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Detroit — Lawyers and supporters of a Michigan prison inmate are hoping to have a conviction in the 19-year-old murder case of an alleged pre-teen female drug dealer overturned, arguing the real killer remains free.

They’re also working against the clock. Those hoping to get a new trial for Lamarr Monson of Detroit say the man who really committed the crime is ill and has about six months to live.

Attorneys for the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School and Bill Proctor, a former WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) reporter and now a private investigator, filed a motion Monday on behalf of Monson, 43, in Wayne County Circuit Court. They’re asking Prosecutor Kym Worthy to order a new trial for Monson in the killing of Christina Brown, 12, in an alleged drug den in an apartment on Boston and Lawton on Detroit’s west side.

The lawyers point to issues with two versions of a confession from Monson and a written statement from 65-year-old Shellena Bently, who told police three years ago the actual killer is her former boyfriend who lived in the Boston apartment building and bought drugs from the alleged adolescent drug dealer.

“I am choosing to come forward now because after moving back to the area, I discovered that Lamarr Monson had been incarcerated for the murder, and I knew (the new suspect) had moved to Pittsburgh,” the woman said in an affidavit. “I did not known (sic) Monson other than in passing, and have no reason to lie on his behalf. (The other suspect) murdered Christina Brown, he stated this to me.”

Monson’s mother, Delores Monson, said she does not believe her son murdered the young girl.

“We just want our son home,” Monson said Monday during a news conference. “He’s innocent. The person responsible for this crime has been freed all this time.”

“We are aware of the motion, and will respond in court at the appropriate time,” said Jason W. Williams, chief of research, training and appeals in Worthy’s office.

Brown’s bloodied and beaten body was found around 1:30 p.m. Jan. 20, 1996, in the unheated, first-floor apartment where she allegedly sold marijuana and crack cocaine for Monson. In a police statement taken hours after he discovered the girl’s body, Monson told police he did not stab the girl and did not own a knife. He told police he last saw the girl around 11:30 p.m. the night before she was discovered brutally killed.

An autopsy found Brown had been beaten to death. The medical examiner’s office also noted the girl had 18 stab wounds and had been strangled. It was initially believed the girl was stabbed to death and it was that belief, Monson’s lawyers say, that prompted police to charge Monson and get a second confession stating he stabbed the girl.

Monson, the girls’ former acquaintance, was convicted of murder in the case in 1997 and sent to prison the same year. Monson also told police Brown sold drugs for him in the apartment. He said Brown told him she was 17 years old going on 18.

Monson is serving his 30-45-year prison sentence at Gus Harrison Correctional Facility.

David Moran, the co-founder of the Michigan Innocence Clinic, and Proctor say Monson’s conviction should be thrown out, citing what they call a forced second statement to Detroit homicide investigators a day later. Monson told police Brown was stabbed during a struggle between the two of them. Moran and Proctor point out Monson’s fingerprints were not found on the knife or the toilet top cover, which was covered in blood, found in the girl’s apartment.

Moran said a palm print belonging to the victim and a thumb print from the Pennsylvania suspect were found during the investigation. The man is named in the motion for a new trial but since he hasn’t been charged The Detroit News is not using his name.

Moran said the second statement Monson gave police “sends up a red flag” because it was typed and not hand-written.

“It tells you the police either coerced it or wrote it themselves and had him sign it,” said Moran, also citing a controversy within the Detroit Police Department in the mid-1990s in which top Detroit police investigators were accused of gaining confessions “unconstitutionally.”

Bently told police in a signed affidavit in July 2012 that the boyfriend, now in his 60s, came from the girl’s apartment the night of Jan. 19, 1996, covered in blood and saying the girl had scratched him and that he killed her.

“I asked him what happened ... He told me that he had to kill that (expletive) ... she scratched me,” the woman said in the statement to police.

The woman said the man “made me stay with him (and) he threatened to kill me, my daughters (and) my grandchildren.” She told police she eventually left Detroit out of fear and returned after 12 years. She said she wanted to tell police what she knew although she tried contacting investigators shortly after the death when she fled to live in a local shelter.

Proctor said he was 60 days from retirement in March 2013 when he got a call from a woman saying she knew something about a killing. She had given the police a statement about it.

It turned out, Proctor said, he had covered Brown’s killing and the Monson case. Proctor said he believes he has a duty to uncover the truth.

“I want to fix this,” Proctor said. “I was part of portraying the unfair pack of lies from the police department. I was told about a confession (from Monson) that was not accurate, not true.”

Proctor said the police and prosecutor’s office “made a horrific mistake in this case.”

Moran said he would hope the prosecutor’s office difficulty in admitting to a mistake in the case doesn’t “trump doing justice for Christina Brown.”

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2027

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