Mike Wilkerson says his family begged Springfield attorney Dee Wampler to have DNA testing done.
They could not believe Wilkerson put a 17-year-old in handcuffs, held a knife to her throat and sexually assaulted her.
At a conference room in a southwest Missouri courthouse, Wilkerson’s brother allegedly set his checkbook on a table and told Wampler: “We want the DNA tested, I don’t care what it costs; we need to know if he did this or not so we can all sleep at night.”
According to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Jasper County, Wampler refused.
That decision, the lawsuit said, has cost Wilkerson 20 years of his life.
On July 1, 1997, a Jasper County woman was mowing her lawn in a red bikini when a man pulled up in a brown Mercury, asking for directions, the lawsuit said.
The man had a pistol and handcuffs.
He forced his way into the home and sodomized the teen while her younger sister was in a bedroom of the house, the lawsuit said.
Wilkerson had never met the woman or been to her home before, the lawsuit said.
The teen victim picked him out of a photographic lineup.
Wilkerson’s parents hired Wampler, the lawsuit said, and told him during their first meeting that they wanted DNA testing done.
This summer, the case was reopened after DNA tests of a cigarette butt and a condom used in the sex assault eliminated Wilkerson as a suspect.
Prosecutors then dismissed the charges against Wilkerson.
Now, Wilkerson, 59, is suing Wampler, saying the attorney should have done DNA tests that would have eliminated him as a suspect.
Instead, Wilkerson — who had previously been hospitalized for a nervous breakdown — alleges Wampler induced him to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
Wampler declined to comment for this story.
For two decades, the lawsuit said, Wilkerson lived in state hospitals.
Wilkerson’s parents continued to visit him, the lawsuit said — at first, weekly, then monthly as they struggled to pay for gas money and his father’s health declined.
According to the lawsuit, Wilkerson’s son and daughter were 9 and 6 years old when he was committed to a mental institution. He missed out on seeing his children’s graduations, their marriages and the birth of a granddaughter.
Before being charged with forcible sodomy, Wilkerson lived on a farm, sold mineral sand feed and was a board member on the Jasper County Farm Bureau for a decade.
“Each day, he had to watch the sunlight appear from inside an institution, through a locked window, unable to check on his cattle at dawn,” the lawsuit said. “The thousands of dollars in attorney fees paid to Defendant Wampler was wasted.”
Wilkerson’s attorney, Arthur Benson II, declined to comment for this story.
The Associated Story contributed to this report.