First Christmas at Home in Eight Years for Man Falsely Convicted of Murder

Melinda Elkins Found Clues to Free Her Husband

Dec. 22, 2005—

An Ohio man will spend Christmas at home with his family for the first time in eight years, after countless hours of detective work by his wife proved he was wrongly convicted of murder.

In the summer of 1998, Clarence Elkins was arrested in Barberton, Ohio, and accused of murdering his mother-in-law and assaulting his 6-year-old niece and leaving her for dead. The little girl said it was "Uncle Clarence" who had committed the crimes.

"I thought it was a joke," Elkins said. "I was in total dismay and shock."

After Elkins was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, only one person stood by him -- his wife, Melinda.

"I remember saying, 'They are not going to get away with this,'" Melinda Elkins said. "'I will do whatever I can because I just will not accept it.' So from that moment on, it's been a fight -- daily."

Melinda and Clarence were high school sweethearts who married when they were 18. After her husband went to prison, the mother of two took on the role of private investigator.

"It started right after the conviction," Melinda Elkins said. "I started compiling a list of people I thought could possibly be a suspect. I spent hours -- countless hours -- going over everything from police reports, statements, a coroner's report."

Seven years after the crime, the only evidence against him was beginning to crumble. Elkins' niece had recanted her accusation, and Melinda Elkins' instincts had led her to suspect her mother's former neighbor, Earl Mann.

Mann was already behind bars on a child molestation conviction, in the same prison as Clarence Elkins.

Melinda Elkins instructed her husband to watch for the next time Mann crushed his cigarette in an ashtray, then carefully collect the butt.

Melinda Elkins took the butt for DNA testing. The results proved that it was Mann, not Clarence Elkins, who had murdered Melinda's mother.

"I was the one who got to tell him," Melinda Elkins said. "I said: 'Pack your bags, because you're coming home today!'"

This year, Clarence Elkins will be home for Christmas with his wife and two children for the first time in eight years.

"Best Christmas ever for me," Clarence Elkins said. "That's all I want. I just want time."