Judge tosses murder conviction against Ky. man who spent nearly - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Judge tosses murder conviction against Ky. man who spent nearly 30 years in prison

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- New DNA evidence suggests a Kentucky man who spent nearly 30 years behind bars for murder may have been innocent all along.

This afternoon in Campbell County Circuit Court, a judge tossed out the murder conviction against William Virgil -- a man who has been proclaiming his innocence since 1987.

You could see the relief in the face of the 63-year-old man.

Virgil has been locked up at the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange for the murder of Retha Welch. The 54-year-old woman was savagely beaten in her Newport apartment, raped and stabbed 27 times. Prosecutors blamed Virgil -- a recently paroled felon whom Welch had met through a prison ministry.

The Kentucky Innocence Project re-examined evidence from the case that was discovered in a state police lab. They couldn't test DNA in this way in 1987 because the technology did not exist. The new results say semen found in Welch does not match Virgil, and shows traces from three other men. Blood on his clothing doesn't match the victim either -- and that contradicts what the jurors heard at trial. And hairs on her body were not his.

"Obviously we're happy for Mr. Virgil," said Tim Arnold of the Kentucky Innocence Project. "We are looking forward to the day when we can finally end this journey for him. It's disappointing that the Commonwealth is choosing to try this case again, but this is a great step, and we hope that this will come to a resolution very soon."

But not everyone agrees.

"The DNA evidence that counsel alluded to ii it does not exonerate Mr. Virgil," said Adam Hill, prosecutor in the case. "It merely shows that there was another person present...their own DNA evidence shows the presence of Mr. Virgil's seminal fluid on the clothing that the victim was wearing when she was murdered."

The prosecution plans to re-try this case. Right now, the judge is deciding whether Virgil should be free on bond until that new trial.

Virgil will be the subject of this week's Sunday Edition on WDRB. Only WDRB has the prison interview with the man who spent 28 years in prison for a crime he says he didn't commit, as well as the reaction from Retha Welch's family.

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