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Prosecutor: DNA proves murder case not mistaken identity

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The victim of a robbery provided a critical identification in a murder trial that started Tuesday with a claim of mistaken identity.

Curtis Travis and Stephen Stowers are facing murder charges. But one of the men says he wasn't involved in any way.

This is a case where prosecutors say two crimes add up to murder. They say Stowers and Travis robbed a family in an apartment, and then killed a grandfather in a hit-and-run crash less than half a mile away. But Travis says he wasn't anywhere near either crime scene.

Thick fog may have obscured the view at the northwest Fresno intersection where the crash happened last January, but prosecutors say the evidence of murder was right there all along -- clear as day.

All police had to do was look inside the stolen pickup truck that crashed into Heliodoro Ruvalcaba's car and killed the 50-year-old grandfather. The blood left behind identified two suspects.

"Lo and behold, the evidence is going to show these two DNA profiles match up with these two defendants," said prosecutor Steve Wright.

We're not allowed to show you what happened in the courtroom, but lab technicians say Curtis Travis' DNA was on the driver's side of the truck. Stephen Stowers' DNA was on the passenger side.

Police say the two men stole money, cell phones, a computer, and a pickup truck from a family in this apartment complex. They say Travis was driving the stolen pickup about 60 miles an hour when he ran a red light and slammed into Ruvalcaba. Prosecutors say Stowers later admitted to his role.

"Mr. Stowers told Detective Romero, 'I was in the house.' 'I was in the apartment,' excuse me, [he said] 'I was in the apartment,'"said Wright.

But Travis claims his arrest is a case of mistaken identity, despite the DNA. Travis is white and his attorney says some witnesses saw two black men leaving the scene of the deadly crash. And, Harry Drandell says, even the robbery victim, David Ruiz, initially said neither suspect was white.

"At that time he (Ruiz) said it was a black man, but at that time he said it was a black man and a Hispanic man," Drandell said.

In court, Ruiz said he could only identify one of the robbers. When the prosecutor asked, he pointed at Travis.

The trial is expected to last into next week. Travis and Stowers face life in prison if they're convicted.

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