JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A man who spent more than three years behind bars on murder and arson charges was released from jail Wednesday after a prosecutor admitted that the case against him is weak.
Randal Wagoner, 48, was scheduled for trial next week on charges that he killed Kathy Johnson on Dec. 1, 2013, and set fire to a tavern on Commonwealth Avenue. Johnson lived upstairs.
Jacksonville police said Wagoner knew Johnson and the killing was the result of a fight over drugs and sex. His motorcycle was seen leaving the scene.
Wagoner was arrested three months later at a bar in Starke and has been held ever since.
At a hearing at which an assistant state attorney asked for more time to review the case, Circuit Judge James Daniel granted a defense motion for Wagoner's release without bond. He still faces the murder and arson charges.
Wagoner has always maintained his innocence. Defense attorneys were able to cast doubt on almost all of the state's evidence:
The State does not possess reliable evidence that Ms. Johnson's death was a homicide.
The State does not possess reliable evidence that the fire involved ... was intentionally set."
Assistant Public Defender Michael Bateh credited prosecutor London Kite for digging into the case when questions arose. Kite, an assistant state attorney, said her investigation will determine whether the case is still viable.
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