Gaston County man fights to clear his name, 25 years later

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NEWTON, N.C. —

A Gaston County man is fighting to clear his name after he served 25 years in prison for rape, a crime he said he did not commit.

The family of the victim said they are hearing facts about the case they never heard before. As many as eight people have come forward saying Willie Grimes was nowhere near the crime scene when the woman was raped.

Grimes has maintained his innocence since his 1987 arrest. After three days of testimony, family members of the victim said they aren't sure either and are questioning whether Grimes is really guilty.

"We found out a lot of things we didn't know about the evidence and stuff that was brought out," said Tamra Elliot, the victim's granddaughter.

Elliott listened to hours of testimony and admits she heard enough that she questions what happened the night her grandmother was raped.

Her grandmother passed away years ago, but after the rape, she identified Grimes as her attacker.

Her description changed several times and her inability to pick him from a photo lineup at the time of the trial had one expert question its accuracy.

Eyewitness News learned the district attorney filed paperwork granting limited immunity to Albert Turner.

Turner was just arrested last week in connection with a different rape in the 1970s, and Channel 9 learned his fingerprints were found inside the victim's apartment in Grimes' case.

Even though the evidence was collected in 1987, the fingerprints weren't tested until last year.

"We as a family have all talked and we feel like if he was not the one who did it, we need to make it right," Elliot said.

The district attorney wants to know the truth.

He filed the limited grant of immunity allowing Turner to testify as early as Thursday, before a three-judge panel, and the testimony can't be held against him in the 1987 case.

Grimes said he has been praying day and night since the hearing started.

"I'm just praying they clear my name," Grimes said. "That's all I want is my name cleared."

It will be up to the judges to decide if they will grant that immunity to Turner. The district attorney's office told Channel 9 they do plan on calling him in front of the three judges.