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August 26, 2011

Wilson pleads guilty in Finegan murder, then retracts it

Cleveland--The man accused in the 1982 murder of Mary Ann Finegan and rape of her companion entered a guilty plea August 10--avoiding the possibility of a death sentence--only to file a motion days later seeking to withdraw the plea.

Richard A. Wilson was back in court on August 24, originally for sentencing on his guilty plea. That was changed to a hearing on how to proceed after he moved to withdraw the plea himself, without the aid of his attorneys.

Common Pleas Judge Brian Corrigan ordered new representation for Wilson, since his actions indicated a lack of faith in his attorneys, and set a hearing for September 23 on the motion to retract the guilty plea.

During two days of jury selection, a majority of potential jurors said that they were proponents of the death penalty. After the plea was entered, attorneys asked them whether they would have recommended it in this case, were Wilson found guilty in a jury trial. Their responses showed it was likely that he would have been sentenced to death.

The plea agreement would have restricted sentencing to 1982 levels, which would have meant 30 years to life in prison for the 58-year-old, who faces 16 charges, including two counts of aggravated murder, six of kidnapping, four of aggravated robbery, attempted rape, rape and two of attempted aggravated murder.

Wilson was due to be released from a prison near Pittsburgh last year when the Cleveland Police Cold Case Unit matched his DNA to evidence collected after Finegan and her former girlfriend were abducted and subjected to a night of horror. He was extradited to Ohio to face charges.

Finegan was sitting in her truck on a June night in 1982, talking to her ex-girlfriend near Isis, a popular lesbian bar at the time. When she went to pull the truck into a closer parking spot so the women could go to the bar, a man opened the passenger door, pointed a gun at her companion and told Finegan to drive or he would kill her.

He directed them to an isolated area of the industrial Flats near the Cuyahoga River, below Tremont. He told the women to get out of the truck and remove their pants, and they balked. He said he would count to three and then shot Finegan, killing her instantly. He then raped her friend, shot her and left her for dead. She refused to lose consciousness, however, and was found 14 hours later by a security guard.

The Cleveland LGBT Centerís hate crime reporting program was named for Finegan.

An extended report on the 1982 crime and the survivorís recollections of it is online at www.gaypeopleschronicle.com/stories10/february/0226101.htm.

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