A Michigan man who was wrongly convicted has been released from prison after spending 21 years behind bars when DNA evidence linked a serial killer to the murders

After serving nearly 21 years in prison, a man from Michigan was released following the discovery that the double murder he was incarcerated for might have been committed by a serial killer.

Jeff Titus, 71, was found guilty in 2002 of killing two hunters near his property in rural Kalamazoo County in 1990.

It was later revealed that the police had already looked into another individual, Thomas Dillard, who was a serial killer and had killed at least five people in Ohio between 1989 and 1992, but Titus’ attorneys were not aware of this.

“I can’t wait to get out and walk in the woods,” Titus told the Associated Press after his release on Friday. He added that he was in “a state of shock.”

Doug Estes and Jim Bennett were murdered in 1990 near Jeff Titus’ property in western Michigan. Initially, Titus was cleared as a suspect as investigators discovered he was hunting deer almost 30 miles away from his home. The case remained unsolved for a long time.

Roughly 12 years after the initial investigation, a fresh group of investigators re-examined the case and pressed charges against Titus. During the trial, prosecutors characterized Titus as an isolated individual who was quick to use his weapon out of fear for intruders. Although there was no tangible proof linking Titus to the murders, he was found guilty and received a life sentence behind bars.

In 2018, the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan took on Titus’ case and brought it to federal court. While awaiting a hearing, the group made an astonishing discovery in the depths of the Kalamazoo County sheriff’s office: a 30-page file discussing Dillon as a potential suspect.

Police reported that a woman had spotted Dillon’s vehicle near the location of the murders, and Dillon’s cellmate allegedly confessed to the Michigan killings to the FBI in 1993.

The Innocence Clinic effectively presented Titus’ case, and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel stated that there was “compelling evidence” supporting his release. Jacinda Davis from Investigation Discovery and Susan Simpson from the “Undisclosed” podcast also investigated Titus’ case and aided in securing his freedom. Both women met with him upon his release on Friday.

Dillard, the serial killer, pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree murder in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole. He passed away behind bars in 2011.