In March 1987, a coed at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama returning from class to her off-campus apartment was ambushed by a masked man who forced her into her apartment and raped her.
The victim told police said the man forced her to divulge the location of her car and her bank car access code, took her car keys and the bank card and left. She said the man did not remove his mask, so she was unable to provide a facial description.
When police found the woman’s abandoned car, a passerby—also a student at the university—approached and said he had seen a man emerge from the car some time earlier.
On March 21, 1987, shortly after the assault, 25-year-old Jeffrey Holemon, of Tuscaloosa, was arrested by Tuscaloosa police on charges of check forgery and burglary. While in jail, he was placed in a lineup. The man who told police he had seen someone emerge from the victim’s car selected Holemon.
Holemon went to trial in the summer of 1988 and was convicted by a jury after a two-day trial. Security photos at the bank where the attacker withdrew money were of such poor quality, they were unable to implicate or exonerate Holemon. The victim testified to the attack and the student testified that he saw Holemon get out of the victim’s car.
Holemon was convicted of rape, burglary, auto theft, theft of the bank card and unlawful use of the bank card. He was sentenced to life in prison.
In 1997, when he first became eligible for parole, he was required to give a DNA sample under a state convicted sex offender law.
With the assistance of a jailhouse lawyer, he filed a post-conviction petition requesting that evidence in the case be tested for DNA and compared to his DNA.
In 1998, the Tuscaloosa County District Attorney’s office located a rape kit in the case and DNA tests excluded Holeman.
On January 14, 1999, his convictions were vacated. On January 25, 1999, he was released from prison.
After his release, he formed House of Hope, a Christian prison ministry that helps released prisoners re-enter society.
– Maurice Possley