Gregory Edwards, facing first degree murder charges, changed his plea to guilty on Thursday, January 3, during a hearing that was supposed to set a date for his trial. Instead, Edwards will be sentenced January 31, and is facing 25 years to life in prison for the strangulation death of Korrina Dee Nicholas, a 27-year-old who was sexually assaulted and killed in Santa Barbara in 1992.
Edwards wasn’t arrested for the murder until March 9, 2006, when it was determined that his DNA matched DNA found at the scene. According to police, despite thousands of hours spent investigating and interviewing suspects, all leads were eventually exhausted.
It wasn’t until a “Cold Case” homicide unit was established at the Santa Barbara Police Department that the pieces began to come together. As part of the examination process of old cases, detectives sent evidence to a Department of Justice laboratory for analysis. Meanwhile, a 2004 law made it mandatory for convicted felons to submit a DNA sample to the state’s Department of Justice, which Edwards did.
In 2006, Santa Barbara detectives received a call from the Department of Justice informing them that there had been a match in the case of Nicholas’ death. In addition to the linked DNA evidence, it was also eventually determined that Edwards, a longtime resident of Santa Cruz, was in Santa Barbara at the time of the homicide, although he was never contacted or mentioned in the original investigation. Edwards was at San Quentin State Prison on a theft-related charge, which is where he was arrested by Santa Barbara detectives and brought back to Santa Barbara to face murder charges.
On July 17, 1992, the body of Nicholas was found off the roadside at the intersection of Las Positas Road and Cliff Drive, in foliage near a hiking trail on the Douglas Preserve. The body was partially unclothed with a rope wrapped tightly around the neck, according to police. There was also evidence the victim had been sexually assaulted. “Under these circumstances, it was a terrible, horrible murder,” said deputy District Attorney Joyce Dudley. “It was a long time in the making.”
Dudley said she knew there was a possibility Edwards would change his plea Thursday, during the trial scheduling hearing. “There was overwhelming evidence against him,” she said. According to Dudley, Edwards’ DNA was found in three different places at the crime scene, and he confessed when questioned about the case.
When asked why his client changed the plea, Jeff Chambliss, an attorney in the public defender’s office, had no comment. Edwards will be eligible for parole at 16 years and eight months behind bars.