Only eyewitness in 1982 St. Louis murder says she`s recanting

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(KTVI) - A new development in a decades old murder case could free a man who`s serving a life sentence.  The twist happened after the airing of a special report by Crime Watch Daily, a program that airs every weekday on FOX 2 at 2 pm.

Crime Watch revealed the possibility the murder of JoAnn Tate was committed by notorious serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells.  In that report, one of the surviving daughter`s stood by her memory of what she remembered seeing in 1982 when she was seven years old.

Melissa DeBoer told Crime Watch, 'I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Rodney Lincoln killed my mom and tried to kill me and my sister.'

She picked Lincoln out of a photo line-up where he stood with men who all had similar hair, except for him.

Lincoln, who`d already served time after killing a man in a fight, was convicted solely on that eyewitness testimony.  He never backed down from his claims of innocence.  Then Crime Watch Daily talked to private investigator Bill Clutter, who wants to compare an unknown print at the murder scene to serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells.  'We can place him in St. Louis at the time of the crime,' Clutter said of Sells.

After the Crime Watch Daily report aired last month, surviving victim Melissa started posting doubts about her memory on Facebook.

'When you knew something ever since you could remember then one day you wondered is that what I remember or is that what I was told to remember.'  She also said 'An innocent man sits in prison for a crime he did not commit.'

A relative of Melissa contacted me to say family supports her and they`re proud of her courage in admitting she may have been wrong.

Convict Rodney Lincoln`s daughter Kay said she never expected it.  By phone she said, 'We`re extremely excited.  We`re very happy and we`re hopeful things move swiftly from here, because there are still legal proceedings taking place.  I can`t comment any more specifically than that.'

The St. Louis Circuit Attorney`s office sent a statement saying, 'The Circuit Attorney`s Office became aware of Ms. DeBoer`s recent thoughts yesterday, and a prosecutor in the Circuit Attorney`s Office has spoken with her directly.  We originally re-opened the case involving Rodney Lincoln in 2003 in a proactive review of 1,400 old convictions to determine whether the application of recently available DNA technology could potentially vindicate a convicted defendant or shed new light on a crime. Over the years, prosecutors have worked with the Midwest Innocence Project investigating this matter, and we have found no new evidence that either confirms Mr. Lincoln`s guilt or exonerates him.

Since 1982, prosecutors have stood by Ms. DeBoer`s positive identification of Mr. Lincoln as her mother`s killer and the person who viciously assaulted her and her sister.  She has been found to be a credible and reliable witness, and other evidence corroborated her account of events at the time of trial.  In addition, her story has remained consistent over time.  Although we find it strange and concerning that she is recanting her identification of Mr. Lincoln at this time, we are actively pursuing more information. Ms. DoBoer has agreed to come and talk with prosecutors who have assisted in the review of this case.  Since Ms. DeBoer`s identification was the key factor in Mr. Lincoln`s conviction, prosecutors feel it necessary to speak with her face to face and understand how she has come to this new conclusion after all these years.

Prosecutors enter this new development with an open mind and in partnership with the Midwest Innocence Project.

Crime Watch Daily is working on a update set to air next week.

Follow Chris Hayes on Twitter @ChrisHayesTV