It's a parent's worst nightmare—a stranger breaks into the home and sexually assaults a young child. But in Colorado Springs in 1996, things actually got much worse from there for Brad Pitman, the father of a 4-year-old girl hurt so badly she required five surgeries, per the Gazette. Through a convoluted series of events, suspicion was cast on Pitman; though he was never arrested, he ended up being denied parental rights to his daughter and then-6-month-old son. But in 2014, a federal grant supplied the resources needed to add old physical fingerprint cards from around the country to a national database—and Pitman's name was cleared as a result. A handprint found on a kitchen window after the girl's rape matched up with Joel Market, a man who lived less than a mile away at the time, reports KDVR.
"I might not have went to jail, but I've been in prison for 20 years," says Pitman, 44, whose family still wants nothing to do with him. The crime took place in June 1996, two weeks after Pitman and his wife had separated. The girl's screams woke her mother, who called Pitman; he rushed over. In an interview, the girl described the perpetrator as a stranger. But in February 1997, she said her dad "hurted me." Cops determined there was no way Pitman could have assaulted his daughter and driven to his apartment in time to answer his wife's call, but social workers insisted that he participate in a "sex offender evaluation" and "take responsibility for the ... abuse." He said he wouldn't, and the El Paso County Department of Human Services had his parental rights terminated. Market was sentenced to 24 years for the crime in January. (Read more sexual assault stories.)