Local News

Wednesday, Sep 26 2012 08:52 PM

Death row inmate still a suspect in 1990 murder

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    During a jailhouse interview at Lerdo Wednesday Christopher Charles Lightsey discusses how he could not have been involved the 1993 murder of cancer patient William Compton, 76. He was convicted of and was sent to death row for the murder.

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BY REBECCA KHEEL Californian staff writer rkheel@bakersfield.com

Lack of DNA evidence doesn't change Christopher Lightsey's status as the primary suspect in the killing of 4-year-old Jessica Martinez in 1990, Bakersfield Police said Wednesday.

"It does not mean that he's not the suspect and it will not take away from the focus of the investigation," Detective Herman Caldas said.

Lightsey is on death row for the 1993 murder of cancer patient William Compton. In an interview from Lerdo Pre-Trial Facility on Wednesday, Lightsey maintained his innocence in both the Compton and Martinez cases.

In 2008, Lightsey's DNA was swabbed to see if it was a match to DNA found on Jessica's clothes. On Monday, District Attorney Lisa Green confirmed the DNA did not match.

Caldas said he can't discuss what evidence police have linking Lightsey to the crime because it's still an ongoing investigation. Detectives have worked this case since Jessica was killed more than 20 years ago.

Every other lead has been explored and other potential suspects eliminated, the detective said. He said he can't discuss the interviews detectives have had with Lightsey.

"It's been a priority at the BPD to solve this case," Caldas said.

Lightsey insisted on his innocence in both the Compton and Martinez cases, as well as the case for which he was on parole in 1990 for lewd and lascivious conduct with a child. When explaining his innocence, he tells of a vast conspiracy to convict him.

He contends he was not fit to represent himself during a competency hearing in the trial for Compton's murder. That's the reason he is back in Kern County for hearings to determine if a retrial is necessary. But he adds he believes his defense attorneys and psychiatrists chosen by the court to evaluate him were part of the conspiracy to convict him.

Seventeen years in San Quentin State Prison -- which he described as horrifying -- have deteriorated his health, he said. He claims to have once been able to bench press 300 pounds. Now he uses a wheelchair.

"I'm now tortured to skin and bones," he said. "I can barely walk."

Turning to the Martinez case, Lightsey said he knew the DNA taken in 2008 would not match the DNA found on Martinez's clothes. That's why he let police take the sample, he said.

He's never met Martinez, nor any of her family members, he said. On the night of her disappearance, he was inside drinking beer with friends at a party, he said. From far way, he heard screaming, which he assumes now was Martinez, but did not drive to see what was going on because he had had too much to drink, he said.

Police are only keeping him as the main suspect, he said, to try to close a cold case.

"They're falsely accusing me of murdering Jessica Martinez. It's the same as they're falsely accusing me of killing this Compton man," he said. "Don't you see. Look what they're doing to me."

-- Californian staff writer Jason Kotowski contributed to this report.

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