Exclusive: Kim Long speaks out after murder sentence overturned
09/19/2016 11:15 am PDT
A young mother gets life in prison for murdering her boyfriend. She says she didn't do it, and now, after spending years behind bars, there's a massive new development in the case of Kimberly Long, and she's crediting Crime Watch Daily.
For nearly 13 years, a beautiful young nurse and single mom named Kimberly Long had been steadfastly proclaiming she didn't brutally bludgeon her boyfriend Oswaldo "Ozzy" Conde to death in what the prosecution portrayed as a bloody crime of passion
And despite being sentenced to life in prison, many were convinced Kimberly was indeed innocent.
Now, in a dramatic new development, Kimberly Long has just been released -- but she still faces the possibility of going back.
So after seven long years behind bars, what is it that has reopened the case? The California Innocence Project is presenting new evidence that challenges the conviction. But Kimberly says Crime Watch Daily's investigation also played a role.
Kimberly may be out of prison, but she's not out of limbo, telling Billy Jensen, who led our investigation, that she knows the prosecution could retry here again for killing the man she calls the love of her life. And that still terrifies her.
At the time of Ozzy Conde's murder, Kimberly Long was a 27-year-old emergency-room nurse and divorced mother of two young kids, age 5 and 10. Kim and Ozzy, who had been childhood sweethearts, were reunited, deeply in love again, and living happily together in the Los Angeles suburb of Corona after each had suffered failed first marriages.
But on the fateful day of October 5, 2003, their dreams of a bright future together would explode when the couple decided to let their hair down while the kids were away with their other parents for the weekend. They went on an all-day bar-hopping drinking bender, guzzling beer non-stop, as well as 10 shots of hard liquor at one bar alone. By the time Kimberly and Ozzy arrived at their last stop of the night, she was hammered and well-primed for a drunken late-night lovers' tiff. They left the bar and continued to argue in the driveway of their home.
"I told Ozzy I wasn't coming in, wanted him to leave," said Kimberly. "I threw stuff at him, threw my purse, did that whole struggle thing in the driveway and told him I wanted him to leave. He wasn't going to leave, so I left."
She left with a friend named Jeff Dills, who had accompanied them home from the last bar. Kimberly ended up in Dills's hot tub before he dropped her back home again in the early hours of the morning.
Kim says she was hoping she and Ozzy could kiss and make up.
"I turned around, shut the door, called his name, took off my shoes or I kicked them off, walked over to the light, turned it on, and when I turned around the first thing I saw was a big blood stain on the arm of the couch," said Kimberly.
Then she saw Ozzy lying unconscious on the couch.
"And he looked bruised and swollen and there was blood everywhere, and so I walked up to him and I looked at him and I called his name and nothing happened," said Kimberly. "I ran in the kitchen, grabbed the phone and I called 911.
"They asked if I could help him," said Kimberly. "I remember taking off my jacket, reaching over, and I grabbed Ozzy by his hand. I figured something will arouse him, get him by his hand, get up. But once I did that and he lifted up he made a noise" -- known as the "death rattle." "And that's when I started screaming and ran outside. At that point, every ambulance, everything showed up right in that moment."
First-responders were shocked by what they found.
"It was one of the more brutal scenes I've seen in a long time," said Norco firefighter Scott Dall. "We were struck by the amount of blood in this room. It was on the floors, on walls, on curtains."
And Ozzy was dead at the scene from blunt force trauma to the head.
"It seemed like all the trauma came from the side of the ear and back of the head, so he could have been just resting on the couch and struck from behind," said Dall.
Police take Long for questioning at the station, where she is in despair and sobbing.
Kimberly admits to detectives they'd had a lovers' tiff after a full day of heavy drinking and that she'd gone to the home of friend Jeff Dills and ended up in his hot tub. But she insists she didn't murder her 31-year-old boyfriend. And she points the finger of blame at one of Ozzy's ex-girlfriends.
Just one month before Ozzy's murder, the ex-girlfriend had sent Kimberly a "poison pen letter" that was included in police evidence files. And in the letter, she tauntingly claimed she'd recently slept with Ozzy. And she admitted in a polygraph test that she had threatened Kimberly.
Kimberly had also submitted to a lie detector test, just hours after her initial police interrogation.
And while the ex-girlfriend's polygraph is declared inconclusive, Kimberly passes with flying colors.
But the ex-girlfriend denies having anything to do with Ozzy's murder, and has an alibi -- as does Kimberly's ex-husband, who had also been investigated.
The ex-girlfriend sent Crime Watch Daily a statement: "I am completely disgusted with Kimberly's defense team, who has gone above and beyond to poke holes in testimony and publicly deflect blame of Ozzy's death onto innocent people, myself included ... Since the moment Ozzy passed away, I have fully co-operated with investigators and have done everything they asked."
At the time of the investigation, police seem convinced Kimberly is the murderer, and a couple of days later, the cops arrest her. Kimberly is charged with second-degree murder despite the fact that police have no hard evidence linking her to the crime.
There is some vindication when Kimberly's first trial ends with a hung jury. But at her retrial, a jury astonishingly finds her guilty. In fact, the judge publicly disagrees with the verdict.
"He said he would have found me innocent with a bench trial," said Kimberly. But by law, the judge has no choice but to sentence her to 15 years to life in prison.
Kimberly would languish behind bars for more than seven years before her case comes to the attention of the California Innocence Project, which defends those believed to have been wrongly convicted.
Innocence Project investigator Bill Sylvester and attorney Alissa Bjerkhoel felt confident they could set Kimberly free.
"There's absolutely no forensic evidence that points to Kim as being the killer," said Bjerkhoel.
The prosecution had claimed Kimberly killed Ozzy with an object like a baseball bat or golf club, but the murder weapon was never found. And most confounding, no blood was found on Kimberly or her clothes, even though first-responders were stunned by the amount of blood at the crime scene.
"As we went in we noticed it was on every surface of almost every article in the room," said Norco firefighter Scott Dall, one of the first-responders at the scene of the murder. "It was on the floors, on the walls, on the curtains. There was blood almost 10 feet away from us going into other rooms."
"It was impossible not to have his blood on her," said Innocence Project investigator Bill Sylvester.
But the prosecution had hung their case on the timeline evidence of Jeff Dills, who told police he had dropped Kimberly home around 1:30 a.m. on the night of the murder, contradicting Kimberly, who had said it was around 2 a.m., just minutes before she had called 911.
The prosecution argues that disputed half an hour would have given her enough time to murder Ozzy and dispose of the evidence.
And the defense can't dispute Dills's timeline because in a tragic twist of fate, Dills had been killed in a motorcycle accident before Kimberly went on trial.
Then a key turning point in the case: The California Innocence Project's investigation finds two independent time-of-death experts who support Kimberly's timeline, showing she couldn't have killed Ozzy.
"We have two doctors, medical examiners, who have done tons of autopsies, and both of them have said that Ozzy was dead long before Kim got home. They place the time of death around midnight or 12:30, not at 1:30," said Bjerkhoel.
So they are now armed with enough evidence to show Kimberly didn't kill Ozzy. She passes the polygraph. The murder weapon was never found. There's no blood on her clothes. And experts can now show she wasn't even home when Ozzy was murdered.
And as the California Innocence Project fights to win Kimberly a new trial, friends and family lead rallies calling for justice, and Crime Watch Daily brings her case to national attention for the first time with our own investigation. Just nine months after we aired our investigation, a judge finally overturns Kimberly's murder conviction on June 10, 2016, setting her free on $50,000 bail pending a new trial, and Kimberly walks out of court into the waiting arms of overjoyed friends and family.
Thirteen years after the murder of her boyfriend Ozzy Conde, nearly eight of them spent behind bars, Kimberly Long is finally a free woman again. Today Kimberly's new life is just beginning, starting all over again, back at her parents' house where she's been ever since that dramatic ruling set her free. The most precious gift of all for Kimberly is being reunited with her two children.
Kimberly says she doesn't have faith police will ever catch Ozzy's real killer. In fact, the state of California is still considering retrying her for her Ozzy Conde's murder.
"My opinion is they will never look at anybody else. That they will believe it was me," said Kimberly Long. "I don't believe they will ever admit they were wrong and made a mistake at this point."
The Riverside County District Attorney's Office has filed an appeal, and tells us in part: "We cannot provide any information which might impact those proceedings or potentially affect the fairness of a possible retrial."