As I sat down yesterday evening to watch one of my favorite television shows, American Justice, my heart went out to Clarence Elkins and his family. It seems that here is yet one more example of a person who has been wrongfully convicted of a very serious crime that he did not commit. While the state of Ohio sets back and really could care less as long as they have someone in their custody that they can lay the blame to. The state could very easily run a simple DNA test to clear Clarence Elkins of any wrong doing but they just do not want to spend the money to do so. Without any physical evidence what-so-ever, Clarence was convicted in 1999 and given a life sentence for the murder and rape of his mother-in-law, 58 year old, Judith Johnson of Barberton, Ohio. I will try and tell you the story as best I can.
Everyone that knew Judith, just loved her. Her friends and neighbors referred to her as, "Grandma Judy." Judy Johnson was a feisty ole southern gal and was very down to earth and was well known for speaking her mind. You know how those southern ladies are, and ya just have to love them for it. Judy's 6 year old grand daughter loved her too. She called her Mamaw and would often spend the night with her. Judy's young grand daughter and she had been to a birthday party one evening. As the night grew old, Grandma Judy told her grand daughter that she should just come on home with her and spend the night. So she did just that.
They both stayed up quite late that evening and they both watched one of Grandma's favorite T.V. shows togather. At about 12 midnight, Grandma Judy telephoned one of her friends. It was the last time that anyone would have a conversation with Grandma Judy.
An intruder broke into their house on 110 W. Summit Street sometime between 2:30 and 5:30 A.M. The coroner report later stated that Judith had been beaten repeatedly with a blunt object and blugeoned to death. The report also determined that she had been strangled, rapped, and sodomized as well. Like her Grand-mother, the 6 year old grand daughter too, was beaten, rapped and left for dead but she thankfully has physically recovered.
The little girl ran to the next door neighbor's house horrified and told them that someone had just killed her Mamaw. She had also tried calling her mother at home but there was no answer because her mother had not yet made it home from work, so she had to leave a message on the recorder. Later she told the police that it was someone that looked like her Uncle Clarence. Eventually the story was modified that it actually was her Uncle Clarence.
Meanwhile Clarence was at home with his wife and two sons, some 40 miles away. Clarence had went out to have a few beers earlier that night and his story was followed up by Summit County Police and confirmed as true. Friends said he was in the bar and had stayed there until just before closing time, which in Ohio is 2:30 A.M. His wife Melinda was up late that night as one of their boys had been ill with an upset stomach. Melinda says that Clarence got in around 2:30 that morning and headed off to bed between 3:15 and 3:30 A.M.
The next morning the Barberton police came and arrested Clarence. He would never return home again. That was nearly 5 years ago.
Clarence was very willing to co-operate with the authorities in any way that he could. Police searched his home and automobile but found no evidence of blood anywhere nor did they find anything incriminating. They searched the home of Judy Johnson and took over 100 items of evidence from the crime scene encluding hair and blood samples they even ran DNA on some of what was recovered but nothing at all matched Clarence. They took fingernail samples from Judy but for some reason, they did not run any DNA on the nail shavings. The only thing they had that pointed to Clarence were the words of a 6 year old child who had been traumatized in the night.
On May 20th 1999, the trial of Clarence Elkins began. State prosecutor, Michael Carroll claimed that Clarence did not like his mother-in-law and drove in a drunken rage 40 miles (one way) to her home and rapped and murdered her not knowing that his neece, (with whom he had a loving relationship,) would be there. But since she was, he decided to rape her too.
There was a nurse that testified on behalf of the defense, that while the little girl was in the hospital recovering, that a man with strange eyes went into the little girl's room, stayed for a minute and then left. She thought that he looked alot like the man's picture that she had just seen in the paper the day before that had been arrested for the murder, (Clarence Elkins,) and even went so far as to call the police to make sure that he was still in jail. The police confirmed that he was. However, the jury paid no attention to that very important information. His neece testified that Her Uncle came into her room and hit her. The jury bought it. He was not convicted of first degree murder though and thankfully was spared Ohio's death penalty. He was however convicted of all the other charges and given life in prison.
At their mother's funeral, Melinda and her sister, April sat togather, hand in hand. After the funeral was over, they went their seperate ways and would not speak to one another for over 3 years.
Melinda decided to take matters into her own hands and hired her own private detective who specialized in wrongful conviction cases. His name was Martin Yant. After hearing all the details of the case, Martin made the statement that he was never so sure in any case that he had ever taken on, that Clarence was innocent. Therefore he decided to take the case. The first question that he did ask was, if Clarence didn't do this, then who did?
Melinda did have a lead for him to follow up on. It seemed that a friend of Judith's by the name of Beverly Kaisk, had phoned her and told her about a man that use to stay in her home as a house guest by the name of Ryle Rush.
Now Ryle was only 25 years old and yet he would often speak to Beverly about her friend and about how he had a strong crush for the 58 year old Judith Johnson.
Both Judith and Ryle were guests at her wedding and Ryle had badgered Judith a number of times to dance with him although there were many other young girls there his age. Yet he wanted to dance with Judith, a woman more than twice his senior. Ryle was not quite all there, Beverly had told Melinda. Beverly even had video tape of the wedding that showed Ryle and Judith dancing and you could very much tell that this guy was kind of slow by the strange look in his eyes.
Beverly also had told Melinda that shortly after her mother, Judy's death, that she noticed 3 large scratches on Ryle's back. When her husband asked Ryle where he got the marks from, he laughed and replied that he had been with a wild woman the night before. Hmm... A feisty ole southern woman perhaps? I wonder... But thats not all.
As Dectective Yant did more investigating, he learned that Ryle liked to carry an old broken off pool que stick around with him for protection. He was even able to conduct an interview Ryle personally. Det. Yant asked Ryle about being seen at the hospital by the nurse that testified in court. Ryle told Det. Yant that he had done some volunteer work at the hospital for several years. Yet the hospital has no record to verify this statement.
Whats even more ironic is the fact that Ryle looks very much like Clarence.
Years later, after Yant's urging, Melinda and her sister, April got togather and finally agreed to talk openly again. They decided to show the now 10 year old grand daughter a photo of Ryle to see just what her reaction would be. The girl was shocked and said that Ryle was the man that had rapped her and killed her Mamaw and that she would never forget his eyes.
The Elkins family has spent over $100,000.00 to date on Clarence's defense. They desperatly now need our help to try and raise money to have DNA run on Judith's nail scrappings. They need to prove once and for all that this DNA does not match Clarence's DNA so that he can be cleared of this awful crime. Their goal is to raise $30,000.00. Last night I went to their web site, which is: www.Free Clarence.com (Please click onto the link below) and they had only raised $810.00.00 but just over night and since the airing of their story on American Justice, that amount has went up to over $5,100.00.
They are accepting donations through paypal. You can visit their web page at www.Free Clarence.com (just click the link below) and contribute to their cause. Anything at all you are able to give, would be ever so greatly appreciated. If you are unable to contribute anything monitarily, then perhaps you could give some of your time to pass this on to some of your friends that are on your email list and help to get word out.
You can also send an email to Clarence, to let him know that he has your support. His web page is updated everyday so that you may see how much money has been raised on his behalf for his defense. There is an email link on his web page and he is trying his best to answer all emails.
Five years of his life are already gone and he has missed being with his two boys and his wife Melinda. Christmas time is upon us once again. Its a time for giving. Won't you please do what you can to help this family? Thank you in advance! Your comments are also appreciated here. GCJ
If you would like to send a money order or make your contribution by check, here is the information you will need:
Make payable to: Free Clarence Fund
and mail to:
Free Clarence Fund
c/o The Law office of Warner Mendenhall
190 Union Street
Akron, Ohio 44304