LAGRANGE, Ga. (WTVM) - In 1981, Terry Talley was charged and convicted of a series of rapes and sexual assaults in LaGrange. In the four decades since then, Talley has been sitting in a jail cell. Today, he is a free man.
A string of seven attacks and threats between February and June 1981 led to the now-63-year-old Talley receiving four life sentences, as well as additional years, leading him to spend the majority of his life incarcerated.
The Georgia Innocence Project, who took on Talley’s case, says that the LaGrange Police Department was under “tremendous pressure” to solve the string of attacks and determined that all of the crimes were the work of a single perpetrator, who they ultimately identified as Talley.
In 2009, court-ordered testing determined that Talley’s DNA did not match the DNA collected from a rape kit in one of the cases. The sample from the rape kit was the only biological sample not destroyed in the early 1980s, meaning Talley could not be ruled out of the other crimes at that time.
In 2013, a Troup County Superior Court judge granted Talley’s Extraordinary Motion for New Trial based on the findings that his DNA did not match the sample from the victim.
An investigation by the LaGrange Police Department and the Georgia Innocence Project in recent years led to the determination that Talley’s convictions were unreliable. they were joined by the Troup County District Attorney’s Office in asking the Court to vacate his convictions and sentences.
On Feb. 23, 2021, a Troup County Superior Court judge ruled that Talley’s convictions should be removed and his sentences were to be considered null and void. He was ordered to be released from the Dooly State Prison as soon as possible.
That same day, Talley walked out of the prison as a free man for the first time in 40 years.
The first three attacks, all taking place in February 1981, targeted female students at LaGrange College.
In the first attack, the victim was able to fight off her attacker before he was able to rape her. He warned her to not tell anyone or he would return. She reported the incident ten days later, but was unable to identify anyone in a lineup two months later.
In the second attack, the victim was raped, sodomized and had her jaw dislocated. Her roommate returned shortly thereafter and the two contacted police. The victim identified Talley as her attacker following his highly-publicized arrest five months later.
The third incident involved a woman receiving threatening notes and phone calls. Fingerprints on the note were determined to not belong to Talley.
In April 1981, a woman was raped in her home. In May, the attacker returned to her home and held a knife to her throat. The woman was unable to identify Talley as her attacker based on his physical appearance, but identified him by his voice.
In June 1981, another LaGrange College student was assaulted and raped in the basement of her place of employment. She was choked with a rope until she passed out before raping her when she regained consciousness. This attack is the one from which a viable sample remained and it was proved Talley’s DNA did not match.
The final attack took place at the end of June 1981 when a woman was assaulted at West Georgia Medical Center. She said her attacker did not rape her because she was menstruating at the time.
Read Talley’s full motion for a new trial and the Court’s decision to release Talley below.