Charges filed in 32 year old Norman rape case

NORMAN, Okla. – There are stunning new developments in a 32 year old Norman rape case.

After one wrongful conviction and almost two decades of silence, prosecutors have filed charges against a Mississippi man.

The crime happened back in 1982 when an OU college student was raped in her apartment.

Thomas Webb was arrested and convicted of the crime.

“I went in when I was 21 years old and came out when I was 36,” said Webb.

He served 14 years of his 60 year sentence before being exonerated by DNA in 1996.

“The question of why I was there in the first place and who really did it was still out there,” said Webb.

On July 11th, charges were filed against Gilbert Duane Harris, 58, of Biloxi, Mississippi.

It all started with a reporter at Oklahoma Watch digging a little deeper.

“Shaun made a call to the Norman police to ask very simply – did you ever go back and find the real rapist?” said Oklahoma Watch editor, David Fritze.

A Norman detective went back and reviewed the case, looking through DNA evidence that exonerated Webb and found that a DNA match was actually made back in 2006.

“Apparently, the OSBI notified the prosecutor’s office,” said Captain Tom Easley with the Norman Police Department. “But Norman police department was not copied. And it’s at that point that the trail goes dead.”

After the call from the Oklahoma Watch reporter, Norman police reopened their investigation and using the DNA match from 2006, traced the suspect to Biloxi.

“Biloxi police department collected DNA from that suspect and best I understand, it was a match,” said Capt. Easley.

The editor at Oklahoma Watch says this points to a bigger problem.

“More than half the DNA exoneration cases nationally, no real perpetrator has been found,” said Fritze.

Webb is hoping this new development helps him put the nightmare in his past.

“That’s the beginning of my closure,” said Webb. “I’m thankful that there’s people out there that care about justice, that care about the truth being told you know. And hopefully with the help of God, the truth will be revealed.”

The head of the lab system at OSBI says as a result of this case, they have changed how they make notifications of DNA matches.

If you’d like to know more about this case or others were suspects have been exonerated, you can find more at www.oklahomawatch.org.