Boise State Professor Helps Missouri Man Sentenced To Death

Aug 23, 2017

Marcellus Williams was supposed to die on Tuesday. The Missouri man was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1998 brutal stabbing of Felicia "Lisha" Gayle, a former reporter with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Fast-forward to December 2014, when Greg Hampikian got a call about a Missouri case that needed some additional eyes. Hampikian is a Boise State biology professor, and has done forensics work for criminal cases around the world – including the Amanda Knox case in Italy. As the day of the lethal injection approached, Hampikian made a last-ditch effort and brought in colleagues across the country to examine the DNA evidence against Williams.

“I called up every favor I possibly could from everybody in the field," says Hampikian. "Anybody who would be paid for this case would want six weeks at least to go through the material. And I was asking friends to do it over the weekend.”

Just four hours before the scheduled execution, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens stopped it, and appointed a board to re-examine his case.

Despite being in the national spotlight again, Hampikian is still teaching classes this fall. He has a number of students who want to follow in his career path.

“And a lot of people are interested in forensics. But really what I would tell people is -- no -- get interested in science. The reason I can do forensics is the same reason I can work on cancer.”

Hampikian hopes the DNA evidence he studied can eventually exonerate Williams.

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

Copyright 2017 Boise State Public Radio