LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A man who served 38 years in prison for the 1983 abduction and killing of a woman in Inglewood is a free man Friday, with authorities saying newly tested DNA evidence exonerated him of the crime and identified a different person as the culprit in the slaying.
"I'm not pointing fingers. I'm not standing up here a bitter man," Maurice Hastings, 69, said during a downtown Los Angeles news conference. "But I just want to enjoy my life while I have it. And I just want to move forward."
Working in conjunction with the Los Angeles Innocence Project at Cal State LA, the District Attorney's Office filed a motion to vacate Hastings' 1988 conviction for the abduction, sexual assault and slaying of 30-year-old Roberta Wydermyer, and the attempted murder of Wydermyer's husband, Billy Ray, and his friend George Pinson.
District Attorney George Gascón said Hastings consistently proclaimed his innocence, and recent DNA tests proved him right.
"We no longer have any confidence in the veracity of the case against Mr. Hastings," Gascón said.
He said the DNA testing pointed to a different culprit in the kidnapping, sexual assault and killing of Wydermyer. The true killer, he said, died in 2020 while serving prison time for a separate kidnapping and rape.
Gascón credited Hastings for his perseverance in "trying to get this office to investigate your case."
"You are a free man today because of your perseverance," Gascón said.
He apologized to Hastings that the DNA evidence was not available at the time to prevent his conviction and prison sentence.
"The system failed you," he said. "The system failed the victims."
Wydermyer had made a late-night trip to a market in Inglewood, but she never returned home. Authorities at the time said her assailant stole her cash and jewelry, assaulted her and then shot her in the head. Her body was then placed in the trunk of her car, which the assailant took.
After his wife failed to come home, Wydermyer's husband and Pinson went out looking for her, and they spotted her stolen vehicle being driven by the suspect. The assailant sped away, but the duo pursued him, authorities said. The suspect eventually fired shots toward the pursuing pair, with Billy Ray Wydermyer suffering a shrapnel wound.
Hastings was arrested months later. His initial trial ended with a hung jury. But he was convicted in his second trial. Although he faced a possible death sentence, jurors recommended instead that he be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
On Friday, Hastings thanked everyone who believed in him and prayed for him while he was imprisoned, including his mother, who died in June before she could see him exonerated.