PLACERVILLE, Calif. -- It was a reunion nearly 15 years in the making as Ricky Davis was finally able to hug his family and friends as a free man.
“Seeing him embrace his mom like that, that’s why we do this work,“ said attorney Melissa O’Connell with the Northern California Innocence Project.
The 54-year-old was released from the El Dorado County Jail on Thursday. He was serving a sentence for a brutal murder the district attorney now says he did not commit.
“I’m not telling you that we can’t prove it. I’m telling you Ricky Davis was wrongfully convicted,” El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson told KTXL.
In 2005, Davis was sentenced in the killing of his roommate, Jane Hylton. She was stabbed 29 times in their El Dorado Hills home back in 1985.
His guilt hinged largely on a confession from his once-girlfriend, Connie Dahl, who claimed she witnessed and helped him with the crime.
“The interrogation methods were high-risk and were concerning to us that they likely resulted in a false confession or a false implication,” O’Connell explained.
It’s why O’Connell pushed investigators to test evidence with new methods to analyze DNA. She specifically called on the crime lab to test a bite mark on the victim’s nightgown that Dahl claimed she was responsible for in her confession.
The DNA did not match Dahl or Davis -- but it was a match for another man.
“Also redundant (DNA) under the victims’ severely injured hands, demonstrating how much she fought for her life before she succumbed to her injuries,” O’Connell said.
Through genetic genealogy, the Sacramento Crime Lab was able to trace that DNA to another suspect, identified as Michael Green. He was arrested in Roseville on Tuesday.
The district attorney said he’s one of three boys who were minors at the time and may have been involved.
One is dead. DA Pierson said it’s believed the other “was not a percipient witness to the incident itself but was a witness to the immediate or somewhat immediate aftermath.”
The motive for the crime is still under investigation but Pierson said the boys may have been with Hylton’s 13-year-old daughter earlier in the evening.
“This is the first case in California and only the second in this country where investigative genetic genealogy has not only led to the freeing on an individual from prison for a crime he did not commit but the identification of the true source,” said Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert.
A free man, finally, Davis is ready to get back to his life and make up for lost time.
“I asked him, ‘Did you ever think this day would come?’ He said yes. He never gave up hope,” O’Connell said.
Davis said the first thing he wanted to do was get a slice of pizza.
His attorney said he plans to seek some sort of compensation for his time spent behind bars. She said In California they can get paid back $140 per day spent in prison.