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Warrants await test results

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Warrants await test results

■ Initial screenings link inmate to storekeeper's slaying.



Police and prosecutors say they need results of DNA tests before warrants can be sworn out charging a convict with the slaying of storekeeper Tammy Sperle last month at the Huron Valley Men's Facility.

Detectives from the Michigan State Police Department said the initial screening tests showed stains matching Sperle's blood type were found on the clothing of inmate Clarence Herndon–a 42-year-old felon identified as the prime suspect in an affadavit supporting the only search warrant in connection with the case.

The body of Sperle, a 33-year-old mother of two teen-age sons, was found Feb. 5 in a storage area where she was taking inventory for the prisoners' store she had operated since 1994 as a civilian employee of the Department of Corrections.

She had been brutally beaten and strangled with a shoelace.

Police said Herndon, who is serving an 18-to-40-year sentence for attempted murder, was a member of the store committee and knew Sperle. Investigators also said his fingerprint was found on a soup container next to her body. He has been transferred to the prison at Jackson.

Detective Sgt. Gary Parsons, the lead investigator in the case, refused to identify Herndon by name.

"The chief suspect is an inmate who was known by the victim in the course of her employment," Parsons said. "We feel confident the suspect we are focusing on is the one who committed the murder. We have some very incriminating evidence that links the suspect to the crime."

Parsons has submitted his report to the Washtenaw County prosecutor's office, which has decided to wait until scientists at the Michigan State Police Crime Laboratory in Lansing complete the DNA profile that could solidly tie Herndon to Sperle's slaying.

It was not immediately clear how much longer those tests will take.

Sperle's body was discovered by co-workers about 1:45 p.m. She was taken to Saline Community Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 3:01 p.m.

Investigators zeroed in on Herndon as a possible suspect almost immediately.

According to the affadavit filed with a search warrant granted by 14B District Judge John B. Collins, investigators learned Spearle had met with Herndon and another inmate member of the store committee the morning of her death.

Herndon, investigators said, has a prior history of violence against corrections workers, including an assault on a guard at Jackson which led to his transfer to Huron Valley. Detectives also said they searched Herndon's cell and found specks of human blood on the soles of his shoes.

Under the authority of the search warrant, police took hair samples from Herndon as well as fingernail scrapings. Investigators found several deep scratches on Sperle's body.

As a result of Sperle's death, prison officials have moved the store to a location outside the prison and made body alarms mandatory. Sperle was not wearing a personal security device or carrying a radio when she was attacked.