AKRON -- A former Akron police captain appeared before a judge to determine if he can remain free or must return to prison in the slaying of his ex-wife.
He has been a free man for about a year and a half.
But Friday afternoon, Douglas Prade returned to Summit County Jail. Judge Christine Croce ruled that Prade should remain in jail while the state appeals court decides if he is entitled to a new trial.
A different judge who handled the case -- Judge Judy Hunter -- overturned a jury's guilty verdict and found that DNA evidence from another unidentified person was on Prade's ex-wife Margo's lab coat and that raised reasonable doubt, entitling him to a new trial.
Relatives and friends of both Prade and his ex-wife packed the courtroom. Her family members said this was the outcome they hoped for.
Margo Prade's sister Veronica Sadler said, "The drawn-out court process is taking a toll on both families."
She noted that Margo's relatives have not been able to see Margo's two daughters. "If Dad's not around, we're still; here. Don't burn your bridges and we won't be here. We're here now."
She also said she actually feels sorry for Prade's changing status.
"I still feel bad for him too. Why would they let him out and have his freedom, and take it away like that?" Sadler said.
Brian Howe, of the Innocence Project, said, "We believe 100 percent in Mr. Prade's innocence and will do whatever we can...the jury deserves an opportunity to see that new evidence."
Several said their health had been affected while he was free because they were worried.
A lawyer for the Innocence Project, which has taken up Prade's case, said he is confident Prade will eventually get a new trial and the group will stand by him and his innocence.
Deputies quickly placed handcuffs on the former police captain and marched him out of the courtroom.
Now-retired Summit County Judge Hunter in early 2013 exonerated Douglas Prade after he had spent nearly 15 years in prison when DNA testing showed a bite mark on his ex-wife's lab coat was not his.
An appellate court overturned the judge's ruling in March and the Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the appellate court decision.
Prade was convicted in the 1997 shooting death of his ex-wife outside her medical office.
Attorneys for the 68-year-old Prade say he's innocent. Prosecutors want Prade returned to prison while it's determined if he should get a new trial.
After her ruling, Summit County Prosecutor Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh released a statement:
Judge Christine Croce ordered Douglas Prade returned to custody after the Ohio Supreme Court declined to review the Ninth District Court of Appeals decision that overturned Judge Judy Hunter's exoneration of Prade. Prade remains convicted of the 1997 death of Margo Prade.
On July 23, 2014,the Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear former Akron Police Capt. Douglas Prade's appeal. The court also denied Prade's motion to extend the stay permitting him to remain out of custody. The Supreme Court had temporarily stayed (halted) a Ninth District Court of Appeals ruling that would return Prade to prison. On July 23, 2014, Prosecutor Walsh filed a motion requesting Prade be returned to prison.
The Ninth District Court of Appeals released an opinion on March 19 overturning Judge Judy Hunter's ruling that Prade was wrongfully convicted. The appellate court has not yet decided whether Judge Hunter's order for a new trial is valid. The Summit County Prosecutor's Office has asked the court for permission to appeal the order for a new trial, if that order is valid. If the court finds that the order for a new trial is not valid, then Judge Christine Croce will decide whether to order a new trial.