Man who spent 33 years in prison for heinous murder is innocent: prosecutors

A Long Island man who spent 33 years in prison for the attempted rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl is innocent of the heinous crime, according to prosecutors, who are recommending Wednesday that his conviction be overturned.

Keith Bush and his defense attorney will appear in Arthur M. Cromarty Court Complex in Riverhead to ask a judge to vacate his 1976 conviction for allegedly attacking teenager Sherese Watson at a Bellport house party in January 1975, Suffolk County officials said.

District Attorney Timothy D. Sini’s office has announced that they support the motion to have the conviction overturned, after the office’s Conviction Integrity Bureau conducted a nine-month investigation and determined there is reason to believe Bush is an innocent man.

Should the conviction be overturned, his will be the longest-running murder case to be vacated in New York State history, according to county officials.

On Jan. 11, 1975, Watson was assaulted and strangled to death by someone who also tried to rape her — and left her remains not far from the location of the house party, the officials added.

Despite confessing to the crime in a statement that he maintains was forced, Bush has consistently asserted his innocence.

A jury convicted him of second-degree murder and first-degree attempted sexual abuse in April 1976.

Bush served 32 years, plus one additional year for a minor parole violation, in Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Sullivan County, officials said. He was released in 2008, but was mandated to register as a level-three sex offender and remains a lifetime parolee.

With the 2018 creation of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office’s Conviction Integrity Bureau, Bush petitioned to have his case reviewed.

At the prompting of Bush and his attorney, the office discovered prosecutors at the time had a second suspect — which was not disclosed to attorneys prior to, or during his trial.

It also came to light that a witness who testified at Bush’s trial that she had seen him leave the party with Watson on that fateful night later recanted her claims — revealing in 1980 that she had lied, and was not at that party, officials said.

Suffolk County officials acknowledged that they, at the time, dismissed the witness’ revelations.

Additionally, one of the detectives who interviewed Bush at the time of his confession has admitted to using coercive methods, officials said.

Lastly, forensic evidence has deflated the prosecution’s arguments for how the crime was committed, though additional details were not immediately available.

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