New evidence renews questions of Ledell Lee’s guilt 4 years after his execution

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Four years after the execution of an Arkansas death row inmate, new information shows the DNA of another man found on the murder weapon.

Ledell Lee was executed in 2017 for the murder of his Jacksonville neighbor, Debra Reese, in 1993, and up until his execution, he maintained his innocence.

The Innocence Project and ACLU filed a complaint last year on behalf of Lee’s sister, Patricia Young, asking for the city of Jacksonville to release evidence under the Freedom of Information Act.

“Lee always insisted that he did not commit this crime and that he was innocent. We just want to know the truth,” Young said in a press conference last year.

The Jacksonville City Council voted to release the evidence in Lee’s case in January of 2020. The murder weapon, a bloody wooden billy club, and a bloody t-shirt were among the evidence tested for DNA.

According to a report from the Innocence Project and ACLU, DNA from an unknown man who is not Ledell Lee was found on the handle of the club. That same DNA was also found on the bloody white shirt wrapped around the club.

Five fingerprints taken from the crime scene were also tested. None belonged to Lee.

The unknown male profile has been entered into the national DNA database, but there has been no match.

The case remains open due to the possibility of a future database ‘hit’ to the unknown male DNA or unknown fingerprints from the crime scene.

FOX 16 News did reach out to the city of Jacksonville and did not hear back.

The Innocence Project released this statement from Senior Litigation Counsel Nina Morrison on the case:

“We thank the City Attorney, City Council, and Mayor of Jacksonville for their cooperation in facilitating the DNA testing and fingerprint analysis that Mr. Lee sought to conduct prior to his execution. While the results obtained twenty-nine years after the evidence was collected proved to be incomplete and partial, it is notable that there are now new DNA profiles that were not available during the trial or post-conviction proceedings in Mr. Lee’s case. These include a DNA profile from an unknown male who is not Ledell Lee that was found on the murder weapon (a wooden club) and a bloody shirt. The unknown male profile has been entered into the national DNA database, but no hits to known individuals were obtained. While this phase of the litigation and court-ordered DNA testing is now concluded, the investigation into the case remains open due to the possibility of a future database ‘hit’ to the unknown male DNA or unknown fingerprints from the crime scene. We are hopeful that one or more of these forensic law enforcement databases will generate additional information in the future.”

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