Man convicted in 1979 triple slaying allegedly kills inmates for food

Time doesn’t seem to have tempered the fiery anger he feels after being wrongfully imprisoned for 43 years for a triple murder he said he didn’t commit.

So it didn’t take long for 48-year-old Thomas Graves to return to the Memphis, Tennessee, jail where he was held for so long, where once he enjoyed meals from a jailhouse commissary while other inmates still lived in deplorable conditions.

“Man, my mind, it’s like an anger that lives inside of me,” he told FOX News on Tuesday. “I’m still angry at the system. I’ll never be able to clear my name.”

Graves was set free Monday when Shelby County prosecutors dropped the charges against him. He was briefly hospitalized after the release for some of the extreme shock he described feeling from the relief.

Graves was released more than two weeks after his birthdays, almost 10 years after he applied for clemency, and nearly 11 years after his last meal. An appeals court held a brief hearing but no procedural error was found.

The release came as the state prepares to retry Graves for the October 1979 triple murder in Memphis. A man prosecutors accused Graves of fatally shooting was re-arrested in 1982 and recently was charged with the killings, on an alleged confession tape from earlier in his life.

Graves admitted to authorities in 1979 that he stole two vehicles, robbed a bank and killed three people as part of an attack on a strip club he saw just days before, The Commercial Appeal reported. It was not clear whether Graves had been offered a plea bargain in the current case.

“I’ve spent over half my life in there. I’ve made mistakes, but let me tell you, that ain’t right, no way, no how,” Graves said of his time in jail. “I came out blindsided. I came out blindsided when they told me I couldn’t play with my boy.”

His son, Derrick Graves, broke down while speaking to reporters.

“I just felt I had let him down by not being there for him in his struggles,” he said. “I’ve just done so much for him.”

Graves became the third of seven co-defendants convicted in the murders of Larry Collins, William Young and John Jones. Prosecutors said evidence at the time included blood on Graves’ clothes and fibers from a property owned by his dead uncle.

Four other suspects were never charged. Graves’ co-defendants told the Commercial Appeal that Graves wasn’t even present at the robbery and shooting.

Martin Hill, a key witness at trial, recanted his testimony after a decade of public defense representation.


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