Missouri man cleared in 1997 sex case by DNA evidence

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CARTHAGE, Mo. (AP) _ A southwestern Missouri man who spent nearly two decades in mental hospitals for a conviction of a 1997 sexual assault of a teenage girl has been ordered freed after genetic evidence exonerated him.

Jasper County’s prosecutor says recent DNA testing of a cigarette butt and condom linked to the crime did not belong to 58-year-old Mike Wilkerson of Avilla.

The victim, 17 years old at the time, said she was sexually assaulted in her home, and she identified Wilkerson as her attacker from a photo lineup.

Wilkerson had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and was ordered committed to mental hospitals. But a judge last year threw out that plea, prompting new analyses of the condom and cigarette butt.

Prosecutors last Friday dismissed the charges against him.