MAN whose sex assault conviction disproven by DNA test has been kept secret from sons

Monday, May 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ For 15 years, Kathy Pierce has kept secret from her twin boys that their father, Jeffrey Todd Pierce, was in prison after being convicted of sexual assault.

But now that a DNA test has proven semen taken from the victim did not belong to Jeffrey Pierce, she told her 15-year-old boys, Kevin and Steven, the story she knew would change their lives.

``We all sat there and cried,'' Kathy Pierce told The Oklahoman in a copyright story.

``We cried tears of joy, and I finally felt after 15 years a weight was lifted off my shoulders.''

Jeffrey Pierce is expected to be released from prison this week after prosecutors verify the DNA report.

The Oklahoman reported about a secret FBI investigation report that showed Oklahoma City police chemist Joyce Gilchrist wrongly identified hairs found at the crime scene as Pierce's.

Kathy Pierce said she is angry about the conviction of her children's father.

``We were never given an opportunity to become a family,'' she said. ``We never got to sit down at mealtime, to go to baseball games, do the family vacations, birthdays, Christmas or holidays. That is what makes me upset. ''

Since they were told about their father, the Pierce boys have been scanning the Internet, reading articles about their father and asking every day when he will be released, Kathy said.

``We just try to talk about it the best we can. They're excited. They're nervous _ not because they are afraid of Jeff, but they don't know Jeff. They are willing to work at it one day at a time.''

After Jeffrey Pierce's conviction, Kathy Pierce moved out of Oklahoma and eventually divorced him.

Now living out of state, Kathy Pierce said she feels guilty about divorcing Pierce and always believed he was innocent.

``I knew I had to end the situation so I could get mentally and physically able to take care of our kids. I didn't do this because I didn't believe Jeff or love Jeff. I did it because I had to take care of our kids.''

Pierce was convicted of the 1985 sexual assault of a woman at an apartment complex where he worked.

The victim denied that Jeffrey Pierce was her assailant, but later picked him out of a photograph lineup and testified his face was one she would never forget.

Pierce said she was shocked when a jury found him guilty, despite his solid alibi from co-workers.

``Jeff couldn't kill a fly let alone do half of the things they are accusing him of,'' she said.

While Jeffrey Pierce has spent 15 years imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, Kathy Pierce said she has had difficulties, too.

She said she had to ask for state assistance after Pierce's conviction, and for the last six years has worked two jobs to provide for her sons, now high school sophomores.

She even got married for a short period with hopes that the relationship would provide financial stability for her children.

Kathy Pierce, soon to be 42, said she hopes her children's father will be released from prison Tuesday, which is her birthday.

``That would be a wonderful birthday present,'' she said.