KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Nearly six years after he was exonerated on a perjury charge linked to the murder of a 11-year-old girl, a St. Joseph County man on Wednesday told jurors the wrongful conviction continues to ruin his life.
Ray McCann Jr. sued several detectives and police departments in U.S. District Court, but claims were dismissed against all the defendants except the lead Michigan State Police detective on the case, Sgt. Bryan Fuller.
“I’ll have to live with this the rest of my life,” McCann testified before U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney. “It’s never going to go away.”
McCann, then a reserve police officer, was the lead suspect in the 2007 murder of 11-year-old Jodi Parrack in Constantine, but was never charged in her death.
Police say they started focusing on him because he suggested several times that searchers check a nearby cemetery for Jodi. Her body was later found there. McCann has said he was just trying to help find her.
Seven years later, after a cold case team reopened the investigation, he was charged with five counts of perjury.
McCann testified Wednesday that he pleaded no contest back then only because he didn’t think he’d get a fair trial.
“I knew,” he said, “that was the fastest way to get back to my family.”
Police arrested him in April 2014, while he was driving with a stuffed animal to see his newborn grandson for the first time in the hospital. He finally met his grandson at the jail’s visiting room.
“It was so hard seeing him for the first time through glass,” he said through tears.
He served 20 months in jail and prison.
The Michigan Innocence Clinic took up his case and exonerated McCann after Target 8 exposed how detectives lied to McCann repeatedly during 20 interrogations. During those interrogations, McCann denied any involvement in the killing 86 times.
But he testified through tears that it broke up his family and ruined his reputation.
“Things were changing,” he said. “Friends I usually hung with were not hanging with me.”
Even before his arrest, he was no longer allowed to referee Rocket football games, he said.
“It hurt me. It was part of my life. It was devastating to me. Things weren’t the same. People were staring at me,” he said.
After his conviction, on the bus ride to prison, “the person sitting in front of me told me I was going to be a dead man what I got there,” he said.
During his first week in the state prison, inmates pulled him off his bunk and struck him in the head with a padlock, he said.
“It was hard to sleep. I couldn’t sleep, afraid you’d be attacked again,” McCann said.
He went from 170 pounds to 117 pounds in prison, he said. He said he still suffers from depression and has nightmares and that the site of police cars leads to paranoia.
Fuller, who still works for the state police, is being defended by the state Attorney General’s Office. His attorneys were trying to prove it was the testimony of others, not just Fuller, that led to McCann’s incarceration.
Fuller also testified on Tuesday, acknowledging that he lied not only to McCann but also to other witnesses in the investigation. While he said it wasn’t the “preferred method,” it wasn’t improper.
“There are times that it happens, times that I’ve done it,” Fuller said.
Among the lies: that police had found McCann’s DNA on Jodi’s body. Fuller said he told McCann’s sister that he had physical evidence proving McCann put Jodi’s body in the cemetery.
“It was a lie,” he testified.
He told McCann’s wife: “I know without a doubt whatsoever that your husband was in that cemetery 22 minutes before that body was found.” That, he acknowledged, was another lie.
The lies, he said, were “what was best for the investigation… I wanted to solve the case.”
At one point, the detective testified, police believed McCann’s 11-year-old son was the killer and that McCann was covering up for him. Jurors on Tuesday watched video of the detective interviewing McCann’s son, Fuller saying that 11-year-old Jodi was a “tramp” who had come onto the boy.
“I didn’t like it,” the detective said of the tactic. “I don’t like it today, but I did it. I don’t think it’s improper.”
During a break in the hearing, the detective refused to comment to Target 8.
The trial before a jury of five women and three men is expected to last through Tuesday.
While McCann was locked up for perjury, another man, Daniel Furlong, confessed to the killing and sexual assault, telling police he acted alone. He was sentenced to between 30 and 60 years in prison and, now 73, is behind bars at the Lakeland Correctional Facility near Coldwater.
*Correction: A previous version of this article misstated Jodi Parrack’s age. She was 11 years old. We regret the error, which has been fixed.