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NC man who spent 24 years in prison found innocent

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NEWTON, N.C. (AP) - A man who spent almost 24 years in prison after he was convicted of rape has now been found innocent of the crime.

A three-judge panel ruled Friday that Willie Grimes did not rape and kidnap a 69-year-old woman from Hickory in 1987.

Grimes' lawyer presented evidence during the weeklong hearing that showed police did not question a half-dozen people who said Grimes was somewhere else when the rape happened. They also showed that two fingerprints found at the home where the rape happened were linked to another man, who has been charged with several rapes during the 1970s.

District Attorney Jay Gaither apologized to Grimes, who was released on parole in May.

Grimes says his first step will be to get himself off the state's sex offender registry.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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