• Law

    DNA: The Secrets it Won’t Tell

    DNA Evidence Sent Anthony Sanchez to Death Row. But Did It Actually Solve the Crime?

    Charlotte Beattie couldn’t say when she began to suspect that her boyfriend had committed the murder that sent his own son to death row. It probably crossed her mind almost 20 years ago, when an Oklahoma City police detective showed up to ask about Anthony Sanchez, who had been charged with killing a young woman found at a nearby lake. Jewell “Juli” Busken, a 21-year-old ballet student at the University of Oklahoma, was raped and murdered just before Christmas in 1996. The case remained cold until 2004, when Sanchez’s DNA was linked to the crime. But when the homicide detective showed Beattie a forensic artist’s sketch of the supposed killer, it didn’t look like Sanchez, she recalled. It looked more like his father, Glen.

    Like many who knew Sanchez, Beattie couldn’t believe he’d committed such a horrible crime. She’d never known him to be violent — not like Glen, who could be terrifying. One Valentine’s Day, she said, Glen put a gun to his head at his home in Norman, Oklahoma, only to swing it around and put a bullet in the wall. Other times she saw Glen put a gun to Sanchez’s head. Although she said he never hit her — she threatened to stab him the one time he tried — Glen inflicted “mental abuse.” He was especially sadistic during sex, raping her repeatedly.

    Still, it wasn’t until many years after Sanchez was sentenced to death that Glen started dropping hints that there was more to the story of his son’s case. On Friday nights, they would drink in a shed behind Beattie’s house, where Glen had put a warning sign: “WHAT HAPPENS IN THE MAN CAVE STAYS IN THE MAN CAVE.” It was there that Glen brought up Busken.

    “He’d just all of a sudden start talking about her,” Beattie said. He said ugly things, calling her “the ballerina girl” or “that Busken bitch.” Perhaps most chilling, “He’d always say, ‘I should’ve done a better job at it.’” When Beattie asked Glen if he was saying what it sounded like, he deflected. She didn’t press him. But she came to call those nights “his confession time.”

    Beattie always knew Glen had secrets. In the decades he came in and out of her life, he showed up when he needed a place to crash and refused to answer questions. He parked his black Trans Am behind her house so it wasn’t visible from the street. “Probably because he was running from something,” she said.

    But in the spring of 2022, Glen was dying of cancer and spending his time on the couch in her home. Oklahoma was on the verge of setting a slew of execution dates, and Sanchez was likely to be among the men scheduled to die. One day Glen brought up the murder again. “He just made it sound like he was there,” Beattie said. He said his son didn’t know how to tie the knots that had bound Busken’s wrists. And he repeated something he often said: that he never could have survived prison like Sanchez. “‘He’s a bigger man than I am,” Glen said.

    On April 24, 2022, Beattie was in her bedroom talking on the phone. The 10 o’clock news had just come on when she heard a gunshot. She ran outside to find Glen dead on her front porch. Beattie was still processing his suicide months later. “You sit here and wonder: Did you really want to die because you don’t want the truth out there? Are you making your son pay for what you did?”


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