Man incarcerated for more than 15 years cleared in mom's murder; - KPTV - FOX 12

Man incarcerated for more than 15 years cleared in mom's murder; another family member arrested

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Image of Donovan Allen from Innocence Project Northwest on Facebook Image of Donovan Allen from Innocence Project Northwest on Facebook
Donovan Allen in a celebratory dinner following his release. Donovan Allen in a celebratory dinner following his release.

New DNA evidence has cleared a man who was incarcerated for more than 15 years after being convicted of murdering his mother.

Now, a different family member is accused of killing Sharon Cox in Longview in February 2000.

In court documents signed Dec. 1, Donovan Allen's 2002 conviction of aggravated first-degree murder was vacated and he was released from the Clallam Bay Corrections Center the following day.

Also on Dec. 1, Brian Kitts, 42, was arraigned on the charge of first-degree aggravated murder for the death of Cox. She was 49 years old.

According to court documents, Allen, now 34 years old, was questioned for 14 hours at the time of his mother's death and confessed to police he had strangled her with a phone cord. His lawyers said police elicited a false confession from him. 

Investigators said a broken phone cord was found at the scene and was believed to have been used to strangle Cox. Her cause of death was determined to be crushing blunt force head trauma and strangulation.

According to a probable cause affidavit, investigators determined money needed for a drug debt owed by Allen and Kitts was a possible motive for the crime.  

Kitts is the adopted son of Cox's sister.

The affidavit states Kitts admitted to being at the house with Cox an hour before Allen called 911 to report her death. At trial, court documents state Kitts testified against Allen, describing strife between Allen and his mother.

After an initial trial ended with a hung jury, Allen was convicted in 2002 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to court documents.

At the request of Allen's lawyers from Innocence Project Northwest, a judge ordered new DNA testing of two shirts Cox was wearing at the time she was killed. The Washington State Patrol Crime Lab completed the testing on Sept. 30 of this year and discovered Kitts' DNA in the collar area of both shirts, according to court documents.

A probable cause affidavit states a forensic scientist reported the amount of DNA would not be consistent with casual contact, including hugging and folding clothes.

Kitts was interviewed by Longview police on Nov. 11. Court documents state he told detectives he was at Cox's home on Feb. 7, 2000, that he often went to the home to work on project and Cox often greeted him with a hug.

Two days later, Cox's husband and a longtime friend were interviewed. They both said it was not customary for Cox to greet people with a hug, according to court documents, and Kitts did not participate in any projects around the house.

On Nov. 24, a probable cause affidavit states Kitts was confronted with the DNA evidence. Kitts denied killing Cox, court documents state, but he was unable to explain how a heavy deposit of his DNA was on the collar of the shirts she was wearing at the time she was killed.

Innocence Project Northwest said his DNA was also found on the gun used to bludgeon Cox.

"At the conclusion of the interview Kitts was very emotional and crying and said, 'it's too late,' 'it doesn't matter' and 'you wouldn't understand,'" according to a probable cause affidavit.

Kitts was then arrested and booked in the Cowlitz County Jail. He pleaded not guilty this week and is due back in court Dec. 15.

According to an Innocence Project Northwest release, Allen spent his first moments out of prison at the Olympic Peninsula, then took in the holiday lights in Seattle and "enjoyed what he described as the best meal he has had in 16 years," a steak dinner at the Palace Kitchen.

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