PORTLAND (AP) — A 20-year-old cold case cracked by modern DNA technology ended Friday with a plea bargain and a 12-year sentence for a man accused in the robbery-killing of a small-time Portland marijuana merchant.
Defendant Marvin Lambert, 38, was indicted last year after authorities said a wig found at the crime scene was tested for DNA.
The test wasn’t sensitive enough in 1994 to link the wig to Lambert, prosecutor Chuck Sparks said.”In 2010, it was,” he said.
Lambert was initially charged with murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter, The Oregonian reported.
Authorities said Brian Hill, 26, was selling $10 bags of marijuana in his neighborhood to support his family when he was gunned down by two gang members who showed up at night in front of his home, planning to rob him of drugs and money.
Hill had two children, 4 and 8, and a job at a recycling plant, Sparks said, noting he dealt marijuana on the side and wasn’t a gang member.
Investigators said Lambert fired six shots at Hill but missed. However, co-defendant Harry J. Villa III hit Hill with a 9mm round, and Hill died in a hospital a month later, authorities said.
Villa was later killed while imprisoned in an unrelated case and beaten with a bat by another gang member. Police said Villa was one of the city’s most notorious gang members.
Detectives suspected Lambert and Villa from the beginning, but witnesses weren’t talking.
Court records show Lambert pleaded guilty in 2006 to possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in relation to a drug-trafficking crime.
He was indicted in Hill’s death while in federal prison.