Man set free after 28 years in prison to be retried on murder ch - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Man set free after 28 years in prison to be retried on murder charge in Campbell County

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NEWPORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- A man who spent 28 years in prison, accused of rape and murder, was set free when new DNA evidence came to light -- but William Virgil will go on trial again. 

Virgil walked into the Campbell County Circuit courthouse looking like a different man -- if for no other reason than the fact that his two-piece suit is a stark contrast from the prison jumper he's worn to so many other hearings over the past 28 years. 

"I'm free, so what more could be said?" Virgil said. 

But freedom for the man accused of raping and killing Retha Welch could be short-lived as prosecutors rebuild their case.

"With respect to DNA testing, we've been moving forward on that," said Adam Hill, prosecutor. "We've sent a number of items to the KSP lab."

The state is retesting items The Kentucky Innocence Project had sampled in a private lab. Technology has advanced to test DNA in ways that didn't exist during Virgil's original trial in 1987. It's what helped turn over his conviction: results from the private lab showed semen from the rape kit matched three other men, not Virgil. He was released from prison in La Grange, Kentucky on bond in December and now lives in an apartment in Florence. 

Still, Virgil's lawyers are leery, saying further testing could destroy the sliver of DNA that remains on some items, like a cigarette butt found in the toilet of the victim's apartment, and a broken vase. 

"If the Kentucky lab destroys evidence in the testing process, it would prevent Mr. Virgil from having his due process right to a fair trial, so we need to make sure our experts are involved," said defense attorney Elliot Slosar.

Welch was savagely killed, beaten, sexually assaulted and stabbed 27 times in her Newport Ky., apartment. Her children were heartbroken and confused to learn that Virgil's conviction was tossed out. 

"I just hope the justice system works," said Gerry Berling, Welch's son, in December 2015. "I just hope they get it right: Don't let a guy out that can harm other people."

Virgil told WDRB's Gilbert Corsey he's not afraid of a retrial, "No, not at all. Wish we could go on trial tomorrow -- it would be all right with me."

The judge has not set a date yet but the defense has asked for a speedy trial, meaning they want to see a jury in six months. 

Virgil remains free on bond and is due back in court April 6th for another hearing on DNA samples

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