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Larry Holdsworth

Other Ohio Exonerations
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Shortly after 10 p.m. on September 7, 1982, Marsha Sue Snowberger, manager at an Arby’s Restaurant in Kent, Ohio, left to deposit the night’s receipts of $1,090.48 at the nearby Huntington Bank. When she stepped out of her car at the bank, she heard someone behind her say, “Drop it, bitch.”

Snowberger dropped the bank bag. A man holding a crowbar stepped forward, picked it up, and fled. She said the man was white, wearing a dark ball cap and a kerchief tied around his face so that only his eyes were visible.

The robbery remained unsolved until August 1988 when Stephen Najeway, who was serving a prison sentence of 28 to 50 years, said that the robbery had been committed by George Shields and Larry Holdsworth, who was 35 at the time of the crime.

On September 7, 1988, Shields and Holdsworth were indicted by a Portage County grand jury on a charge of aggravated robbery.

They went to trial in the Portage County Court of Common Pleas in November 1988.

Najeway testified that around midnight on the night of the robbery, Shields and Holdsworth came to an apartment where Najeway was. Najeway said that Shields said that he and Holdsworth had just committed an armed robbery in Kent.

Najeway quoted Shields as saying that he went up to a woman holding a crowbar and told her to “drop the money, bitch.” Najeway said Shields then struck the woman with the crowbar and knocked her down, and laughed.

“And then Larry said that he heard (Shields) say that to the lady and then he heard a scream,” Najeway testified.

Najeway said that Holdsworth said he was in the woods behind the bank at the time of the crime. Najeway also testified that Shields was wearing a dark ball cap and a bandana, and had a roll of cash. He said Shields told him that if he had come along, he would have gotten $300.

During cross-examination, Najeway claimed he had not been made any promises about reducing his prison term. He said that the prosecution did tell him “that if I cooperated with the investigation, I wouldn’t be charged with any involvement with Shields in this case.”

The defense called one witness—Gerald Shields, the brother of Ralph Shields. Gerald, who was in prison for breaking and entering and had a long history of convictions, testified that in 1986—four years after the robbery—he and Najeway drove past the Arby’s Restaurant in Kent. Gerald said he asked Najeway if he had “cased it out already.”

Gerald said Najeway told him that he knew the restaurant made nightly bank deposits because he and another person had robbed a woman one night just as she was going to make a deposit.

The defense contended that Najeway committed the robbery with Ralph Shields.

However, on November 8, 1988, the jury convicted Shields and Holdsworth of aggravated robbery. They were each sentenced to four to 25 years in prison.

On February 21, 1992, the Ohio Court of Appeals reversed Holdsworth’s convictions and ordered the case dismissed. The court held there was insufficient evidence for a conviction. The court also ruled that Ohio law at the time of the crime provided that “No person shall be convicted of complicity…solely upon the testimony of an accomplice unsupported by other evidence.”

Citing Najeway’s testimony that the prosecution promised he would not be charged for his involvement in the robbery, the appeals court said that “Najeway is a person who could have been indicted and punished for complicity and is, therefore, an accomplice.”

“Consequently his testimony regarding (Holdsworth’s) complicity must be corroborated,” the court said. “A review of the record reveals that there is no corroborating evidence as to (Holdsworth’s) complicity or role in the robbery.”

On March 9, 1992, Holdsworth was released from prison. The following month, he filed a lawsuit seeking a ruling that he was a wrongly convicted person and therefore eligible for compensation from the state of Ohio.

On June 6, 1994, Holdsworth took and passed a polygraph examination. In addition, two alibi witnesses were located and stated that Holdsworth was elsewhere at the time of the robbery.

On June 14, the prosecution agreed that Holdsworth was a wrongly convicted defendant and Judge George Martin declared Holdsworth wrongly convicted.

In December 1994, the state of Ohio awarded Holdsworth $88,000 in compensation. Separately, he filed a federal lawsuit against the police and Portage County prosecutors, but it was dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/12/2018
Last Updated: 4/9/2019
State:Ohio
County:Portage
Most Serious Crime:Robbery
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1982
Convicted:1988
Exonerated:1994
Sentence:4 to 25 years
Race:White
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:35
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No