JEFFERSON CITY (KTVI) - It’s up to a judge to decide if a man convicted of murder decades ago should walk free after the key witness recanted her testimony. It appears next week is the earliest we may learn 71-year-old Rodney Lincoln’s fate.
Lincoln has been in prison for more than 30 years for the murder of St. Louisan JoAnne Tate, and attacking her two young daughters with a knife. The surviving daughter and number one witness has held steadfast for years that Rodney Lincoln was the killer, but not anymore.
After the hearing, Lincoln’s supporters gathered outside the Cole County Courthouse, hopeful the convicted killer will soon go free.
“We’ve been waiting thirty four years what’s a couple more days,” said Rod Lincoln, Rodney’s son.
Melissa DeBoer was seven-years-old when her mother was killed. Her testimony put Rodney Lincoln in prison. Lincoln supporters said there’s no evidence that connects him to the case. In November, the television show ‘Crime Watch Daily’ aired a program suggesting serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells may have been the culprit. After watching the show, DeBoer said she had flashbacks and realized Sells was indeed the murderer.
“I think they presented enough evidence to prove we believe he’s innocent that Rodney’s innocent,” said Nathaniel Clenney, Melissa’s uncle.
The move to free Lincoln went into high gear. Kay Lincoln remembers when she talked to Melissa on the phone for the first time after her change of heart.
“What she said to me when she picked up the phone was, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’” said Kay, Rodney’s daughter.
The prosecution tried to punch holes in Melissa’s story and credibility.
During Friday’s testimony, Melissa testified she has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving in the military. She has short-term memory loss and issues focusing, as well as issues with flashbacks.
Second, when she was seven, she told detectives the killer was a man who lived near a playground with very specific items, like swings with horses. The prosecution pointed out that Rodney Lincoln lived near such a playground.
And third, it was brought up that serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells was in a youth detention center in Arkansas when the murder occurred, so he couldn’t have killed Melissa’s mom.
Rodney’s oldest son, Rod, said that wasn’t true.
“The juvenile center (Sells) was supposedly detained in at that time has no record of him every appearing there it was a voluntary appearance at that detention center,” Rod said.
It turns out Rodney Lincoln not only has many supporters outside prison, but also on the inside.
“When he got back to the doc yesterday and in the housing unit all the guys were lined up on the upper walk and they start cheering, ‘Free Rodney,’” Kay said.
Several witnesses including, Melissa DeBoer, testified they would feel safe if Rodney Lincoln is let out of prison.