Shirley Kinge

On December 22, 1989, the bodies of 39-year-old Warren Harris, his 41-year-old wife, Dolores, and their children, 15-year-old Shelby and 11-year-old Marc were found murdered in their home in a suburb of Ithaca, New York.

The victims were tied up, their heads were covered with pillowcases and each was shot in the back of the head. They were doused with gasoline and set on fire in an apparent attempt to destroy evidence.

In January 1990, police were tipped by an informant that the killer was 33-year-old Michael Kinge. On February 7, police used a battering ram to enter an apartment in Syracuse where Kinge was staying. A shoot-out ensued and Kinge was killed in a hail of police gunfire.

His 54-year-old mother, Shirley Kinge, who lived in an apartment next door, was arrested. She was charged with helping her son burn down the house after the murder and for using credit cards stolen from the Harris’s.

Kinge admitted to using the credit cards, but claimed to have nothing to do with the murder or arson.

At Kinge’s trial in Tompkins County Supreme Court, New York State Police Trooper David Harding testified that he had found Kinge’s fingerprints on a gasoline can located in the Harris home.

In November 1990, a jury convicted Kinge of burglary, arson, hindering prosecution, criminal possession of stolen property, and forgery, and she was sentenced to 18-to-44-years in prison.

In 1992, the U.S. Department of Justice began investigating claims that New York State Police troopers, including Harding, had falsified fingerprint evidence.

Based on the disclosure, lawyers for Kinge filed a motion to vacate her convictions. Kinge was granted a new trial and released on bond in August 1992. The prosecution dismissed all charges except for the forgery charges. Kinge pled guilty to misdemeanor forgery in November 1992.

In December 1992, Harding pled guilty to perjury and admitted planting evidence in Kinge’s and other cases. He was sentenced to 4 ½ years in prison.

In 1995, Mark Prentice was acquitted at a retrial on charges of assault and robbery in Tompkins County Supreme Court after Harding admitted he had planted Prentice's fingerprints in a house and a shed of a man who was beaten and robbed in Enfield, New York.

In 2009, Kinge was awarded $250,000 in compensation by the State of New York.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Last Updated: 10/31/2014

 

State:New York
County:Tompkins
Most Serious Crime:Arson
Additional Convictions:Burglary/Unlawful Entry
Reported Crime Date:1989
Convicted:1990
Exonerated:1992
Sentence:18 to 44 years
Race:Black
Sex:Female
Age:54
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No