A Simi Valley mother and son were killed in 1978, leading to the arrest and eventual conviction of Craig Richard Coley in 1980. This month Governor Jerry Brown pardoned Mr. Coley after DNA testing revealed that the now 70-year old inmate was wrongly convicted, KTLA reports. Coley was serving a life sentence (without the possibility of parole) for allegedly strangling his former girlfriend Rhonda Wicht and smothering her 4-year-old son to death.
Ever since being convicted, Coley has been fighting to prove his innocence. His efforts didn’t look like they would result in a favorable outcome when the conviction was upheld during an appeal. Then, in 2015, Coley petitioned for a new investigation by the Board of Parole, according to the article. Somewhere along the way a former detective, captain, and an officer became convinced of Coley’s innocence.
DNA Saves The Day
Coley’s case was reopened in October 2016 at the behest of Simi Valley Police Chief David Livingstone, The Los Angeles Times reports. A reëxamination of a piece of evidence that was used to convict him was conducted, revealing others’ DNA, but not Mr. Coley.
Those who advocated for the pardon believe that the original detective who worked on the case “mishandled the investigation or framed” Mr. Coley, according to the article. Michael Schwartz, a prosecutor with the Ventura County district attorney’s office, said the agency has:
“…not determined at this point that a detective engaged in misconduct, but our office and the Simi Valley Police Department are continuing to investigate all aspects of the case to determine what happened and who is responsible.”
The murder of Rhonda Wicht and her four-year-old son Donald was the first double homicide in Simi Valley.
Orange County Criminal Attorney
Please contact Ronald G. Brower if you or a loved one has been charged with a crime. With over thirty years of experience, attorney Brower can provide you the best defense.