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Walter Pecho

In 1960, six years after being convicted of the murder of his wife in their Lansing, Michigan, home, Walter A. Pecho was granted an unconditional pardon based on new evidence indicating that her death was a suicide.
On June 9, 1954, Walter Pecho, a Lansing factory worker, called police to report that his wife, Eleanor Pecho, had killed herself. When the police arrived, they found the body of Eleanor Pecho seated in a living room chair, shot through the chest with a shotgun. Although a purported suicide note was found, a pathologist, Dr. Charles E. Black, concluded Mrs. Pecho could not have fired the weapon herself, given the angle from which the shot had been fired. On that basis, Walter Pecho was charged with murder. A jury found him guilty on October 19, 1954, and he was sentenced to an indeterminate term of fifteen to twenty years in prison.
Soon after the trial, a defense attorney discovered evidence of Pecho’s innocence that had not been presented during the trial. Namely, Eleanor Pecho’s fingerprint had been found on the back of the shotgun’s trigger guard, and there was no similar evidence that her husband had handled the weapon. In 1959, Pecho hired a recent law school graduate, Robert Warner, as his new attorney. Warner immediately hired pathologist Dr. Richard E. Olsen to reexamine the evidence. Olson described Mrs. Pecho’s death as a “classic suicide.” Pecho took eight polygraph tests, each of which indicated he was telling the truth about his wife’s death. Nonetheless, the courts denied Pecho a new trial.

Michigan Governor G. Mennen Williams launched his own reinvestigation of Pecho’s case and, on June 10, 1960, he granted Pecho an unconditional pardon, declaring the case a “miscarriage of justice.”
- Researched by Tomi Mendel
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Reported Crime Date:1954
Sentence:15 to 20 years
Age at the date of crime:35
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence