/  03.30.2022

William Virgil — known by friends as “Ricky” — has died while awaiting a trial that would’ve allowed him to finally face the cops who falsified documents in his case, causing him to spend 28 years in a Kentucky prison after being wrongfully convicted.

On April 13, 1987, the body of Retha Welch, a 54-year-old psychiatric nurse, was found by a coworker in the bathroom of her Newport, Kentucky home. She had been raped, stabbed 28 times and severely hit on the head. Virgil was convicted in 1988 based on circumstantial evidence — as Virgil met Welch while she was ministering to inmates in jail — and testimony from an inmate who later admitted to being bribed.

While incarcerated, Virgil continued to maintain his innocence, and in 2010, attorneys for the Kentucky Innocence Project took an interest in the case and won a motion for DNA testing.

In 2017, DNA evidence cleared him of wrongdoing, and Virgil was exonerated. He went on to name two former Newport, Kentucky police officers in a civil case for allegedly tampering with evidence.

According to records, last summer Virgil’s lawyer Elliot Slosar alerted court officials that he was concerned about his 70-year-old client not living much longer, however, the judge allowed the proceedings to be delayed so that the officers could seek an immunity claim in a higher court.

People do not live forever,” Slosar urged U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning last July. “Justice delayed is justice denied. Justice frivolously delayed is even worse.”

Slosar went on to say, “There’s such interesting racial undertones with how William Virgil got wrongfully convicted. You have a white victim who suffered a tragic death and the police buried the evidence against white alternate suspects to frame a Black man for a crime he did not commit.”

Virgil died on Jan. 2, almost six years after he filed his lawsuit, which is still pending.

His attorney, Slosar, has promised to keep an empty chair at trial in honor of him. Jeri Colemon, Virgil’s cousin, will serve as his personal representative in court to see that justice is served.



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