- Associated Press - Saturday, March 19, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The daughter of a St. Louis woman slain more than three decades ago is pressing a judge for the release of the man imprisoned for the killing, insisting she was wrong to implicate him in the crime.

Melissa Davis told a judge Friday that she was wrong to identify Rodney Lincoln as the man who sexually attacked and killed 35-year-old JoAnn Tate in her home in 1982, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1LvxuS2 ) reported.

Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green put off a decision on the motion for Lincoln’s release, giving both sides time to submit arguments in writing.

Davis was 7 when she and her younger sister, then 4, identified Lincoln from a detective’s two-photo array of possible suspects. Witnesses testified at Lincoln’s trial that a hair found at the scene belonged to him, but genetic testing later disproved that.

The families of Lincoln and Tate, along with the Midwest Innocence Project, both now believe the wrong man is in prison and seek freedom for Lincoln, whose appeals based on DNA have failed. Lawyers for Missouri attorney general’s office are challenging those efforts.

As recently as last fall, Davis stood by the identification of Lincoln, who had served prison time for killing a man in a drunken dispute in 1973.

“There is no way it could be anybody but Rodney,” Davis told the television show, “Crime Watch Daily.”

But she revised her thinking about Lincoln last November after the show last year raised questions of whether serial killer Tommy Sells, who had once lived in St. Louis, was Tate’s actual killer. The Nov. 23 episode focused on work of Illinois private investigator Bill Clutter, who after being contacted by Lincoln’s family saw similarities between Tate’s death and Sells’ scattered crimes. Davis said in a deposition that Sells’ mugshot gave her “a flash of recognition.”

Clutter noted that Sells, who claimed as many as 70 killings, was in the St. Louis area in 1981 and 1982, although prosecutors insist he was in an Arkansas juvenile facility at the time. The institution’s records show that he had been due to report there, but not that he ever did.

Missouri state attorneys argue that Davis was influenced by Clutter and the TV show, though Davis said that when she first picked Lincoln she was eager to please a detective she saw as a father figure.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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