KANSAS CITY — A young Missouri man whose murder conviction was overturned has been released from prison after prosecutors received new information and decided not to retry him, his attorney said Wednesday.
Zackary Stewart was 18 when two jailhouse informants helped convict him for the fatal shooting of 53-year-old David Dulin, who was found dead in November 2006 in his home southwest of Springfield. A new trial was ordered this year by the Missouri Supreme Court, but on Friday prosecutors announced that they were dropping the first-degree murder charge.
"We've been waiting for justice on this case for a long time," Stacy Bilyeu, one of Stewart's attorneys, told The Associated Press. "We have all sorts of feelings about how long it's taken, why and how he was convicted in the first place."
Stewart, now 22, walked out of prison late Friday afternoon following prosecuting attorney Matt Selby's announcement.
"Based on all of the information currently available, I do not believe that it is appropriate to continue Zackary Stewart's current prosecution," Selby said in a statement Friday.
That same day, Selby filed a motion to revoke the own-recognizance bond posted by Tim Seaman for a felony gun charge. Seaman — whose DNA was detected on a bloody hat found near Dulin's body, according to court documents — was put back in jail in lieu of $50,000 cash-only bond.
Selby was out of his office Wednesday and couldn't be reached for comment.
During Stewart's murder trial, jurors were told that Dulin called 911 and said two men in their 20s and 30s broke into his house and shot him in the head. Dulin said one of the men said he was the "Eby girl's boyfriend."
Paula Eby is Stewart's mother, and Seaman was married to one of Eby's daughters.
Seaman's DNA matched evidence found on a bloody hat found near Dulin's body, according to court documents. But testimony about that DNA evidence — along with relatives saying Seaman acknowledged to them that he was present at the murder scene and had killed someone — wasn't revealed until after Stewart's conviction. That information was included in the Missouri Supreme Court's ruling in May.
Seaman, 36, pleaded guilty in November to unlawful possession of a firearm in an unrelated case and was free pending sentencing Dec. 15 before Selby ordered him held. Selby's office had recommended Seaman spend three years in prison for that offense as part of a plea bargain.
Stone County Sheriff Richard Hill confirmed Wednesday that Seaman was being held in his jail, but referred questions about the Dulin case to Selby. Seaman's public defender, Pamela Musgrave, referred questions to her office's spokesman, who was out of the office Wednesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Stewart is getting reacquainted with family members and meeting some new ones for the first time, said Melanie Flood, a family friend who has been acting as a media liaison for Stewart.
"He was still a kid when he was arrested for this," Flood said. "Now he's 22. He lost that in-between time of his life. He's still in a cloud right now."
"I talked to his dad yesterday, and (Stewart's) doing really good," she said. "He's trying to catch up a bit."
Bilyeu, his attorney, and Flood said Stewart needed more time to adjust to his life outside of prison before he would be willing to speak with the media.