CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A high-profile murder case that Channel 9 has followed for nearly a decade was back before a Gaston County judge on Thursday.
Mark Carver is serving a life sentence for the murder of University of North Carolina-Charlotte student Ira Yarmolenko.
"The truth will come out. He will be found innocent," one of Carver's relatives said Thursday.
Carver has maintained his innocence since 2008, when he was arrested and charged with murdering the 20-year-old.
More than four years since Carver's last court date, a judge has agreed to allow defense attorneys to ask officers who investigated at the scene for DNA.
The argument was that Carver shook someone’s hand and the DNA was transferred by that contact to the car.
The defense hopes the new evidence will be enough for a retrial.
An innocence commission has continued to try to exonerate the convicted killer.
Carver's cousin, Neal Cassada, was also charged with murder. He died of a heart attack the day before his trial was scheduled to begin in 2010. Cassada also always maintained his innocence.
Carver was sentenced to life in prison in 2011 for killing Yarmolenko. The UNC Charlotte student’s body was found near the Catawba River, and Carver's DNA was later found on her car.
"I didn't do it. I didn't go around the car, or nowhere near the car, or nothing," Carver said Thursday.
A judge on Thursday allowed attorneys for the Center for Actual Innocence to ask for DNA from all of the five officers at the scene.
"We are after the truth in this case," Christina Munna, with the Center for Actual Innocence, said.
- Murder of UNCC student gets national attention on ABC's 20/20
- A Look Back: Yarmolenko's death and the ensuing investigation
- Irina "Ira" Yarmolenko's Death: Timeline Of Events
- Autopsy: Suspect In Yarmolenko death died of natural causes
- State Supreme Court to hear appeal of man convicted in college student's death
- Man found guilty in UNCC student's murder
- Convicted murderer claims he did not kill UNCC student
The murder case has received national attention for years as the innocence commission has worked to overturn Carver's conviction, arguing that Carver's attorneys didn't do enough to defend him.
The commission also said Carver’s DNA could have been transferred through sweat when an officer shook Carver's hand before touching her car.
The district attorney questioned the rationale for testing the DNA of all five officers.
"Go back to where Mr. Carver had breakfast and take the DNA of the waitress,” Locke Bell said. “We'd have to go back to where he went and dropped off his prescriptions."
The judge also agreed to allow evidence at the state lab to be retested.
A state investigation revealed testing at the lab was lax in the past and new protocols were implemented.
The ninth anniversary of Yarmolenko's murder is 15 days away.
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