Associated Press

DNA exonerates Port St. John man who served 22 years for rape
By Associated Press
August 11, 2004

SHARPES, Fla. - A man who served 22 years in prison for raping a 17-year-old girl was freed early Thursday after DNA evidence proved his innocence.

Wilton A. Dedge, 42, walked out of the Brevard County Jail with his parents just hours after new DNA testing conclusively proved he didn't commit the 1981 rape.

"DNA has done its job," State Attorney Norm Wolfinger said. "I believe in our system of justice, although it's not perfect. Thank God DNA came up in this case."

The former mechanic was twice convicted of the rape and serving a life sentence.

The rape victim originally described her attacker as being about 6 feet tall, weighing 160 to 180 pounds. Dedge is 5 feet 6 and weighed about 125 pounds at the time.

The evidence against Dedge hinged on testimony by a notorious jailhouse snitch, contested scent evidence provided by a controversial police dog and a disputed eyewitness identification.

Last month, Judge Preston Silvernail ordered the new, sophisticated test be done on 22-year-old sperm cell fracture preserved on a slide.

Traditional DNA testing on the swab was inconclusive, largely because it contained both male and female DNA. The new test could focus on the male chromosome.

Wolfinger said the victim "was devastated by the news" that Dedge was not her attacker. He said there are no other suspects in the case.

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