UPDATE Biloxi man accused in 1982 rape that sent wrong man to prison

Man accused in 1982 rape that sent innocent man to prison

rfitzgerald@sunherald.comJuly 16, 2014 


BILOXI -- A Biloxi man is being held for police in Norman, Okla., where he is accused of sexually assaulting a woman 32 years ago in a case that sent an innocent man to prison.

An affidavit from the Norman Police Department shows Biloxi police recently obtained a DNA sample from Gilbert Duane Harris, 58. His DNA matched DNA found on the woman's robe, the affidavit said.

Biloxi police arrested Harris on Tuesday. He faces charges of first-degree rape and forcible sodomy.

He is at the Harrison County jail awaiting extradition.

He has lived at several Biloxi addresses since 2006 and has worked odd jobs, said Biloxi police Lt. Christopher De Back.

A 19-year-old University of Oklahoma student reported the rape March 20, 1982. She told police a man entered her apartment, assaulted her and stole money from her purse. She said he had a knife and threatened to kill her if she told anyone.

The woman identified Oklahoman Thomas Webb through a photo lineup. Court testimony showed Webb's hair samples were consistent with those found in the rape case, according to the Innocence Project, which promotes the use of DNA to help prisoners who could be proven innocent.

Webb was sentenced to 60 years in prison in 1983.

That same year, Harris was convicted in the rape of a girl younger than 14, according to Oklahoma Watch, a nonprofit investigative group.

However, a check of DNA samples in 1996 excluded Webb as the college student's rapist and he was freed after serving 13 years.

A DNA profile from the 1982 rape was entered in a national database in 2002.

Harris' DNA profile was added to the database in 2006.

Meanwhile, the rape case went cold. Norman police reopened the case in August at the request of Oklahoma Watch.

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