In March 1992, Beverly Monroe returned to her boyfriend’s home in Windsor, Virginia, and found him dead.
Though the death of 60-year-old Roger Zygmunt de la Burde was initially believed to be a suicide, a detective investigating the case suspected homicide, and had a theory that Monroe had murdered the victim out of jealousy for sleeping with other women.
The detective repeatedly questioned Monroe, suggesting that she had blocked the memory of the killing. After eight hours of interrogation, Monroe told the detective that she might have been at the victim’s home at the time of the death and blocked the memory.
The detective met with Monroe later and threatened that she would not be able to see her children if she was found guilty, and eventually convinced her to sign a statement that she had fallen asleep after dinner and was there when the death occurred. Monroe was then arrested for the murder of de la Burde.
At trial in Powhatan County Circuit Court, prosecution experts testified that, based on the position in which the gun was found, the victim could not have shot himself. The prosecution also presented Monroe’s statement as well as a witness who claimed that Monroe had tried to buy a gun from her earlier that year.
The defense presented evidence showing the death was a suicide. In November 1992, a jury convicted Monroe of first-degree murder and a weapons charge. Monroe was sentenced to 22-years in prison.
With the assistance of her daughter, Kathryn who had gone to law school and become a license attorney, Monroe later discovered that the prosecution had withheld evidence.
The evidence showed that the witness claiming that Monroe tried to buy a gun was given a deal in exchange for her testimony. In addition, a groundskeeper at de la Burde's house told police he had moved the gun when he found the body.
Medical documents concluding the death was a suicide were also discovered, as were notes from the interrogation of Monroe supporting her contention that the detective manipulated her.
In April 2002, a United States District Court judge granted Monroe’s habeas corpus petition and overturned her conviction. Monroe was released pending the outcome of an appeal or retrial.
In June 2003, after the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision, prosecutors announced that they would not retry the case. When Monroe was released in 2003, she was greeted by her children and a grandson she had never held.
– Stephanie Denzel