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posted: 12/14/2012 12:09 PM

DNA test ordered in 1996 Highland Park slaying

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The convicted killer of a retired Highland Park professor is hoping DNA evidence found under the victim's fingernails will clear him of the 1996 murder.

Following the ruling of an appellate judge, defense attorneys for Louis Rozo and Lake County prosecutors requested DNA testing on any evidence that may have been located under the fingernails of Christy Shervanian. The 69-year-old victim was strangled in his home and the residence was set on fire.

Defense attorney Gregory Nikitas said he believes the results of that DNA test will clear Rozo, now 47, who was found guilty of murdering Shervanian and is serving 75 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Rozo, formerly of Deerfield, has long maintained his innocence, Nikitas said, and believes evidence of the real killer can be discovered through the DNA results.

"If someone else's DNA is found, then it will lead to other inquiries about the case," Nikitas said.

If it pans out as Nikitas expects, it would be the fifth high-profile felony case in which DNA evidence has helped overturn a wrongful conviction in Lake County in the last two years.

Most notably, Juan Rivera spent nearly 20 years incarcerated for the rape and murder of 11-year-old Holly Staker of Waukegan in 1992, but was released in January after DNA exonerated him.

Jerry Hobbs spent five years in Lake County jail after police charged him with killing his 8-year-old daughter, Laura, and her 9-year-old friend Krystal Tobias in 2005. He was freed from jail in August 2010 after DNA evidence pointed officials to another man.

James Edwards was cleared in May of the 1994 slaying of Waukegan business owner Fred Reckling, 71, after DNA evidence led authorities to another man. DNA testing also led to rape charges being dropped in May against Bennie Starks, 52, of Chicago, for a January 1986 attack on a 69-year-old woman in a Waukegan ravine.

Nikitas and Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Scheller could not say how long it would take for DNA testing in this latest case to be completed.

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