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DNA frees Pennsylvania man imprisoned 34 years for girl's rape, murder

"I never showed emotions yet because I’ve been let down too many times. I wanted to wait until there was no chance of being let down," Lewis Fogle said after his release Thursday.

By Doug G. Ware
Lewis Fogle was arrested and convicted in the 1976 rape and murder of a 15-year-old Pennsylvania girl, for which he was sentenced to serve life in prison without parole. Thursday, he was freed from prison after a new round of DNA testing exonerated him from the rape. Prosecutors now must decide whether to retry him on the murder charge. Photo: f11photo / Shutterstock.
Lewis Fogle was arrested and convicted in the 1976 rape and murder of a 15-year-old Pennsylvania girl, for which he was sentenced to serve life in prison without parole. Thursday, he was freed from prison after a new round of DNA testing exonerated him from the rape. Prosecutors now must decide whether to retry him on the murder charge. Photo: f11photo / Shutterstock.

PITTSBURGH, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- A man convicted of raping and killing a teenage girl almost 40 years ago was released from a Pennsylvania penitentiary this week after a new round of DNA testing led a judge to scrap his sentence.

Lewis Fogle was arrested five years after the 1976 murder of 15-year-old Deann Katherine Long in Cherry Tree, Pa. -- and received a life sentence, without parole, following his conviction in 1982.

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In other words, Fogle was sentenced to die in prison. After just seven minutes in a Pennsylvania court Thursday, though, he regained his freedom.

"I'd like to get me a steak," he reportedly said upon leaving the walls of a maximum security prison. "I haven't had beef for a long, long time. We get suet instead of beef, and I don't like suet."

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For years, Fogle's case has been in the care of lawyers at the nonprofit Innocence Project, a legal outfit dedicated to exonerating persons wrongly convicted of crimes. The firm was instrumental in obtaining a new round of DNA testing after genetic material was recovered from the victim with new technology.

The result: Fogle wasn't the rapist. Senior Judge David Grine of Centre County and Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty immediately moved to vacate the conviction.

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"I think when it really sunk in was ... in the court room," Fogle said. "I never showed emotions yet because I've been let down too many times. I wanted to wait until there was no chance of being let down.

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"I couldn't see giving up and making people think I was guilty for something I didn't do."

Although Fogle was released from incarceration, he did so on bond -- and must return to court in September. Prosecutors can retry him for the girl's murder -- but because it's been proven that Fogle wasn't the man who raped her, it's possible authorities will also conclude that he didn't kill her, either.

Dougherty has said he will only retry Fogle if the evidence indicates he is guilty, and only if there is a good likelihood of obtaining another conviction.

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"[The vacated conviction] doesn't mean he's innocent," Dougherty said. "It simply means there is not enough evidence to convict. It is a technicality, but it is worth giving Mr. Fogle his relief."

"In all fairness, a young woman was raped and murdered," he added. ""Part of my role is to prosecute, but I also have a duty, and I took an oath not to have somebody in jail that shouldn't be there."

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Fogle, who was 28 when he was arrested, has spent more than half of his life in prison. He is now 63.

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