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William Mueller

Other Ohio Exonerations
On January 14, 1986, Warren County sheriff deputy James Goodall was dispatched to a Best Western Motel in Mason, Ohio after a motel maid reported seeing a gun in a room and sounds of a disturbance in rooms 143 and 144.

As Goodall pulled up to the rooms, he blocked a Cadillac that was starting to back out of a space. He asked the driver, Vickie Miracle, for identification. At that moment, Walter Byrd stepped out of one the rooms and asked if there was a problem. Goodall said he was investigating a report of a disturbance and asked Byrd for identification.

Byrd stepped back into the room and as Goodall stood in the doorway, Byrd began looking through a suitcase. When Goodall saw a leather shoulder holster in the suitcase, he grabbed it and ordered everyone in the room, including Miracle, to stand against the wall. The others present were Byrd’s teenaged son, Ken, 24-year-old William Mueller, and Mueller’s girlfriend, Gwendolyn Clontz.

Goodall searched the suitcase and discovered what appeared to a silencer and clip containing nine-millimeter ammunition. Goodall radioed for assistance and other officers arrived.

After the officers searched everyone and found nothing illegal, Mueller said he knew what the trouble was—a maid had seen a gun. Mueller led Goodall to the adjoining room, and showed him a nine-millimeter pistol and another clip with bullets. Byrd admitted he owned the gun and bullets.

When Byrd asked if his son could leave in a blue Chevrolet parked outside, Goodall said that might be possible if Byrd would allow officers to search the vehicle first. Byrd signed a consent to search form. In the car, officers found three glass vials containing white powder that was suspected to be cocaine.

The officers then obtained a search warrant for the Cadillac and the motel rooms. In the Cadillac, the officers found Miracle’s purse containing what appeared to be amphetamine pills.

In the motel rooms, the officers found numerous boxes containing clothes and personal items, a small amount of marijuana, and several pieces of equipment and paraphernalia commonly used in the preparation of cocaine. The equipment included four vials containing a mixture of lidocaine, cocaine, and caffeine. Byrd admitted owning all of the equipment and the containers in which the vials were found.

Byrd, Mueller, Miracle, and Clontz were charged with possession and manufacturing of cocaine. Byrd also was charged with possession of marijuana. Miracle was charged with possession of a counterfeit drug.

In August 1986, all three went to trial in Warren County Court of Common Pleas. The prosecution presented evidence that the rooms were paid for in cash using $50 and $100 bills, and that the defendants refused to allow maids in to clean the rooms—only relenting after nearly a week when the management insisted for health reasons.

Motel employees also testified that scores of telephone calls were made to and from the rooms.

Byrd testified that he and Mueller had traveled from Atlanta in December 1985 to meet Miracle and Clontz, and to visit friends over the holidays. Byrd said that he was a former cocaine addict, and that he had retrieved the containers from storage because they contained some personal items belonging to Miracle.

Asked about the telephone calls, Byrd said it was the holiday season and that he and the others had numerous friends and relatives in the area.

On August 13, 1986, Miracle was convicted of possession of a counterfeit drug. Byrd was convicted of possession of marijuana, possession of cocaine, and cocaine trafficking. Mueller was convicted only of cocaine trafficking. Clontz was acquitted.

Byrd was sentenced to three years in prison. Mueller was sentenced to two years in prison.

Byrd’s and Miracle’s convictions were upheld on appeal. However, on June 1, 1987, the Ohio Court of Appeals reversed Mueller’s conviction and ordered the case against him dismissed because there was insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.

“Here there was no evidence that appellant possessed any cocaine, let alone prepared it for shipment or distribution,” the appeals court said. “None of the evidence presented by the state is irreconcilable with the reasonable theory of innocence that appellant was merely in the company of a former cocaine addict who had removed numerous items from storage, including some drug paraphernalia, and brought the items to their motel room so that his ex-girlfriend could separate her personal belongings. A conviction cannot rest upon guilt by association.”

Mueller was released from prison and filed a lawsuit seeking to be declared a wrongly convicted person. On November 13, 1989, Common Pleas Judge P. Daniel Fedders declared Mueller a wrongly convicted person.

“There is no evidence that (Mueller) himself possessed cocaine or helped his friend prepare it for shipment or distribution,” Fedders ruled.

On April 3, 1990, the state of Ohio awarded Mueller $56,245 in compensation.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/11/2018
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1986
Sentence:2 years
Age at the date of reported crime:24
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No