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In 1992, then-23-year-old Willie T. Donald was wrongfully charged and convicted of murder and robbery. It was as much of a shock to Donald as the story is to people now, when the police showed up at his doorstep out of the blue.
He was sentenced to 60 long years in prison. However, in 2016, the charges against him were dropped and he was released after serving nearly 24 years of jailtime as a result of the mishap.
— Monte Martin (@nwi_MonteM) January 26, 2016
Willie reportedly missed a few significant years and occasions in his life, including his sister’s wedding, and his father’s funeral. Even after being given the choice to plead guilty in exchange for an early release in 2013, Donald asserted his innocence and refused to take the plea, ultimately battling his way out of jail on moral grounds.
People Magazine Investigates’ upcoming episode, titled Alibi, is set to revisit the tragic story of Willie T. Donald’s 1992 wrongful conviction up until his release in 2016. It will go live on June 20, 2022, at 9 PM ET on ID as well as on Discovery+.
Willie “Timmy” Donald, is an Indiana man wrongly convicted of robbery and murder who served more than 20 years in prison before he was exonerated. Listen as True Crime Daily discusses.https://t.co/bTNS9Zwlop pic.twitter.com/xvcBNDLeWV
— Valerie Allen PR (@valerieallenpr) December 23, 2020
Why was Willie T. Donald sent to prison all those years ago?
It was in June 1992 that Willie T. Donald was ultimately tried in a Lake County, Indiana court after being accused of the murder of 30-year-old Bernard Jimenez and several robberies, including that of a police officer.
Read about the Willie T. Donald Exoneration Advisory Coalition, created by Nicky Ali Jackson, Ph.D. This coalition supports those who have been, or will be, wrongfully convicted in the state of Indiana: https://t.co/HhaHK5HD2t pic.twitter.com/rvZ5IDrfcd
— Purdue Northwest (@PurdueNorthwest) July 6, 2020
Two of the robbery victims from February 27’s night of the same year identified Donald as the attacker from the mugshot album, but they were unsure about it.
The accused had no criminal history and the mugshot in police records was taken from an incident during the later 1980s when the police mistook him into custody on suspicion of auto theft.
Kimerly Belinsky and Rhonda Williams were two victims of the robberies and they identified Donald as the attacker, testifying at the trial that he was the gunman.
Contradictory testimonies were given by Donald’s sister and her then-fiancé/now-husband, claiming the accused was with them in Merrillville and Crown Point, south of the city of Gary, shopping for a car on the night of the crimes.
Two salesmen backed up the couple’s story, while also claiming that a third male was present with them. However, they were unable to properly recognize Donald as the man they had seen that night with the couple.
In a decision handed down on June 12, 1992, a jury found Donald guilty and sentenced him to 60 years of life in prison on the grounds of aggravated burglary and first-degree murder.