WAVERLY, Va. (WRIC) — It’s the case that sent shockwaves through the small-town community of Waverly: Two men acquitted of murdering a local police officer but sentenced to life in prison.
Now, the case is getting a fresh look — and could be featured in a documentary — after 8News Investigator Kerri O’Brien found holes in the investigation.
We first brought you the story last year: Two Virginia men — Ferrone Claiborne and Terence Richardson — accused of murdering a Waverly police officer. They were found not guilty of the murder. Yet in a rare move, they were sentenced to life behind bars.
Now, an attorney — who was once wrongfully convicted himself and believes both men are innocent — is taking on the case and says a documentary is in the works.
This development comes years after Investigator Kerri O’Brien began combing over the case after a sister of one of the suspects, Felicia Claiborne, called 8News for help.
“You could see the pain in her face,” O’Brien recalled. “She and her family have been devastated by Ferrone and Terrence’s convictions, and they believe they are innocent and have been trying to tell their story to anyone who will listen.”
But what really drew Kerri to the case was when she met a juror who wanted to come forward after learning for the first time that Claiborne and Richardson were serving life sentences, despite being acquitted of murdering Waverly officer Allen Gibson in April of 1998.
“You see, the jury is not present when the sentencing happens,” Kerri explained. “And the jury had convicted them on drug charges. She said no one thought they were guilty of murder, and so she never thought they would get a sentence of life behind bars.
“She said if she had known that, she believes the jury would have found them not guilty of the drugs.”
Also missing from the case was hard evidence — no fingerprints, DNA or even blood.
“The other thing that really stood out to me, when Ferrone and Terrence got pulled over and the federal government had got involved, they had pulled them over for drugs. But there were no drugs in the car, no drugs found on them and no drugs found at their home, and the whole case is built on a conspiracy to sell crack cocaine. So, where’s the drugs?”
Kerri also questioned the credibility of the witnesses.
“All of the men who took the stand to testify were wearing orange jumpsuits,” Kerri explained. “Meaning they had been convicted or charged and were all getting a deal to get on that stand and testify against Ferrone and Terrence.”
Family members still believe that someone out there knows the truth and can help them find justice. Claiborne told 8News that she gets messages “all the time” from people who tell her things like, ‘You’re brother didn’t really do this’ or ‘You should talk to this person’.
“And then when they pursue those leads, people disappear, they get scared, they freeze up.”
Now, the family is pleading with anyone who was in Waverly during the time — the murder occurred on the morning of April 25, 1998 — to come forward with any information or small detail they may recall.
“No matter what it is. No matter which way this case goes, we’re not taking sides in this case here.”
With an attorney now back on the case who is ‘committed to seeing that this thing is righted’ there’s hope for both families who maintain Claiborne and Richardson are innocent.
That attorney, Jarett Adams, offered a perspective that is important to remember:
“You know, if we’re going to put people away for life, don’t we have an obligation to make sure we got it right?”