TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - On Friday, the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals overturned the 2016 murder conviction of Russell Adkins, who was convicted of the 1982 death of Dana Rosendale.
It means Adkins will soon be a free man.
The appeals court said there were key witnesses who died before the indictment of Adkins, 59. The court also cited that many pieces of evidence were either destroyed or lost in the decades-old case.
"We find appellant did not receive a fair trial due to actual prejudice from preindictment delay without justification," the court's conclusion said.
Throughout his trials, Adkins maintained his claim of innocence. Adkins' attorneys said that he was giving Rosendale, 19, a ride home from a club on Sept. 5, 1982, when she fell out of his car in Northwood because the door had a bad latch. Prosecutors claimed that he hit her over the head. Rosendale died at Mercy St. Charles Hospital on Sept. 11, 1982.
The Wood County Prosecutor's Office issued a statement after the Appeals Court overturned the conviction, saying the court didn't follow precedents that have already been established for cold case convictions.
"We are disappointed that they did not follow their own precedent or that of other cold case prosecutions. We are surprised that the opinion does not even mention State of Ohio v. Father Gerald Robinson, a 6th District decision that has been accepted around the state on this very issue. Our hearts go out to the family of Miss Rosendale, who waited a long time for light to be shed on her death. While we have not parsed out every detail of the opinion, we anticipate that we will be seeking review by the Ohio Supreme Court," said Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson.
In 1982, Rosendale's death was ruled undetermined.
Rosendale's remains were exhumed in 2013 however and re-examined. At that time, a deputy Lucas County coroner ruled her death a homicide.
Adkins was tried twice in 2016 -- his first trial in January 2016 ended in a mistrial when the jury couldn't reach a verdict. In his July 2016 trial, he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life.
Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson says he anticipates his office will ask the Ohio Supreme Court to review this appeal.
Adkins has spent two year behind bars.
His attorney says paperwork will be filed immediately to get him released from prison.