In the summer of 1979, 22-year-old Brett Allen Bachelor and Kenneth Mullins were arrested for the strangulation slaying of 75-year-old apartment manager Chester “Brownie” Brown in Hillsborough County, Florida. Despite his insistence that he was innocent, Bachelor was convicted in November 1979 and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.
At the time of Bachelor’s conviction, Kenneth Mullins was still awaiting trial. In preparing for trial, Mullins’s attorney, Richard Lazzara, found new evidence of his client’s innocence that supported Bachelor’s claims of innocence as well. Specifically, Lazzara discovered that a key witness had misidentified Bachelor as one of the killers. Lazzara notified the prosecutor in the case, Bob Simms, who traveled out of state to re-interview witnesses in the case, and then agreed that Bachelor had been misidentified.
In 1980, Bachelor was granted a new trial based on this newly discovered evidence, and the judge dismissed the case. The charges against Kenneth Mullins were dismissed as well.
Nearly two decades later, Claudia Schauerhamer, a woman imprisoned in California for credit card fraud, was implicated in the murder of Chester Brown based on information she had shared with her sister. Her sister mentioned this information to police when they were investigating Schauerhamer’s involvement in a fraudulent ticket sale scheme. On November 17, 1998, Schauerhamer was convicted of the 1979 murder of Chester Brown. Sadly, Brett Bachelor had already died in 1991.
The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. The Registry also maintains a more limited database of known exonerations prior to 1989.
We welcome new information from any source about exonerations already on our list and about cases not in the Registry that might be exonerations.