Arrest in Grisly '96 Killing, as Another Guy Does Time for It

Jason Ryan arrested in 1996 murder of Geraldine Montgomery

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 4, 2013 8:47 AM CST

(Newser) – Police just yesterday arrested a man in a 17-year-old rape and murder case. Just one wrinkle: Another man is already serving life in prison for the crime. The horrific murder of Geraldine Montgomery shocked the small town of Kalkaska, Mich., in 1996, NBC News reports. The 68-year-old widow was beaten and raped in her own home, then left in the trunk of her running car in the garage, where she asphyxiated. Jamie Lee Peterson was ultimately convicted after confessing to the charges, even though he recanted within days—and the DNA evidence didn't match him. Authorities explained that by saying he must have had an accomplice. But Peterson has mental health problems, and the co-founder of an Innocence Clinic involved in the case says this is "a classic mentally ill false confession," Fox News reports.

While searching for the supposed accomplice, investigators brought in Jason Ryan, then 19, who had also been questioned in the days after the murder. He was a drifter and convicted felon who was living in Kalkaska, less than two blocks from Montgomery's house, but he passed a polygraph test. He also gave a DNA sample, but it's not clear if it was ever actually tested, and he was ruled out as a suspect. But Peterson's defense team never gave up, and this year, the DNA was re-tested and found to match Ryan. It's not clear, though, whether Ryan's arrest will get Peterson freed; police still maintain he knew details about the crime that only someone involved would know. His defense team plans to ask for a new trial. (Arrests were also recently made in another old case, this one involving a now-elderly couple who allegedly killed their first spouses and kids in the 1970s.)

This photo taken Nov. 22, 2013, shows Jamie L. Peterson, 39, who is serving life without parole for first-degree murder and rape in the 1996 killing of Geraldine Montgomery in Kalkaska, Mich.
This photo taken Nov. 22, 2013, shows Jamie L. Peterson, 39, who is serving life without parole for first-degree murder and rape in the 1996 killing of Geraldine Montgomery in Kalkaska, Mich.   (AP Photo/Michigan Department of Corrections)
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