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A Pennsylvania man who served 34 years in prison for the rape and murder of a teenage girl — after being fingered by jailhouse snitches — was released Thursday because of new DNA tests.
A judge vacated the conviction of Lewis Fogle for the 1976 killing of Deanna "Kathy" Long, and now prosecutors have to decide whether they want to retry him.
His first order of business? A steak dinner, he told NBC affiliate WPXI.
“I hoped this day would come. Sometimes, sometimes it was like it was never going to come,” Fogle said.
Fogle's case was championed by the Innocence Project, which pressed police to unearth old physical evidence and retest it. The Indiana County district attorney's office agreed to the retesting.
The lab excluded Fogle — who was serving a life sentence — as the source of sperm found on the victim, and prosecutors agreed to ask the court to toss the conviction.
Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty said his investigators are now combing through the remaining evidence to see if they have a strong enough case to retry the 63-year-old.
"My belief is he was involved. The question is whether I can prove it," Dougherty said.
Dougherty said there was no physical evidence against Fogle in the original case. He was convicted mainly on the testimony of jailhouse informants who said he confessed to killing the 15-year-old five years after the murder.
“The DNA evidence has proven that Mr. Fogle had nothing to do with this terrible crime," said David Loftis, managing attorney for the Innocence Project. "Now that his conviction has been vacated, we are grateful that he will be reunited with his friends and family today."
Fogle's wife, who married him just before his conviction, said she always believed he would be vindicated.
“He’s my husband and I love him,” she said outside the courthouse.