DNA Sets Jasper County Man Free After 20 Years

CARTHAGE, Mo. -- DNA evidence frees a southwest Missouri man after he spent 20 years in mental hospitals.

Mike Wilkerson of Avilla, Missouri was convicted of sex crimes after an assault that happened in 1997 in Rural Jasper County.
Two pieces of evidence taken from the scene have now factored into Wilkerson's release from custody.

The two pieces of evidence taken from that 1997 crime were a condom and a cigarette butt.
That cigarette butt wasn't tested for DNA at the time.

DNA testing on the condom was inconclusive.
A 17-year-old girl identified Wilkerson from a photo lineup, after she says was sexually assaulted in her home.

Wilkerson ended up spending nearly 20 years in a mental hospital.
Wilkerson was advised by his attorney to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

A judge threw out that insanity plea last year---and that sparked a new analysis of the condom and cigarette butt.
The analysis showed DNA left on both the cigarette butt and condom did not belong to Wilkerson.

"We have asked that DNA be compared to the statewide and nationwide databases, CODIS, to check the DNA," said Jasper County Prosecutor Theresa Kenney. "We have not been provided any information at this time to indicate that DNA has been identified."

Bill Fleischaker, Wilkerson's attorney, says getting a judge to throw out Wilkerson's previous plea of not guilty by reason of insanity was a decisive factor in this case.   he believes it may even set a precedent.

"It kind of takes a while for the reality of something like this to set in, at least it did for me.  It's still setting in!"


(KOAM for CBS News)

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