NEW BOSTON, Texas — A Bowie County jury is expected to begin hearing testimony Wednesday morning in the trial of a man accused of committing murder more than 30 years ago.
Lee Morris Hamburg, 52, is accused of shooting 53-year-old Gene Downs multiple times in October 1988 at a residence in Simms, Texas. Hamburg was 22 at the time.
Hamburg was identified in May 2018 by the FBI as the source of a fingerprint collected Oct. 23, 1988, at the scene of the murder by the Bowie County Sheriff's Office, according to a probable cause affidavit. The FBI informed BCSO on May 2 that they had recently re-analyzed the unidentified evidence from 1988 after updating its fingerprint system.
At the time of Downs' slaying, Bowie County Sheriff James Prince was working as an investigator for the agency he now leads. Prince and other investigators called to Downs' home observed Downs' body, clad in only a pair of white briefs, lying on the sofa. Downs had been shot multiple times and spent bullets appeared to come from a .38 caliber weapon.
A .38 caliber pistol was missing from Downs' home as was Downs' car, a 1984 Chrysler Fifth Avenue. The car was later found running, wiper blades on, in an area in Bowie County's east end.
A cigarette butt collected from the car in 1988 was submitted last year for testing in hopes of finding DNA. In November, the lab notified BCSO that it recovered a DNA profile from the cigarette butt.
"The newly identified DNA was recovered from the secondary crime scene and likely links the suspect to both locations," the affidavit states.
Investigators determined that Hamburg was arrested in 1989, when he was 22, in Paris, Texas. Investigators requested a copy of Hamburg's old mugshot to compare to descriptions of a man who had been seen with Downs at a local electronics store and a nightclub a few days before the murder. Downs' mugshot from 1989 appeared to match the description given by witnesses in 1988.
During the investigation in 1988, a witness at a now-defunct nightclub called the Crossover told investigators Down had been in the bar the night of Oct. 20, 1988, with a man in his 20s who he claimed was his son. A copy of a membership purchased the night Downs was seen at the Crossover with the younger man had the name "Morris Lee Downs," which appears to be an amalgamation of Hamburg's and Downs' names.
The clerk at an electronic's store where Downs purchased a movie camera described the younger man he was with as having a tattoo on the back of one hand that appeared to be a cross with some dots. When Prince and Investigator Robby McCarver interviewed Hamburg in April at a police station in Rockland, Calif., they noticed a faded tattoo on the back of Hamburg's left hand, according to the affidavit.
Hamburg allegedly denied knowing Downs or ever being in his home and allegedly claimed he has never handled a gun. Hamburg was arrested in California earlier this month.
If convicted of murder, Hamburg faces five to 99 years or life in prison.
A jury of eight women and four men was chosen Tuesday to decide the case before 202nd District Judge John Tidwell. First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp and Assistant D.A. Lauren Richards are managing the prosecution. Texarkana lawyer Bart Craytor is representing Hamburg.
Hamburg is currently being held in the Bowie County jail. Bail is set at $500,000.