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David Kingrea

Other Virginia Exonerations
In 2011, Shawn Smith told his mother, Melissa Smith, that David Kingrea, her former boyfriend, had sexually molested him several times during late 2008. The incidents took place at the house in Pilot, Virginia, where Kingrea and the Smiths had lived when Kingrea and Melissa Smith were together. At the time, Shawn was 10 years old.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office investigated the allegations. Deputy Eric Snow interviewed the boy and Kingrea. Snow would later testify that Kingrea, who was then 38 years old, was cooperative and denied any sexual abuse of Shawn. Kingrea was arrested on November 29, 2011, and charged with four counts of sodomy and two counts of taking indecent liberties with a child.

By the time Kingrea went to trial in Montgomery County Circuit Court in March 2014, the sodomy charges and one of the indecent liberties charges had been dismissed.

Shawn testified that the abuse took place during the summer of 2008, when Kingrea watched him and his younger brother while Melissa Smith was working. Shawn said Kingrea touched his penis and made the boy touch Kingrea’s penis. Shawn said he didn’t tell anyone because he was “embarrassed,” and he was afraid that Kingrea would “whip” him if he revealed the abuse. Shawn said Kingrea frequently disciplined him, sometimes in response to Shawn hurting his little brother.

Shawn testified that the abuse stopped in the late summer, after his mother broke up with Kingrea and they moved out of the house.

Melissa Smith testified that the household became volatile in the summer of 2008 because Kingrea was drinking heavily. His punishment of the boys left the children with bruises, and she testified she left after Kingrea gave her a black eye. She also testified that she had felony violations, including a 2009 conviction for the fraudulent use of a credit card owned by Kingrea’s mother.

Kingrea testified and said he never sexually abused Shawn. He admitted spanking the boy when he mistreated his younger brother. He acknowledged that the county’s department of social services opened up an investigation based on the boys’ bruises. Kingrea also said that during this time he was abusing marijuana and crack cocaine, but that he had begun attending church after he and Melissa Smith broke up.

During closing arguments, Fred Kellerman, Kingrea’s attorney, said that it was possible that Melissa Smith had turned her son against Kingrea to get back at him for the fraud conviction. “I feel so sorry that [Shawn’s] childhood was stolen,” Kellerman said. “But it wasn't stolen by David. It was stolen by their mother.”

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Dean Manor said that scenario was far-fetched. Shawn’s testimony was too embarrassing and personal to be made-up, Manor said. On March 24, 2014, the jury convicted Kingrea of taking indecent liberties. He was sentenced to a year in prison and also required to register as a sex offender.

At his sentencing, Kingrea again asserted his innocence. “I respect y’all’s decision, but I’m innocent,” he said, according to the Roanoke Times. “I’m truly innocent. I did not do this. It’s a hard pill to swallow that I’ve been convicted of something I did not do.”

Kingrea appealed, but the Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction in 2016.

In October 2020, Smith recanted his testimony, first in a letter to Kingrea, and later in an affidavit, and said that Kingrea had physically but not sexually abused him. The recantation came after Smith pled guilty in January 2020 to several charges of child abuse. He wrote: “I am twenty-two years old and currently incarcerated and I now understand what I put Mr. Kingrea through.”

On August 19, 2021, Kellerman filed a petition for a writ of actual innocence with the Virginia Court of Appeals. The state’s attorney general moved to hold an evidentiary hearing to ascertain Shawn’s truthfulness and credibility. The hearing took place on March 3, 2022, before Judge Robert Turk, who had presided over Kingrea’s trial.

Smith testified about the events in 2008. The state questioned the truthfulness of Smith’s recantation because he had used his status as a victim of sexual abuse in asking for leniency during the sentencing for his conviction for child abuse.

Turk reported his findings to the appellate court on March 31, 2022. He said that Smith’s recantation appeared to be genuine and he had stated under oath that his trial testimony against Kingrea was false. Turk also said that Smith had testified that no one, including Kingrea, had influenced his decision to recant, and that the falsity of Smith’s testimony was not known to anyone at the time of the trial.

On June 6, 2022, the Virginia Court of Appeals granted Kingrea’s petition and issued him a writ of actual innocence.

Persons seeking writs of innocence in Virginia are presumed guilty. To prevail in court, they must show that their new evidence of innocence was “previously unknown, unavailable, or untested evidence is not merely cumulative, corroborative, or collateral.”

“Despite knowledge that his testimony at the evidentiary hearing could lead to prosecution for multiple counts of felony perjury, Shawn remained committed to recanting his prior false testimony in support of Kingrea’s innocence,” the court said. “Perhaps most notably, Shawn did not recant his testimony that Kingrea physically abused him. Shawn admitted the reason he originally fabricated the allegations of sexual abuse against Kingrea was because he wanted ‘revenge’ for the ‘whippings’ Kingrea gave him.” Smith’s recantation undermined the state’s case, the court said.

“We determine that when considered under the preponderance of evidence standard, no rational trier of fact would have found proof of Kingrea’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt without the false testimony in the record,” the court said.

The Virginia Attorney General said it would not appeal the court’s ruling, which would also remove Kingrea from the sexual-offender registry.

Kingrea married around the time of his trial, and he and his wife later had a son. Kingrea’s placement on the registry prevented him from participating in his son’s school activities. “I’m overjoyed,” he told the Roanoke Times. “It’s something out of a storybook.”

In February 2023, the Virginia legislature voted to award Kingrea $58,942 in compensation.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 6/29/2022
Last Updated: 2/22/2023
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2008
Sentence:1 year
Age at the date of reported crime:35
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No