Donald Borders life sentence rape murder of 79-year-old woman - | WBTV Charlotte

Man gets life sentence for rape, murder of 79-year-old woman

ME Dr. John Butts on the stand ME Dr. John Butts on the stand
Borders in court with his attorney Borders in court with his attorney

Donald Borders will spend the rest of his life in prison for a 2003 rape and murder.

Just after 5 p.m. Monday, Donald Borders was found guilty on all charges related to the 2003 rape and murder of 79-year-old Margaret Tessneer.

Borders was convicted of first degree murder, first degree rape, and felony breaking & entering.

Tuesday, Borders was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the first-degree murder conviction. He was also sentenced to 10-12 months for the felony breaking and entering conviction. That time will be served concurrently with the life in prison.

Tessneer's granddaughter addressed Borders in court.

"I pray that you will turn away from your evil ways, and I pray that you will be truly sorry for what you did," she said.

Borders' family spoke to reporters after the sentencing.

"We love people and we're not a violent family and Jesus is in us, and he keeps us going, we've been through things before, but God we know is in charge of our life and that gives us the strength to go on," said Ella Wilson, Borders' aunt.


The jury heard passionate closing arguments from both sides before spending three hours deliberating. Borders did not show emotion as the judge read the jury's verdicts. Tessneer's family hugged each other and quietly wiped away tears.

The crux of the case rested on whether or not the DNA evidence was enough to convict Borders. It was.

The judge will sentence Borders at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Borders could face life in prison.

Throughout the trial, prosecutor Sally Kirby-Turner relied heavily on DNA evidence.

On Thursday, three DNA experts from the State Bureau of Investigation testified that Borders' DNA taken from a cigarette butt and cheek swab matched the DNA profile of semen found at the scene of Tessneer's murder.

Defense attorney David Teddy tried to raise doubt over the credibility of the three experts who testified.

He pointed out that SBI agent Russ Holly reported a blood sample tested positive in a prior rape case in Cleveland county, but failed to report a follow up test showed negative results.

He also pointed out that two DNA experts who handled the DNA in 2004 failed a state certification exam implemented in 2011. A new law requires all SBI analysts to be certified.


Last week, Kirby-Turner described how Tessneer was found by her daughter lying in her bed.

The phone lines were cut, and the front door was open.

She showed a picture of Tessneer taken by police after her death. A family member in the courtroom sobbed quietly.

Kirby-Turner told jurors DNA from a sperm sample on Tessneer's body later matched the DNA profile of Borders from a cigarette police obtained in 2009. He was arrested six years after the alleged murder when a new detective reopened the case.

But Defense attorney, David Teddy, told jurors the evidence in Tessneer's home was contaminated by law enforcement. He said to this day, her cause of death is not listed as a homicide.

He asked jurors not to be blinded by science.

Tuesday, the Forensic Pathologist who examined Tessneer took the stand. He reports to the Medical Examiner, who took the stand just a few minutes later.

The Defense Attorney pointed out the initial autopsy listed an undetermined cause of death. The Pathologist said he has always been reasonably sure Tessneer died from suffocation.

A Gaston County Police officer and an SBI agent also took the stand Tuesday. They told the court how they collected DNA evidence from Borders without his knowledge when he was arrested for an unrelated assault on a female charge in 2009.

A police officer asked Borders if he wanted to smoke before heading to jail. Borders said yes and proceeded to smoke a cigarette while handcuffed with his hands in the front. The officer then offered to dispose of the cigarette, took it out of Border's mouth, extinguished it, and slipped it into a plastic bag as evidence.

Wednesday, several witnesses for the prosecution took the stand, including an agent with the State Bureau of Investigation, a Shelby Police Officer, a nurse, and a crime lab expert.

Witnesses spoke about evidence gathering, DNA testing and storage, evidence found at the scene, and DNA analysis.

The defense moved to suppress evidence from the suspect DNA kit on the grounds it was collected before Borders had representation. The judge denied that motion.

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