CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WSPA)- Former Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller spoke exclusively to 7News about the investigation into possible new evidence in a murder from 1975 that sent a man to death row.
The man who was convicted, Charles Wakefield, has maintained his innocence and is now out on parole.
In 1975, Lt. Frank Looper and his father Rufus Looper were found shot in the head in a garage. Police said it was a robbery gone wrong, and Charles Wakefiled was convicted and sentenced to death.
He’s now living in Charlotte on parole and said he won’t stop fighting for justice.
“If I had committed the crime, I would have been at peace,” Wakefield said. “It would have been…different.”
Charles Wakefield spent decades in prison after his conviction.
A letter that former Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller said supported that claim was uncovered during a cleaning of the law enforcement center in 2018. It appeared to be written by a girlfriend of former Greenville County Sheriff Cash Williams.
According to a report from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, that letter was addressed to then Greenville Police Chief, claiming Wakefield was framed by deputies within the department and claiming that Lt. Looper was killed because he planned to expose corruption in the sheriff’s office.
That letter ended up with Miller.
“I was very concerned about the fact that this file was located in a locker that was not issued in well over a decade, maybe two decades, and was not with the case file,” Miller said. “That’s a serious red flag in any investigation.”
Miller called in an attorney from the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence to take Wakefield’s case. When the file containing the letter went missing, Miller called state agents to investigate.
The SLED report shows the Looper file kept getting passed along from person to person in the department, some of whom were in the Police Deparment when the Loopers were murdered.
“I don’t know that it was an accident or not,” Miller said. “I find it very peculiar that that file has…nobody has been able to locate that file. Out of all the files we have, that one file, has been…we have not been able to locate.”
The solicitor’s office declined to press charges related to the disappearance of the letter.
“To charge somebody, you have to know that they had the intent to commit a crime,” Miller said. “They had the intent to do something that was in fact a crime, and I don’t know that they were ever able to establish that.”
The solicitor is Walt Wilkins, the son of the prosecutor who helped convict Wakefield.
“It’s business as usual,” Wakefield said.
In addition to that letter, another possible piece of evidence turned up last year- a gun that matched what investigators believed was the murder weapon, a. 32 caliber Rossi handgun found in possession in one of the main witnesses of the original case, Mae McIntyre.
This week, Wakefield’s attorney filed a motion to have that gun compared to the bullets that killed Frank and Rufus Looper.
“The request was made by the solicitor that the test be done by SLED, and I think SLED has been very involved in this case throughout,” said Wakefield’s attorney Chris Mumma, who is the executive director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence. “Again, if we want to get some confidence in the outcome, we need to go independent.”
Friday, Wakefield and Miller, who resigned from the Police Department at the end of last year, met for the first time.
“I think that’s the next step is to evaluate again, you know the gun,” he said. “That’s a tangible object. It is consistent with facts in the investigation. It was presented to us as having been located in the garage of an eyewitness in the matterthat firearm needs to be tested.”
Solicitor Walt Wilkins did not respond to a request for comment by airtime Friday. 7News also reached out to the S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office about a possible conflict of interest in the case. A spokesperson said he was not familiar with the case and could not comment.
A spokesperson from the FBI said they received a copy of the original police file in the case from the Greenville Police Department but could not comment on whether it is under investigation.