SPRINGFIELD, IL (KFVS) - After years of trying to clear the name of man who arrested, tried and convicted for the stabbing of a 72-year-old Mt. Vernon, Illinois woman, Grover Thompson has received executive clemency.
At the Illinois State Capitol on Tuesday, January 15 at 2 p.m., the University of Illinois Springfield Illinois Innocence Project held a news conference on Thompson’s exoneration.
Heartland News was at the news conference held in Springfield on Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 15.
“Grover Thompson was truly an innocent man,” said Paul Echols, Former Carbondale Police Department Investigations Commander. “Just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the things that happened should not have happened.”
Former Gov. Bruce Rauner has granted Grover Thompson the the first posthumous exoneration in Illinois, according to the Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield. This is reportedly only the 21st such exoneration nationwide.
In September 1981, 46-year-old Grover Thompson was traveling by bus to see family in Mississippi, when he stopped to rest in the Mt. Vernon post office. As he slept in the lobby, a woman was attacked and stabbed multiple times in an apartment across the street.
Thompson was accused of the crime despite having a disability and that he was not wearing clothing that fit the description of the attacker. He was arrested and convicted of the attempted murder of Ida White.
He was sent to Menard Prison on a 40-year sentence and died there in 1996.
Thompson insisted he was innocent until his dying day.
“Uncle Grover suffered a tragedy that never should have happened,” said S.T. Jamison, Grover’s nephew, from his home in Minnesota. “He was an innocent black man just trying to get home to his family and he never came home.”
In 2007, serial killer Timothy Krajcir confessed to Paul Echols, a lieutenant with the Carbondale Police Department, and to Jimmy Simth, a detective with the Cape Girardeau Police Department, that he had stabbed Ida White. In the confession, Krajcir described the victim, the apartment and his escape.
In 2011, SIU law students and the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project began investigating Grover Thompson’s case. In 2012, the group, along with police from Carbondale and Cape Girardeau and Thompson’s family petitioned the Illinois Prisoner Review Board arguing for Thompson’s innocence. Former Gov. Rauner denied the petition in 2015.
Posthumous exonerations are rare. Of the 2,363 exonerations documented since 1989 by the National Registry of Exonerations, only 20 are posthumous. Ten of those are of individuals, like Thompson, who died in prison.