Convict Charged in 35-Year-Old Murder

By Dick Johnson
|  Tuesday, Aug 2, 2011  |  Updated 10:39 PM CDT
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A man just one year away from being eligible for parole for killing an elderly man in 29 years ago said Tuesday he intends to plead guilty to the 1976 stabbing of a woman in Wheaton.

A man just one year away from being eligible for parole for killing an elderly man in 29 years ago said Tuesday he intends to plead guilty to the 1976 stabbing of a woman in Wheaton.

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A man just one year away from being eligible for parole for killing an elderly man in 29 years ago said Tuesday he intends to plead guilty to the 1976 stabbing of a woman in Wheaton.

This comes as prosecutors said there's a one in seven trillion chance that DNA evidence found at the scene, tying Michael Whitney to the crime, is wrong.

In court Tuesday, prosecutors described a "horrendous crime scene" 35 years ago. The victim, a 28-year-old medical student named Darlene Stack, was found with her hands bound with a sheet.  Her body had been mutilated, stabbed 33 times, officials said.

"Thirty-five years is a long time, many things change over the course of that time, but the truth has never changed," said DuPage County State's Attorney Bob Berlin.

Whitney has been a suspect in the case since the beginning. But about five or six years ago, DNA technology, which wasn't as advanced when the crime occurred, was able to analyze a semen stain on the sheet. It ties Whitney to Stack, officials said.

The coroner in 1976 said that Stack had not been sexually assaulted.

Also working against Whitney are statements from an ex-girlfriend, Sharon McGee, a woman to whom authorities gave immunity shortly after the crime.

Faced with the DNA evidence, McGee finally came clean and told authorities that she'd come home that August night and saw Whitney pacing the floor. Whitney told McGee that they needed to immediately leave the area, so they got in a car and drove to the DuPage River.  There, McGee said she saw Whitney wipe off a knife and throw it in the water, prosecutors said.

The pair concocted an alibi that she stuck with for 35 years, officials said, out of love -- and fear -- of Whitney. In fact, prosecutors said, McGee lied three times before a grand jury.

The new charges bring relief that's been long-coming to Stack's family.

"We are very, very pleased with the work of the DuPage County State's Attorney's Office, as well as the work, obviously, the tireless effort on behalf of the Wheaton Police Department, and we thank them for bringing what we hope is the end of this, and it makes it very easy now to put some closure," said Michael Douglas, a relative of the victim.

Whitney refused a public defender but was appointed one anyway.  Associate Judge Neal Cerne ordered Whitney held without bond.

Darlene Stack

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