicide detectives never identified this man who could not have been taller than five-nine. The suspect, Captain Prade, a black man, stood over six-foot-three. Had investigators focused their efforts on identifying the man in the surveillance video, they may have resolved the case. But detectives had their minds set on the victim's husband and ignored all evidence that pointed in a different direction.

     To make their case against Captain Douglas Prade, detectives asked a retired Akron dentist named Dr. Thomas Marshall to compare a photograph of the death scene bite mark to a dental impression  of the suspect's lower front teeth. According to Dr. Marshall, the only person who could have bitten Dr. Prade was her husband. The suspect's known dental impressions, according to the dentist, matched the crime scene evidence perfectly. At the time, before advanced DNA technology exposed bite mark identification analysis as junk science, Dr. Marshall's identification carried great weight.

     In September 1998, following a two-week trial in a Summit county court, the jury, after deliberating only four hours, found Douglas Prade guilty of murdering his wife. The only evidence the prosecution had pointing to the defendant's guilt was Dr. Thomas Marshall's bite mark identification. Without the dentist's testimony, there wouldn't have been enough evidence against Douglas Prade to justify his arrest.

     Following the guilty verdict, the defendant stood up, turned to face the courtroom spectators, and said, "I didn't do this. I am an innocent convicted person. God, myself, Margo and the person who killed Margo all know I'm innocent." Common Pleas Judge Mary Spicer sentenced Douglas Prade to life without the chance of parole until he served 26 years. Shortly thereafter, the prisoner began serving his sentence at the state prison in Madison, Ohio. At that point he expected to die behind bars.

     In 2004, attorneys with the Jones Day law firm in Akron and the Ohio Innocence Project took up Douglas Prade's case. After years of motions, petitions, reports and hearings, an Ohio judge ordered DNA tests of the saliva traces from the bite wound, scrapings from the victim's lab coat and scrapings from under Dr. Prade's fingernails.

     In August 2012, DNA analysis of the crime scene trace evidence revealed that none of the associative evidence came from Douglas Prade. (The DNA work was performed by the DNA Lab Diagnostic Center in Fairfield, Ohio.) Summit County Judge Judy Hunter, on January 29, 2013, ordered the release of the 65-year-old prisoner.

     On March 19, 2014, an Ohio appeals court decided that the new DNA evidence did not prove that Mr, Prade didn't murder his wife. The appellate judge said that Prade's release from prison was a mistake and that he should be taken back into custody. The morning after that decision Mr. Prade found himself back behind bars.

      In March 2018, the Ohio Supreme Court refused to hear his case.

     Douglas Prade's attorneys began appealing his conviction through the federal appellate court system. After the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Prade's motion for a new trial, the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. On November 6, 2019, America's highest court refused to hear the appellant's case. This essentially exhausted Douglas Prade's legal remedies.

    Douglas Prade is serving his time at the Lorain Correctional Institution in Lorain, Ohio. The 72-year-old will be eligible for parole in 2025.

11 comments:

  1. I'm a classmate of Doug Prade from what used to be Buchtel High School. I have lived out of state since graduation 50 years ago and knew nothing about this case until today. Doug was a stand-up guy in high school. I cannot imagine this quiet, gentleman of a fella would have done this. What a tragedy from both sides -- I pray it works out for Doug and the real murderer is identified.

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  2. This man murdered that woman he was a stalker come on now nobody just stalks you and continues to do it they eventually get revenge stop trying to make this guilty man Innocent

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  3. He had tapped Margo's home phone. He was jealous of her upcoming engagement. Plus the life insurance policy. I think he just finally snapped.

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    1. They used the bite mark to convict him. When the bite mark was re examined, using more advanced DNA testing, the bite mark, dna underneath her nails, did not match her ex husband.

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  4. "What the hell ???? Let him out, then lock him up again ???? Crikey . Thats just rude. The man is innocent. The law are lazy, useless and scared to proven wrong !!

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  5. He WAS guilty. Means, motive, opportunity, tons of evidence of stalking and wiretapping, was seen at the scene of the murder AND his bite marks on the victim's arm. I hope you're not one of those officers who hindered the investigation of their buddy

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  6. Bite mark evidence is like a finger print and has been used accurately for years. Lemuel Smith a convicted serial killer murdered and dismembered Green Haven prison guard Donna Payant and was convicted based on bite marks he made on her torso. Distinct bite marks are solid evidence. He’s the killer without a doubt. Everyone needs to do their research on this man and you’ll change your mind.

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  7. I have done my research. See my book, "Forensics Under Fire," published by Rutgers University Press.

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  8. I have followed this case I remembered when he was released I was surprised he was pit back in prison.

    Why isn’t the DNA evidence enough to free him?

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    1. Because he was a captain and in internal investigation putting cops in jail for their wrong doings. They had to get rid of him.

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