California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation released a Navy Veteran 39 years after the State of California wrongfully convicted him. The Simi Valley, CA police arrested Craig Richard Coley for a double homicide in 1978. Thanks to DNA testing, Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned Coley in November and is now at home after nearly four decades.
Mike Bender, a former Simi Valley police detective, established a fundraiser at GoFundMe to help Mr. Coley transition back to the world. After being wrongfully convicted and released at 70 years old, Coley’s employment options are limited. He needs help with housing, medical and other basic needs. To donate, visit Mr. Coley’s GoFundMe.
Craig Coley finally walked out of prison last month in time to spend Thanksgiving with this family for the first time in almost 40 years. Mr. Coley never gave up hope the entire time he was in prison. He professed his innocence until the day he came home. He was 31 years old when the police arrested him. The courts sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. His father, a retired Los Angeles police officer died while fighting to free his son. Coley’s mother passed away in 2011 while he was still in prison.
Wrongfully Convicted, A Life of Service
While in prison, Coley worked hard and made the best of his time, volunteering for a number of Veteran organizations and projects. He also earned an Associates Degree, a Bachelors Degree, and began work on his Masters. The Navy Veteran studied Theology and Biblical Studies. Coley participated in the prison’s Veterans Affairs organization, belonged to Veterans Embracing Troops, and raised money for Gold Star Mothers to send care packages overseas to members of the military. He was also a mentor for a bible study group in prison.
Coley served in the US Navy honorably, including multiple deployments to Vietnam. He served on the USS Enterprise, the USS Bainbridge and USS Bon Homme Richard.