Cathy Woods, a 67-year-old woman who was charged with the 1976 Reno, Nevada, stabbing murder of Michelle Mitchell, will go free thanks to new DNA evidence. Woods was imprisoned for more than 30 years.
Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks announced today that he will not pursue a retrial for Woods, whose 1985 conviction was dismissed in September, the Associated Press reports. The charges against Woods, originally brought in 1980, were based on a confession that prosecutors now evidently believe was false.
DNA evidence found on a cigarette butt at the crime scene points to a man named Rodney Halbower, who was recently charged in a string of San Francisco murders from the same time period, and was previously charged with rape and attempted murder, according to the FBI and Woods' attorney.
Woods made the confession that led to her imprisonment in 1979 while she was a patient at a psychiatric hospital in Louisiana, claiming that she killed "a girl named Michelle," the Reno-Gazette journal reports. She later recanted, and now says she doesn't remember making the confession, her public defender Maizie Pusich said.
"I'm told it was a product of wanting to get a private room," Pusich told the AP. "She was being told she wasn't sufficiently dangerous to qualify, and within a short period she was claiming she had killed a woman in Reno."