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Larry Ollins

Other Chicago Exonerees Who Were Implicated by Codefendants
Sixteen-year-old Larry Ollins was one of four African American teenagers convicted of the October 1986 kidnapping, rape and murder of 23-year-old Rush Medical College student Lori Roscetti in Chicago. The men allegedly jumped into Roscetti’s car as she drove home late at night, took her to a secluded location, raped, robbed and beat her to death.

Larry Ollins, his 14-year-old cousin Calvin Ollins, 18-year-old Omar Saunders, and 17-year-old Marcellius Bradford were arrested in January and February 1987. Police stated that Bradford and Calvin Ollins confessed, saying they ambushed Roscetti at random to get bus fare for Calvin Ollins to return home to the Cabrini-Green housing development. The false confessions were corroborated by the false testimony of Chicago police crime laboratory analyst Pamela Fish, who claimed that semen found on the victim’s body and undergarments could have belonged to three of the four defendants. Later examination of her notes by a DNA expert showed that none of the four men’s blood types matched the crime scene samples. The notes were never disclosed to the defense lawyers.

The Ollins cousins and Omar Saunders were tried separately as adults before different juries.

Raymond Lenz, a criminalist from the Chicago Police Crime Laboratory, testified that a hair from Roscetti’s car was “similar” to a known sample of Saunders’s hair and a hair from her clothing was “similar” to a sample of Larry Ollins’s hair. At Saunders’s trial, a well-known criminalist, Skip Palenik, testified for the defense that Saunders was “unlikely” to be the source of the hair.

They were all convicted and all were sentenced to life in prison. 

Bradford pled guilty to kidnapping and received a sentence of only 12 years in exchange for testifying against Larry Ollins. Bradford was released in 1994 after serving six years. 

In 2001, the Chicago Tribune began reinvestigating the case after an analysis of Fish’s testimony in these three trials as well as other trials revealed that she had falsely testified about the results of her blood-typing work on the biological evidence.

Bradford recanted his confession and his testimony against Ollins in an interview with the Tribune.

The Tribune also interviewed Sam Busch, who testified at Saunders’s trial that Saunders admitted the abduction, rape and murder. Busch recanted his testimony, saying he hoped to get the reward that was offered when the case went unsolved for more than three months. Another witness, Anthony Gilty, who testified against Larry Ollins and said that Ollins had admitted taking part in the crime, also recanted to the Tribune, saying police threatened to charge him with the crime and also offered him leniency on a pending charge.

DNA testing was requested by defense attorney Kathleen Zellner. The tests were performed in 2001 and 2002 and cleared the four defendants. In 2002, a telephone tip led to the arrest of the actual killers, Duane Roach, 46, and Eddie Harris, 38, who pled guilty in exchange for 75-year sentences. Both men described on videotape how they abducted Roscetti as she parked her car near her residence and then took her in her car to a railway embankment where they raped and killed her.

The four innocent men then filed civil rights suits against the police. Larry Ollins’s claim was settled for $4 million. He also receied $154,153 in state compensation.

In 2023, one of the detectives involved in the investigation of the case, John McHugh, was cited as partially responsible for the wrongful conviction of Lee Harris for a 1989 murder. Harris was exonerated in March 2023.

— Maurice Possley

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Last Updated: 4/10/2023
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Rape, Robbery, Kidnapping
Reported Crime Date:1986
Age at the date of reported crime:16
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes