Murder Charges Dropped After 17 Years

Alprentiss Nash, 37, says he's not angry, just wants to get on with life

The Cook County state's attorney last Thursday dropped murder charges against a Chicago man who'd been in prison since 1997 for a crime evidence indicates he might not have committed.

Alprentiss Nash left Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois on Friday after Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez's office went to court and asked a judge to vacate murder charges against him. Nash was sentenced to 80 years in prison on the charges in connection with the 1995 death of Leon Stroud of Chicago's South Side.

"The decision to vacate this conviction comes as a result of a comprehensive investigation into the facts of this case," Alvarez said, adding her office's Conviction Integrity Unit reviewed DNA evidence, old court and police records, and even re-interviewed witnesses to arrive at the decision.

"Based upon the new DNA evidence and the collective results of our investigation, it is my assessment that we do not have the evidence that is required to sustain this murder charge," she said.

Nash's attorney, Kathleen Zellner, said she asked her client in a telephone call how was his day going, and he answered that it was like any other day in prison.

"'Well, you're going to be a free man tomorrow,' I told him," said Zellner. "He just started yelling and shouting and praising God. It was great."

Nash said that while he's shocked, he's not angry. He just wants to get on with his life.

"The time is now. I'm a free man and I'm going to move forward," he said.

According to court records, Nash was arrested shortly after the April 30, 1995, crime in Chicago's West Pullman neighborhood. He was convicted on witness testimony.

The killer wore a black ski mask during the crime. One was recovered from a gate post near Stroud's home. During a post-conviction appeal, Nash sought DNA testing of the mask. That was opposed by the state's attorney's office and subsequently dismissed by a circuit judge.

An Illinois Appellate Court later reversed that decision, ordering the DNA testing that in 2010 came back with a genetic profile matching another man.

Alvarez said the investigation into the murder of Stroud is continuing, and that they know the identity of man implicated by the DNA. He was recently paroled after serving time on a drug conviction.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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