DNA clears Conn. man of killing after 20 years

By John Chrisoffersen
Associated Press / August 6, 2009

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NEW HAVEN - A central Connecticut man convicted of a 1986 rape and murder has been freed from prison after DNA testing showed he could not have committed the crime.

Kenneth Ireland of Wallingford was released yesterday after Judge Richard Damiani granted him a new trial. Prosecutors are expected to drop the charges.

“It’s really exhilarating,’’ said Karen Goodrow, director of the Connecticut Innocence Project, which represented him. “He’s just doing really well.’’

Goodrow said she expects the charges to be dismissed on Aug. 19. She said Ireland, who is with his family at an undisclosed location, does not want to discuss the case before then.

Ireland already has a job lined up, Goodrow said. She said his family and attorneys ate lunch with him after his release, watching him laugh and smile.

Ireland was 20 when he was sentenced to 50 years in prison after being found guilty in November 1989 of killing Barbara Pelkey of Wallingford.

The body of the mother of four had been found nude at the former R.S. Moulding and Manufacturing Co. in Wallingford, where she worked alone at night.

Witnesses testified at his trial that Ireland had admitted committing the crime. Ireland contended those witnesses had lied to receive a $20,000 reward.

New Haven State’s Attorney Michael Dearington said the investigation into the homicide has been reopened and is “being actively reinvestigated by the Wallingford Police Department and New Haven state’s attorney’s office.’’