- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2004

TOWSON, Md. — A Baltimore County judge yesterday sentenced a man to life in prison for killing a 9-year-old girl, a crime for which another man had served nine years before he was cleared by DNA evidence.

Kimberly S. Ruffner reached a deal with prosecutors, entering a guilty plea to a charge of premeditated first-degree murder in the 1984 death of Dawn Hamilton. Prosecutors agreed to drop six other charges.

Ruffner served time in the same prison as Kirk Bloodsworth of Cambridge, Md., the man convicted in Dawn’s death using the identification of witnesses and circumstantial evidence.

After investigators re-examined genetic evidence, Mr. Bloodsworth was cleared and Ruffner was identified as a suspect.

Dawn’s body was found in some woods near Rosedale, Md. At one point during yesterday’s hearing, defense attorney Archangelo Tuminelli mentioned that Ruffner “probably” killed Dawn. Circuit Judge Robert Cadigan then angrily ordered Ruffner, 46, to look at evidence photos of Dawn’s body.

“The photos are just horrific. What he did to this poor, defenseless little girl is unspeakable,” the judge said.

According to court records, Ruffner was acquitted of rape 12 days before Dawn’s death. Shortly after she was killed, he was arrested for attempted rape and attempted murder in another case. He is serving a 45-year sentence for those crimes.

Mr. Bloodsworth issued a statement yesterday that said he hoped the Hamilton family would be able to find closure.

“It is with a deep sense of relief for Dawn’s family and for myself that the long ordeal in search of the truth about her tragic and horrible death and in seeking justice is coming to an end,” Mr. Bloodsworth said.

“As for me, I will continue my quest to find solutions to our broken and flawed criminal justice system — the system failed Dawn, the Hamilton family and me. It was broke the day she died, and it is still broke today.”

Assistant State’s Attorney Jason League said in court that Dawn’s father had told him: “‘Death is too good for this man.’” He said Tom Hamilton has suffered from a deep depression and began drinking excessively after his daughter was killed.

Judge Cadigan asked Ruffner if he had anything to say before he was sentenced.

“There’s nothing I can say,” Ruffner replied.

Ruffner will be eligible for parole.

Mr. Bloodsworth twice was convicted of the girl’s murder and was sentenced to die. After struggling for years to prove his innocence, he was cleared in 1993 on evidence gathered from a semen stain on the victim’s underwear. The evidence then was entered into a state database to help find the real killer, and Ruffner was charged in September.

Mr. Bloodsworth and Ruffner worked out together in prison, lifting weights, and Mr. Bloodsworth delivered books to Ruffner’s cell in his job as a prison librarian. Mr. Bloodsworth has said Ruffner knew about his case, his attempts to win a new trial and his claims of innocence.

But Mr. Tuminelli told the judge that Ruffner didn’t know Dawn’s name and never realized Mr. Bloodsworth was serving a sentence for killing his victim.

At that, Judge Cadigan expressed disbelief.

“You’re telling me he didn’t know?” the judge said.

Mr. Tuminelli answered that Ruffner never made the connection, saying, “He never knew the name of the child he killed. That child’s name meant nothing to him.”

Judge Cadigan said he found it “incredible that they never discussed this,” but Mr. Tuminelli replied that “inmates generally don’t discuss the facts of their cases because most are not guilty, according to them.”

Mr. Bloodsworth’s case was the first capital conviction in the nation overturned by DNA testing.

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