Two men convicted of Satanism-motivated murder were exonerated Thursday, 26 years after their initial conviction when the Kentucky attorney general motioned to dismiss their charges.
The Kentucky attorney general’s office moved to dismiss charges against Garr Keith Hardin and Jeffrey Dewayne Clark, who were convicted in 1995 for the 1992 murder of Rhonda Sue Warford, that authorities claimed was a Satanic ritual sacrifice allegedly motivated by Hardin’s and Clark’s desire to become more powerful.
The attorney general’s office cited possible perjury by a testifying police officer and defective evidence as reasons for dismissing the charges, according to The Associated Press.
Meade Circuit Judge Bruce Butler ruled in 2016 that new DNA evidence discounted evidence that had been integral to their previous conviction. Butler said the evidence proved that another man, separate from Hardin and Clark, had left evidence on Warford’s body. The men remained in jail, however, as county prosecutors pledged to have them retried.
Clark and Hardin filed lawsuits in 2017 alleging that Detective Mark Handy fabricated statements from them, including an admission from Clark that he sacrificed an animal and wanted to sacrifice a human. Their suit also alleged the Louisville Metro Police Department used the fake admission and other fabricated statements and also distorted other evidence to validate a “false theory” that the men murdered Warford as part of a Satanic sacrifice, according to WDRB.
Meade county prosecutors indicted the men for kidnapping and perjury, but Butler dismissed those charges, as he found them to be vindictive.
With Hardin and Clark now exonerated, authorities will continue to investigate Warford’s murder.
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