Nine-year prison 'nightmare' ends as former convicted killer is released DNA test leads to exoneration

June 29, 1993|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

Kirk Noble Bloodsworth, once a convicted child-killer facing execution, left prison yesterday in style.

The burly, red-haired former waterman rolled past the barbed wire and brick walls of the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup in the back of a black stretch limousine, smoking a cigar and sipping a beer -- a free man.

The last time Mr. Bloodsworth was a free man was Aug. 9, 1984, the day Baltimore County police arrested him and charged him

with sexually assaulting and murdering 9-year-old Dawn Venice Hamilton of Rosedale.

Two Baltimore County juries convicted him of her murder. The first conviction drew a death sentence, the second drew consecutive life terms.

But new evidence, developed by a sophisticated new genetic test, proved that semen stains found on the victim's underwear could not have come from Mr. Bloodsworth.

At 9:35 a.m. yesterday, Circuit Judge James T. Smith Jr. signed an order calling for Mr. Bloodsworth's release "in the interests of justice." By 12:45 p.m. Mr. Bloodsworth strolled out of prison and past a security booth, where he faced a small army of reporters and camera crews.

"Fantastic!" was the first thing he said.

With his father, Noble Curtis Bloodsworth, his fiance, his attorney and friends surrounding him, Mr. Bloodsworth read a brief, three-page statement, answered a few questions, then rolled away in a limousine provided by a local radio station.

"Nobody can make up for nine years lost for something you didn't do," said Mr. Bloodsworth, who said he was going home to Cambridge and try to get on with his life.

In a quiet voice, he talked about his nine-year "nightmare," and he briefly cried when he spoke of the death of his mother, who died Jan. 20.

"Since my arrest, I've lost so much," he said, pausing to get control of himself. "The death of my mother is the most painful."

Asked if the state could compensate him for the years he's spent behind bars, Mr. Bloodsworth said, "They can't, but they ought to try."

His lawyer, Robert E. Morin, said he and his client have not spent "one minute" talking about possible compensation.

"We've been concentrating on getting him out," Mr. Morin said.

Added Mr. Bloodsworth: "Even though this is a small victory fome to prove my innocence, the real killer is still out there. And all of this won't be completed until the real one is behind bars."

Case to be reopened

Baltimore County police say they'll now have to reopen the case, but predicted it would be a difficult one because the trail is 9 years old -- and they thought Mr. Bloodsworth was their man all along.

Informed that Baltimore County State's Attorney Sandra O'Connor refused to call him "innocent," Mr. Bloodsworth appeared miffed. He said the DNA tests proved his innocence "100 percent."

"The reason he's being released is because he is innocent, period," said Mr. Morin, who took up the case after Mr. Bloodsworth's second appeal was turned down. "Any statement the contrary is just false."

Mrs. O'Connor held a news conference immediately after Judge Smith ordered the release.

She said that early in 1992, when Mr. Morin first proposed the new DNA testing, she agreed that if two independent tests eliminated Mr. Bloodsworth as the rapist, she would not prosecute him again. Technically, the state entered a nol-pros in the case.

Mrs. O'Connor said that means the case "cannot be brought up later against Kirk Bloodsworth."

"I believe that he is not guilty," Mrs. O'Connor said. "I'm not prepared to say he's innocent. Only the people who were there know what happened."

'No suspects at this time'

She added that "there are no other suspects at this time."

If the evidence from the DNA testing had been available in 1984 Mrs. O'Connor said, "We would not have prosecuted him then." She said the sophisticated test that cleared Mr. Bloodsworth could not be used to positively fix the identity of the killer because there was only enough semen on the panties to eliminate certain blood types.

The state's attorney said that based on the evidence at hand in 1985 and 1987, her office did the right thing in prosecuting Mr. Bloodsworth.

"This is a very sorry day for the Hamiltons, who lost a child and who thought this was behind them," she said. "It's a sorry day that we don't have an answer. . . . We can't manufacture one."

S. Ann Brobst, the assistant state's attorney who prosecuted Mr. Bloodsworth through both trials said she recently has spoken to the dead girl's parents about the new developments.

"They are and remain devastated," she said. "It would be nice for them to have some finality and they don't. They are both extremely upset."

Tom Hamilton, the dead girl's father, told WMAR-TV that he didn't hold a grudge against Mr. Bloodsworth.

"I just have to keep going on with my life and maybe they will catch [the killer], but I doubt it," he said.

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