Witness says McCormack confessed

Vinzant: Suspect told him he killed Fairchild, then said it was a joke

Posted: Sunday, May 14, 2006


  Barry McCormack listens Tuesday as he is arraigned in Kenai for a 1985 murder. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Barry McCormack listens Tuesday as he is arraigned in Kenai for a 1985 murder.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

A witness in the Barry McCormack trial on Friday told jurors the defendant confessed to murdering Opal Fairchild during a 1993 conversation about a robbery in Soldotna.

“He said that he killed Opal Fairchild and was involved in a robbery with my brother,” Daniel VinZant said of McCormack, who was married to VinZant’s sister at the time.

VinZant said he responded in disbelief and that McCormack quickly retracted the statement.

“He said I’m just f— with you,” VinZant said. “(And) I took it as a joke.”

But when law enforcement authorities contacted him roughly 10 years later, and asked him questions about the Fairchild murder and the violent robbery of Safeway in Soldotna in 1985, VinZant began to rethink McCormack’s confession.

The more VinZant thought back to his conversation with McCormack and about events that occurred around the time the two crimes, the more he thought McCormack’s confession may have been serious, he said.

“There were things in my mind that fit together,” he said.

Around the time of the Safeway robbery, for example, McCormack and VinZant’s brother, Thomas VinZant, were able to buy some pricey items, such as a TV and VCR, despite being unemployed at the time, he said.

In questioning VinZant, Assistant Public Defender Margaret Moran probed him for reasons he might want to incriminate McCormack in the crime.

“A suggestion was made that you might be involved in the murder, wasn’t it?” Moran asked.

VinZant agreed that it was.

On Friday jurors also learned more about the fingerprints linking McCormack to the Fairchild murder, as well as the violent robbery of a woodstove store.

Although McCormack is only on trial for the Fairchild murder, Assistant District Attorney Scot Leaders has called witnesses to testify regarding three crimes, all of which occurred in March of 1985. In his opening argument Monday, Leaders said evidence links the crimes to each other and to McCormack.

On Friday jurors compared for themselves the latent fingerprints that Leaders said link McCormark to the woodstove store robbery and the Fairchild murder. Three latent fingerprints were recovered from a piece of notepaper and newspaper at the scene Fairchild’s murder and a cash register drawer at the woodstove store in 1985 and matched in 2000 to ink prints taken of McCormack’s fingers.

The latent fingerprint expert who matched the prints to McCormack in 2000,

Dale Bivins, presented them to jurors on Friday and walked them through the

identification processes step by step.

The first latent fingerprint, found on a piece of notepaper in Fairchild’s home, was identified as matching the fingerprint of McCormack’s

right thumb, said Bivins, who supervises the latent fingerprint section of the

Alaska State Crime Lab in Anchorage. After identifying the latent fingerprint

on the newspaper as matching that of McCormack’s

right middle finger, Bivins was asked to try to identify more prints.

And after comparing McCormack’s fingerprints to latent prints found at

the scene of the woodstove robbery, Bivins determined that a print recovered

from the inside of the woodstove store’s cash drawer also matched McCormack. The print from the drawer was identified as matching a fingerprint from McCormack’s left thumb.

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