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DNA from 1979 Fountain Valley rape and hammer murder matches the man convicted, authorities say; his family is ‘happy to have closure’

DNA from 1979 Fountain Valley rape and hammer murder matches the man convicted, authorities say; his family is ‘happy to have closure’
Lawyer Annee Della Donna holds a photo July 25 of William Lee Evins, who pleaded guilty in 1985 to second-degree murder in the killing six years earlier of Joan Anderson of Fountain Valley. Della Donna argued in July that the Golden State Killer had actually committed the crime. (File Photo)

A DNA test performed on evidence from the scene of the 1979 rape and murder of a woman in her Fountain Valley home confirmed that the man convicted in the case was in fact responsible, authorities said.

Family members and an attorney for William Lee Evins, who died in prison in 2013 — 28 years after pleading guilty — said in July this year that they believed he was not guilty of the May 1979 slaying of Joan Anderson, 28. They said they believed the prolific Golden State Killer was the true killer.

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Annee Della Donna, a Laguna Beach lawyer with Innocence Rights of Orange County, said Monday that Evins’ family was “hoping he would be declared innocent,” but added, “We are happy to have closure and that the truth came out.”

Innocence Rights is an initiative that works with students from the UC Irvine law school to advocate for the release of innocent prisoners.

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Prosecutors alleged Evins broke into Anderson’s home, raped her and beat her to death with a hammer.

The Orange County district attorney’s office partnered with the Camille Hill Innocence Review Panel to revisit the case, the district attorney’s office said Friday. DNA evidence confirmed that Evins was guilty, authorities said.

“A DNA profile obtained from the evidence was uploaded to the state DNA database,” according to a statement from the DA’s office. “On Dec. 4, 2018, law enforcement was notified by the California Department of Justice that the profile matched that of William Evins, the convicted offender.”

Della Donna said in July that Innocence Rights took on the case because “the evidence against Evins was ridiculously flimsy.”

But she said Monday that the group is “very proud of the DA for being willing to reopen the case and test DNA.”

She read an email from Evins’ adult daughter that stated, “We might not always get the answers that we are looking for, but we get the truth we so desperately need.”

Della Donna would not provide the name of the daughter, who she said no longer lives in Orange County.

Evins, who was 25 at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1985 and received a sentence of 15 years to life in state prison.

Evins knew Anderson, a wife and mother, because he had been doing work at her family’s home, officials said.

Sclafani is a Daily Pilot staff writer.

This article was originally published at 7:25 a.m. and was later updated with additional information.

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