NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – A man who had been pushing to prove his innocence in a Norfolk rape case has died in prison.
Nathaniel Epps and Percell Warren were brothers-in-law. A jury found them guilty of raping a woman at gunpoint and beating her in an apartment off Pleasant Avenue in Ocean View in 1996. Warren died in prison in 2012, and Epps died Saturday in a Greensville prison following an illness.
Olga Akselrod with the Innocence Project was working on his case.
“Nathaniel Epps has always maintained his innocence, since day one, and he was very hopeful that he was finally going to go home, so the fact that he passed away this past weekend while this litigation was ongoing is incredibly sad,” she said.
The Innocence Project filed the results of DNA testing with the Supreme Court of Virginia this summer. The organization said the testing found evidence on the victim’s jeans from someone other than the defendants.
“What it showed with certainty is that they were excluded as the source of at least one of the sperm profiles there,” Akselrod said.
The Attorney General’s office said the new evidence was not conclusive proof of innocence, and did not reach the level required to overturn the verdict. The Innocence Project plans to move forward in the fight for Epps’ innocence.
“It’s important, just as a matter of setting the record straight and the truth about a case being known, but it’s also important because his family deserves it,” Akselrod said.
Nathaniel’s widow wrote on a fundraising website that he was a “kind and caring husband whose spirit has and always will soar above his wrongful conviction.”