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Glen McCurley, the 78-year-old man accused of murdering 17-year-old Carla Walker in 1974, pleaded not guilty during a pretrial hearing on Wednesday, as his defense sustained major losses related to the admissibility of evidence for his upcoming trial. At that trial, scheduled to begin Aug. 19, the judge ruled the prosecution can use recorded interviews in which McCurley seemingly confessed to the crime.
McCurley arrived at Tarrant County Criminal District Court on Wednesday in a wheelchair. He was wearing a dark green Tarrant County jail jumpsuit. He spent much of the hearing with his head in his hands but occasionally looked around the courtroom, which was filled with several family members and friends of Carla Walker and two family members of McCurley.
After decades with scant progress on solving one of Fort Worth’s best known cold cases, police identified McCurley through improved DNA evidence and took him into custody on Sept. 21, 2020. At a downtown Fort Worth police station, detectives Leah Wagner and Jay Bennett immediately began interviewing him. Portions of a four-hour recording were played in the courtroom Wednesday.
At first, McCurley was adamant he had not committed a crime. “I don’t know the girl,” he told the detectives. “I’ve never seen her.” Nearly an hour into the conversation, Wagner told him, “We used your DNA to find out who you were. There’s no question. We know you did this to her. We just need to know why.” About 30 minutes later, according to Wagner’s testimony from Wednesday, McCurley confessed. (This portion of the recorded video was not played.)
McCurley’s defense contended the statement was inadmissible because he had not consented to waiving his right to silence. The detectives asked him if he waived these rights multiple times and at one point McCurley answered, “I don’t know.” But McCurley continued talking for several hours. Judge Elizabeth Beach ruled he had voluntarily waived his rights and agreed to talk through the “totality of the circumstances,” a precedent that has been set in previous cases.
She also denied a defense motion regarding yet another interview of McCurley from September. This was one was conducted by KRLD journalist Andrew Greenstein, who testified Wednesday. In the interview, McCurley said, “She just gave me a hug. I gave her a kiss. I mistook her for something else. I didn’t mean to do it.”
The defense attempted to show McCurley may have been confused about Greenstein’s identity and mistook him for a police officer. Greenstein said McCurley approved the interview knowing he was a journalist with KRLD, and he identified himself as a journalist at the outset of the interview and had not been influenced in any way by law enforcement.
While the defense lost its motions to suppress the evidence from the interviews, they are still trying to get the DNA evidence thrown out of court, arguing the forensic technology is new and not certified by Texas. DNA experts testified for several hours Wednesday, but the defense team requested another week to work on a brief to state its position. It is not clear when Beach will make a decision.
McCurley has been in jail since his arrest. As he was wheeled out of the courtroom after Wednesday’s hearing, he blew a kiss to his family through a mask.