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Ernest Holbrook, Jr.


On October 29, 1981, 12-year-old Tina Marie Harmon went missing from the small rural Ohio town of Creston. Harmon had been on her way home from buying ice cream at the local grocery store when she disappeared. Five days later, her body was found in a neighboring county. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.
 
Three months later, two white men, Ernest Holbrook Jr., age 19, and Herman Ray Rucker, age 26, were charged in Tina Harmon’s death. There was no physical evidence linking either man to the crime, and both men passed lie detector tests. Holbrook was at his sister’s wedding the weekend of the abduction, but police were convinced that Holbrook and Rucker were the perpetrators based on the testimony of two witnesses. Holbrook’s cousin, Curtis Maynard, and his acquaintance, Susan Sigler, claimed that after a night of drinking at Sigler’s house, Rucker had confessed to them that he and Holbrook had killed a little girl who had resisted their sexual advances.
 
Rucker was convicted and sentenced to life in prison on June 9, 1982. Two months later, Holbrook was convicted and given a life sentence as well. Holbrook wept as he was led away from his wife and one-month-old son.
 
Soon after Holbrook and Rucker were convicted, the reliability of one of the two witnesses against them, Susan Sigler, was called into question when she was convicted of filing a false rape claim. Sigler was also discovered to have lied on her marriage license, claiming she had had one prior husband, who was deceased, when she actually had four living ex-husbands.
 
The other witness against Holbrook and Rucker, Curtis Maynard, who was mentally impaired, recanted his testimony, claiming he had been pressured by Stark County detectives who had used Maynard’s probation for past felony convictions as leverage. Following Maynard’s recantation, Rucker was granted a new trial. He was acquitted on June 16, 1983. Holbrook sought a new trial but his requests were repeatedly denied, and he remained in prison.
 
However, in April 1984, Robert A. Buell, a former employee of the City of Akron planning department, was convicted of the abduction and killing of 11-year-old Krista Lea Harrison. This crime closely resembled the killing of Tina Harmon and occurred in a neighboring town. Identical rust-colored carpet fibers of an uncommon type were found on the bodies of both girls. The manufacturer of the carpet confirmed that, in Ohio, they had only sold enough of that particular carpet for a few homes. Identical carpet was found in Robert Buell’s van.
 
Holbrook’s conviction was set aside and the charges against him were dismissed on May 4, 1984. He was released after spending over two years in prison. Curtis Maynard was convicted of perjury for his false testimony in Rucker’s trial and spent thirteen months in prison.
 
In February 1987, the Ohio Court of Claims awarded Holbrook $83,940 for the years he spent in prison.
 
- Meghan Barrett Cousino
State:OH
County:Wayne
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Reported Crime Date:1981
Convicted:1982
Exonerated:1984
Sentence:Life
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:19
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation