DALLAS (CBS/AP) Police on Wednesday arrested a convicted child molester whose fingerprint was found at the scene of a 1990 sexual assault on a 5-year-old girl - a crime for which a deaf man, Stephen Brodie, was wrongly convicted.
Brodie was exonerated last month after spending 10 years behind bars.
Police and investigators from the Dallas County District Attorney's office took Robert Warterfield into custody as a suspect in a different, 1989, sexual assault on a child.
The DA's office said in a statement that its forensics lab confirmed a DNA match between Warterfield and evidence left at the scene of the unsolved 1989 assault on a 9-year-old Dallas girl.
When Brodie, who is deaf, was arrested and convicted for the 1990 child sex assault, police knew that a fingerprint, found on a window at the crime scene, did not match Brodie or anyone living there. Brodie would later confess to the crime, although he later said he felt intimidated and coerced.
Although there was no physical evidence linking Brodie to the crime, he pleaded guilty after a judge refused to throw out the confession. What neither Brodie nor his defense attorney knew at the time was that the police had hair and fingerprint evidence from the crime scene that didn't match Brodie or anyone else in the house. Michelle Moore, Brodie's current attorney, said prosecutors failed to notify the defense that testing of a fingerprint found on the victim's bedroom window, and a hair found at the scene, did not match Brodie.
A year after Brodie's conviction in that case, police learned the fingerprint belonged to Warterfield, who later pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a girl in 1994. Warterfield also was suspected by Dallas police in the dozen unsolved sexual assaults and attempted assaults of young girls in the area.
Police, however, discounted the Warterfield print as coincidence, saying Warterfield "somehow touched the frame when he was wandering around in the neighborhood four days prior to this offense," according to police records. He was never arrested in the 1990 case.
In a 1994 appeal, Stephen Brodie's attorney cited the fingerprint on the window. But a judge denied the appeal, ruling that Brodie's confession outweighed the fingerprint evidence.
After serving five years for the 1993 conviction, Brodie was sent back to prison twice for a total of five more years because he failed to register as a sex offender.
Meanwhile, Waterfield received 10 year probation for his 1994 sexual assault. He eventually was sentenced to 10 years in prison for violating his probation.
Until Waterfield's arrest Wednesday for the 1989 case, he was free and working for a yard service in Stephenville, according to the Texas sex offender registry.
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