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Elkhart man convicted of murder claims he is innocent

Andrew Royer // Photo provided by the South Bend Tribune.

An Elkhart family says out of their heart break, they're beginning to see hope.

Their son, Andrew Royer, was convicted of murder in 2003.

His attorneys filed a motion to vacate his conviction Wednesday.

He's spent nearly 15 years in prison.

His attorney works for the Exoneration Project and the Notre Dame Innocence Project. He and his students have worked on Royer's case for a year.

They say there's new evidence to show he not only didn't do it, but was coerced into a false confession.

Waterfall High Rise apartments in Elkhart is the spot 94-year-old Helen Sailor died Thanksgiving day 2002. She was the victim of a brutal murder.

Andrew Royer and his friend Lana Canen were convicted of the crime.

But attorneys say, they're victims too.

"We have unearthed so much evidence indicating that Andy is innocent, that he was framed for a crime that he did not commit,” said Elliot Slosar, Royer's attorney who works with the Exoneration Project.

Canen was released from prison in 2012 after evidence showed her fingerprints didn't match those at the scene, though Royer is still in a maximum security prison.

His mom, Jeannie Pennington, says it's been a nightmare. She says her son has the mental capacity of a child and that Elkhart Police coerced him into a confession.

“They kept saying that if he confessed it would all be done, so he thought he get to go back home. He didn't know he would go to jail,” said Pennington.

Royer's attorney Elliot Slosar says there were only two pieces of evidence linking Royer to the crime. A witness, who now says he lied due to police pressure, and Royer's own confession.

"The false confession has been debunked by an affidavit and covert recordings of former officers of the Elkhart Police Department, who now reveal that they watched Andy from the lieutenant’s office of the Elkhart Police Department be coerced into a false confession,” said Slosar.

Royer's mom says her family finally sees a light at the end of their journey.

“It has been such relief and a blessing because we have fought this battle silently for 15 years,” said Pennington.

Royer's attorneys are hoping this motion will prompt a new trial.

Elkhart County Prosecutor Vicki Becker says she hasn't had a chance to read through the petition, but says she wants the case to be tried fairly through the court of law and not the media.

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