Mom 'confessed' to savage murder - new evidence exposes shocking truth (2024)

A Californiamother-of-two who falsely confessed to the savage murder of a newspaper columnist has finally been exonerated after shocking evidence revealed the real killer.

Connie Dahl, then 19, and her boyfriend Ricky Davis, then 20, were wrongfully convicted of the 1985 murder of journalist Jane Hylton, 54, who had been beaten and stabbed nearly 30 times at Davis' El Dorado Hills home where they were staying.

Disturbing transcripts obtained by The Los Angeles Timeshave now revealed the shocking interrogation tactics used by detectives to coerce Dahl into a false confession.

The real killer was later identified through DNA with the help of the Northern California Innocence Project as 54-year-old Michael Green.

Then 17, he had followedHylton's daughter, Autumn Anker, home after meeting her at a park and brutally stabbed her mother to death.

Speaking to after his mother was exonerated last Friday, Dahl's son NickLange, 30, said he only wished she could be here today to see justice take place. Dahl died in 2014 after being released from prison on probation in 2006.

Connie Dahl was wrongfully convicted of the 1985 murder of journalist Jane Hylton, 54

Foothills Times newspaper journalist Jane Anker Hylton was murdered on July 7, 1985. She was stabbed nearly 30 times and brutally beaten

Michael Green, 54, was identified as the real killer in Hylton's 1985 murder. He was sentenced in 2022 and is serving a 15-year-sentence

Hylton, a writer at the Foothills Press, and her 13-year-old daughter Autumn Anker, had been guests at Wilma Klein's home, in the exclusive development of El Dorado Hills, approximately 30 miles from Sacramento, in July 1985.

Hylton, a mother of six, was having marital problems and took Klein up on her invitation to stay at her home while shewas out-of- town for a few days.

Described as a 'vivacious' woman Hylton stayed behind in the house to relax when her daughter went out for a walk to check out her new surroundings.

It was during this outing that she met three boys at a local park - one of which was Michael Green who was later identified as her mother's killer.

Dahl, originally from Oregon, was in California visiting extended family, and also staying at Davis' home. She and her boyfriend Davis had gone out partying until the early hours of July 7.

It was close to 4am and Autumn, who was also drinking, feared she'd get in trouble with her mother so waited for Davis and Dahl to arrive home.

When the trio entered the house Davis noticed the front door had been opened and one of the bedroom doors was shut. It was there he discovered Hylton's butchered body and immediately called 911.

When deputies from the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office arrived at the crime scene detective Bill Wilson and his partner detective Larry Hennick aggressively questioned the terrified trio, whoalldenied any involvement.

Despite having no evidence or a murder weapon detectives focused on Davis as a suspect.

Autumn told detectives about the boys she had met in the park hours earlier, but the officers appeared more interested in getting Autumn to admit Davis was the killer.

Detective Hennick told the teen, according to interrogation transcripts reported byt he LA Times: 'You know Ricky's lying. And we know now. And we want the truth.'

He continued: 'Ricky's a violent guy. He attacked a man with a tire iron because he was upset with him. I've known Ricky along time. So does Bill. We know what he's capable of.'

His partner Wilson tried to convince the woman that the blood on the clothes at the crime scene and the hair found in Hylton's hands were Davis'.

Dahl disputed the claims and told the detective, 'No way. You cannot pin this on Ricky because I was with him all night long.'

Wilson responded: ' You watch.'

The case went cold due to lack of evidence and remained unsolved for 14 years until 1999 when it was reopened.

Dahl had returned to her native Oregon and became a mother of two young sons. Autumn, married and also became a mother.

Davis was in federal prison for robbing a bank.

Connie Dahl, 19, pictured with her boyfriend Ricky Davis, 20. Autumn Anker was Hylton's 13-year-old daughter

Ricky Davis lived at this home in El Dorado Hills with his mother and where Jane Hylton was murdered July 7, 1985

A drawing of the upstairs bedroom where Hylton's butchered body was discovered

In 1999, the case was re-opened when the El Dorado County Sheriff's office set up a cold case division.

Two El Dorado County detectives, Richard Fitzgerald and his partner Richard Strasser, took up the case andtraveled to Oregon to interview Dahl.

'We know that you were present in the house when this happened,' Fitzgerald said, according to transcripts reported by the LA Times.

Dahl insisted: 'Oh no, I was not.'

Detectives moved onto Autumn using the same aggressive line of questioning.

Transcripts revealed Fitzgerald told Hylton's grieving daughter: 'I expected you to be some crack whor* in San Jose or something.'

Autumn, however, pushed back, telling detectives she had nothing to do with her mother's murder.

During a visit to Davis in federal prison detectives showed him devastating photos from the crime scene, but he maintained his innocence.

Over the next 18 months, the detective focused on Dahl - as the weakest link - and worked on trying to break her down and confuse her so her story would eventually match their narrative.

One of the tactics detectives used was convincing Dahl that the bite mark found on Hylton's shoulder had been made by her.

'You tell me. I can't give you the answers here. I don't want to give you the answers,' Fitzgerald said.

Dahl replied: 'You're right, you can't. I know, and I'm trying to remember. I, I do remember them fighting. I do. But the ... I'm... it must have been when we came home 'cause I was drunk. I was ... how could I ....'

'You were there. You saw it,' Fitzgerald said.

Dahl responded: 'Wait a minute. I'm gonna... I'm trying to remember. I, I, you what, i think they did get into an argument up in the, up in the top but ... I'm so confused about this.'

'You're not confused. You're afraid to tell us the truth,' Fitzgerald retorted.

Hylton, a mother of six, and newspaper columnist, was staying as a house guest with her 13-year-old daughter Autumn Anker before the brutal murder

After the false confession Dahl was charged with manslaughter but took a plea deal.

She spentthree years in jail until the trial where she testified against Davis.

During this time, Davis wrote letters to Dahl pleading with her to change her story, but she did not and he was later convicted.

In 2006, Dahl was released and placed on probation. She returned to Oregon to be with her family and rebuild her life.

Detectives Fitzgerald and Strasser were granted an 'Investigative Excellence Award' from the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training,' according to reports.

The stunning twist in the case was revealed afterThe Northern California Innocence Projectreopened the case and found new evidence that linked Green to the murder.

Green's DNA was found on the victim's nightgown and fingernails. A bite mark found on Hylton's body was also a key piece of evidence that implicated him.

In 2019, Davis' murder conviction was reversed and in 2020 he was exonerated after spending 15 years behind bars.

Days later, Green was arrested and pleaded no contest to second degree murder and was sentenced to 15 years to life.

In 2020, all the charges against him were dropped, and he was officially declared factually innocent. He was the first person in the state of California to be absolved based on genetic genealogy.

He received $480,000 in compensation from the state, and filed a lawsuit against El Dorado County Sheriff's Department, The Record Courier reported.

Dahl who died in 2104 was never fully exonerated until last Friday when she was finally declared innocent by a California judge.

Dahl's two adult sons Nick Lange, 30 and Jarred Lange, 25, were present along with Davis.

In February 2020, Davis was exonerated, after serving 15 years in prison for a crime he did not commit

Ricky Davis, center, is greeted by family and friends after he was released from custody at the El Dorado County Jail in Placerville, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020

El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson announces Ricky Leo Davis is innocent in the 1985 cold case murder of Jane Hylton on February 13, 2020 in Placerville, California

A press conference was held by El Dorado District Attorney Vern Pierson after Davis' release.

Pierson said Dahl and Davis' convictions were based on outdated methods of police questioning and interviewing tactics, he explained, 'that employ pseudoscience and psychological coercion,'KCRA News reported.

'Mistakes were made, and it is my moral and ethical duty to acknowledge the error, take responsibility, and apologize to those affected,' he said.

'I made a commitment to Mr. Davis that I would do everything I could to change the type of interviewing training that led to his wrongful conviction,' Pierson said in a news release. '

'We will continue teaching and encouraging these new techniques, so we do not have any more individuals falsely convicted like Mr. Davis and Ms. Dahl.'

Earlier this year, the El Dorado County District Attorney's office filed a motion to vacate Dahl's 2005 manslaughter guilty plea at the request of the Times reporters.

It was a victory for Dahl's children to learn that their mom was no longer deemed a convicted killer.

Last Friday, Dahl's two children flew from their home in Oregon to the El Dorado Court House where they met with Davis for the first time and DA Pierson.

Judge Larry E. Hayes presided over the hearing and exonerated their mother, the LA Times reported.

Nick, who is now a father of twin one-year-old boys told the judge how he wished his mother could be here to see this take pace.

He told he was only nine when his mother went to prison and never really knew the whole story while growing up - and his mother never spoke to him or his brother about the case.

He said: 'I think there may have been some shame.. she might have been worried what we would have thought about her if we had known.

'We grew up our whole lives not really knowing that our mom had that label [convicted killer] attached to her. I was angry. I was heartbroken'.

He added: 'She had a really good soul, and a good heart and she didn't deserve any of that. She couldn't find a job. She couldn't find housing because of that charge on her record.'

He admitted that he and his mother sometimes struggled in their relationship.

'She did the best she could with what she had.'

For Dahl's sons meeting Davis for the first time was a special moment. Nick said Davis 'felt bad for what happened to my mom too.'

'I expressed to him how sorry I was, what happened to him,' he shared.

'He lost so many years of his freedom. It was a very very good interaction. Very positive. I am happy he's out and living his life because he deserves it.'

When asked to describe his mom, he laughed, and explained she was a bit of a 'wild card... in a good way.'

When asked what she would do or say today, if she knew she was finally exonerated, he replied 'she'd probably celebrate - to be honest by having a couple of beers.'

With Green behind bars and Davis a free man, the nearly 40-year old case was finally solved.

Mom 'confessed' to savage murder - new evidence exposes shocking truth (2024)
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