- Associated Press - Monday, December 28, 2015

NEWPORT, Ky. (AP) - William “Ricky” Virgil is free on bond after more than 28 years in prison for a murder he says he did not commit.

“I really ain’t gathered it all in yet,” 63-year-old told The Kentucky Enquirer (https://cin.ci/1ShYSDA) as he walked out of the Campbell County jail on Thursday. “I feel probably like being beamed up.”

The Cincinnati man was charged in 1987 with the murder of Retha Welch, a Veterans Administration minister and nurse from Newport.

Virgil refused a plea agreement because he said he was innocent, but a jury found him guilty in 1988 and he was sentenced to 70 years.

The Kentucky Innocence Project took up Virgil’s case in 2010. Its investigation showed DNA evidence, including hair and blood, was not connected to Virgil or the victim.

Kentucky Innocence Project Director Linda Smith made the case that Virgil was convicted purely on circumstantial evidence. Last Friday, Campbell County Judge Fred Stine ruled Virgil could have a new trial.

Virgil was released on a $15,000 cash bond with certain restrictions, like a monitoring bracelet.

Kentucky Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Adam Hill had asked for a $1 million bond, arguing the DNA evidence doesn’t exonerate Virgil but shows that someone else was present. A pretrial hearing in Virgil’s new murder trial has been set for March.

Jennifer Carpenter, a Kentucky Innocence Project student volunteer who attends Chase Law School at Northern Kentucky University, was one of a small group of people who welcomed Virgil on Christmas Eve morning as he left her jail.

She said she feels for the victim’s family.

“It was hard seeing them in court,” Carpenter said. “It was a tragedy on both sides. I want justice for her, freedom for him.”

For now, Virgil will stay at a home owned by Calvary Ministries, which helps house ex-convicts. Bimp McAlister, a prison minister who met Virgil in prison in 1993 and believes in Virgil’s innocence, posted the bond.

“William is looking forward to going fishing,” Smith said. “That’s what he keeps telling me, ‘I can’t wait to go fishing.’”


Information from: The Kentucky Enquirer, https://www.nky.com

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