At first glance, the two brutal and controversial murder crimes that rocked the small town of Ada, Oklahoma in the 1980s — the 1982 killing of Debbie Carter and the abduction and murder of Denice Haraway in 1984 — seemed to have no connection. But as “The Innocent Man,” Netflix's newest true crime docu-series, shows, the cases share a bizarre and crucial link.
A woman related to one of the victims made the startling discovery that the cases were linked by a snitch and her so-called “C-spot.”
[Warning: Spoilers for “The Innocent Man” ahead]
Christy Sheppard, Debbie Carter’s cousin, began looking into her relative’s murder case on her own. While conducting research, she came across a book called “Actual Innocence,” by Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld, and Jim Dwyer.
"They [the book's authors] talk some about Debbie’s case, but they also talk about Denice’s case,” she explained the docu-series. “And the snitch in both the cases, the jailhouse snitch, her name was Terri Holland.”
Holland was a prison informant who testified as a witness in both murders. She told prosecutors that Ron Williamson, one of the two men wrongly convicted of killing Debbie Carter, confessed to killing Carter. She also gave testimony that helped convict two men, Karl Fontenot and Tommy Ward, for the murder of Haraway.
“Apparently, there were a lot of things going on behind the scenes through the DA’s office or the police department, I don’t know who, but were getting people to testify inside the jail who gave completely false testimony,” Stacy Shelton, Ada News reporter, said in the docu-series.
Holland may have had reason to put Williamson in jail, Grisham explained. Her sister accused him of rape, and Holland blamed him for her eventual death. Williamson and Dennis Fritz spent 11 years behind bars after being convicted for killing Carter, but both were later exonerated. Another man, Glen Gore, has since been arrested and convicted for her rape and murder.
As for the murder of Haraway, the two men that Holland snitched on were convicted based on dream-based confessions. They told investigators about dreams they had in which they were stabbing the victim to death before putting her in a house which they burned to the ground. In reality, she was found in a pasture, killed by a single gunshot to the head. The setting and manner in which Haraway was killed didn't match the men's confessions, yet they were convicted anyhow and Holland helped seal that deal.
Sheppard read aloud a passage from “Actual Innocence” about Holland (pictured) and her role as an informant. The passage referenced then-prosecutor Chris Ross. She noted that when one of the authors “asked Ross about the reliability of the jailhouse snitch, Ross asked, ‘Do you mean Terri? Well,’ Ross said, grinning. ‘We like to say she has a C-spot.’”
When the author questioned what that is, Ross apparently replied, “Yeah, you know, C-spot, for confessions. She had taken the confessions on the most spectacular murders in Ada in recent history, the killing of Debbie Carter [...] in 1982 and the murder of Denice Haraway in 1984. That her C-Spot was working.”
Sheppard looked visibly aggravated while reading the excerpt.
“Reading that again just pisses me off all over again,” she said.
In exchange for snitching, Holland got to plea-bargain herself out of jail, according to Grisham's book.
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