Where is the Falsely Accused Willie T. Donald Today? – Willie T. Donald had no idea how Bernard Jimenez’s horrible murder on February 27, 1992, would forever affect his life. Willie was pulled out of a lineup, prosecuted, and falsely convicted of murder despite not being involved in the crime. ‘People Magazine Investigates: Alibi,’ a show on Investigation Discovery, recounts the entire episode and examines how it altered Willie’s life. We’ve got you covered if you’re interested in the case and want to know where Willie is right now.
Recommended: Where is the Victimologist Dr. Nicky Jackson Now?
Willie T. Donald: Who Is He?
Willie T. Donald, a Gary, Indiana man, lived a peaceful but happy life. Friends characterised him as a generous person who always stood up for others and greeted everyone with a grin. Willie was a hard worker who was well-liked by most of his neighbours. In addition, he was very close to his family and enjoyed spending time with them. On the night of the murder, he was out looking for vehicles with his sister and her fiance (now husband).
Bernard Jimenez, his fiancee, Kimberly, and their three daughters were out celebrating their children’s good grades on February 27, 1992. The family decided to return home after having a good time at a local toy store, and they were almost there when a masked gunman kidnapped Bernand’s eldest daughter and held her at gunpoint, demanding money. The father of three instantly emptied his wallet and instructed the assailant to grab everything he desired from the residence.
Regardless, the assailant went a step further and threatened Bernard’s one-year-old daughter with death. The threat pushed the Gary resident over the edge, and he got into a physical fight with the gunman. Kimberly hurried inside their home, sensing a chance, to fetch a pistol, but she was too late, as the intruder shot Bernard twice in the chest before fleeing the scene.
Although first responders arrived quickly, Bernard was pronounced dead, and authorities began a homicide inquiry. During their investigation, the police discovered that on the night of February 27, 1992, the neighborhood Bernard lived in was the scene of five armed robberies. As a result, they began compiling a list of suspects and came upon Willie’s name. Willie did not have a criminal record, but he was wrongly accused of auto theft, which resulted in his photo being entered into the system.
Furthermore, the victims described the robber as a slender black man with scars on his face, which did not match Willie’s build. Despite this, Kimberly and another robbery victim, Rhonda Williams, identified Willie twice in a lineup, but the other three victims said they didn’t identify him. Willie was arrested and accused of Bernard’s murder, although police authorities could not locate any evidence linking him to the crime.
What Has Happened to Willie T. Donald?
Willie T. Donald pleaded not guilty in court but was found guilty of first-degree murder and two counts of armed robbery and sentenced to 60 years in prison in 1992. Rhonda Williams then recanted her account in 2009, claiming that she was persuaded to choose Willie from the lineup. Willie’s conviction was finally overturned in January 2016, and all charges against him were withdrawn as a result. Willie was released after a total of 23 years and 10 months in jail.
Willie stated after his release that being detained for so long had a negative impact on his mental health. He is still terrified of getting wrongfully charged again, so he tries to keep his life as open as possible. Willie met Dr. Nicky Jackson, who has been his steady support during these years, immediately after stepping out of prison in February 2016. Nicky Jackson, an associate professor of criminal justice at Purdue University Northwest, assisted Willie in getting a car and part-time work after his release.
Since then, the two have formed The Willie T. Donald Exoneration Advisory Coalition in 2020, through which she assists Willie in contacting other falsely convicted individuals and attempting to reintegrate them into society. On the other hand, Willie and Nicky hold their friendship in high regard.
“I know there’s this man who actually cares about my family and me,” the latter remarked on the show. And for that, I am eternally grateful. And I believe that as a result of our friendship, many fantastic things have transpired.”