DNA Evidence Leads to Arrest of Michigan Man and Excludes Man Serving Life Sentence
Jason Anthony Ryan from Davison, Michigan, was charged on Tuesday with the murder of Geraldine Montgomery, a crime for which another man, Jamie Lee Peterson, has been serving time in prison since 1997.
In 1996, Montgomery was beaten, raped and murdered. She was found in the trunk of her car in the garage of her home in the small town of Kalkaska, Michigan.
reports that Peterson became the prime suspect four months after the murder when a jailhouse informant told investigators that Peterson, who was in jail for an unrelated sex charge, claimed to commit the crime. After a series of interrogations, Peterson confessed to the police. Although Peterson recanted just days later, police insisted that Peterson was guilty because he provided telling details about the crime that only the perpetrator would have known. He was sentenced to life in prison without the chance for parole.
While DNA testing of semen left on the victim’s shirt was unable to identify the source, testing of the rape kit excluded Peterson. Police said that the inconclusive results revealed that another perpetrator was present at the crime scene.
reports that earlier this year, at the request of Peterson’s former attorney, the
Michigan Innocence Clinic
re-investigated the case and worked with the state police and Kalkaska’s new prosecutor to get new DNA testing of the evidence. The results identified Ryan as the source of the semen from both the rape kit and the victim’s shirt.
According to A.J. Dixon, the University of Michigan law student who has led the Michigan Innocence Clinic’s work on the Peterson case: “ ‘There is absolutely no reliable evidence that there are multiple perpetrators involved. And there is zero evidence that Peterson and Ryan had ever even met each other before the crime, let alone that they were friends or co-conspirators. It takes an incredible amount of mental gymnastics to conclude anything but the arrest of Ryan proves Peterson is innocent.’”
Police interviewed Ryan as part of the investigation in 1996. He was living with a man, now deceased, who lived just two blocks away from the victim. As part of the investigation, police took a saliva sample from Ryan, but that sample was never tested. He was ruled out as a suspect after he passed a polygraph test.
The Michigan Innocence Clinic is working with the Northwestern University’s
Center on Wrongful Convictions
on Peterson’s case. A motion for a new trial will be filed on December 25.
“ ‘I would certainly say that the true perpetrator being arrested is enormous and enormously important,’ ” Dixon told the
. “ ‘We’re not going to be satisfied until Jamie Lee Peterson has been released.’ ”
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