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Golden State Killer: Did The Wrong Man Serve Decades In Prison For One Of His Murders?

Craig Coley served nearly 40 years for a killing that might have been the work of the Golden State Killer.

By Jon Silman
Investigators Explain How DNA Was Used to Find the Golden State Killer Suspect

A man who spent nearly four decades behind bars for murder may have been wrongly convicted of a crime that was, in fact, committed by the Golden State Killer.

Police are investigating whether Joseph DeAngelo, the suspected Golden State Killer, is the true culprit behind the killing that put Craig Coley, 70, behind bars until last November.

“(It's) within the realm of possibility that (DeAngelo) could be a suspect in our case,” Simi Valley Deputy Chief Joseph May told CBS KCAL 9 in Los Angeles.

Coley was convicted in the murder of his ex-girlfriend and her 4-year-old son in 1980. Rhonda Wicht, 24, was found raped, beaten and strangled with a macramé rope in her Los Angeles apartment. Her son Donald was smothered and suffocated in his own bed, according to prosecutors.

Coley was pardoned after police found new DNA evidence that didn't place him at the crime scene, and he was released only months ago.

That reopened the case, and with the recent capture of DeAngelo, police are seeing it in a whole new light.

“You had the same time period that he was committing crime throughout the state, you had our homicide here," May said to CBS KCAL 9. He also noted that the Golden State Killer was suspected of committing a homicide in Ventura County, which includes Simi Valley.

Police have requested a DNA comparison to see if DeAngelo is a match for the crime, May said.

Simi Valley Police Chief David Livingstone told NBC 7 in San Diego that he noticed similarities between the Rhonda Wicht crime scene and the attacks by the Golden State Killer.

The serial killer often targeted young single woman who were alone or with children in the home. He used specific types of rope, Livingstone said, during his rapes for his own sexual gratification. He also liked to ransack rooms.

“There was some ransacking in the Wicht case,” Livingstone told NBC 7. “Not that a lot of murders don’t have some similarities, in terms of violence, but this one is close enough and with the timeframe it’s close enough to where we want to take a look at it and see if we can include or eliminate [DeAngelo] as a possible suspect in that case."

If the DNA doesn't match, Livingstone said, they've eliminated a suspect and are that much closer to solving the case. If it does, it will add new cases previously unlinked to the killer's sadistic spree - a suspected 45 rapes and 12 suspected murders starting in 1976.

Coley told CBS KCAL 9 he just wants justice for Wicht's family.

“First of all I’d feel elated for the family, for Ronda’s family,” Coley said, “because I’m not just a victim. I believe that some point in time they will find who did this, and justice will finally be served.”

[Photo: Getty]