PHOENIX, AZ (January 17, 2013) – The Honorable Karen L. O’Connor today sentenced Gary Billy Bivens (D.O.B. 11/21/1958) to a 55-year term in the Arizona Department of Corrections for murdering 93 year-old Martha Winters, a crime that went unsolved for nearly three decades. Bivens agreed to waive his right to a trial and avoid a possible death sentence by pleading no contest to Second Degree Murder and Aggravated Assault. His sentence is based on laws in place at the time of the murder, requiring that he serve at least two-thirds of the term imposed.
“Thanks to the hard work and persistence of dedicated investigators and prosecutors, a murderer has finally been brought to justice after years of avoiding accountability for his brutal crime,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “This case is just the latest example of the steadfast commitment of my office and our law enforcement partners to use the latest investigatory tools and techniques to solve cold cases and ensure that criminals are held responsible for the harm they cause, no matter how long it takes,” he added.
On January 31, 1981, a male intruder entered the home shared by 92 year-old Jesse Winters and her sister-in-law, Martha. He demanded money from Jesse, who was hearing impaired and unable to understand him. He then wrote a note demanding money and threatening to kill her, but when she refused to cooperate he beat her until she was unconscious. When she regained consciousness, Jesse found Martha Winters severely beaten and lying on the living room floor. Their home had been ransacked and a gun was later found missing from the residence. Martha died from her injuries a few days later. Police identified several possible suspects but were unable to link any of them to the crime. With no additional leads, the investigation went cold.
In 2004, detectives with the Phoenix Police cold case unit re-investigated the case, resubmitting evidence collected from the crime scene for DNA analysis. Material on a comb recovered from the driveway of the residence was found to contain a possible DNA marker which was submitted for additional analysis. By 2009, forensic investigators were able to upload a complete DNA profile from the comb evidence to the State DNA Index System. The profile was found to match the convicted offender profile of Gary Bivens.
Detectives with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, working with the Phoenix Police Department, then located and interviewed witnesses and known associates of Bivens. Additional evidence was also analyzed, including a latent fingerprint identified on the crime scene note, which was found to match Bivens’ fingerprint. Armed with the additional evidence, and a court order to collect another DNA sample, detectives located and interviewed Bivens, who denied involvement in the murder and was not arrested.
Analysis of the subsequent DNA sample returned a match with material collected from the crime scene. On July 13, 2010, a Maricopa County Grand Jury indicted Bivens on one count of First Degree Murder and a warrant was issued for his arrest. A tip from the Silent Witness program led officers to his location and he was taken into custody.
Today Judge O’Connor sentenced Bivens to consecutive aggravated prison terms of 35 years for Second Degree Murder and 20 years for Aggravated Assault.