Man Charged as Teen in 1985 Death Released from Prison

Ralph "Ricky" Birch, a man who was convicted more than three decades ago in the stabbing and beating death of a 65-year-old man in 1985, was released from prison Tuesday after the state Supreme Court overturned the decision last month.

Judge John Danaher in Torrington on Tuesday ordered the release as prosecutors decide whether to retry him and another man in connection with a killing in 1985. The other man, Shawn Henning, was released on probation last year.

The Connecticut Supreme Court found that Birch and Henning were convicted based in part on false testimony about blood stains on a towel that later were proven not to be blood.

Last month, famed forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee was on the defensive, firing back against claims that testimony he gave wrongfully sent the two men to jail for a brutal 1985 murder.

Sixty-five-year-old Everett Carr, of New Milford, was killed Dec. 1, 1985. He had been stabbed 27 times, his throat was cut and he suffered seven blows to the head.

Birch and Henning were teenagers when they were charged two years after the crime. Birch has been serving a 55-year sentence for felony murder and Henning 50 years.

A key element of the convictions was testimony by Dr. Lee that a stain found on a towel found in Carr’s home was blood. Decades later, it’s been revealed that the towel was never tested in a state crime lab and that the substance on it isn’t blood. But Lee said he did properly test the towel and it was up to the state to test more.

“I want to correct the record. I did the test. We did the test. Towel been tested,” Lee said last month.

“My testimony, I say I conduct presumptive tests. Presumptive test is a chemical test. Only given preliminary identification it could be blood. Maybe not blood. That’s why police have to collect the items to send to library to do confirmation tests,” Lee said.

The Connecticut Innocence Project began looking at the case 2006 and their director said they believe Birch and Henning are innocent of the charges. 

It’ll be up to the Litchfield State’s Attorney to determine whether the men will be brought to trial again. A spokesperson for the state attorney general said that decision is likely to come within several months, possibly sooner.

Birch walked out of prison on conditional release Tuesday and said one of the first things he wants to do is have a steak.

He will be staying with a friend until moving to a halfway house.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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