Crime

Man Cleared In Murder Of Mother After 15 Years In Prison, Another Family Member Arrested

| by Kathryn Schroeder
Donovan AllenDonovan Allen

After 15 years in prison for his mother’s murder, new DNA evidence has cleared a man from Longview, Washington, of the crime. Police have arrested another family member for the 2000 murder of Sharon Cox.

Donovan Allen, 34, was cleared of his 2002 aggravated first-degree murder conviction on Dec. 1 and released from Clallam Bay Corrections Center the following day, KPTV reported. 

On the same day, 42-year-old Brian Kitts, the adopted son of Cox’s sister, was charged with aggravated first-degree murder.

According to court documents, Kitts was present at the home of Cox an hour before Allen called 911 to report his mother’s death, KPTV reported. Kitts testified against Allen at his trial, stating there was strife between mother and son.

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A broken phone cord at the scene of the crime was believed to be the murder weapon, having been used to strangle Cox, reported KPTV. She also suffered blunt force head trauma.

Allen underwent 14 hours of questioning following his mother’s death and confessed to police that he had strangled his mother with a phone cord. His defense argued that police elicited a false confession that he later recounted.

Allen’s trial ended in a hung jury, and he was convicted of Cox’s murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Earlier in 2015, lawyers representing Allen from Innocence Project Northwest requested new DNA testing of two shirts Cox was wearing at the time she was killed, according to KPTV. The results from the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, received on Sept. 30, found Kitts’s DNA in the collar area of both shirts.

Kitts, in defense of the DNA evidence, claimed Cox greeted him with a hug the day of her murder and that it was a common occurrence when he went there to work on projects, reported KPTV. Cox’s husband and a longtime friend said she did not usually greet people with a hug, and that Kitts was not involved in any projects around her home.

The amount of DNA on the shirts was found by a forensic scientist to not be consistent with casual contact, including hugging, reported KPTV.

Kitts was arrested and has pleaded not guilty.

Allen was set free.

"It feels surreal," Allen said in a statement emailed by Anna Tolin, Innocence Project Northwest's director, to AP. "I can finally begin the life I was robbed of ... I'm so glad to have a second chance to be a father, a son, an uncle."

Tolin is happy Allen may start his new life.

"I've been meeting with Donovan at this prison for the past four years, and I am truly humbled to share this moment when Donovan can begin to rebuild his life after all he has endured," Tolin wrote.

According to an Innocence Project Northwest release obtained by KPTV, Allen spent his first moments out of prison at the Olympic Peninsula, went to see the holiday lights in Seattle, and enjoyed a steak dinner that he found to be “the best meal he has had in 16 years.”

Sources: KPTV, AP / Photo credit: KPTV