Twenty-three years after 9-year-old Jennifer Wilson was brutally raped and murdered and left on a hilltop in Flagstaff, the man convicted of killing her has run out of appeals.
Richard Lynn Bible is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 11 a.m. today for the 1988 murder.
Bible, 49, has always maintained his innocence and in recent months has claimed that a DNA analysis of hairs found on Jennifer’s body and clothing would exonerate him.
On Wednesday, his last-ditch appeals were denied by the U.S. Supreme Court and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Ironically, Bible’s trial in 1990 was the first Arizona case to use what was then brand-new DNA technology. A newspaper article at the time theorized that someday DNA evidence could become a regular part of courtroom arguments, although Bible’s appellant lawyers tried to denounce it as junk science.
It was a case that played out dramatically in the press over two years: a convicted sex offender snatched a little girl from her bicycle, beat her to death, then hid her body.
In June 1988, Jennifer Wilson was on vacation from Yuma with her family. They had transported their horses up to Flagstaff to do some riding in the cool mountain air, and rather than ride in the family vehicle, Jennifer asked if she could ride her bike the last few miles to the ranch where they intended to saddle up. She never got there. When her mother drove back down the road looking for her, all she found was Jennifer’s bicycle.
Bible, then 26 and a Flagstaff local, was arrested seven hours later, based partially on a description Jennifer’s mother had given to police of a truck she had seen drive by about the time Jennifer disappeared. Jennifer’s body was not found for 19 days, even though searchers had already combed the area with cadaver dogs, helicopters and legions of law-enforcement officers.
Circumstantial evidence linked Bible to the murder. And blood spatter on Bible’s shirt proved to be Jennifer’s after the DNA was typed. Bible was convicted in April 1990 of first-degree murder, kidnapping and child molestation. Two months later, he was sentenced to death.
Little is known about Bible’s early life. At his sentencing, his family testified that he was a hyperactive child but otherwise acted appropriately around women and children. They said they had no concerns leaving him alone to watch kids.
But he had a long history of substance abuse, ranging from sniffing glue as a boy to overusing alcohol, cocaine and amphetamines as an adult. Mental-health professionals quoted in court documents said substance abuse brought out his antisocial tendencies.
In 1981, when he was 19, Bible was drinking on Sheep Hill in Flagstaff with his 17-year-old female cousin and they talked about a trip they planned to Sedona for the next day. All of a sudden, Bible tied her up, cut off her clothes with a knife and sexually assaulted her in the back of his pickup truck. He went to prison for six years, and while there, according to court testimony, he told a counselor that he would never again make the mistake of letting a victim testify against him. He may have kept his promise.
Bible was out of prison a year when Jennifer Wilson was murdered.
A day before, he had stolen a truck from a county impound lot near Sheep Hill.
He never confessed the details, but a jailhouse informant told authorities that Bible said that while he was high on methamphetamine, Bible used the truck to run Jennifer off the road and then told her he would take her to get medical help.
Nearly three weeks later, hikers found some of her clothing on Sheep Hill and called police. Searchers found her bound and naked body covered with branches and litter, within yards of where searchers had passed in the days when she first disappeared. She had died of blunt-force blows to her head.
Loose rubber bands, a cut cigar and a couple of airline-size vodka bottles matched items found in the truck Bible had stolen. Hairs found at the scene were deemed to be similar to Bible’s. Evidence technicians matched fibers. And then there was Jennifer’s blood on Bible’s shirt.
The jury found Bible guilty.