CHICAGO (AP) — A man who spent nearly 30 years in prison for the 1984 sexual assault and slaying of a 15-year-old
suburban Chicago girl has left prison a free man after a judge threw out charges against him.
Illinois Corrections Department spokesman Tom Shaer said 48-year-old Christopher Abernathy was released Wednesday after a judge agreed to a prosecutor’s request to vacate his life sentence.
Abernathy, then a teenager with learning disabilities, signed a statement confessing to the rape and murder of Kristina Hickey, a sophomore at Rich East High School. She had been raped and murdered
“They held him for two days in the police station and questioned him, and he was finally coerced into signing a false confession,” Lauren Kaeseberg, Illinois Innocence Project, said.
His attorney, Lauren Kaeseberg, says Abernathy didn’t make a statement as he left the Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet. But Kaesberg says Abernahty is “just so happy that he’s able to go home, that he’s free and gets to be with his family.”
Abernathy was sentenced to life in 1987, but DNA testing last August excluded him from the high school student from Park Forest.