TAMPA, Fla. — New DNA evidence proves a Florida prisoner spent 30 years behind bars for a murder he did not commit.
Although, Ronad Stewart, would have been in prison anyways for eight women he brutally raped. He was serving the sentences at the same time.
Ronald Stewart pleaded no contest in the killing of 20-year-old Regina Harrison in 1985. But, decades later Broward County prosecutors say they got it wrong.
In 1983, Regina Harrison had just celebrated her birthday.
Her brother, who lives in Tampa, says she was the biggest rule follower he knew.
“She was really sweet, really innocent and deeply religious,” Richard Harrison said.
So when she didn’t come home, Richard say he immediately knew something wasn’t right.
Regina was last seen at the Hollywood Boardwalk. She was later found in a park. She had been raped and strangled.
It wasn’t long after that when Ronald Stewart was caught and convicted.
Although he told prosecutors he had nothing to do with the murder, his attorney encouraged him to take a deal.
Stewart was already serving a 50 year sentence for raping multiple women.
His attorney, at the time, told Stewart if he was found guilty for Regina’s murder he would most likely be sentenced to death because of his history.
“Nobody had any reason to think this wasn’t the guy,” Harrison said.
In 2008, Stewart died in prison. That was just under ten years before a death row inmate would confess to the crime.
Jack Harold Jones, an Arkansas serial killer was put to death in 2017. Jones wrote a letter on his death bed outlining Regina’s murder and how he did it.
“It was enough detail to make me confident that he did it,” Harrison said.
The conversation was a hard one to have with Harrison’s parents, he said but ultimately it doesn’t change anything.
After all, Harrison says the hardest and most painful time was 35 years ago when Regina was killed.
“Stewart is still evil and he’s still dead and the other bad guy who apparently did it has already been executed. Unfortunately, we can only execute him once,” Harrison said.
Richard Harrison, a lawyer himself now, says the most important reason this had to be brought up, as uncomfortable as it is, is to get it right.
Harrison says it’s important that the public can trust our justice system
“Gotta have the ability and the courage to come forward if a mistake is uncovered and correct the record, that’s critical,” He said.