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After 39 years in prison, Craig Coley, who was wrongfully convicted of two murders, was released and he subsequently settled his wrongful conviction claim with Simi Valley for $21 million dollars. In 1978 Coley’s ex-girlfriend and her son were murdered and in 1980 he was convicted of those murders. Los Angeles domestic violence defense attorneys know that in cases of violence and murder, the initial person of interest is often the victim’s current or former domestic partner, even when there is no evidence to back up police suspicions. This is why finding an experienced domestic violence defense attorney is critical for people facing or potentially facing charges of domestic violence.
In November of 1978, the bodies of Rhonda Wicht and her four-year-old son, Donald Wicht, were found in their Simi Valley apartment. Craig Coley was arrested later that day on suspicion of raping and then strangling Rhonda Wicht and suffocating Donald Wicht. Rhonda Wicht’s family was reportedly shocked that Coley was charged with the murders. Coley was very close to Rhonda’s family and for 39 years they were led to believe that Coley killed their sister, Rhonda.
Craig Coley was tried twice for Rhonda and Donald’s murders. His first trial ended with a hung jury in 1979 and he was retried in 1980 where the second jury found him guilty of both murders. About ten years later, a Simi Valley police officer reviewed Coley’s case and found that the original investigation was mishandled with what he referred to as ‘numerous red flags.’ He worked for years to help see Coley’s conviction overturned. Eventually, the case was investigated again in 2016 and exculpatory evidence was discovered which led to Coley’s conviction being overturned.
After 39 years of believing the case was solved, the investigation has once again resumed into the murders of Rhonda Wicht and Donald Wicht. There have been no arrests, but the case has been assigned to a detective who is following all leads including new evidence that turned up in the 2016 investigation. New DNA analysis found DNA evidence from an unknown male on Rhonda Wicht’s bed sheets and police are actively looking to learn the identity of that unknown male.
Domestic violence and other criminal charges are very serious and as Craig Coley has learned, being innocent does not necessarily mean a not guilty determination. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is critical when you have been charged with a crime. An experienced attorney will try to find holes in the prosecution’s case and argue to have your charges reduced or dismissed.
If you have been charged with domestic violence or another crime, contact a Los Angeles domestic violence defense attorney at Okabe and Haushalter to discuss your case and potential defenses. A criminal conviction could mean financial penalties, prison sentence, and a criminal record, all of which will have a lasting impact on your life.