In July 1981, an elderly resident of Ogden, Kansas, was attacked while sleeping in her home. The assailant covered her face with his hand and bed clothing. As the victim struggled, she was struck repeatedly on the head, causing her to bleed. The attacker then raped her vaginally before fleeing. The victim contacted the police and was taken to a hospital, where she was treated for her injuries and a rape kit was collected.
In the early morning hours of the same day, Eddie James Lowery was involved in a traffic accident near the victim’s house. Investigators began questioning Lowery that morning. He was questioned all day without food and was told he did not need a lawyer after requesting one. Investigators supplied Lowery with details of the crime - the house, the entry, the weapon, and specifics about the rape. These details were eventually incorporated into his confession.
Although Lowery recanted the statements and his attorney filed to suppress them, the court ruled that the confession was made voluntarily and allowed it into the trial. The confession became the cornerstone of the prosecution’s case.
Serological testing was performed on the bedding, the victim’s clothing, and specimens from the rape kit. A forensic analyst from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation testified that semen on the crime scene evidence exhibited type A blood group markers, but she testified that this meant the perpetrator was type O, which matched Lowery. Since the victim was type A, her bodily fluid could have masked any evidence of the perpetrator and the analyst could not have definitively determined anything about the perpetrator’s blood type. An independent analyst last reviewed the serology findings and could not determine now the original examiner came to her conclusion. Testing on Lowery’s pants revealed his own blood type, as he had been bleeding from a cut sustained in the car accident.
Lowery’s first trial ended in a hung jury. He was tried again in January 1982. This time the jury convicted him of rape, aggravated burglary, and aggravated battery. Lowery was sentenced to 11 years to life in prison. He served nine years of that sentence and was released on parole in 1991.
Through his attorney, Barry Clark, and with his own money, Lowery was able to procure DNA testing on the biological evidence in 2002. He had been forced to register as a sex offender every year since his parole and wanted to clear his name and reputation. Clark requested an evidence search, which turned up biological evidence from the investigation, including swabs from the rape kit, portions of the bedding, and portions of the victim’s nightgown. In September 2002, DNA test results confirmed Lowery’s claim of innocence. The semen found on the victim’s bedding originated from the same person as the semen found on the vaginal swabs. Lowery was excluded from being the contributor. In April 2003, the District Court of Riley County, Kansas, vacated the judgement and conviction based on these results.
Eddie James Lowery was 22 years old when he was arrested, a soldier stationed at Fort Riley. He waited over twenty-one years to be vindicated.