CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The friend of a Clarksburg man convicted in 2002 of raping an elderly woman in her home said that investigators questioned him while he was nearly blacking out on a drug overdose and later falsely represented his statements to a Harrison County grand jury.In May, the Gazette-Mail reported that Andrew Locke, according to grand jury testimony given by a lead detective on the case, told police that Joseph Buffey had confided in him that he broke into a Clarksburg home and that "things didn't go as planned." Police used Locke's statements in the case against Buffey, who eventually pleaded guilty to charges he broke into the home, and raped an 83-year-old woman identified as "Ms. L."Recent tests indicate that DNA found at the scene of the rape matched an unknown male unique in one in 40 billion profiles and does not match Buffey, indicating that he was not at the scene of the crime the night Ms. L was raped, his lawyers say. The test results have become the driving force in Buffey's effort to reverse his conviction.Locke, an inmate at the Ohio County Correctional Complex, said in a letter to the Gazette-Mail that he, Buffey, and a man named Ronald Perry had burglarized a local Salvation Army the night of the alleged rape, but denied that he told detectives that Buffey left the group later in the evening."The statement about 'things didn't go as planned' was made in regards to the Salvation Army being robbed," Locke said in the letter. "We had broke into the Salvation Army to rob the safe and had only ended up getting nine dollars."According to the grand jury transcript, former Clarksburg Police Detective R.G. Matheny told jurors that Buffey had taken the nine dollars from Ms. L, and attributed that information to Locke.Based on the letter, Buffey's lawyers interviewed Locke, who told them that he had taken a large amount of morphine pills before he was questioned, and that the detectives took him to the hospital after the interrogation. Medical records from the United Hospital Center in Bridgeport corroborated Locke's story, Buffy's lawyer, Sarah Wagner Montoro said in a July court filing.
Harrison County assistant prosecutor David J. Romano could not comment on Locke's claims, but said that attacking the specifics of the police investigation distract from the fact that Buffey admitted to the crime in 2002."It's not germane to what this real issue is about," he said. "I think it's a side issue. I don't think it's very significant."Once you plead guilty, all that stuff under the law is no longer material, unless it induced you to plead guilty some how."According to Romano, evidence in the case indicates that Buffey admitted to one investigator during a polygraph exam that he had broken into the Ms. L's home the night she was raped. Perry, one of the accomplices in the Salvation Army break-in, told police that Buffey went off on his own afterward and walked toward the victim's home. Perry also said he was wearing a ball cap backward, blue jeans, and that he had a knife, which matched statements from Ms. L herself as she attempted to describe her assailant, Romano said.Buffey also apologized to the victim and her family during his sentencing hearing in 2002, Romano said.Buffey's lawyers point to the 2011 DNA test, the results of which prosecutors do not dispute, as the most important factor of the appeal considering that Ms. L. never claimed that more than one person raped her."Ultimately, what remains of the state's case is Mr. Buffey's guilty plea and its own faith and correctness of that plea," Montoro said in a court filing, "essentially, the view that 'since he pled guilty, he must somehow be guilty.' "Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.