Man convicted of killing college student 40 years ago found innocent of the crime

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James Blackmon was found innocent 40 years after he was convicted of a 1979 murder. (Photo: WTVD)

RALEIGH, NC (AP) — A three-judge panel has ruled a mentally ill man convicted of killing a North Carolina college student 40 years ago is innocent.

Ruling as part of North Carolina’s innocence process, the judges agreed Thursday that 66-year-old James Blackmon didn’t fatally stab Helena Payton in 1979 at what’s now St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh.

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Blackmon was sentenced in 1988, about nine years after the slaying. The case had gone cold until 1983.

Lawyers agreed Blackmon is mentally ill with a low IQ. In police interviews, he wore a Superman-like cape and compared himself to Dracula.

His case came before the judges through the work of the North Carolina Innocence Commission, which ruled in November there was enough evidence of Blackmon’s innocence to warrant a judicial review. The judges’ decision is final.