Society

Man's Life Destroyed After Police Wrongly Charge Him With Child Rape

| by Jared Keever

A North Carolina man says he is trying to piece his life back together after he was wrongfully charged with child rape.

Tommy Keith Wall of Sanford, North Carolina, told The Huffington Post recently that the charges caused him to lose his home and his job and it badly hurt his reputation in the community. 

“I served my church, was working a career, and overnight it was all gone,” he said. 

Wall, 50, spent 105 days in jail, beginning June 24, on charges of first-degree child rape, first-degree sex offense against a child and felony conspiracy. The dismissal statement says he was released after further investigation into the case revealed authorities had charged the “wrong person.”

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“It was horrible,” Wall's attorney, Fred Webb, said. “He was charged with one of the most horrible crimes, and that can never be recovered from. Not only was he charged, but it was plastered all over the Internet.”

The Harnett County Sheriff’s Office arrested Wall following an investigation into Bailey Joe Mills, 33, a third-strike sex offender who pleaded guilty to charges of manufacturing child pornography in August. 

Mills, according to WRAL News, was running an unregistered daycare out of his home. Searches of the home turned up a number of videotapes of Mills, and others, molesting children ages 1 to 14 years. 

The case eventually led to the arrest of Mills’ wife, Elizabeth Mills. Police also arrested Wall and two other men in connection with the case, according to WNCT News

Police said they had surveillance video of Wall meeting with Elizabeth Mills in 2011. They also said they had video of Wall sexually assaulting a child. 

Wall admitted to meeting Mills in 2011, but he said he was dropping off a load of lumber for his company. 

After spending over three months in jail, Wall appeared in court when prosecutors played the video tape of the sexual assault. Wall said it was only then that the sheriff’s office and prosecutors realized they had made a big mistake. 

“When they did show it, they noticed I was not the man in the video,” he said. “I have tattoos on my back; the guy in the video did not. The voice was different, the hair was different, the glasses were different, the man had a big mole on his head -- everything was different.”

His attorney, Webb, said it was the first time he was permitted to see the video. 

Now forced to live with his mother, Wall said he is working on paying off debts and trying to find a job. His employer fired him after the charges were made public and has declined to rehire him. 

“When I got papers showing I was cleared of everything, I sent it to the people in management,” Wall said. “I didn't get a reply from any of them, but I did get a call from human resources saying they didn't have any position for me and good luck with my career.”

He said he is considering filing a civil suit against Harnett County. But his attorney says such a suit wouldn’t be about the money. 

“The money will not recover his reputation,” Webb said. “His reputation is ruined, and that's what he's trying to get back.”

Sources: The Huffington Post, WRAL News, WNCT News / Photo Credit: WRAL, Police photo via WNCN News