Editor’s note: This story contains mentions of sexual assault and suicide. A list of resources is included at the bottom of the story.
New DNA testing disproved a death row inmate's claim that his father killed Juli Busken, a former OU ballerina.
On Feb. 3, Anthony Castillo Sanchez, who was given the death penalty in 2006 for the rape and murder of Juli Busken, challenged his conviction, claiming his father confessed to the crime before he died by suicide last year.
Busken, a 21-year-old OU dance student, was found dead on the southeast side of Lake Stanley Draper in Oklahoma City, 12 hours after disappearing from her Norman apartment the morning of Dec. 20, 1996. Busken had been bound, raped and shot in the back of the head with a .22-caliber firearm according to court documents. Busken graduated from the OU School of Dance earlier that month.
Using DNA recovered from the crime scene, charges were filed against the DNA profile of the unknown killer, a profile that was then entered into the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS database.
After eight years, in July of 2004, CODIS made a tentative match between a DNA sample taken from Sanchez when he entered the prison system on a burglary conviction and the DNA sample found at the crime scene, according to court documents. Sanchez was then charged with Busken's murder, but he claimed he was innocent.
In 2006, Sanchez was charged with one count of first degree murder, first-degree rape, forcible sodomy and kidnapping. A few days later, after deliberation, the Cleveland County jury recommended Sanchez receive the death penalty.
Earlier this month, with his execution set for Sept. 21, Sanchez claimed that his father, Thomas Glen Sanchez, is Busken's killer.
Thomas, 68, died by suicide in April on his girlfriend's front porch in Midwest City. His girlfriend, Charlotte Beattie, said Thomas confessed to Buskin’s rape and murder multiple times, the first time being in 2020.
"Glen said that he regretted Anthony was on death row for something Glen did. But he said that Anthony was tough and could deal with being locked up, whereas Glen wasn't strong enough to adapt to being incarcerated," Beattie wrote in a sworn declaration.
Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond and his assistants told the court these confessions, if true, were most likely just intended to scare Beattie.
"The possibility that the DNA could actually belong to the petitioner's father was already explored and rejected at trial," state attorneys told the court.
The state's DNA expert, Melissa Keith, testified at trial that evidence from the victim's underwear and pink leotard was consistent with Sanchez's DNA, according to court documents.
According to the testimony, the probability of the match being a mistake was 1 in 200 quadrillion for Caucasians, 1 in 20 quintillion for African Americans and 1 in 94 quadrillion for Southwest Hispanics, according to court documents.
In an effort to unequivocally debunk the claim, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation conducted new DNA tests in February using a blood sample from Thomas obtained by the medical examiner's office.
The OSBI concluded the father's DNA "does not match" the DNA evidence from the leotard, according to The Oklahoman.
Drummond and his assistants told the court that these results reconfirm Sanchez's conviction.
"This very recent lab report yet again confirms what the state and the courts have already known for many years now: Petitioner, and petitioner alone, is responsible for the abduction, rape, forcible sodomy and brutal murder of Juli Busken on the morning of December 20, 1996," Drummond and his assistants told the court.
This story was edited by Alexia Aston, Karoline Leonard and Jazz Wolfe. Ansley Chambers and Francisco Gutierrez copy edited this story.
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