BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – An Erie County Judge overturned the murder conviction of Cory Epps, setting the 46-year-old Buffalo man free for the first time in more than 20 years. Epps was convicted of murdering a Buffalo woman more than 20 years ago, and has spent most of his life behind bars since then.
But attorneys from the Exoneration Initiative presented new evidence on Epps’ behalf, and Erie County Judge James Bargnesi vacated Epps’ conviction on Friday and dismissed the original indictment, allowing Epps to walk out of the Erie County Holding Center a free man.
The 21 year old case shows Cory Epps, who is a grandfather, could be one of the unluckiest victims of mistaken identity alive, which now seems to be the reason he spent more than 20 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.
Authorities are now pursuing a person of interest in the murder case whom the Erie County District Attorney said could be Epps’ twin.
Epps was convicted of murdering Tameka Means, 26, of Cheektowaga in what was described as a “road rage” incident on May 26, 1997, near East Delavan Avenue and Chelsea Place. The murderer stepped out a car and shot Means, who was driving another car.
Based on a police sketch which generally resembled Epps, he volunteered to come in for questioning which led to his arrest, indictment, and conviction. In a state of shock, Cory professed his innocence in a jailhouse interview with News 4 on June 1, 1998, the eve of his sentence.
“It is hard for me to even think about it because I really can’t believe it right now. I still can’t believe it, and I don’t understand why I can’t get no help on this situation.”
Shortly after that interview aired, Epps’ trial attorney, Andrew LoTempio got a tip, “I received an anonymous letter from a female claiming that a boyfriend of hers had killed an individual by the name of Paul Pope and stuffed him in the trunk of a car, and had admitted to her that he had also killed Tameka Means.”
The letter failed to keep Epps out of prison, but the man eventually convicted in the murder of Paul Pope–who was mentioned in the letter–would turn out to be Russell Montgomery, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Cory Epps.
While prosecutors are withholding the name of their new person of interest, District Attorney John Flynn said in a news conference, the did say Means’ suspected killer is serving a 25-to-life sentence for murder–as is Montgomery.
Flynn also gave a visual description of the new person of interest, “The photograph of him and Cory Epps are eerily similar, like twins similar.”
Russell Montgomery’s attorneys have been asked, in the past, about their client’s possible involvement in the murder of Tameka Means, and they have denied it. Now that the Means murder case has been re-opened, Flynn said he has no particular timetable, since the person of interest is already behind bars.