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Man convicted of 1983 murder cleared after spending nearly four decades in prison

Man wrongfully convicted of murder set free after nearly 40 years in prison
Man wrongfully convicted of murder set free after nearly 40 years in prison 02:23

A 69-year-old man who has spent nearly the last four decades in prison after being convicted of murder was freed on Friday, after new evidence exonerated him from the crime. 

Maurice Hastings was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of Inglewood woman Roberta Wydermyer and the attempted murder of both her husband Billy Ray and friend George Pinson in 1988. 

After he spent the last 38 years in prison, newly tested DNA evidence cleared Hastings and identified a different individual in the crime, which occurred in 1983. 

"I'm not pointing fingers. I'm not standing up here a bitter man," Hastings  said during a downtown Los Angeles news conference. "But I just want to enjoy my life while I have it. And I just want to move forward."

His conviction for abduction, sexual assault, murder and attempted murder was vacated due to a joint effort from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office and the Los Angeles Innocence Project. 

"We no longer have any confidence in the veracity of the case against Mr. Hastings," said LA DA George Gascón, who noted that Hastings had consistently proclaimed innocence over the years. "You are a free man today because of your perseverance."

Hastings' first trial ended in a hung jury, but a second trial found him guilty of the crimes. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. 

"The system failed you," he said, also speaking at the conference. "The system failed the victims."

The actual murderer identified by DNA died in 2020, when he was serving time in prison for a separate case of kidnapping and rape. 

Back in 1983, Wydermyer is said to have gone on a late-night trip to a market in Inglewood, but never came home. Her husband and friend attempted to find her, locating her car, which had been stolen. As they pursued the vehicle, the suspect fired several shots at them, wounding Billy Ray Wydermyer. 

Police say that the man robbed Roberta, sexually assaulted her and then shot her in the back of the head before hiding her in the trunk of her car, which he stole. 

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