Victim of 1982 attack that killed mom: Wrong man in prison

AP News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2016 4:45 PM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A woman assaulted as a girl during a 1982 sexual attack that killed her mother says she was coerced into identifying the wrong man as the assailant and is asking Missouri's governor to free that person who has spent 34 years in prison for the crimes.

Rodney Lincoln was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of manslaughter in the death of 35-year-old JoAnn Tate, who was killed in her St. Louis home. Her two young daughters, including then-7-year-old Melissa Neal DeBoer, were assaulted. DeBoer's sister died in 2008, leaving DeBoer the only living witness to the crimes.

"I made a mistake, and I am heartbroken," DeBoer, now 42, wrote in an application for a pardon or executive commutation to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon this week. "I have incredible guilt for my role."

Lincoln, originally charged with capital murder, consistently has professed his innocence but has failed to sway appellate courts. DeBoer began to question whether Lincoln was the real killer last year, when the syndicated television show "Crime Watch Daily" questioned whether serial killer Tommy Sells, who once lived in St. Louis, could have carried out the crime.

DeBoer says her testimony incriminating Lincoln at his trial was rehearsed. She says an investigator coaxed her into identifying Lincoln as the killer by showing her a photograph of Lincoln and another of a DeBoer relative and saying the "bad man" who committed the attack was one of them.

"I am asking you to release Rodney Lincoln so that I may have peace. It is time for this tragedy to end," DeBoer wrote to Nixon.

Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said that while the governor and his staff don't speak publicly about specific clemency applications, "all of them that reach the governor's office are reviewed."

The Missouri Court of Appeals last month refused to rehear the matter. Lincoln's attorneys — some with the Midwest Innocence Project — have asked in court filings for the case to be transferred to the Missouri Supreme Court.

Sells, who was executed in 2014 in Texas for fatally stabbing a 13-year-old girl in 1999, had claimed to have committed as many as 70 killings across the U.S.