On October 12, 1968, Bonnie Siegel, a fifteen-year-old girl, was walking to a shopping center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when she observed a middle-aged white man with the hood of his car up. This man asked Bonnie Siegel to assist him by sitting in his vehicle and attempting to start the car while he continued to work under the hood. Siegel complied. When the car wouldn’t start, Siegel attempted to exit the car. The man then displayed a small black handgun, pointed it at her and told her to get back into the car. He drove to a parking lot and, continuing to display the gun, ordered Siegel to walk to the nearby woods. The man told Siegel to remove her pants and underwear. When she refused, the man struck her on the side of her head with his hand and knocked her to the ground and attempted to rape her. He then tied her wrists with rope, put a handkerchief as a gag in her mouth, and stabbed her over thirty different times in the upper back and upper chest area. The man placed his hand over her mouth in an attempt to suffocate her. Siegel became motionless and feigned death. The man then cut the ropes and removed the gag. When he left, Siegel was able to run to a nearby road for help.
On August 5, 1971, nearly three years after the crime occurred, Siegel picked a photo of 48-year-old Francis Phillip Hemauer from a group of four photographs. Hemauer was a carpenter and father of four grown children. Siegel told the police that “he could very well be the man” but she needed to see him in person.
Hemauer was asked by the police to come in for questioning and was told he was being placed under arrest. He voluntarily answered questions and appeared in a lineup. Siegel picked Hemauer out of this lineup but asked him to put on a pair of glasses before she would make a positive identification. He put on the glasses and agreed to allow her to look at him in the hall, at which time she positively identified him as the perpetrator.
Hemauer was questioned further later that evening. He asked to call his attorney and his request was granted. There is testimony to the effect that Hemauer’s attorney told him to make no statement and that someone would be down to see him in the morning. During this time, Hemauer made further statements to Detective Kenneth Darton. Detective Darton stated that Hemauer told him that “when he drank heavily he did not remember exactly what transpired” and sometimes did not remember getting home. Detective Darton testified that Hemauer had also said “…[H]e probably raped Bonnie Siegel but cannot remember. He suggested that a Psychiatrist could probably help him recall facts regarding the aforementioned offense.”
On August 6, 1971, Hemauer appeared before Judge Steffes. The Court found probable cause to hold Hemauer. Bail was set at $30,000. In September 1972, a hearing was held to address, among other issues, the admissibility of the incriminating statements Hemauer made to Detective Darton. Hemauer stated that Detective Darton had told him it wasn't necessary for his attorney to be there during questioning. The Court found that Francis Hemauer was a “mature man, a high school graduate, and that he thoroughly understood all of his constitutional rights” and that Hemauer knew he had a right to speak or refuse to speak. Hemauer’s statements were found to be voluntary and admissible. Hemauer also asserted at the hearing that the length of detention was exorbitant prior to his making the statements. The Court found that no coercive measures had been used and that the period of detention was not excessive.
On September 14, 1972, the jury trial started. The jury and other parties were taken to the scene of the crime. During the trial, Bonnie Siegel testified that she had positively identified Hemauer in a line-up and that she positively identified Hemauer’s car. A witness, Mary Ann Starick, who was shopping in the area on the day of the attack, testified that she had noticed the man with apparent car trouble at the shopping center. Starick positively identified Hemauer at trial, although she had previously misidentified him during a previous second line-up. Starick said that fear prevented her from positively identifying Hemauer during the previous line-up.
Hemauer presented an alibi in his defense, providing an alibi witness who said they were hunting together during the time of the alleged attack. Two tenants who rented an apartment from Hemauer testified that they had seen him in another city on the day of the alleged attack. Hemauer’s former wife also testified that she had possession of his car on the day of the alleged attack.
On September 28, 1972, the jury found Hemauer guilty of all three counts of attempted murder, rape, and abduction, and he was sentenced to sixty years in prison. On June 4, 1974, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision.
At the urging of Hemauer’s family, who had pooled their money to pay for his defense, two attorneys developed the idea of retesting the victim’s clothing. The results of this test became available in January 1981 and showed that semen found on Bonnie Siegel’s clothing had come from an attacker with type B blood. Hemauer had type A blood. These tests, plus questions raised by an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal, caused the district attorney’s office to reinvestigate the case.
On April 8, 1981, the conviction and sentence of Hemauer were set aside and the criminal case was dismissed with prejudice. When the decision was announced, Hemauer sobbed with relief. He was released from custody after serving eight and a half years of his sentence.
Hemauer settled a lawsuit with the insurance company representing his trial defense attorney, Gerald Boyle, for $500,000 on the basis that Boyle had failed to request the blood test that would have excluded Hemauer as the perpetrator. Hemauer also received $85,260 as compensation from the Wisconsin Claims Board.
- Researched by Jennifer Stoffer
The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. The Registry also maintains a more limited database of known exonerations prior to 1989.
We welcome new information from any source about exonerations already on our list and about cases not in the Registry that might be exonerations.