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Ronald Williamson, 51; Cleared by DNA Days Before Execution

December 13, 2004

Ronald Williamson, 51, a former Oklahoma death row inmate exonerated by DNA evidence five days before his scheduled execution in April 1999, died Dec. 4 of cirrhosis of the liver at a nursing home near Tulsa, according to his sister, Annette Hudson.

A native of Ada, Okla., Williamson was a star baseball player in high school and was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the second round of the 1971 amateur draft. He spent six years playing in the minor leagues for the A's and Yankees, but never made it to the major leagues because of arm injuries.

After quitting baseball, he returned to Oklahoma, but his life began to deteriorate and he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

In 1982, Debbie Sue Carter, 21, was raped and murdered in her apartment in Ada. Williamson and another man, Dennis Fritz, were arrested for the murder four years later. They had been linked to the crime by hair found at the crime scene.

Williamson and Fritz were tried separately and found guilty. After years of legal appeals, lawyers arranged DNA testing for Williamson and Fritz. The tests proved that neither man had been the source of the evidence found at the crime scene.

The two were released and another suspect, Glen D. Gore, was convicted of the murder. He received the death sentence.

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