DNA clears sex offender after two decades in jail

Aug. 12, 2004. 10:23 AM

SHARPES, Fla. (AP) A man who served 22 years in prison for rape was freed early today after DNA evidence proved he was not the attacker.


Wilton A. Dedge, 42, walked out of Brevard County Jail with his parents just hours after the test results, which had been ordered last month by a judge. The state legislature passed a law in 2001 that allowed DNA retesting in older cases.


"DNA has done its job," state attorney Norm Wolfinger said. "I believe in our system of justice, although it's not perfect. Thank God DNA came up in this case."


At two trials, the victim, age 17 at the time of the attack, identified Dedge as the man who slashed her with a knife and raped her twice in 1981. She had originally described her attacker as being six feet tall and weighing 160 to 180 pounds. Dedge at the time was five feet six and about 125 pounds.


Other disputed evidence against Dedge included testimony by a notorious jailhouse snitch. Dedge was convicted at both trials and sentenced to life in prison.


Wolfinger said the victim "was devastated by the news" that Dedge was not her attacker. He said there are no other suspects.