Breaking News
More () »

20 years ago, DNA cleared an Idaho death row inmate of charges for the first time

On July 6, 2001, for the first time in Idaho's history, DNA evidence voided a death sentence and a judge signed an order clearing Charles Fain's conviction.

BOISE, Idaho — In courtrooms across the country, DNA tests and samples can be used as evidence in order to convict someone. DNA can provide conclusive evidence of someone's wrongdoing. However, nearly 40 years ago, DNA testing was still in its infancy.

In March of 1984, Charles Fain was convicted for the rape and murder of a nine-year-old Nampa girl, with DNA from a hair tying him to the crime. He was sentenced to death and he saw on death row for nearly 20 years before that same DNA sample proved Fain was wrongfully convicted.

On July 6, 2001, for the first time in Idaho's history, DNA evidence voided a death sentence and a judge signed an order clearing Fain's conviction.

Fain was found guilty of raping and murdering nine-year-old Daralyn Johnson while she was on her way to Lincoln Elementary School. She was found dead in the Snake River in February of 1982.

Detectives used DNA testing and Fain owning a vehicle that matched a "suspicious vehicle" children reported seeing when Daralyn was kidnapped as evidence of his guilt.

During Fain's trial, the prosecutor, Richard Harris, was positive they had Daralyn's murderer.

"The evidence is more than sufficient for the jury to reach the verdict they did," he said.

Thanks to modern technology and science, Fain's innocence was later found.

"The DNA testing shows that pubic hairs recovered from the undergarment and socks of the victim are not the hairs of defendant Charles Fain," then-Deputy Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said in 2001.

Six days later, KTVB spoke with Fain while he was still in prison, but off of death row for the first time in 18 years.

"I don't blame anybody. It's over with and you've got to move on past all that it's a new day now, get on with the future," Fain said.

Fain said ever since he heard about DNA testing in 1985, he wanted Canyon County law enforcement to take another look at his case.

It wasn't until 2020 that Fain and his lawyer were able to get that piece of evidence tested again. 

After additional testing, 62-year-old David Allen Dalrymple was connected to the crime and charged for the young girl's murder. Dalrymple is currently serving 20 years to life in prison for lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor under 16.  He has been in an Idaho state prison since 2004.

After about 18 years of being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death, Fain was released from prison with just a new set of clothes. It was until last month that Idaho provided any sort of compensation.

Fain was given $1.4 million last from the state of Idaho for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment. 

Join 'The 208' conversation:


Before You Leave, Check This Out