Isaiah Andrews, a Cleveland man who spent 45 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, dies at 83

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — Isaiah Andrews, a Cleveland man who was released from prison nearly two years ago after serving 45 years for the murder of his wife he has always maintained he did not commit. died on Sunday. He was 83 years old.

Andrews’ death has been confirmed by Marcus Sidoti, Andrews’ attorney who has worked alongside him in his fight to clear his name since he was originally released from prison in 2020. Sidoti said on Sunday that he had spent the past five days with Andrews, as his health had declined rapidly in recent weeks.

“We spoke almost every day and I saw him every week,” Sidoti said. “He had a very tight circle of trust with people he considered his family, because he didn’t really have a family anymore.”

Sidoti said he tried to give Andrews “a sense of normalcy” in the years after his release from prison, including helping him get Social Security and health care benefits and getting himself trying to find relatives who are still alive.

Andrews was convicted in 1975 of murdering his wife, Regina Andrews.

Regina Andrews disappeared two months after her marriage to Isaiah Andrews in 1974. A worker on her lunch break found her body in Forest Hill Park, on the border of Cleveland and Cleveland Heights. She was wrapped in bedding from three different hotels, including the Colonial Inn, where the Andrews lived.

Some of the sheets also bore the stamp of a hotel where Willie Watts had stayed the night before. Cleveland police detectives found that Watts’ bedroom lacked bedding and that Watts’ mother lived less than a quarter mile from Forest Hill Park.

Detectives arrested Watts, who gave them an alibi for when they believed Regina Andrews was killed. They released him without charge, then turned to Isaiah Andrews.

No physical evidence linked Isaiah Andrews to the crime. Instead, detectives relied on witnesses who said he was acting strangely after he disappeared but before his body was found. Watts was never seen again as a suspect and died in 2011.

In 2018, lawyers for the Ohio Innocence Project discovered that Cleveland police hid evidence during the original trial that led detectives to arrest Watts. Andrews was granted a new trial in October 2021, where he was found not guilty.

Just a month ago, Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Ashley Kilbane granted a joint motion by Andrews’ attorneys and the office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to have Andrews jailed. wrongly. This declaration meant that Andrews was entitled to collect money from the state for each year spent behind bars.

Andrews had not received any state money at the time of his death, Sidoti said. Sidoti said he couldn’t say for sure on Sunday whether the state’s case was now exhausted because of Andrews’ death – meaning no money would go to Andrews’ estate.

In February, Andrews’ attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Cleveland and 10 of its police officers, accusing detectives of withholding evidence that led to his wrongful conviction. Sidoti said the federal trial would continue, even after Andrews’ death, and if any money was awarded to Andrews at the end of the trial, it would go to his estate.

Sidoti said he was with Andrews on Sunday morning before his death. He said he was grateful for the role he played in Andrews’ life over the past few years, as well as what Andrews had taught him along the way.

“All [Andrews] wanted to let the world know that he didn’t do this – and that his life was taken away from him,” Sidoti said. “He let me be part of his team and get justice for him, and more importantly, justice for his wife.”

cleveland.com journalists John Caniglia and Cory Shaffer contributed to this report.

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