Man who served 27 years for murder free after judge vacates sentence

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — After hearing testimony all week, and three decades in jail, a judge has finally ruled on whether a Wilmington man convicted of murder should go free.

“If Mr. Small did this or not, whoever did this is a monster,” said Judge Douglas Parsons moments before his ruling.

Judge Parsons ruled to vacate Johnny Small’s life sentence this afternoon. A jury convicted Small of murdering Pamela Dreher in 1988, when he was 16 years old.

A key witness in the trial came forward in 2012 saying he lied on the stand after a WPD detective threatened him with the death penalty. The state argued that the case rested on, that witness David Bollinger’s credibility, saying his story changed too many times.

“I don’t see how Bollinger’s credibility in the face of his testimony, twice under oath, that this recantation can be believed,” said Attorney Sandra Wallace-Smith.

The defense maintained that detectives coached witnesses on what to say during trial.

“That was the fear of knowing that what happened to Johnny Small could very well happen to him as well,” Small’s attorney Christine Mumma said of Bollinger’s original testimony.

In the courtroom Thursday, judge parsons said he did not believe there was a conspiracy, but was concerned with how documents were handled during the investigation.

District Attorney Ben David released a statement saying his office would meet with members of the Attorney General’s Office and Wilmington Police to decide whether charges or an investigation come next.

The state has an option to retry small. Until then, he will remain on house arrest and will be monitored 24/7.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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