- Associated Press - Thursday, April 3, 2014

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - An appeals court threw out a manslaughter conviction against a man accused of literally scaring a woman to death when she had a heart attack after returning home to a burglary in progress.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1otpIeY ) the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal also went a step further and acquitted Willie James Robertson in the 1999 death of 86-year-old Irene Schoofs. That means prosecutors cannot bring him back to trial if the appeals decision is not successfully challenged by prosecutors.

Robertson was indicted on a second-degree murder charge in 2012 after cold-case investigators linked him to fingerprints collected more than a decade earlier at Schoofs‘ home.

Prosecutors argued Schoofs had a heart attack after returning home to find Robertson in her home; a jury convicted him last year on the lesser charge of manslaughter.

State District Judge Glennon Everett sentenced Robertson to the maximum possible sentence for that charge of 40 years in prison.

A three-judge appeals panel ruled Wednesday that the fingerprints were not enough to support the manslaughter conviction.

The appeals decision noted 18 hours had passed from the time Schoofs is believed to have died until the discovery of her body and prosecutors did not offer evidence to rule out she could have died before Robertson allegedly broke into her home.

Defense attorney Edward Marquet, who handled the case on appeal, said the story of a burglar scaring the woman to death might have made for a compelling story at trial, “but there was no evidence to prove that.”

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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