Simi Valley reached a $21-million settlement with Craig Coley who spent more than 38 years wrongfully incarcerated in the brutal 1978 murders of a woman and her 4-year-old son, officials said.

Craig Coley, 71, was released from prison in 2017 after he was pardoned by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who said that DNA evidence and a painstaking re-investigation of the Simi Valley murders proved his innocence.

The city said Saturday that the agreement would mitigate long, costly and unnecessary legal proceedings. Simi Valley will be on the hook for roughly $4.9 million of the settlement, while the rest is expected to be paid by insurance and other sources, officials told LA Times.

“While no amount of money can make up for what happened to Mr. Coley, settling this case is the right thing to do for Mr. Coley and our community,” City Manager Eric Levitt said in a statement. “The monetary cost of going to trial would be astronomical and it would be irresponsible for us to move forward in that direction.”

Coley, a Vietnam War veteran who was going through a breakup with Wicht, was held for questioning that day and ultimately charged with the two murders. He did not have a prior criminal record.

At Coley’s first trial, jurors spent four weeks deliberating before announcing they were deadlocked 10 to 2 in favor of guilt. A second jury convicted him of two counts of first-degree murder in 1980, and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to Gulf Times.

But he always maintained his innocence. A retired Simi Valley detective named Mike Bender was instrumental in pushing law enforcement agencies to re-examine the case.

Bender has said that in 2015, he caught the right ear in Brown’s office. A year later, Simi Valley Police Chief David Livingstone also launched an investigation, just as he was taking the helm of the department.


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