Raleigh, N.C. — The state Court of Appeals voted 2-1 this week to uphold the murder conviction of a Gaston County man in the 2008 death of a University of North Carolina-Charlotte student, but the split decision means the North Carolina Supreme Court must decide the issue.
Mark Carver, 43, is serving a life sentence for the May 2008 death of Irina Yarmolenko.
The 20-year-old Chapel Hill High School graduate was found strangled on the banks of the Catawba River.
Carver has maintained his innocence, but forensic experts testified that his DNA was found on Yarmolenko's car. No DNA was found on the drawstring, bag handle and bungee cord used to strangle her.
Appeals court Judge Robert Hunter questioned the reliability of the skin cells, or "touch DNA," that linked Carver to the crime. Hunter noted that testing for DNA from skin cells isn't as accurate as the tests used for fluids like blood, saliva or semen and that no DNA was found outside of the car.
Judges Linda Stephens and Linda McGee ruled there were no errors in Carver's conviction.
Carver's cousin, Neal Cassada, also was charged in Yarmolenko's death, but he died from a heart attack in 2010 the day before his trial was set to begin.