Murder charges dropped against man who believes identity was stolen

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- He was drafted by the Army to serve his country in the 60s, but Ohio native Leon Dudley never imagined his name and social security number would be the only two things connecting him to a murder in Houston.

"It was holding our lives at a standstill," said his wife, Bonnetta Dudley.

Bonnetta, 69, stood by her husband knowing he was not a killer.

"God has gotten us through this. We had an excellent lawyer," said Bonnetta.

Their attorney, Catherine Samaan, said her client didn't fit the description of the suspect who shot and killed a man in November 1979 on the 9200 block of Buffalo Speedway and Main. That suspect had a very distinctive scar on his face.

"My client had no such scar," said Samaan. "The perpetrator was right-handed, my client was left-handed."

Almost a year into the arrest, Dudley was finally cleared of the charges.

"(I was) relieved, extremely relieved. My husband more than me, because he was the one under the gun," said Bonnetta.

The director of communications for the D.A.'s office sent the following statement:

"On April 26, 2017, the Harris County District Attorney's Office moved to dismiss charges of murder and attempted murder that had been lodged against Leon Dudley, a resident of Ohio.

Mr. Dudley had been extradited to Houston in the summer of 2016 on a warrant related to a homicide that occurred in November 1979. A suspect had been identified with the same name and likely date of birth as Mr. Dudley shortly after the offense but was never taken into custody.

In addition to the problems attendant to proving any 35-year old "cold case" such as lack of DNA evidence and faded memories, Mr. Dudley did not match any of the reported physical features of the alleged murderer. Mr. Dudley was not right-handed, was not heavy set, and did not have a distinctive, large facial scar.

It appeared on further, recent investigation that Mr. Dudley, who had been with his wife in Ohio for over 43 years, never visited Texas until he was arrested last year.

Identity is an issue in every criminal case and it became clear that Mr. Dudley, other than the unfortunate coincidences of similar name and birthdate, was not the perpetrator of this crime."

The family has no idea how this all happened, they just want to move past it.

"I'm glad it's over with. I'm sorry that somebody back in 1979 had to lose their life," added Bonnetta.

Report a typo to the ABC13 staff

Copyright © 2019 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.