On June 7, 1983, Christopher Boots
, 16, and Eric Proctor, 18, stopped at a 7-Eleven store in Springfield, Oregon. Finding no clerk on duty, they left.
After Boots took Proctor home, he returned to the store where he found the body of the clerk, 19-year-old Raymond Oliver, in the walk-in cooler.
Oliver's hands and feet were bound with duct tape and he had been shot three times in the head.
Boots called 9-1-1.
Soon, however, he and Proctor became suspects. Several weeks later, both were arrested, but were soon released after Lane County District Attorney J. Pat Horton decided the evidence was insufficient to indict them.
In January, 1984, Boots filed a notice of intention to file a lawsuit alleging he had been falsely arrested. That went nowhere, although he later contended the lawsuit angered authorities and prompted them to refocus their efforts on Boots and Proctor.
In 1986, Horton's successor as chief prosecutor of Lane County, Douglass Harcleroad reopened the investigation and obtained indictments against Boots and Proctor.
At separate trials in 1986 and 1987, witnesses, some of them jail inmates, testified that Boots and Proctor had admitted committing the crime. Charles Vaughn, an Oregon state crime laboratory analyst, testified that "high velocity" blood spatter was on the Boots’ clothing and that he found two gunpowder flakes on Proctor’s clothing.
They were convicted and both received sentences of life in prison.
In 1994, an informant told police that the real killer was a man named Ricky Kuppens. As this claim was investigated, police were able to surreptitiously record conversations with Kuppens during which he admitted killing the clerk.
Further, fingerprints left on the tape used to bind the victim were matched to Kuppens.
DNA tests were conducted on Boots’ clothing and showed that all but one of the blood specks did not match the victim and the one speck that was Oliver’s blood apparently was the result of laboratory contamination. Further, the tests showed that what Vaughn said were gunpowder flakes weren’t gunpowder at all.
On November 20, 1994, as police were closing in on Kuppens, he committed suicide. Boots and Proctor were released from prison on November 23, 1994. The charges were dismissed on March 6, 1995.
Boots and Proctor filed a federal wrongful conviction lawsuit that was settled by the city of Springfield in 1998 for $2 million.
– Maurice Possley