AKRON-- The appeal of a decision to exonerate former Akron Police Captain Douglas Prade in the 1997 murder of his ex-wife is awaiting a decision by the 9th District Ohio Court of Appeals in Akron.
Prade, 66, was released from the Madison Correctional Institution near Columbus on Tuesday after serving fifteen years of a life sentence.
He was convicted in 1998 of killing Dr. Margo Prade, 41, who was found shot to death in a van outside of her Akron area office.
Citing DNA evidence that has been analyzed since the trial, Summit County Common Pleas Judge Judith Hunter on Tuesday ordered Prade released, ruling that had the jury seen that evidence they would not have convicted him.
Mary Myers, Ph. D., now a professor at the University of Akron, was the head of the Akron Police Department's Homicide Division in 1997 and supervised the investigation of Prade's murder.
She says she knew Captain Prade from the late 1970s.
"When he was supervising the evening shift and I was working on the night shift, I'd go down to talk to him in his office. I came to respect him greatly. I liked him," said Myers.
Following the murder of his wife, however, Myers says she supervised an investigation that she now describes as "overwhelming."
"At one point I had seventeen detectives that were involved in this case. So I sat down one day, when I had a minute and counted up, kind of estimated the number of hours that we had investigated in this one homicide case, and I counted over ten thousand man hours, personnel hours in this case. I have never seen that done on another homicide case in Akron- that intense," said Myers.
Myers says the investigators followed in whatever direction their evidence took them.
"We went in all kinds of directions and in each case it lead us to a dead end and we came back and kept investigating and the path lead to Doug," said Myers, adding "It's almost like a forest and I looked at each tree, each piece of evidence as we accumulated more and more and more in this investigation and we found a path that said there is no one else that would have had a motive to do this and the only person that this is pointing at was Doug."
Myers admits that detectives did not have the DNA evidence at the time, evidence that came from a bite mark on the lab coat of Dr. Prade.
One analysis of the DNA is unable to connect it to Prade. Prosecutors, however, say another analysis by experts with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation call the results inconclusive and unreliable.
"We pulled Margo out of the van and her body was limp. We had to pull her out. We all had to grab hold of that lab coat and put her on a white sheet and then take the lab coat off and how many times has that lab coat been handled or picked up?" questioned Myers, who noted "My DNA that fell off of me as I was there and so (DNA) is a wonderful tool, but it's one tool."
"We are talking about a matter of a couple of samples that had three to five cells in one and eight to ten cells in the other according to the judge's order," she added.
Myers says she respects Judge Hunter's decision but will follow the case as it proceeds through the court of appeals.
"This is a very important case. It could eventually end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, because of the continued technology and development of such things like DNA analysis."