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Knox County jury convicts man in 1975 murder case

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VINCENNES -- An Illinois man who had never been a suspect in a 28-year-old killing was found guilty of the murder Tuesday, even though another man confessed in the 1970s.

A jury convicted Wayne Gulley, 62, of the 1975 murder of Sherry Lee Gibson after deliberating for about 11 hours Monday and early Tuesday. Gulley dropped his head to his chest and shook it slowly back and forth as the verdict was read about 1 a.m.

His ex-wife, Ella Mae Dicks, told police in 2001 that she and Gulley, of Peoria, Ill., were involved in the woman's murder. The two had never been suspects, but police said Dicks knew details only someone at the murder scene would know.

Gibson, 23, was abducted while parked with her boyfriend on a rural country road in southwestern Indiana. She was raped and stabbed, and her body was found the next day in an abandoned farmhouse.

In the late 1970s, a teenager named John Jeffers confessed to the killing. He died in prison of a drug overdose in 1983 while serving a 30-year term. Investigators now say Jeffers lied about the crime to gain attention.

In closing arguments Monday, Gulley's attorneys argued that his client was falsely accused by his ex-wife because she resented him.

Defense attorney Jessie Cook argued that details of the crime came from Dicks' memory of newspaper articles about the crime, not firsthand knowledge.

"I'm glad it's over, and I think we've got closure now," Rick Gibson, Sherry Gibson's brother, told the Vincennes Sun-Commercial.

Dicks, 47, who now goes by the last name of Morgan after a recent divorce, pleaded guilty Aug. 7 to murder and testified during Gulley's three-week trial in Knox Circuit Court. She will be sentenced Sept. 5; her ex-husband will be sentenced Sept. 17.

Prosecutor Hal Johnston said in his closing statement that Dicks confessed to the crime out of guilt and acknowledged during testimony she has struggled with mental illness and substance abuse over the years. She said she has attempted suicide several times.

"We have a woman who's trying to tell you the truth after all these years," Johnston said.

But Cook said Dicks has repeatedly changed her story.

"Wayne Gulley is the latest person that the state has wrongfully accused," Cook said.

Dicks testified that she and Gulley robbed a fruit stand that night, and they were driving around drinking and doing drugs when they came upon Gibson and her boyfriend.

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