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New DNA leads to possible suspect in church murders of beloved couple, while man claiming innocence remains behind bars

Dennis Perry has been in prison for nearly 20 years for murder, but his attorneys, who claim the wrong man is behind bars, say that new DNA evidence may have led to the actual killer.

On March 11, 1985, according to AJC, someone killed Harold and Thelma Swain after they attended Bible study class at the Rising Daughter Baptist Church in Spring Bluff, Georgia. A white man appeared in the entryway of the predominantly black church that evening, but no one in attendance knew who he was.

The stranger attacked Harold, a respected deacon, prompting Thelma to jump in and help her husband. Both Harold and Thelma were subsequently shot and killed before the man fled.

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The case gained extensive media attention, but with lack of evidence, authorities didn’t arrest a suspect until 1998, when a man named Dennis Perry landed on the radar. Despite no physical evidence against Perry, Jane Beaver, the mother of a woman Perry had been dating, told investigators that he was the killer.

Beaver reportedly said Perry admitted he planned to kill Harold Swain after the man allegedly laughed in his face when he asked to borrow money. Years later, Beaver later testified at Perry’s trial and pocketed $12,000 in reward money. According to case files, Beaver asked about the reward money on the very day after Perry’s arrest.

A pair of glasses found at the crime scene didn’t match to Perry, but instead, to a man who was once considered a suspect but later dropped after he provided an alibi: Erik Sparre. Perry’s attorneys now say that DNA from Sparre’s mother matched DNA found on the glasses.

“The new DNA evidence is critically significant because it for the first time provides reliable forensic physical evidence linking a known suspect, Erik Sparre, to physical evidence at the crime scene, the glasses.”

Sparre allegedly told his ex-wife he committed the murders, but a lot of his files are now lost. AJC reports that a lot of the evidence in the case files has mysteriously vanished.

However, a police report indicated that the ex-wife’s family played an investigator a tape of a Sparre threatening them.

“I’m the mother f——- that killed the two n——— in that church,” the man said.

During an earlier interview with AJC, Sparre reportedly said he was only trying to scare his wife.

“I was a stupid young kid, tried to scare my wife.”

Sparre contacted AJC after he learned his mother submitted her DNA to a Georgia Innocence Project investigator who stopped by her home. Despite sounding “rattled,” Sparre once again claimed innocence.

“This DNA will prove that I didn’t do it.”

When the outlet recently reached out to Sparre for an additional interview after the confirmed DNA match, the man refused. Sparre reportedly claimed that he knew nothing, not even where the church where the couple died was located before he hung up.

“I don’t even know where the church is,” he said. “I have no reason to know.”

Sparre also claimed he didn’t lose any glasses at the time, but his ex-wife picked out the exact pair of glasses while looking over photos of several pairs of glasses with investigators.

Meanwhile, Perry’s lawyers have started a motion for a new trial. They said that Sparre’s alibi was “highly suspect and likely false.”

There is also a pending petition at the superior court in Coffee County for Perry’s release.

“Before, I had hope. But now, with this DNA out there, I almost feel like a free man already,” Perry said. “I’ve just got to wait for the courts to do the right thing.”

Check back for updates.

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[Feature Photo: Pixabay]