DNA helps crack 1983 rape case

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Robert E. Nelson

Robert E. Nelson

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County Prosecutors and the Midwest Innocence Project held a joint news conference Friday afternoon to announce the release of one inmate and charges against a new man for rape — which was thought to be solved 30 years ago.

In December 1983, a 24-year-old woman told police she was robbed and raped by two men who broke into her home near 56th and Bellefontaine in Kansas City, Mo.

Police identified two brothers based on a weak tip.

The victim identified one of the men in a photo line-up, Robert E. Nelson, who is now 49. His brother was never charged for lack of evidence.

Nelson was given 50 years, but DNA just cleared Nelson and fingered a new suspect — 48-year-old Jerry Haley who was arrested Wednesday in Iowa.

Nelson went home Wednesday to be with his family.

Most of the 30 year sentence Nelson served in prison were for two unrelated robberies that he was convicted of. Prosecutors say he’s been wrongly serving time for rape since 2006.

A final twist — DNA has also identified a second suspect, but he has not been charged yet. Prosecutors say that case requires more investigation, but it’s possible a second man could still be charged for the 1983 rape.

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