Euclid US Army veteran cleared of Texas murder charges that arose over a case of identify theft

Posted at 4:58 PM, Apr 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-28 18:22:39-04

Leon Dudley came home from vacation to find himself charged with a murder that happened nearly four decades earlier, in a state he'd never been to. 

That was the nightmare facing this Euclid man and U.S. Army veteran, but now his ordeal is finally over.

"It's almost science fiction to us," his wife Bonnetta Dudley told News 5. "We spent a lot of money going back and forth between Cleveland and Houston."

Authorities in Texas, where the murder occurred, have now dropped the charges. They essentially believe this to be a case of identity theft, which normally involves a financial crime; this one involved a potential capital crime.

"They were using Leon's name, social security and birth date," said Bonnetta Dudley.

The charge was a 1979 murder of a man on a Houston street. Police say he fired into a crowd after an argument, killing one and wounding another.

A cold case squad traced Dudley to Northeast Ohio through his Social Security number, which years earlier had been stolen.

Dudley's attorney argued he'd never been to Texas and didn't match the description of the suspect in the 1979 case--most notably, Dudley lacks "a bold scar" on his face.

"My client had no such scar the perpetrator was right handed, my client was right handed," said Catharine Samann. "The only thing that bound Leon Dudley to this crime was the use of a Social Security number, which happened to be his, and the name."

A Texas District Attorney said it simply became clear that Leon Dudley, other than the coincidence of similar name and birth date, was not the perpetrator.

"The prosecution took longer than it should," said Bonetta Dudley. We don't know why it took so long."

There is no answer that question from Texas authorities.

The South Euclid couple no longer takes freedom for granted.
"We're happy to say the least. We're relieved that it's finally, finally over," said Bonnetta Dudley. "We're looking forward to enjoying our lives."