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Ryan Matthews: Released by DNA

Witnesses Had Identified Matthews, Co-Defendant

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A man who was a teenager when he was sentenced to Louisiana's death row for the murder of a grocery store owner, has been released from prison after DNA testing of evidence connected to the case pointed at another suspect.

Ryan Matthews, 24, who was 17 at the time of the crime, was released Aug. 9, 2004 by Judge Henry Sullivan at the request of Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick. Matthews had been under house arrest since April, when he was released from prison under a $105,000 bond.

Police apprehended Matthews and Travis Hayes shortly after the shooting. Later, Hayes confessed to driving Matthews to the store, hearing shots and then helping Matthews to leave the scene. Matthews always maintained that he had nothing to do with the shooting and would some day be exonerated.

"I always knew it would happen. So it wasn't a surprise to me," he told reporters after a hearing in which charges against him were dropped. "Never give up hope, no matter how bad it gets."

Ski Mask Linked to 3rd Suspect

A ski mask used in the robbery yielded neither Matthews nor Hayes' DNA. It was recently retested after authorities learned that convicted murderer, Rondell Love, had bragged to fellow inmates that he had committed the 1997 robbery and murder. The DNA in the ski mask matched that of Rondell Love, police said.

The investigation of Love, serving a 20-year sentence for manslaughter, is ongoing, said District Attorney Paul Connick.

An attorney with the Innocence Project of New Orleans, Emily Bolton, said she is confident that Travis Hayes' conviction will also be overturned. "The only evidence against Travis Hayes is his statement that Ryan Matthews did it, which DNA proves is false," she said.

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