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New questions raised in murder case that sent man to death row

A gruesome murder happened in March of 1997 in rural Pine Knot, Kentucky.

Geneva Claxston was only 9 when her mother, Willa Jean Ferrier, Willa Jean's best friend, Crystal Contaster. and Chris Boswell were killed. Johnny Garland was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to die for it. But Claxston along with Garland’s family believe he wasn’t to blame.

“When they found her (her mother) she had hair in her hands, she had skin under her nails,” said Claxston.

Recently the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled a piece of hair can be tested for DNA. Both families crowded a McCreary County courtroom hoping for answers Monday, but all they got was another delay.

“They botched the case. The whole system screwed up,” said Carol Jackson, Johnny Garland’s sister.

Family members of both sides believe that Johnny Garland was convicted based solely on the testimony of his son. But they believe that there’s so much more that needs to come out. It’s information that they say they believe it will put the true killers behind bars.

Garland’s relatives say his son was initially charged in the case and was coerced to testify to certain things.

“He told me he had to say what he said or he was going to get three life sentences,” said Curtis Garland, Johnny Garland’s brother.

People here say years of grief could have been put to rest had the hair simply been tested in the beginning.

“There’s more out there running free. Those that lost their life, they died for no reason, left behind kids,” said Claxston.


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