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updated: 6/21/2011 6:08 PM

Waukegan police investigating DNA match in 1994 murder

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A Lake County prosecutor said Tuesday officials are investigating an apparent DNA match to blood found at the scene of a 1994 murder of a Waukegan businessman that does not match the man convicted of the crime.

James Edwards, 62, was sentenced to life in prison in 1996 after being found guilty of the beating death of Fred Reckling, the owner of the Grand Appliance store chain.

The state Supreme Court in March ordered DNA testing on the blood found in Reckling's car and on the store carpet, and it was recently matched to a person in the computerized database of convicted felons. It was known during the trial the blood did not to belong to Reckling or Edwards.

"There was a match, and it is being investigated," Deputy State's Attorney Jeff Pavletic said. "The jury that convicted Edwards of the crime was aware the blood was not his and convicted him regardless of that knowledge."

Edwards was arrested Jan. 4, 1995 while fleeing the scene of an armed robbery at the then-Roberts Roost motel.

During a 26-hour questioning session, Edwards confessed to that armed robbery and two others, a bank robbery, a home invasion and a string of burglaries, police said. He also admitted he served 14 years in prison for the 1974 murder of an 88-year-old Chicago woman.

Edwards told police he was high on cocaine the night of Dec. 8, 1994 and was passing Reckling's store on Grand Avenue when he saw the front door was ajar.

Police said Edwards told them he went inside, confronted the 71-year-old Reckling and beat him to death with a walking stick.

Edwards said he fled with around $1,800 in cash and Reckling's Lincoln Town Car, which was found abandoned in Chicago 10 days after the crime.

Police said at the time of Edwards' arrest that he provided details of the crime known only to them and the killer, and accurately described the location of a flat tire he had changed on Reckling's car after it blew out near Libertyville.

Defense attorneys argued at Edwards' trial that the confession was coerced, and said the blood stains found on the store carpet and in the car must have come from the real killer.

Nonetheless, the jury found Edwards guilty after just over four hours of deliberation, although it declined to impose the death penalty prosecutors were seeking.

After he was sentenced to life in prison for the Reckling murder, Edwards was also convicted of the Robert's Roost armed robbery and sentenced to a consecutive 60-year term in prison.

Two years later, Edwards was again sentenced to life in prison for the 1974 murder of 60-year-old Sylvia Greenbaum in Shaker Heights, Ohio, who was shot to death inside her car.

Edwards' attorney, Paul DeLuca said Tuesday he had been informed prosecutors were attempting to find the man matched to the DNA in the Reckling murder in order to obtain a fresh sample from him.

"The match from CODIS (the database of DNA samples from convicted felons) is not evidence and must be backed-up by an actual comparison," DeLuca said. "Once that is done, I suspect there will be another court hearing set to determine where we are with this case."

Pavletic declined to identify the man sought in connection with the match or say if he believed the man was in the area.