Charges dropped but questions remain

Murder charges against Paul House may have been dropped, but questions about his involvement in the rape and murder of Carolyn Muncey remain.

Muncey went missing from her rural Tennessee home on July 13, 1985. Her body was found a day later in a wooded area. She had been beaten and raped. A friend of her husband, House, claimed he had been alone at home at the time Muncey was killed. But police determined that House had left his home for at least an hour that night, and that he returned with unexplained cuts and bruises.

House, already on parole for other sex offenses, was convicted in 1986 and sentenced to death. He spent 22 years on death row.

This week, all charges against Paul House were dropped.

It seems that the semen found on Muncey’s body matched her husband, not House. Blood under Muncey’s fingernails also does not match House. Nor does DNA found on cigarette butts at the crime scene.

Yet, questions remain.

How did Muncey’s blood get onto House’s jeans? The court has determined that it could have spilled there during Muncey’s autopsy, or through mishandling by police at the crime scene.

But that raises even more questions. Why would police have taken clothing confiscated from a suspect back to the crime scene? Why would clothing from a suspect be allowed anywhere near an autopsy table?

Although District Attorney Paul Phillips wrote the petition calling for charges against House to be dropped, he has not conceded that House is completely innocent. He stated that “the new evidence raises a reasonable doubt that [House] acted alone and the possibility that others were involved in the crime.” But he says the “substantial sentence” House has already served is another reason the charges have now been dropped.

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