4 Victims Locked Up for Murders They Didn’t Commit

First, the worst thing in the world happens to you. Then police arrest you for it
4 Victims Locked Up for Murders They Didn’t Commit

Imagine your child is murdered. We don’t need to elaborate any further on this scenario. That’s simply the worst thing that could ever happen, right?

But now imagine the authorities suspect you’re the murderer. Imagine that they arrest you for it, and they even prove you did it — not definitively of course, since you’re innocent, but they prove it well enough to convince a jury. You’re convicted and go to prison.

It’s happened to people before. In fact, it’s happened quite a few times.

Taking the Rap for a Serial Killer Who Murdered Nine People

In 1949, Beryl Evans became pregnant with her second child. She and her husband Timothy agreed that she should get an abortion, which would be a challenge, since abortion was illegal in Britain at the time. Fortunately for them, a neighbor of theirs in the building, John Christie, said he’d be able to do the procedure. 

John Christie

via Wiki Commons

Here’s John Christie, clearly a trustworthy character.

Shortly afterward, Timothy contacted the police, saying his wife had died. He gave inconsistent accounts of what had happened because he wanted to cover up the abortion and shield Christie from any involvement in the matter. The police held him in custody and searched his building to examine the body. Then they came back and informed him that they’d found Beryl’s body all right. Only, they’d found it in a different room in the building from where he’d told them the body would be. 

They also told him that, contrary to what he’d told them, she’d been strangled to death. Also, alongside her, they’d found another body: his one-year-old daughter Geraldine, who’d also been strangled to death. Evans now signed a confession, saying he’d killed both of them. Police likely wrote out this confession themselves, and Evans would later say they’d coerced him into signing. 

Evans went on trial just for Geraldine’s murder, as this was the more serious crime and would be sufficient to earn him a death sentence. He recanted his confession and pointed the finger at Christie. Before, he’d thought Christie had accidentally killed Beryl during a botched abortion. But if she’d been strangled as police said, Christie must have actually murdered her — and then moved the body, and then murdered Geraldine as well. Christie testified against Evans, and thanks to the confession, a jury easily found him guilty. He was hanged within a couple weeks. 

Timothy Evans being escorted by police

via Wiki Commons

Courts weren’t really into “appeals” back then. 

Three years later, Christie moved out of that building, and a new tenant moved in. This tenant discovered a secret nook attached to the kitchen, and inside were three dead bodies. Not Beryl and Geraldine — these were three other women Christie had murdered that year. Police now searched the property more thoroughly than the last time they’d been there, and they found more bodies buried in the garden. Christie ended up confessing to all these murders (the guy just really enjoyed strangling people), as well as to the murders of Beryl and Geraldine. 

Evans received a royal pardon, though by that point, he’d been dead for 16 years. His was one of several cases that convinced Britain to abolish capital punishment. Had they imprisoned him instead of hanging him, that would still have been a miscarriage of justice, but at least they could have released him when they learned the truth. To see how that sort of thing plays out, read on.

A Mother Was Released Because the Kids Died of Natural Causes

Kathleen Folbigg’s first baby died in 1989. He died of SIDS, said doctors — which isn’t a cause of death exactly, but rather an admission that sometimes infants just die, and we don’t know why. The following year, she gave birth to another son, and this one made it to eight months before dying similarly. Baby number three was Sarah, and she died at 10 months. The fourth child was Laura, and she actually did make it to one year, but not to two. 

There’s a quote, coined by a famous British pediatrician, about multiple children in a family dying. “One is a tragedy,” said Dr. Roy Meadow, “two is suspicious and three is murder unless there is proof to the contrary.” Folbigg had lost not just thee babies but four, and police now arrested her. 

Photocomposition of medical instruments for use in Cardiology

Ivan2010/Wiki Commons

“But Dr. Meadow, that isn’t how burden of proof works.”
“Dammit, I’m a doctor, not a lawyer.”

The main evidence against Folbigg at her Australian trial were extracts from her diary. “When I think I'm going to lose control, like last times, I’ll just hand baby over to someone else,” she wrote, about son number two. You might interpret that to mean she was planning how to avoid overburdening herself, but the prosecution argued this was her admitting to killing the first child. 

While pregnant with the final girl, she wrote, “I am going to call for help this time and not attempt to do everything myself anymore. I know that was the main reason for all my stress before and stress made me do terrible things.” Here, too, you can probably think of several charitable interpretations of what she meant by “terrible things,” but there’s also one very non-charitable interpretation, and it involves murder.


Marcos Paulo Prado

And “no one’s dumb enough to confess in their diary” isn’t a valid defense. 

Folbigg was found guilty in 2003 and was sentenced to 40 years. A couple decades later, people poked around at her case and noted that there was no actual evidence against her or indeed any actual evidence that a crime had taken place. Ideally, that alone would be sufficient to clear her, but a new inquiry went further. 

Doctors now discovered that several of her children had had a mutation in a gene that controls how the heart works. That mutation offered a decent alternative explanation for what killed them. Folbigg’s conviction was overturned last year, and she was released — after 20 years in prison. 

Lost Seven Kids, All Murdered By the Babysitter

If we’re going solely by the sheer number of offspring who died — which is, by the way, no one’s favorite measurement for anything — the worst case we’re looking at today happened to James Richardson in 1967. Seven of his and his wife’s children died. These weren’t natural deaths over the course of several years. All of them died from one single meal in his home, a meal poisoned with parathion, a pesticide. 

Bottle with E605

Mr.checker/Wiki Commons

Agriculturally, children are classified as pests.

Once police found parathion in a nearby shed, and correctly concluded that there was no accidental way the stuff could have gotten into all the kids’ prepared lunches, they settled on Richardson as their suspect. The big piece of evidence at the trial was the fact that Richardson had recently talked to an agent about getting life insurance policies for the whole family, including the kids. 

While Richardson had received a business card from an insurance salesman, he hadn’t taken out a policy, as he couldn’t afford it. But prosecutors falsely said he had, and the jury found him guilty and sentenced him to die. He escaped death only because of the 1972 Supreme Court ruling that led to a temporary halt on all executions. 

James Joseph Richardson

Florida State Prison

We got back to frying prisoners soon but had commuted his sentence to life by then.

The trial had featured testimony from Bessie Reece, the Richardsons’ babysitter. Reece had been the one who’d actually served the food. She’d previously been convicted of murdering one husband and was suspected of poisoning another, facts that the prosecution successfully blocked from being brought up at the trial. Her third husband had left her for Richardson’s cousin, raising a possible motive — revenge. 

In the 1980s, the elderly Reece moved to a nursing home, where she confessed 100 times to killing the Richardson children. As a result, Richardson was released in 1989. Before he died last September, he received compensation for his wrongful imprisonment, under an oddly narrow law. It was a law that specifically compensates people convicted before the 1980s, whose case was reversed but not overturned and who’d otherwise not get compensation. It was a new law passed specifically to give compensation to James Richardson. 

Sentenced to 195 Years, Thanks to Adultery and Time Zones

If David Camm murdered his family, he wasn’t very discreet about it. He called 9-1-1 one day in September 2000, informing police that his wife Kim and two children were dead in his garage. He’d come home, he said, to find all three of them in the car, shot to death. Investigators would later find his DNA all over the bodies. That needn’t be so suspicious, as Camm had clambered all over the bodies looking for signs of life and also pulled out his son (the only one who hadn’t been shot in the head) to perform CPR. Investigators would also find someone else’s DNA there, but they didn’t bother testing it. 

Police found one big problem with Camm’s account. He said he’d just come home from playing basketball, which meant that basketball game (at which a bunch of witnesses were present) should have counted as an alibi. But phone records said that he’d made a call from the house during the game, proving that he and the witnesses were lying. 

They charged him with the murder, and at the trial, prosecutors focused on his character. The man had had affairs. In fact, they brought forward evidence of him hooking up with or at least hitting on a dozen women while married. Exactly why this meant he was a murderer is unclear. If anything, a man who freely has affairs finds marriage to be less a burden than more disgruntled husbands. But the jury found the case convincing, and they convicted him. 

David Camm

Bali88/Wiki Commons

Look at that little grin. Clearly he did it. 

Camm won his appeal, because a higher court ruled that all that stuff about his affairs was irrelevant and prejudicial. Prosecutors then refiled charges. That’s something that can happen when you win an appeal, which is different from a jury acquitting you. His new defense succeeded this time at getting that other DNA on the scene tested, and it matched parolee Charles Boney, an acquaintance of Camm’s who’d previously been arrested for assaulting women. Boney was also a foot fetishist, once known as “The Shoe Bandit.” This appeared relevant because someone had removed Kim’s shoes.

Boney admitted being present, but he insisted he hadn’t murdered anyone. Instead, he said Camm gave him a gun and told him to kill the whole family. And then, in the end, Camm had killed them himself, while Boney heard the shootings from the next room. Prosecutors now accused Camm and Boney of killing the family together, and so, Camm was convicted a second time.

Charles Boney


As for the foot fetish, Boney would say, “That’s between me and Christ.” 

Camm appealed again, and some new information worked in his favor. Remember that phone call and the basketball alibi? It turned out that he’d made the call at 8:15 p.m., but the phone company recorded that it happened at 7:15 p.m. That’s because it did happen at 7:15 p.m.... in the part of Indiana where the phone company was based. Indiana uses two time zones. It now seemed Camm really was at the basketball game during the murders after all — especially since a new review of the blood evidence said the murders happened earlier than previously thought.

At a third trial, Camm was acquitted. Boney, meanwhile, is now serving a 225-year prison sentence. However, if you ask around in his hometown, people apparently still think Camm played some role in the killings. Because he’d cheated on his wife, you see. And because he had such a guilty face. And because it's not like innocent people ever get charged with crimes like this. 

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