Cleve Heidelberg, Who Spent Nearly 50 Years In Jail, Found Dead 10 Months After Release

Last year, a judge ruled that he deserved a new trial. In 1970, he was convicted of killing Peoria County Sheriff’s Deputy Raymond Espinoza.

A man recently released from prison after 47 years for a murder he claimed he didn’t commit was found dead on Saturday.

Cleve Heidelberg, who was recently featured on Oxygen’s “Final Appeal” was found dead at his apartment in Peoria County, Illinois over the weekend, According to The Journal Star in Peoria, Illinois. Foul play is not suspected. Police are looking into what may have led to his death. As of now, his initial autopsy was inconclusive.

He has only been a free man for ten months after being released from jail last May. Since then, he got an apartment and purchased a car. Friends and acquaintances said he was looking forward to starting over.

“He was just beginning to live his life after spending almost 50 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit,” his attorney Andy Hale told The Journal Star. “But we are also grateful that he was able to spend the last 10 months outside the prison walls with his family and friends. [...] I’m also blessed I got to know Cleve. His relentless fight for justice has had a profound impact on me, and many others, and I will miss him dearly.”

Decades ago, Heidelberg was convicted of murdering Peoria County Sheriff’s Deputy Raymond Espinoza during a 1970 robbery at a drive-in movie theater. He was sentenced to life in prison. Heidelberg has always maintained his innocence. After a review of that case, a judge ordered a new trial for him last year. Then, in May, he was able to post bail so he could be free while battling to clear his name.

He was all smiles after his release from prison, and he was excited to eat his first meal on the outside, according to Peoria Public Radio.

[Photo: Oxygen]

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