NEW YORK (AP) — A man convicted of murdering a woman during a down-and-out tryst in a Times Square budget hotel was sentenced Monday to 25 years to life behind bars, capping a case that endured for nearly a decade and aired a dispute over the validity of bite-mark evidence.
Clarence Dean already has spent more than nine years in jail , awaiting trial and then sentencing in the August 2007 death of Kristine Yitref, whose battered body was found in a garbage bag underneath a bed in Dean's room.
Dean was arrested a day after the discovery. But his trial was delayed for years, partly because of the bite-mark debate.
"Clarence Dean committed a merciless and brutal act of violence against a vulnerable woman," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement announcing Dean's sentence. "He showed a complete disregard for human life."
Dean's lawyer, Sean Maher, did not immediately return a phone call Monday seeking comment. He has said Dean planned to appeal and was hopeful he would be exonerated.
The case began with the meeting of two people living on the margins of the nation's biggest city.
Dean, who is 45 and from Alabaster, Alabama, was a convicted sex offender who was wanted on charges including stealing a woman's car and draining her bank account. He had been in New York a few weeks, bussing glasses and doing other tasks at a club.
Yitref, 33, had come to New York in 1994 from Yakima, Washington, aspiring to a career in fashion. She enrolled in design school but spiraled into crack addiction and prostitution. She had somehow lost part of a finger about three months before her death.
Dean and Yitref met on the street in Times Square and went to his room for a $40 sexual encounter, according to Dean's lawyer.
Prosecutors said Dean killed Yitref in a rage, snapping her neck, fracturing her skull and breaking her ribs and breastbone. "He reduced her bones to dust," Vance said.
Dean admitted choking Yitref but denied killing her. He said he blacked out while defending himself from her and her pimp — "two desperate thieves that ambushed him in his hotel room," Dean's attorney said during the trial last year.
A jury convicted Dean in December.
Prosecutors initially planned to include a controversial piece of evidence: a forensic comparison between Dean's teeth and a bite mark found on Yitref's body. Defense lawyers argued the technique was junk science; over 20 men nationwide have been exonerated since 2000 in murder or rape cases that hinged on bite marks.
The judge in Dean's case OK'd the bite mark evidence, but prosecutors ultimately did not use it.