A man who served more than 38 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of killing a Simi Valley mother and son in 1978 has been pardoned by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Craig Richard Coley, 70, had been accused of strangling and beating Rhonda Wicht, his former girlfriend, to death and smothering her 4-year-old son Donald.
Coley was arrested in connection with the deaths, and while his first trial ended in a hung jury, he was convicted in 1980. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, and the conviction was upheld during an appeal.
Coley requested a new investigation through the Board of Parole in 2015. Eventually a former police detective, captain and officer believed that he had been wrongfully convicted. They attested that the original detective mishandled the investigation or framed Coley.
The Simi Valley Police Department and Ventura County District Attorney’s Office also investigated and announced Monday that based on DNA testing, Coley was indeed wrongfully convicted and is innocent. The two agencies supported clemency for Coley, they announced Monday.
In his pardon Wednesday, Brown said Coley had no criminal history before being convicted of the murders and had been a “model inmate for nearly four decades” by avoiding gangs and violence.
“The grace with which Mr. Coley has endured this lengthy and unjust incarceration is extraordinary,” the pardon reads.
Coley had already been released by Wednesday evening, the DA’s office said.