Johnny Lee Wilson

In April 1986, a 79-year-old widow was beaten, tied up, and burned alive in her Aurora, Missouri home. Gary Wall, a former classmate of Johnny Lee Wilson, told police that Wilson had confessed to the crime. Police interrogated Wilson, who is mildly retarded, feeding him facts about the crime until he confessed to arson, attempted rape, and stealing the victim’s jewelry. A search of the home Wilson shared with his mother and grandmother revealed jewelry and underwear police claimed belonged to the victim. Wilson’s mother claimed he was with her at the time of the murder, and that the underwear police found belonged to her. Wilson entered an Alford plea in April 1987 for first-degree murder in order to avoid the death penalty, and was sentenced to life without parole. Wall later recanted and said police bullied him into implicating Wilson. A year later, a man already in prison for similar crimes, confessed that he, along with an accomplice, had killed the widow in an effort to destroy evidence of a robbery. After Wilson’s attorney was unsuccessful in seeking a new trial, Wilson’s mother appealed to the governor of Missouri. In 1995, the governor granted Wilson a pardon.

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012


Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1986
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No