Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson were wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of 21-year-old Debbie Carter, whose death shook the town of Ada, Oklahoma in 1982.
After over a decade of appeals, Williamson and Fritz were eventually exonerated and cleared of any wrongdoing, after it was found that DNA evidence overruled any possibility of their being at the scene of the crime. Glen Gore was subsequently arrested and charged with the rape and murder of Carter. He was sentenced to life in prison.
When Fritz was released at 49 years old, he went home to Kansas City and saw his daughter for the first time in 12 years. Fritz now lives with his mother in Kansas City, PBS reports; he and Williamson both settled with the state of Oklahoma for an undisclosed amount of money in 2002.
To Frontline, Fritz said, “The harm that it did to me was that it took 12 years out of my life, away from my family members. I was cheated of watching my daughter grow and flower into a woman. No amount of money on the face of the earth could even begin to make an amend for what happened.”
Fritz is now 68 years old. Here’s what you need to know about what he’s been up to since he was released from prison for a crime he didn’t commit:
Fritz Was Released From Prison in 1999; On October 6, 2006, He Released a Book
Fritz released His book, Journey Toward Justice, on October 6, 2006. Grisham reviewed the book, writing, “The story of the unwarranted prosecution and wrongful conviction of Dennis Fritz is compelling and fascinating. After serving eleven years for a murder he did not commit, Dennis was exonerated and had the strength and courage to put his life back together.”
In interviews, Fritz has spoken often about how much time he spent reading legal books in prison, as a means to work on his own case. On October 14, 2009, at the OCU School of Law, Fritz appeared on a panel titled “In Their Own Words: Oklahoma’s Exonerated Tell Their Stories.”
Fritz said, “I realized that since I had not been convicted of the death penalty like [Williamson] had, there was no death row counsels or attorneys to represent me. So I knew I was on my own, and I was going to have to learn the law and how to write my briefs. So I walked, talked, breathed, slept, dreamed about being a free man, which meant that I was going to have to do it…so that’s what I did.”
Fritz did submit several appeals, which were denied. His plight was finally picked up by the Ohio Innocence Project, and he and Williamson were exonerated in 1999.
Fritz Has Since Talked About How Religion ‘Saved’ Him During His Time in Prison
On The 700 Club(as seen in the video above), Fritz has spoken about how his religion helped him get through the hard times. He said, “I prayed to the lord, that I would be found innocent…but I also prepared myself for the worst.”
He also said that God had spoken to him while he was in prison, uttering two words that “saved” him: “Trust me.” Fritz said, “It reverberated throughout me…my whole being just floated up and the holy spirit came into me and I just started weeping.”
“I was going to do everything I could to get myself out of the penitentiary,” he said, “and I knew that if I did that, then the lord was going to do the rest.”