Ohio man found not guilty in wife’s 1974 murder after serving 45 years in prison

Isaiah Andrews, 83, maintained his innocence when his wife was slain weeks after they wed in 1974. "I've become free," said Andrews after new trial.

An 83-year-old man who maintained that he did not murder his wife in 1974 has been found not guilty after spending 45 years in prison. 

Isaiah Andrews of Cleveland was vindicated after a new trial was granted him last year, once his lawyers from the Ohio Innocence Project discovered compelling evidence pointing to another suspect — information that had never been turned over to Andrews’ original defense team. 

Isaiah Andrews
Isaiah Andrews is shown after his second trial for his wife’s murder, giving media interviews. He was found not guilty this week of a murder for which he served 45 years in prison. (Photo: Screengrab/Facebook/Ohio Innocence Project)

“For over four decades, Isaiah Andrews has fought for justice for his wife and for his freedom,” Marcus Sidoti, one of the attorneys, said in a statement Wednesday. “Today the jury got it right. He is finally vindicated. Isaiah will never get these decades of his life back, but he can now live the remainder of his life a free man.”

Andrews was found not guilty by a unanimous verdict in a new trial that featured mostly the reading of transcripts, as many of the original trial’s witnesses have passed away. 

According to Cleveland Scene, Andrews was arrested after his wife, Regina Andrews, was found dead near Forest Hill Park on Sept. 18, 1974. She was brutally stabbed and police believed she was sexually assaulted. The woman was wrapped in hotel linens. 

There was an original suspect, Willie Watts, a man who’d been in the area near where Mrs. Andrews’ body was found and who’d been staying in a Howard Johnson hotel missing its bed linens after he checked out. However, Watts had an alibi for the time that police believed Mrs. Andrews had been killed. When the coroner adjusted the time of death, however, police never again questioned Watts. It was that bit of information that was never shared with Isaiah Andrews’ defense team, prompting a new trial. 

Local reporting notes that Watts went on to have a long criminal history after the 1974 murder, including several crimes against women. He died in 2011. 

At the time of her death, Isaiah and Regina Andrews had only been married three weeks. 

In the courtroom after the verdict, Andrews told reporters, “I’ve become free.” 

“This was the right result today, but I don’t know if he’ll ever get actual justice,” Brian Howe of the Ohio Innocence Project told Cleveland.com. “He should have never been convicted in the first place, and he certainly never should have been retried.”

The Ohio Innocence Project is part of the University of Cincinnati, where it was founded in 2003. Since their inception, their work has led to the release of 33 wrongfully convicted Ohioans, who collectively served nearly 650 years behind bars. 

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