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Man cleared after 13 years in jail for murder

A Canadian man who spent 13 years in prison for the murder of a teenage girl in 1990 was cleared Friday.
Canada Wrongful Convictions
Kyle Unger, right, and his lawyer leave a courthouse in Winnipeg on Friday after he was cleared of killing a 16-year-old girl. Unger was jailed in 1991 and sentenced to life in prison the following year.John Woods / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Canadian man who spent 13 years in prison for the murder of a teenage girl in 1990 was cleared Friday.

A judge acquitted Kyle Unger, 38, after prosecutors said Friday that they had no evidence against him. Unger was wrongfully convicted of beating, sexually assaulting and killing 16-year-old Brigitte Grenier at a rock concert southwest of Winnipeg.

"It's the first day of the rest of my life, a new beginning," Unger said outside a courthouse in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Unger said he was "upset, but not angry" about being wrongfully sent to prison.

"When you feed off anger it just takes more from you," Unger said. "They already took my younger years away from me, why let them have my mind?"

Unger was jailed in 1991 and found guilty and sentenced to life in prison the following year.

DNA tests backed him up
He was convicted partly because a forensics expert testified that a hair found on the victim's body belonged to Unger. But Unger was granted bail after DNA tests in 2005 showed the hair came from someone else.

Unger now lives in Merritt, British Columbia, and returned to Winnipeg for Friday's proceedings.

A new trial was ordered in March after federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson ruled there was a reasonable likelihood Unger had been wrongfully convicted. But prosecutors later determined they did not have enough evidence to retry him.

Prosecutor Don Slough told the court Friday that further testing this year "did not find any trace of Unger on the victim."

Unger had also confessed to the killing to undercover police posing as drug dealers, but he said on Friday that he lied to the "dealers" because he wanted to work with them.

"When you're young, naive and desperate for money, they hold a lot of promises to you, so you say and do what you have to do to survive, just like in prison," Unger said Friday when asked about the false confession.

Another factor in Unger's conviction was the testimony of his co-accused, Timothy Houlahan, who committed suicide while waiting for a retrial in 1994.

Lawyer calls it unprecedented
Unger's lawyer Hersh Wolch said Friday that the court's decision to acquit Unger outright was unprecedented.

"Right now we are joyful that the man has an acquittal," Wolch said. "This is a momentous day. The (justice) minister ... rarely sends the matter to a retrial. Rarely. Tell me of one. And then an acquittal?"

"It's virtually unheard of. It is unheard of. So this is huge."

Wolch said he would not address the issue of compensation for his client at this time.

But Manitoba's Attorney General Dave Chomiak said Unger was not eligible for any compensation because there never would have been a trial if he hadn't confessed to the murder of Grenier.