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New evidence presented in 42-year-old murder case
COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Following an I-Team investigation, a West Michigan family is hoping new evidence will lead to the truth in a 42-year-old murder.
In 1971, Joseph Swetay, the owner of a bar and grocery store in Covert, was tortured and killed during a robbery.
James Wilson and Leo Terlisner were convicted of the murder years later, despite a lack of any physical evidence, and sentenced to life in prison.
The State Supreme Court is reviewing Terlisner's case right now, and Wilson's family hopes a motion submitted Thursday will convince the courts to take another look at his case as well.
Newschannel 3 was able to obtain a copy of the motion for relief from Wilson's attorney.
The motion presents four arguments for why Wilson should receive relief from his life sentence, the most compelling of which claims to present evidence that three key witnesses lied during testimony.
The first is Randy Crawford, who testified he was at the home of Arthur Cheek the night Joe Swetay was murdered.
"He had left from there around 3 or something in the morning, and had walked past Fish Corners and seen my brother's car there," said Wilson's sister Deborah Naumann.
But a sworn affidavit from Arthur Cheek says that's not possible.
"Arthur Cheek lived in Florida when Joseph Swetay was murdered," Naumann said. "He was not even in the state of Michigan."
Next is an affidavit from Bobbie Hampton, whose brother Donnie was a suspect in the Swetay murder.
Bobbie claims before Donnie died, he indicated he set up Wilson, by implicating him in the crime, over "a previous grudge."
Jimmy Showan was named by the prosecution's star witness, Carol Newton, in Wilson's retrial.
Newton claimed she lied when first questioned about the Swetay murder at her home in 1973, because Showan, a known criminal was in the next room with a sawed-off shotgun.
"Hiding with that gun is the reason she couldn't tell this detective that she knew anything about James being involved," Naumann said.
But during our investigation in May, the Department of Corrections told us the same thing Showan now says in his sworn affidavit.
He was in prison all of 1973.
Wilson's attorney is requesting first that the court order the Van Buren County Prosecutor to answer the allegations in the motion, and second, to either grant a new trial, order Wilson's release, or at least grant a hearing to review the new evidence.