KIMBERLY LONG

County of Conviction: Riverside

Convicted of: Second Degree Murder

Sentence: 15 to Life

Years Served: 3 Years

Cost of Wrongful Incarceration: $135,000 and counting

 

Late at night on October 5, 2003 or during the early morning of October 6, 2003, Oswaldo “Ozzy” Conde was brutally murdered in the house he shared with his girlfriend, Kimberly “Kim” Long. Although she passed a polygraph examination administered by law enforcement displaying a high degree of honesty, and despite viable alternate suspects, Kim would soon find herself convicted of Ozzy’s murder.

On October 5, 2003, Kim spent the day bar-hopping with Ozzy and their friend, Jeff Dills, in Corona, California. The group started at a bar called Chuck Wagon around 10:00 a.m. or 11:00 a.m., continued to Tom’s Farms around 12:00 p.m., then on to Sportsman around 2:00 p.m., and ended at a bar called Maverick’s in the evening. At Maverick’s, it was clear Kim was drunk. The group decided to leave and went to Kim’s house at approximately 11:00 p.m. Kim and Ozzy got into a dispute and Kim decided to leave with Jeff.

Kim and Jeff went to Jeff’s home, returning to her home at approximately 2:00 a.m. Kim was still drunk and stumbling when she tried to enter the house. Inside, Kim saw Ozzy lying motionless on the couch with his head bashed in. He had been hit 3 to 8 times in a precise area of his head with a long object. Ozzy appeared to have been dead for some time. Lividity – the pooling of blood in the extremities – was present on the back of Ozzy’s arms as well as on the left side of his face. Lividity does not tend to set in for over an hour. Rigidity – the stiffening of muscles after death – had also started in Ozzy’s arms which can be detected usually starting a ½ hour to two hours after death.

Frantic, Kim called 911. Police responded immediately. When officers arrived, they noticed blood on every wall of the living room in a 360 degree radius, yet no blood was found on Kim or her clothing. Neither were any of the drains inside or outside the house wet, indicating there was no cleanup. At trial, the prosecution argued that Kim committed the murder and disposed of her bloody clothing before calling 911. The jury believed him. After all, given the forensics, it is undisputed that the killer would have had Ozzy’s blood on them.

Kim became a suspect when Jeff told officers he dropped Kim off at home around 1:30 a.m., not 2:00 a.m. as Kim claimed. From that point on, officers focused on Kim as a suspect even though there were other viable suspects including Ozzy’s ex-girlfriend against whom Ozzy had a restraining order at the time of his death. Jeff died shortly thereafter in a motorcycle accident and his story about dropping Kim off at 1:30 a.m. could not be questioned further. Based on the fact Kim and Ozzy argued that night and that the jury believed Kim was home at 1:30 a.m., Kim was convicted.

So surprised was the trial judge with the verdict that he stated he would have acquitted Kim. After all, Kim had a prior trial in which nine for the twelve jurors had voted “not guilty.” After her second trial, the two alternate jurors came forward and told the trial judge they would have acquitted Kim and that something must have gone terribly wrong during jury deliberations. Indeed, the evidence was so thin against Kim that the trial judge let her remain out on bail pending her appeal, which is very rare. She was eventually taken into custody in 2009 and remains there while the California Innocence Project uncovers further evidence of her innocence.

The California Innocence Project has verified that Kim did not change her clothing, a fact the prosecutor knew at the time he argued that she did. Neither the trial judge nor jury heard this fact. Further, evidence now suggests that Jeff was not truthful about the time he dropped Kim off. The California Innocence Project has learned that Jeff believed he was a suspect in the murder, thus giving him a motive to lie. Finally, relevant biological evidence from the crime scene was never tested, including a cigarette butt likely left behind by the killer, which is currently being tested.