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Murder charges dropped in ‘94 Waukegan slaying

James Edwards

James Edwards

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Murder charges were dropped Tuesday against James Edwards for the 1994 slaying of a Waukegan appliance store owner.

The move came two weeks after another man was indicted in the death of Frederick Reckling on Dec. 8, 1994, at the Grand Appliance Store.

DNA found at the crime scene was matched to Hezekiah Whitfield, according to Edwards’ attorney, Paul DeLuca. Whitfield has pleaded not guilty to crime.

Edwards, 63, was convicted of Reckling’s murder after he was arrested for an unrelated armed robbery in 1996. He is serving a 60-year prison sentence for the armed robbery that was concurrent to a life sentence for the Reckling murder. He remains in prison.

Lake County Judge John Phillips said Tuesday the time Edwards has served since he was sent to prison will apply to his 60-year robbery sentence.

DeLuca said Edwards has been “extremely frustrated” that it so long for him to be exonerated in Reckling’s murder.

“But I think he’s happy that he’s finally (clear) on this case,” DeLuca said.

Edwards knew since his trial in 1996 that the blood found at the crime scene didn’t match his or Reckling’s, DeLuca said. When DNA testing was available, Edwards filed a request — more than five years ago — to test the DNA.

Lake County prosecutors fought him on the testing because he had confessed to the Reckling murder, DeLuca said. Edwards also confessed to the 1996 armed robbery and to an Ohio murder in 1974 during that same 25-hour interrogation in 1996, DeLuca said.

DeLuca said he planned to seek a new trial for Edwards in the Ohio case.

“This is now relevant because we have established this (Waukegan) case is a false confession,” DeLuca said.

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