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Guilty Without Proof ... still.

One year later, a new trial is being sought in the 20-year-old murder case, for which 2 men remain behind bars and continue to assert their innocence.

Brian Dugger

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Published: 4:34 PM EDT August 19, 2020
Updated: 5:58 PM EDT August 20, 2020

On June 15, 1998, 13-year-old Maurice Purifie was brutally murdered on Horace Street in central Toledo.

Maurice's body was found with one bullet in his chest and four in his head. It was a murder that was front-page news and shocked the city.

Wayne Braddy and Karl Willis were sent to prison in January, 2000, for the murder. To this day, they claim they had nothing to do with Maurice's killing.

On Aug. 14, 2019, 11 Investigates released "Guilty without Proof," my monthslong look into the murder and the innocence claims of Braddy and Willis. Because of the investigation, the Ohio Innocence Project has filed a motion seeking a new trial.

But, for now, Braddy and Willis remain in prison.

Credit: WTOL
Karl Willis, left, and Wayne Braddy, along with Travis Slaughter, were charged with Maurice Purifie's murder and robbery. Willis and Braddy have maintained their claims of innocence for more than 20 years. ​

"Anger was one of my emotions," Braddy told me during an in-person prison interview. "I'd be telling you a bold-faced lie if I told you I wasn't angry."

The frustration is even deeper for Willis. COVID-19 has swept through the state prison system. Allen Correctional Institute had been largely spared until recently. But, as of Aug. 18, 59 prisoners and staff are currently infected. Willis has severe asthma and diabetes, putting him at higher risk of complications from COVID.

"Karl Willis is an innocent man," he told me during a trip to his prison last year. "I'm not responsible for Maurice's death."

Maurice Purifie was a well-liked kid. He had an easy smile, was quick with a joke, and could often be seen on the basketball court near Robinson Junior High.

Credit: Purifie Family
Maurice Purifie, his life tragically cut short at age 13, was described by his family as the heart of the family. Maurice was a basketball player, already taller than his brothers. He was a straight-A student. He was in church revival the week of the killing. He had a kind heart, easy smile, and was always there for his friends.

He left his girlfriend's home on West Woodruff Avenue in the early morning hours of June 15. He was discovered around 4 a.m. by two men returning from work. Responders initially thought Maurice may have been struck by a car, but when his body was turned over, bullet holes could be seen in his head.

His pockets were turned out and his shoes were beside his body. To detectives who arrived at the scene, it looked like a robbery, possibly drug-related because dealers will often keep money in their shoes.

There were no police records accusing Maurice of being a drug dealer, and multiple people told 11 Investigates that he would not have been involved in drugs. But a witness did say that Maurice could have been the person climbing out the window of a home on East London Square that was burglarized the night before Maurice's killing. Tare Lake lived at the home. At the time of the burglary, he was at an event with Aaron Pettis, police records show.

Credit: WTOL
In an affidavit for a search warrant of Aaron Pettis' home, police said that the investigation seemed to indicate that Aaron Pettis, left, and Tare Lake were the killers of 13-year-old Maurice Purifie. When police brought Pettis in for questioning, he demanded to be given a polygraph test, which he passed. Police released him - and the tips dried up.​

A day after the killing, a person called the tipline to say they overheard Pettis say he killed the teen. A later search warrant identified Lake and Pettis as the likely killers of Maurice, but they were ruled out after being interviewed and Pettis passed a polygraph.