A man convicted of a 1983 rape in Kansas City has been freed from prison after DNA evidence showed he did not commit the crime.
The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office and members of the Midwest Innocence Project on Friday announced Robert E. Nelson’s release, shortly after a judge’s order exonerating him was unsealed. Nelson had left Crossroads Correction Center in Cameron on Wednesday.
On Dec. 16, 1983, two men raped and robbed a woman in her home in Kansas City. Nelson was convicted of the crime in 1985 and sentenced to a total of 70 years in prison, to be served consecutively to a 28-year sentence for two unrelated robberies. A brother of Nelson’s was initially charged as the second suspect, but the charges were dropped a short time later.
Nelson began seeking DNA testing in 2009, and Judge David Byrn eventually reopened the case. A series of tests confirmed that Nelson’s DNA did not match that recovered from the crime scene.
Nelson did not appear at Friday’s press conference. Laura O’Sullivan, legal director of the Innocence Project, said he was trying to adjust after nearly 30 years in prison.
“It’s a huge transition,” she said.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said another suspect, Jerry Haley, 48, has now been charged with the original crime. She declined to comment on any additional suspects.
“It’s never too late to find justice, in all of its forms,” Peters Baker said.