A Tulsa man who served nearly five years on death row before being cleared and released, passed away recently. Over the past 30 years, Greg Wilhoit went through some tragic events, but he was able to keep high spirits.
Wilhoit had a great sense of humor and was never bitter, but the one thing he always wanted was for someone from the state to say they were sorry.
He was a married iron worker with two little girls, ages four months and 14 months old when his wife Kathy was brutally murdered in 1985. For a year Greg grieved, worked and raised his girls alone, but then he was arrested.
A jury found him guilty 18 months later, after two rookie dentists said a bite mark on Kathy's body was a match for Wilhoit. The jury sent him to death row.
"I never once worried about it. I knew in my heart Greg would get through this," Greg's father Guy Wilhoit said. "That kept me going. The only way I felt that way is the good Lord, no other way."
His family always believed in his innocence. For nearly five years they made a three-hour trip to visit him on death row twice a month. He was finally cleared after nearly a dozen experts agreed there was no way Wilhoit could've made that bite mark.
When he got out, he had nothing. He had spent all his money on his defense and someone else was raising his daughters. But even then he told me he refused to be bitter.
"I want to be happy every day," he said.
Oklahoma law allows for compensation in cases like this, but he had to fight for years, all the way to the Supreme Court just to get a small amount. He moved to California and began sharing his story, speaking out against the death penalty.
His sister, Nancy Vollersten, said, "They could look at Greg, our family, and say, ‘He's an average Joe, this is a guy who looks like you and me. If it happened to him, this could happen to me, mistakes do happen.'"
Several years ago, Wilhoit was hit by a car while riding his bike and had to use a wheelchair.
Wilhoit eventually remarried and found contentment, but was never really at peace.
"He fought a good fight, he did. I think he just wore out," Vollersten said.
Wilhoit died in his sleep on Valentine's Day in his home in northern California. He was 59. There is a service for him Friday in downtown Tulsa at the First United Methodist Church.
His wife's killer has never been caught.