I gotta say it, I still like the idea of there being a death penalty for the Mansons and Raders, but that's about it. I don't see how anybody could read a story like this one and feel terribly good about the death penalty for anything short of Manson or Rader:
Elkins expected to leave prison today as prosecutor files to clear him
By Phil Trexler
Beacon Journal staff writer
Clarence Elkins is expected to be released from prison today after prosecutors conceded his innocence and directed their attention to a convicted rapist.
Elkins, 42, and incarcerated since the day his mother-in-law was brutally slain in her Barberton home in June 1998, is expected to walk out of the Mansfield Correctional Institution by 5 p.m.
His wife, Melinda, who has led a personal crusade to win her husband's freedom and find her mother's real killer, along with his defense lawyers, Jana DeLoach and Mark Godsey, are currently waiting for prison officials to process Elkins' release.
He is expected to return to his Stark County home tonight. Officials say he will undoubtedly collect at least $700,000 in compensation for the years he spent in prison for crimes he did not commit.
Elkins received word during a phone call this morning from his wife and said: ``Praise God.''
``We're on Cloud Nine, we're bouncing off the walls,'' DeLoach said in a phone interview while en route to the prison today. ``For this to drag on for so long and then be over so quickly, it's amazing.''
Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh, whose office had resisted Elkins' release despite exonerating DNA evidence, today filed motions dismissing the case against him. The motion was approved by Common Pleas Judge Judy Hunter, who signed an order for Elkins' release from prison.
At a press conference, Walsh apologized to the Elkins family while defending her office's stance in the case and announcing the focus on a new suspect.
Walsh said an investigation by her office and Barberton police showed that Elkins is innocent and that Earl Gene Mann is now the leading suspect.
Mann, 32, was never a suspect in the case until the Elkins defense team made him one following his rape convictions in 2001. Mann and Elkins coincidentally shared a prison pod, and one day Elkins picked up Mann's cigarette butt and sent it off to his lawyers.
The butt was tested for DNA and compared to crime scene evidence. The tests could not exclude Mann as a source of DNA at the crime scene.
The defense team DNA tests were paid for with money donated by people around the world who learned about the case through the media.
Elkins went on trial in 1999 facing the death penalty for the murder of Johnson and the rape of his 6-year-old niece, who witnessed the murder.
The girl later recanted her identification of Elkins.
Mann lived two doors away from Judith Johnson's home and has told investigators he was inside her home the day she was murdered, Walsh said.
In addition, Mann has taken and failed ``miserably'' five polygraph tests in the past two weeks regarding the murder, Walsh said. Although those test results are inadmissible in court, Walsh said post-test interviews given by Mann can be used and some of his statements appear to be incriminating.
In addition, Walsh said three pieces of DNA evidence now link Mann to the crime scene. She said the results are not full-blown DNA matches with astronomical numbers in the millions or billions indicating Mann is the source.
Rather, she said, the odds that someone other than Mann left a male hair found at the crime scene is about one in 4,000. In addition, the odds that male DNA found on the murder victim and on the girl belongs to someone other than Mann are less than 1 in 1,000.
Walsh called Mann a violent and ``very strange'' individual after viewing about 10 hours of tapes of his interviews with police.
Mann, in prison for raping three girls, is not due to be released until 2009, she said. He has not been charged in the Johnson murder and Walsh would not say when the investigation will be given to a grand jury for consideration of an indictment.
Tonia Braziel, who lived on and off with Mann, is a ``person of special interest'' in the case, according to Chief Prosecutor Mary Ann Kovach. She would not say if Braziel was taken into custody or charged.
Elkins' niece went to Braziel's home immediately after waking up from being raped and beaten. Braziel testified as a prosecution witness at Elkins' trial.
Instead of taking the girl inside or calling police, Braziel made the girl wait outside. She then drove the girl to her home blocks away.
Elkins' defense attorneys believe Braziel helped convince the girl that the intruder was her uncle. Prosecutors today said that Mann and Elkins bear a strong resemblance.
Braziel was convicted of child endangering as co-defendant in Mann's rape case.
Walsh said she expects Elkins to be called as a witness at a trial if and when Mann is indicted. She also said Elkins' niece will be asked to testify.