HELENA – A Helena judge dismissed the murder charges against two men who spent more than 20 years in prison for the crime.
Lewis and Clark County District Court Judge Kathy Seeley signed the order Friday afternoon dismissing the charges against Paul Jenkins and Freddie Lawrence, who were both sentenced to life in prison for the 1994 murder of Donna Meagher.
Meagher was kidnapped from the Jackson Creek Saloon in Montana City and killed.
Through new DNA testing, the Montana Innocence Project found evidence at the crime scene that revealed a different suspect in the case. There was no DNA from Jenkins or Lawrence at the scene but there was DNA from David Wayne Nelson, a man already in prison for killing two people near Deer Lodge several years ago.
Jenkins and Lawrence left prison in April after the judge vacated their sentences and were free until the state decided how to proceed in the case.
In her order Friday, Seeley left the door open for charges to be filed against Jenkins and Lawrence later if new evidence is presented.
We don’t know yet if the state plans to file charges against David Nelson for Donna Meagher’s murder.