- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2003

ANNAPOLIS — Nearly every week, Kirk Bloodsworth brought fellow inmate Kimberly Shay Ruffner his library books. And almost every week, the two men worked out together in the prison weight yard.

Now, prosecutors say the two had a connection never revealed while they were in prison.

Yesterday, Ruffner was charged with the 1984 murder of a 9-year-old girl — the very crime for which a wrongly convicted Mr. Bloodsworth served nine years.

“I’m flipping out,” Mr. Bloodsworth said after prosecutors visited his Cambridge, Md., home yesterday to tell him the news about Ruffner, who once lived in a cell one floor down from Mr. Bloodsworth. “The answer was right below me, and I never knew it.”

Mr. Bloodsworth was twice convicted of the girl’s murder and was sentenced to die, but after struggling for years to prove his innocence, he was cleared in 1993, becoming the first American to be freed from prison because of DNA evidence.

Mr. Bloodsworth, 43, said that in prison, he and Ruffner “spotted” each other when lifting weights together, and Mr. Bloodsworth, the prison librarian, always stopped to talk with Ruffner when delivering books to his cell.

He remembered Ruffner as a quiet man who kept to himself and didn’t talk about his convictions for attempted rape and attempted murder.

But Ruffner came to the prison just a month after Mr. Bloodsworth and knew about Mr. Bloodsworth’s case, his attempts to be re-tried and his claims he was innocent, Mr. Bloodsworth said.

Mr. Bloodsworth was cleared with evidence gathered from a semen stain on the victim’s panties.

Ruffner, 45, doesn’t yet have an attorney in the murder charge, authorities said. Attempts to reach him at the prison yesterday were unsuccessful.

“Thank God for DNA,” said Sandra A. O’Connor, the prosecutor who asked police 18 months ago to enter the evidence into a state database to help investigators find the real killer.

The evidence would have been entered into the database sooner if police had enough manpower, Baltimore County police spokesman Bill Toohey said.

Yesterday, prosecutors charged Ruffner with murdering Dawn Venice Hamilton, and said they will bring rape charges as well. Ruffner has been behind bars since 1984; Miss O’Connor would not disclose his prior conviction.

Now, prosecutors are certain they have the right man, said Miss O’Connor, whose office wrongly convicted Mr. Bloodsworth twice.

When the little girl’s body was discovered in the woods in Rosedale, Mr. Bloodsworth was 23, a newlywed just discharged from the Marines. An anonymous caller told police that Mr. Bloodsworth looked just like a police sketch of the man last seen with the girl.

Five eyewitnesses picked him out of a lineup.

“We did exactly what we should have done, given the evidence we had,” Miss O’Connor said of Mr. Bloodsworth’s convictions. “A jury heard the evidence twice and twice convicted him. It was a strong case.”

Mr. Bloodsworth remembers the day he was cleared and released from the Maryland state prison in Jessup. His fellow inmates, including Ruffner, were there when he got the news.

Ruffner did not react, Mr. Bloodsworth recalled.

“I wonder what he’s thinking now,” said Mr. Bloodsworth, adding he now considers Ruffner a coward. “They got him. All his punishment’s coming.”

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