Mooney freed

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 6, 2008

Sue Mooney had contended all along that her son was innocent.

“We knew there was no way on God’s green earth Jason did this,” Sue Mooney said of her son Jason, who was to have stood trial next week in connection with the death of his grandmother, Thelma Mooney.

Thursday afternoon, Lawrence County authorities agreed and dismissed the murder charge against the Ironton man, setting him free after 15 months behind bars — 15 months that could have ended next week in a prison sentence.

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Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier, Jr., said the decision was made after he met Wednesday with Amy Wanken, a forensic scientist with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification.

Wanken told Collier that a secondary source of DNA on a bloody glove found at the crime scene was not a sufficient amount for her to conclusively identify the person to whom it belonged, but she also could not say it was Jason Mooney’s. A larger source of DNA on the glove was determined long ago to belong to someone other than Jason Mooney.

Collier said without any evidence tying Mooney to the crime, that left only a statement from him that posed its own set of problems — he confessed but recanted, had given police a timetable but had a solid alibi for the time the crime was committed.

“I had to ask myself if I really had a chance of getting a conviction based on the evidence I had and I had to answer in the negative,” Collier said. “I believe I had an ethical duty to dismiss the charges.”

Rick Faulkner, Jason Mooney’s attorney, commended Collier for “taking a strong look at the evidence and recognizing, ‘Hey, we have an innocent person here.’”

Jason Mooney said he was “glad it’s all over.”

After 15 months in jail, he is anxious to reconnect with a wife, two children, sister and parents who have believed in his innocence and are eager to have him back home with them.

Sue Mooney said she is thankful to God for helping the family get through this. She thanked Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jeff Lawless, the staff at the sheriff’s office and jail and Ironton Police Chief Jim Carey for their handling of the case and their treatment of her son while he was incarcerated. She also said she is “disappointed in how Shane (Hanshaw, investigator for the BCI&I) handled this,” a sentiment Faulkner shared.

“I think he (Hanshaw) took his theory and tried to stretch the facts to fit his theory,” Faulkner said.

Efforts to contact Hanshaw for comment were unsuccessful.

Dan Mooney, Jason’s father, thanked Faulkner for his work as his son’s legal counsel and thanked Collier for having made “the right decision.”

“This has been tumultuous,” Dan Mooney said. “But there wasn’t anything there. There never has been. I think he (Collier) made the right decision. It’s good to have my son back.”

Dan Mooney said the closing of the case against his son leaves open one agonizing question.

“Whoever did kill my mother is still roaming around out there. I have charged J.B. not to let this go and to intensify the investigation and try to find out who the killer is,” Dan Mooney said.

He pointed out that his mother’s murder has some odd similarities to the death of Harold Moore, the elderly Burlington man found stabbed to death in his home in March. Both Moore and Mooney lived alone, were older and there were no signs of forced entry at either residence.