In November 1983, Susan Hamwi was murdered in her Fort Lauderdale, Florida home. By the time her body was found a week later, her infant child had also died from neglect. Though investigators knew that Hamwi’s ex-husband had motive to kill her, investigators quickly focused on 41-year-old John Purvis, a non-violent schizophrenic who lived several houses down from Hamwi. Purvis, whose mother served as his legal guardian, was interrogated and, when police finally separated him from his mother, he falsely confessed to the murders. In April 1985, Purvis was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and rape, and was sentenced to life in prison.
While an appeal of Purvis’s conviction was pending, the prosecution received information implicating another man, Robert Beckett, in Hamwi’s murder. Despite this information, the prosecutors closed the case and never disclosed what they had learned to the defense. When that information was ultimately uncovered, Beckett was granted immunity from prosecution and confessed that Hamwi’s ex-husband hired him and another man to kill Hamwi. On February 25, 1993, a joint motion by the prosecution and defense to set aside Purvis’s conviction was granted, and all charges were dismissed.
- Stephanie Denzel