AUSTIN, Texas — An attorney for a U.S. man who spent nearly 25 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of killing his wife said Wednesday that a new suspect has been arrested in the case.
Attorney John Raley, who represents Michael Morton, told The Associated Press that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office shared the news with him Wednesday.
Morton, 57, was freed from prison last month after DNA testing of a bloody bandanna found near his home showed another man was responsible for the beating death of his wife, Christine, in 1986. The man had not been identified, but his DNA also was linked to a hair found at the scene of a similar 1988 murder near where the Mortons lived.
“I called Michael immediately,” Raley said Wednesday. “He is very relieved that the man whose DNA was found on the bandanna has been arrested.”
Abbott’s office declined to comment, but the daughter of the second victim said authorities also told her of the arrest.
“After so many years, it kind of stops being sad and just becomes a happy moment,” said Caitlin Baker, whose mother, Debra Masters Baker, was killed in 1988. “We’re just really happy and unbelievably thankful and ready for the case to move forward.”
Morton has declined to be interviewed since his release Oct. 4 because a ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals formally overturning his murder conviction won’t formally take effect until later this month.
Morton had been offered an early release from prison if he expressed remorse for his crime, but he steadfastly maintained his innocence. He said he left his wife and the couple’s 3-year-old son to go to work early the day of the murder, and maintained through the years that an intruder must have killed her.
Authorities discovered the DNA connection in the Morton and Baker cases after Raley teamed up with the New York-based Innocence Project and spent years fighting for additional testing to be done on the bandanna.
Lozano reported from Houston.