SBI to continue investigating 1976 double murder case
Posted January 26, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina's State Bureau of Investigation says it will not close the unsolved murders of a Bladen County mother and her daughter 38 years ago "until all viable leads have been exhausted."
Monday's statement comes three days after a special judicial panel declared innocent Joseph Sledge, the man who spent 37 years in prison for the crimes.
Josephine Davis, 74, and Ailene Davis, 53, were found stabbed to death in their Elizabethtown home in September 1976, and Sledge – who had escaped from a prison work farm a day earlier – was soon arrested for the slayings.
But his second-degree murder convictions came into question in 2013 after a key witness at his 1978 trial recanted his testimony, and DNA testing on hairs found at the crime scene that are believed to be the attacker's showed that they were not Sledge's.
The SBI reopened the case the same year, and it said Monday that it is continuing the investigation at the request of Bladen County District Attorney Jon David.
Sledge's exoneration was the result of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, a state-run agency that examines post-conviction claims of innocence.
The commission held a three-day hearing in December before recommending the judicial panel review the case. That review lasted less than three hours on Friday and ended with Sledge walking out of jail a free man.
While never directly addressing Sledge's innocence, Josephine Davis' granddaughter said during Friday's hearing that, after years of believing they had resolution, they were shocked that the case would be reopen.