NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- A new trial was granted on Tuesday for a man convicted in the 1986 murder and sexual assault of a 30-year-old Wallingford woman.Kenneth Ireland, also of Wallingford, was convicted on Nov. 27, 1989, of felony murder and sexual assault in the Sept. 3, 1986, death of Barbara Pelkey, 30. Pelkey, a mother of four, was found nude at the former R.S. Moulding and Manufacturing Co., where she worked alone at night.The decision for a new trial was reached between Office of the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of New Haven, the Connecticut Innocence Project and Superior Court Judge Richard Damiani after reviewing a petition from Ireland.Officials said the petition was predicated on the results of recent DNA testing performed by the Connecticut State Police Forensic Crime Laboratory.
Wallingford Police Lt. Marc Mikulski said once authorities were told of issues in the case and that DNA technology not available at the time of the crime might exonerate Ireland, "we were all for it." He said police will use advances in forensic technology and fresh eyes to try to solve the crime."This is yet another Connecticut example of an innocent person having spent two decades in prison for a very serious crime while an actual rapist and murderer has been roaming free since 1986," said Judiciary Committee Co-Chairman Mike Lawlor, D-New Haven. "This is not acceptable."Lawlor said Ireland's case raises the question of whether the Legislature and the Advisory Commission on Wrongful Convictions should determine if any state laws need to change. He said the law enforcement community should also be looked at to see if it's using the best practices in investigations."Under a 2008 law, Mr. Ireland is eligible to apply for compensation for his wrongful conviction with the state claims commissioner, who will make recommendations for compensation to the legislature," Lawlor said. "I hope this can be done in time for the 2010 legislative session, which convenes in February."The investigation of the homicide has been reopened, officials said. They said it's being reinvestigated by the Wallingford Police Department and New Haven State's Attorney's Office.Ireland is being represented by the Connecticut Innocence project, which also helped to free James Calvin Tillman in 2006, and Miguel Roman in April after they were imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.Tillman of Hartford was imprisoned for 18 years for rape. The state eventually awarded him $5 million for his wrongful conviction.Roman was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the 1988 murder of his girlfriend, 17-year-old Carmen Lopez, but after he served 20 years, DNA tests showed he could not have been the killer, and murder charges were dropped in April.