(AKRON, Ohio) — A former Ohio police captain has been cleared in the murder of his ex-wife and released from prison, where he had been for 15 years — but prosecutors say they plan to appeal the ruling.
“I’m just a jumble of emotions and I just can’t wait to hug all of my family,” Douglas Prade told reporters outside the prison when he was released, according to ABC News Cleveland affiliate WEWS-TV.
He thanked “all of the people that supported me and communicated with me and told me to keep my spirits up.”
Prade’s ex-wife, Dr. Margo Prade, 41, was found shot to death in her minivan outside of her medical practice in November 1997.
Douglas Prade was an Akron, Ohio, police captain at the time.
At trial, he was convicted on murder and wiretapping charges and sentenced to life in prison.
Prade, now 66, maintained his innocence and, eventually, the Ohio Innocence Project took up his cause and petitioned for his release or a new trial based on new DNA testing.
One of the key factors in Prade’s conviction was a bite mark found on Margo Prade’s body. The prosecution brought in an expert that testified the bite mark came from Douglas Prade.
The Ohio Innocence Project commissioned a new DNA test that was not available at the time of the trial. The test found that the DNA around the bite was not Douglas Prade’s.
Prosecutor Sherri Walsh is strongly disputing the new DNA evidence.
“This is a gross misapplication of the law, and we will be appealing Prade’s exoneration. The defendant had to present new evidence so convincing that no juror would have found him guilty, and he failed to do so,” Walsh said in a statement. “The DNA evidence presented by the Ohio Innocence Project on behalf of Prade is contaminated and unreliable. It does not prove innocence.”
Walsh said that all evidence points to Prade as the person who killed Margo Prade.
“He was a serial stalker,” Walsh said. “He tapped her phones and recorded more than 400 of her personal calls. He had verbally abused and threatened her. And we know Margo was afraid of him.”
Other evidence includes Prade’s handwritten tally of the bills he owed subtracted from the life insurance money he’d get if his wife died, Walsh said. Two witnesses placed him at the murder scene.
“We have not seen any credible evidence that suggests innocence, and we are taking all available actions to keep a dangerous killer off the streets,” Walsh said.
Alison McCarty, the former prosecutor on the case, told WEWS she respected the court’s decision, but emphasized that the case is not yet closed.
“[Margo Prade] was such a superstar and it was just such a tremendous loss, and her death still needs justice,” McCarty said.
The state has 30 days to file a motion in the court of appeals requesting permission to appeal the decision for a new trial.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Erin McClam, CNN
Eliza Mackintosh, CNN
Seth Fiegerman, CNN