Meade County 'satanic ritual' murder suspects remain in jail, despite ruling of wrongful conviction
Two men wrongfully convicted of murder more than 20 years ago must spend more time behind bars after a judge delayed a possible release.
BRANDENBURG, Ky. (WDRB) -- A judge says they were wrongly convicted of murder more than twenty years ago.
Family members had hoped Keith Hardin and Jeffrey Clark would walk out of the Meade Co. Detention Center on Thursday but, to their disappointment, that did not happen.
It was not the news many in the courtroom wanted to hear.
Circuit Judge Bruce Butler saying he'll issue a written order, declining to immediately set bond and possibly release Clark and Hardin.
“I'll do a written order on my decision. I've got to think about this a little while. This is an unusual case as we all know. I want to be fair to both the state and the defendants here,” said Butler.
The decision was a blow to Hardin’s sisters, who attended the hearing.
“I'm just devastated because my brother should be going home with me and my sister today,” said Ginny Peak.
“The right thing would be to let them out because the DNA testing, they have nothing on my brother,” said Vickie Howser.
Hardin and Clark were convicted in 1995 of murdering Rhonda Sue Warford of Louisville.
They confessed to what prosecutors said was part of a satanic ritual.
But last month Judge Butler overturned their convictions, citing new DNA and other evidence, including allegations that an investigating officer may have lied, all uncovered by the Innocence Project.
“So, the case against them has, in our judgment, been eviscerated. It's a very weak case,” said Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project.
But Commonwealth's Attorney David Williams is fighting their release.
“They're charged with a very serious offense,” Williams told the judge during the hearing.
Williams declined to talk on camera, but told WDRB he believes the two men are guilty.
He is appealing Butler's decision to overturn the convictions and will pursue a new trial.
“They're welcome to do it, but I think both are losing propositions,” said Scheck.
Butler will likely rule on Hardin and Clark’s release within two weeks.
“All we can do is keep our fingers crossed, but we sure were hoping to being him home today,” said Howser.
“And I just pray to God it happens. That's all I can say is pray to God they do the right thing,” added Peak.
If Clark and Hardin are ultimately cleared, that still leaves one critical question unanswered, who killed Rhonda Sue Warford?
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