FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – New DNA testing implicates a man in a 1990 Pompano Beach murder case, even though he was previously found not guilty of the crime, according to a news release from the Broward County State Attorney’s office.
In an ironic twist, the testing was conducted at the request of the Innocence Project of New York.
However, due to double jeopardy provisions, Robert Earl Hayes, 58, cannot be retried for the murder of Pamela Albertson, a horse groomer at the Pompano Beach race track, despite the fact that the new testing links him to the crime.
Hayes was initially convicted of Albertson’s murder, but the Florida Supreme Court overturned it in 1995. The original DNA testing in the case was some of the first of its kind in Florida and an appeals court found some of it unreliable. In a 1997 retrial, a jury found Hayes not guilty.
Hayes is currently an inmate in New York, serving 15 to 45 years in prison for manslaughter in the Aug. 14, 1987 homicide of Leslie Dickenson, a horse groomer at the Vernon Downs race track in upstate New York.
Her death was initially ruled a suicide but detectives reinvestigated the case after the 1990 homicide, according to the news release. Hayes was a worker on the race track circuit. He was seen with Albertson just before her death and he claimed to have “discovered” Dickenson’s body, according to the release.
Hayes pleaded guilty to Dickenson’s death in 2004.
“Hayes was brought back to the attention of Broward prosecutors long after his acquittal when the Innocence Project of New York representatives contacted our Conviction Review Unit (CRU) in late 2020,” the news release states. “The defense team thought the hairs found clutched in Albertson’s hand could assist the defense in the Dickenson case. The Innocence Project of New York requested our CRU’s assistance in reviewing a claim of innocence involving Hayes’ conviction for the 1987 homicide in New York as well as the acquittal in the 1990 Broward homicide case.”
The release goes on to state that the defense sought permission to test the hairs found clutched in Albertson’s hand to identify their origin.
“A major theme of the defense at both Broward trials was that the hair in her hand was from a Caucasian individual and Hayes is African-American,” it says. “The defense at the second trial presented an alternate suspect, Scott Nicholas, a Caucasian male with a criminal history who worked on the same race track circuit as Hayes, Albertson and Dickenson. Hayes was eliminated as the source of the hairs in the 1990s and the defense theory was that the hairs belonged to the ‘real’ killer.”
Broward prosecutors agreed to release the samples to a DNA lab of the defense’s choice and provided profiles of Hayes, Albertson and Nicholas. As part of the agreement with the defense, prosecutors and a BSO detective also requested DNA testing of vaginal and anal swab smear slides and fingernails.
“The DNA test report from the defense’s choice of lab stated the results provided ‘very strong evidence’ that the male profile from the sperm on the vaginal swab smear slide originated from Hayes and that at least one of the hairs matches the victim’s profile, but not Hayes or the alternate suspect,” the news release said. “None of the tested DNA or hairs matched the alternate suspect, Nicholas. The new DNA test results from the vaginal swab point to Hayes’ involvement in the Broward murder of Albertson, despite the fact that a jury acquitted him of the state homicide charge in the 1997 retrial. The DNA results from the hair support the theory that the victim’s own hair was clutched in her hand during the fatal attack.”
Broward State Attorney Harold F. Pryor commented on the new evidence in the news release.
“We believe it is just as relevant to speak the truth about what happened in this case and try to hold Mr. Hayes accountable – to the extent possible – as it is to exonerate those who are innocent,” Pryor said in part. “We will speak to the Parole Board in New York to try to ensure that Mr. Hayes is not released from prison and we will do this in the interests of justice and to help safeguard all communities.”