SAINT PAUL, Minn. – A man who served nearly 25 years in prison in connection with his wife’s death walked out of prison Friday after his conviction was vacated.
Thomas Rhodes, 63, was convicted in 1998 of first- and second-degree murder of his wife, Jane Rhodes, 36. According to The Associated Press, Jane fell overboard and drowned during an evening boat ride on Green Lake in Spicer in 1996.
Dr. Michael McGree testified that Thomas had grabbed his wife by the neck, had thrown her overboard then proceeded to run her over multiple times, according to the AP. The Attorney General’s Office said Friday that Thomas’ conviction was based on McGree’s testimony. Thomas reportedly told investigators that Jane fell out of the boat and disappeared.
The Attorney General’s Office’s Conviction Review Unit reviewed the case, according to the AP. A forensic pathologist found that Jane’s death was “not inconsistent with an accidental fall.”
The Great North Innocence Project worked with the Attorney General’s Office and had nine forensic pathologists review the case, according to the AP. They found that Jane’s injuries were most likely due to a blow to the head as a result of falling out of the boat or from being hit unintentionally by the boat while Thomas searched for her. None of the organization’s pathologists found that Jane’s death was a murder.
According to a news release, the Attorney General’s Office said that Thomas’ release marks the first person to be freed from incarceration due to an investigation and case review by the Conviction Review Unit in Minnesota.
The Attorney General’s Office said that Thomas plead guilty to second-degree manslaughter.
“While the State does not have evidence that would prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Mr. Rhodes murdered his wife, Jane, there is sufficient evidence to support his conviction of the lesser included offense of second-degree manslaughter,” the Attorney General’s Office in the news release.
The Attorney General’s Office said that Thomas’ negligence led to Jane’s death. The Attorney General’s Office also said that Thomas served nearly 25 years in prison which is more than double the maximum sentence he could have received for a manslaughter conviction.
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