Convicted murderer could be freed after key witness recants testimony

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JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KTVI) - It was an emotional day in a Jefferson City courtroom Thursday as the key witness in a murder trial from 1982 tearfully recanted her testimony. She did so after watching a program here on Fox 2.

Rodney Lincoln has been in prison for 34 years following his conviction for the murder of JoAnne Tate. Her daughter, Melissa DeBoer, was the witness to the murder. Not only was Lincoln convicted of the murder, but also of attacking Melissa and her sister. Melissa was just 7 years-old when it happened. On Thursday, she told the judge she was all wrong.

Supporters of Lincoln gathered outside the courthouse before the proceedings began, including two of his daughters. Kellie Porter was one of them.

“I’m confident he will be coming home,” she said.

Lincoln, now 71, entered the court, which was packed with his friends and family. He smiled and listened closely when his former accuser took the stand.

DeBoer said at the age of 7 she felt a great responsibility to catch the bad man who killed her mother. She told how she wanted please police detectives, who became like family too her.

“I think she’s a very brave woman. I think she’s brave, she’s courageous, and I think she’s telling a very compelling story,” said Kay Lincoln, Rodney’s daughter.

DeBoer described how she felt manipulated to say the killer was Rodney Lincoln. For decades she stuck to her story until the TV show ‘Crime Watch Daily’ suggested the murderer may have been Tommy Lynn Sells, a well-known serial killer. After that program aired, DeBoer said she was unsettled, that memories came back telling her that Sells was indeed the killer.

“Upsetting (that) a young child was manipulated in the manner she was manipulate just to pin a prosecution upon somebody,” said Rodney Lincoln Jr.

DeBoer wasn’t the only one in her family to think Lincoln was not the killer after watching the show.

“When we saw Tommy Sells, it just hit us we felt like that’s him that’s him,” said Nathaniel Clenney, DeBoer’s uncle.

DeBoer said she wants to set the record straight and free Rodney Lincoln.

“We have the truth on our side,” said Kay Lincoln.

The hearing continues Friday.