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DNA Tests Frees Man Jailed 13 Years for Rape

May 25, 1996

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ After spending 13 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit, Thomas Webb III refused to be bitter. He wanted only to savor his new-found freedom and look toward spending time with his family.

Webb was released Friday when authorities said at a court hearing that recent DNA tests of the 14-year-old evidence ruled him out as a suspect.

``Hallelujah. Praise God. Praise God,″ Webb, 36, said as he raised his arms skyward on the steps of the Cleveland County Courthouse.

He embraced and kissed his wife of almost a year.

``We’ve gone through some really rough times,″ Gale Webb said. ``We can have some good times now.″

Evidence at the 1983 trial included a positive identification of Webb by the woman who said he raped her in March 1982. DNA analysis was not widely used in 1983.

``I do not believe she lied,″ District Attorney Tim Kuykendall said. ``I think she truly believed Mr. Webb was the perpetrator.″

He said the victim accepts the results of the DNA analysis, which was done on semen stains collected in her apartment at the time of the crime and stored in an evidence vault.

Webb said he is not bitter toward his accuser, who was 20 years old at the time.

``I knew I didn’t do it,″ he said. ``We’ll get on with our lives. This is a brand new day for a lot of people.″

The Webbs met in 1993 at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center at Lexington, where she was a volunteer singer in a ministry program. Not long afterward, she began to believe in his innocence.

Webb and his attorney, Irven Box of Oklahoma City, credited Mrs. Webb for pushing authorities to use DNA genetic profiling to review the evidence that convicted him of first-degree rape.

``She came to me. She believes in him,″ Box said.

At the hearing, Kuykendall said, ``There’s nothing I can do to correct the 13 years of injustice he has endured in this case.″

State District Judge Tom Lucas granted a new trial and then a dismissal of rape and other charges against Webb. Before he was tried for rape, Webb had pleaded guilty to four burglary charges and was placed on probation.

Webb was planning a trip to St. Louis and Chicago for a reunion of family he has not seen in 17 years. He also was looking forward to spending time with his wife.

``We’re going to go on a honeymoon,″ he said.

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