OHIO — “That’s how I remember Mary," Kate Flynn said, as she pointed to a picture in Mary Anne Flynn's scrapbook.
“Oh, good memories," Martin said. "I love looking at them. Takes me back.”
Martin was close to his younger sister, Mary Anne. Their parents had eight children.
“Oh no, we don’t have any favorites. We love you all the same. Well, we knew Mary Anne was the favorite," Martin said. "And I couldn’t object to that because she was my favorite."
He said things haven’t been the same for his family since Flynn was murdered in 1984.
“When we lost her, it left a very large hole," he said.
Martin was the one who found her body.
“I kind of went numb," he said. "I mean, I realized right away.”
He had to call his parents in Florida to break the news.
"The sound my father made was terrible," he said. "I felt like I was killing him by telling him. That’s my most vivid memory, telling my father that Mary Anne was gone and just hearing him cry out and moan and start to grieve. That was the worst."
Flynn was 33, and her loved ones said she lived an adventurous life, serving as an Army nurse overseas, a midwife at MetroHealth and a volunteer at a clinic for young mothers.
Just before she died, Flynn was going through the process to adopt a baby from India.
“She was just a very compassionate person," said Kate, Mary Anne's sister-in-law.
In Aug. 1984, Flynn was renovating her duplex. She rented out one side and lived in the other.
She hired someone from the neighborhood, Anthony Apanovitch, to help paint part of the outside of the home. After she was raped and killed, Apanovitch soon became the main suspect. Although he has always insisted he is innocent, he was convicted and sentenced to death.
He’s now served 36 total years on death row.
“With all the campaigning he did over the years and all that, you know at some point, you do have to ask yourself, 'Geez, what if he didn’t do it?'" Martin said. "Then not only have we like imprisoned an innocent guy for like 20 years, but the real perpetrator is still out there. So, it was a huge relief to know that we were right all along."
The Flynn family continues to believe Apanovitch is guilty, pointing to circumstantial evidence presented at trial, his prior criminal record and DNA evidence from Flynn’s autopsy. A lab called Forensic Science Associates, or FSA, found a DNA profile they said occurs in about one in 285 million Caucasian males on an oral slide. After a federal district court ordered Apanovitch to provide a sample for comparison in 2007, FSA determined he could not be eliminated as the source of the sperm taken from Flynn’s mouth.
“We know," Martin said. "We were right, but now we know. We finally got something physical that we can pin this case on."
"It felt like the stamp," Kate said.
But two defense experts have studied those DNA results and said Flynn’s own DNA is not on the sample taken from her mouth. They said other DNA that’s not from her or Apanovitch is also on that oral slide.
Apanovitch’s post-conviction hearing about DNA centered on a vaginal slide. A defense expert testified it “unquestionably excludes” Apanovitch as the source of the sperm. This was not disputed by the state’s expert witness.
The report that shows Apanovitch could not be eliminated as the source of DNA from Flynn’s mouth was not admitted as evidence during this DNA hearing. All the judge heard was expert testimony relating to the vaginal slide.
“It’s not a game where if you’ve got one slide that clears you and one slide that doesn’t clear you, that you’re somehow in the clear or like the slides have to be unanimous," Martin said.
In 2015, a judge exonerated Apanovitch of Flynn’s rape and granted him a new trial for her murder. An appeals court upheld that decision.
Flynn’s family said it was a bitter pill to swallow when he was released for more than two-and-a-half years.
When asked what was the hardest part for the family all these years, Martin said, “The fact that it’s never over."
“You feel it just come back and grab you again like it was before," Kate said.
“And the fact that he’s fooled a lot of people into taking up his cause," Martin said.
They said the Ohio Supreme Court righted a wrong by sending Apanovitch back to death row in 2018 when it ruled the lower court didn’t have jurisdiction. Under current law, the defense has to request DNA testing in order for it to be used in post-conviction petitions. In this case, the prosecution had the testing done.
The Cuyahoga County judge who set him free denied Apanovitch a new trial in 2019, citing the “defendant is unable to show a strong possibility that a new trial would end in a different result.” In his opinion, the judge reiterated that Apanovitch is acquitted of the vaginal rape, but upheld the oral rape, burglary, and murder convictions.
“It’s not a railroad job," Martin said. "It’s not a matter of a technicality."
To them, Apanovitch is where he belongs.
“It’s not about vengeance. It’s about justice," Martin said.
"He should be behind bars for the rest of his life," Kate said.
They hold on tightly to Mary Anne's memory and created an award in her honor at Case Western Reserve University.
When asked how the family would like Mary Anne to be remembered, Martin said, “I think just as a force for love in the world."
Flynn's family said they knew nothing about the bill inspired by Apanovitch’s case until Spectrum News told them. House Bill 586 would change Ohio law to “allow DNA evidence to be considered during a trial regardless of whether the prosecution or defense ordered the testing.”
Spectrum News also spoke with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office about this case.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Katherine Mullin said during a phone interview that Apanovitch is factually and unquestionably guilty.
Mullin pointed to evidence presented at trial that Apanovitch was familiar with Flynn's home, made unwanted advances toward her, and had a scratch on his face he couldn't explain. She also said no one could corroborate his alibi.
Mullin called attention to the federal court opinion in 2009 that concluded Apanovitch's DNA is comparative to the DNA on the oral slide from Flynn's autopsy. The judge read both the FSA lab report that shows he cannot be eliminated as the source of the sperm found in her mouth and the defense expert report that argues Flynn's own DNA is not on the same slide — which is something prosecutors dispute.
A FSA report states most of the DNA is compatible with a mixture of Flynn's DNA and sperm.
Mullin said the Prosecutor’s Office learned recently about his clemency application and the Ohio legislation he has inspired.
“The current laws that we have now are not technicalities, which is the way that Mr. Apanovitch is trying to spin it. There's a law and the reason that we have the statutes that we have now are because there are a lot of gatekeeping measures that ensure that only reliable DNA evidence is considered, which is exactly the opposite of what Mr. Apanovitch wants to have happen. And I don't think that we should disrupt the state and the victim's expectations in finality to go through successive 5th post convictions for post conviction relief for unreliable data," said Mullin.
Mullin added that House Bill 586 and any continued litigation in this case is unnecessary.