GOUVERNEUR — The St. Lawrence County district attorney says Frederick A. Wing Jr. did not kill Ronald E. “Huck” Durham.
Mr. Wing, 22, of Gouverneur was arrested and charged Feb. 11 after the body of Mr. Durham, 72, of Gouverneur, was discovered in East Riverside Cemetery. Mr. Wing was ordered held in the county jail without bail. He was released around 9:21 p.m. Friday night and ordered under probationary supervision.
St. Lawrence County DA Gary M. Pasqua said investigators had learned new information that led them to believe Mr. Wing was not the killer. While he was incarcerated, a second murder happened that police and prosecutors believe is related to Mr. Durham’s murder.
On Thursday, they were alerted to a remote trailer in the Town of Rossie, where they found the body of William M. Freeman, 67.
A large number of police agencies were called to 258 County Route 10 Thursday where Mr. Freeman’s body was found.
In addition to the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, the St. Lawrence County District Attorney’s Office, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, New York State Police, Homeland Security Investigations, the Watertown Police Department and the North Country Crime Analysis Center were at the crime scene.
According to a St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office report, an autopsy was to be performed Friday by forensic pathology specialist Dr. Michael Sikirica to determine the cause of death.
During a Saturday afternoon phone interview, Mr. Pasqua wouldn’t say much about the link between the Durham and Freeman murders, including the identity of a person of interest in both. He said he can’t say much about the Freeman murder, since that investigation is in its earliest stages.
“We know who [that person of interest] is, we know where they are, and they’re not a danger to the community,” Mr. Pasqua said.
“At the time Mr. Wing was arrested and charged, I think law enforcement had more than enough evidence to find there was probable cause to believe he was the individual responsible for Mr. Durham’s death,” Mr. Pasqua said. He added that the evidence included “both physical evidence and information provided by witnesses, that could include the defendant himself.”
He said over the last few days, “Mr. Wing was able to provide some information we believe would be helpful to state police in finding the proper culprit of (the Durham) homicide.”
Mr. Pasqua said once he and police investigators figured out Mr. Wing is not a murderer, they rushed to get him freed from the St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility.
“Hopefully, we will be able to discuss both cases more in the coming few days,” the DA said.
Although the evidence at the time (of Mr. Wing’s arrest) indicated Mr. Wing was responsible, that’s changed, and we did everything we could to ensure there was no injustice done to Mr. Wing so he wasn’t incarcerated for something we now don’t believe he did,” Mr. Pasqua said. “I think it was the excellent work of law enforcement, New York State Police, the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department, Homeland Security, working on conjunction with both Mr. Durham’s case and the case in Rossie that led to what we’ve seen happen over these last few days.”
Relatives of Mr. Wing have said he’s innocent of killing Mr. Durham. They say the two were close friends, almost like a father-and-son relationship, and Mr. Wing was devastated when he learned Mr. Durham had died.
Mr. Wing is intellectually disabled, such that he’s unable to do things neurotypical people may take for granted, like being able to work a steady job or drive a car. He’s also not able to understand legal terms, according to his cousin, Jessica M. Bice.
On Friday morning, Mr. Wing had a bail hearing in front of St. Lawrence County Court Judge Gregory P. Storie, who initially denied bail. Ms. Bice was in attendance.
“When the judge was talking about he could be put [in prison] for life ... he didn’t understand,” Ms. Bice said. “All he knew was he wasn’t going home, and he started to cry at that point.”
She said her cousin is happy again and thrilled to be free and back home with his family.
“He said the jail beds were uncomfortable and he was happy to be in his own bed. He had a cup of coffee this morning and he said he was happy to be with family,” Ms. Bice said Saturday afternoon.
She said she doesn’t believe Mr. Wing was able to understand the situation in which he found himself after being arrested. She visited her cousin in jail the Sunday after he was arrested and asked him if he understood he’s being charged with a felony and what his Miranda rights are.
“When I asked him about what Miranda rights were, he thought it had something to do with drinking. He thought he was in trouble for something with drinking,” she said.
She says he also didn’t know what a felony means.
“He thought it was something he had to pay for. He said he didn’t have any money for it,” because Mr. Wing’s only income is from SSI, Ms. Bice said.
She credits a community effort with helping in getting Mr. Wing freed and showing police that he isn’t Mr. Durham’s killer. He initially had been represented by a public defender. A private attorney, Edward F. Narrow, is now Mr. Wing’s legal counsel.
“Our family thanks the community that stood behind Freddy’s innocence. There’s a lot of community members that are still rallying ... they knew his innocence from the beginning and we want to thank everybody who stood behind him. It was a long 20 days,” Ms. Bice said. “There were a lot of community members asking for ways to help, if a Go Fund Me would be an option, to community members reaching out to try to pull strings to get an attorney, or just sending their well wishes that they’re thinking of the family and hopefully the truth would finally come out.”
For now, Ms. Bice said, Mr. Wing wants to properly say goodbye and mourn his late friend Mr. Durham.
“At this point he just wants to be able to say goodbye to his friend, in the respectful manner he deserves. And he said he wants a tractor. He doesn’t understand he could potentially have had life, like the kid in Making a Murderer who didn’t have the intellectual ability to understand it,” she said.
Mr. Narrow did not immediately return a request for comment.
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