In August 1978, the body of an 11-year-old girl was found in the stairwell of an apartment building in Philadelphia. She had been raped, and police initially believed she had been shot.
Matthew Connor, who lived in the same building, was known to have a temper, and had a previous statutory rape conviction. Neighbors told police he also had a shotgun. Connor claimed to have been at his girlfriend’s the night of the crime, but his girlfriend said that he had left for several hours.
The medical examiner later determined that the wounds were due to repeated stabbing by an ice pick. An ice pick with blood on it was later found in the incinerator of the building.
Connor’s girlfriend also said that the ice pick that was found was similar to one that went missing from her home that day. A high school student told police she saw Connor sleeping in the stairwell with blood on his shirt on the night of the crime. Connor was arrested and charged.
His first trial ended with a hung jury, but at his second trial in March 1980, a jury convicted him of first-degree murder and rape, and he was sentenced to life in prison.
In 1989, Centurion Ministries, a New Jersey-based non-profit that investigates wrongful convictions, persuaded the prosecution to reinvestigate the case.
The prosecution discovered that police had failed to turn over exculpatory evidence, including a tape of a call with the eyewitness that contradicted the testimony she gave, and evidence of another suspect, the victim’s half-brother, who had a history of assaulting young girls and was seen carrying an ice pick around the housing complex.
Based on this evidence, the prosecution moved for a new trial which was granted in February 1990, and prosecutors dismissed the charges against Connor in March 1990.
- Stephanie Denzel