• Attorneys want to use investigation into 1992 murder in upcoming trial


    GASTON COUNTY, N.C.,None - In three weeks, Danny Hembree, the man convicted of killing 17-year-old Heather Catterton, will have his second of three murder trials.

    This time, his attorneys want to use the investigation into a 20-year-old murder case to prove he is not guilty.

    Mary Fleming wiped away tears when she heard of Hembree's defense team’s plans to use her niece's death investigation to avoid another murder conviction.

    “I hope he rots in jail,” Fleming said.

    Police said two years ago, Hembree confessed to killing Deborah Ratchford in 1992. Her body was found in Gastonia.

    On Friday morning, Hembree's attorneys announced they planned to use the police investigation into Ratchford's death in Hembree's upcoming trial in the death of another woman, Randi Saldana.

    They said they want to show that Hembree repeatedly lied about his involvement in Ratchford's death and even implicated an innocent man, James Swanson, as a co-defendant. Murder charges against Swanson were quickly dropped.

    But the defense said if Hembree lied in his confession to Ratchford's killing, then he likely lied when he confessed to Saldana's killing, as well.

    Fleming said she hopes when it comes to trial, the judge will block the effort to use the investigation into Ratchford's death to help the man accused of killing her.

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