On May 19, 1975, a money-order salesman named Harold Franks was murdered during a robbery at a small grocery store in Cleveland.
That’s when the lives of Rickey Jackson and Eddie Vernon became forever entwined.
They grew up in the same neighborhood: Eddie was the paperboy for Rickey’s family, and friends with Rickey’s younger brother. At the time of the murder, Rickey was 18 and Eddie was 12.
After hearing gunshots while coming home on the school bus, one of Eddie’s classmates told him Rickey was involved in Frank’s murder. Eddie told the police and then became the main witness in the case against Rickey, even though Eddie hadn’t actually witnessed the murder. Eddie testified in trial because, he says, police pressured him to lie and threatened his family.
Rickey was convicted of the murder, along with two friends Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman. Rickey served nearly four decades in prison, turning down chances for parole because he maintained his innocence.
He remained there until 2014, when Eddie, at the age of 52, came forward with the truth. This information led to Rickey’s release and cleared the convictions of the Bridgeman brothers. The murder of Harold Franks remains unsolved.
After his release, Rickey reached out to Eddie and met with him. Three years later, they sat down for StoryCorps to have their first in-depth conversation about what happened.
Photo: Rickey Jackson (left) and Eddie Vernon at their StoryCorps interview in Cleveland.
Originally aired January 5, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.