Craig is ending 2018 with a heart full of hope, faith, and gratitude. GFM donors helped him transition to self-sufficiency and restored his faith in humanity. He celebrated his first Christmas in 40 years in his own home, and with the means to buy presents for his friends and family. He wants to start 2019 by giving back. He is not accepting donations any longer and would like to redirect any future donations to one of his favorite charities; THANK A VET. We have set up a GoFundMe page for them located here : Craig donated $80,000 to TAVNOW.org
Craig first learned of THANK A VET when Army Sergeant Major Jesse Acosta visited his veterans group in prison. They are a unique nonprofit service organization comprised of Veterans and Volunteers, all sharing the common goal to serve and honor veterans.
Craig and I will continue to speak at law enforcement trainings in hopes to help prevent wrongful convictions. I will post significant updates on this page, but day-to-day updates are posted on his community Facebook page located here :
Free after 4 decades of wrongful imprisonment
My name’s Mike, and I have an important story to share. Craig Coley’s (now 70) life stopped when he was just 31 years-old; he was unjustly taken from his friends, family, and those he loved. He needs our help to live in peace, comfort, get healthy, and make up for stolen decades of life and memories. He will need everything from his own place to call home, to kitchen utensils, clothing that fits, to a car that will help him feel independent once again.
Craig Coley was arrested on Veteran’s Day in 1978, after serving his country honorably in the Navy. He was wrongfully convicted of a double murder and held in maximum security prisons throughout California for the past 39 years.
Craig was the only child of Marjourie and Wilson Coley, both of whom passed away while their son was incarcerated. While I am disappointed I never got to meet the great man that raised Craig, I had the pleasure of taking Marjourie to visit Craig in prison over the years. We were able to save several boxes of family photos for Craig, including his dad’s LAPD police badge and photos from when Craig served in the US Navy.
Despite his dire situation, Craig worked hard while locked up. He volunteered, was a member and officer with Veterans Affairs, and belonged to V.E.T.S. (Veterans Embracing Troops). He was a participant and mentor for the bible study group with the college program; he earned his Associates degree in Theology, his certificate as a Biblical Counselor, and in 2017 received his Bachelors of Arts in Biblical Studies while starting on his Master’s degree.
Faith played a large role in Craig’s life during his time in prison. “I give God almighty all Glory and Praise for who I am today and what he has done for me,” says Craig. “He brought Mike into my Mother's and my life who has worked on my release for thirty years and succeeded. [Once I complete my Master’s] I will be better prepared to help those in need in whatever capacity fits God’s plan for my life.”
For the past 29 years since I learned of the case, I have tried to get numerous government agencies and organizations involved in correcting this injustice and finding the real killers. It wasn’t until Simi Valley Police Department’s current Chief of Police, Dave Livingstone, allowed Detective Dan Swanson to investigate the murders, that the “evidence” used to wrongfully convict Craig was invalidated and the real suspect(s) were pursued.
On November 20th, 2017, I was overjoyed when the Simi Valley Police Department and the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office held a press conference and recommended the immediate release of Craig based on new DNA evidence obtained and an exhaustive investigation.
On November 22nd, 2017 , Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. granted a full and unconditional pardon to Craig Coley. He stated he granted the pardon because Craig did not commit the crimes and was innocent. The Warden drove Craig to our home that night.
We have brought Craig to San Diego to get him acclimated to freedom and are helping him get the necessities he needs to enjoy his freedom and live life. Craig looks at children like our little granddaughter just starting life and prays that she, or anyone, will not have to experience what he has been through. He knows this is a process. Above all he is thankful, and he knows that he wants to heal and help others less fortunate.
Together, we returned to Simi Valley for the first time since his wrongful conviction nearly 40 years ago. We met with the officer that was told to arrest him in 1978 and removed his arrest photo from the history wall at SVPD. It was a healing meeting for all.
Craig has never given up and has always been a kind and forgiving man. Despite the injustices committed against him he cares deeply for the victim’s family and what they have been through.
In the last few months, Craig has reached major milestones. After lots of work, we were able to get him registered with the DMV, enroll in VA health care, and he passed his written test for his learner’s permit to drive again. He also received his Biblical Counselor Certification from Channel Islands Bible College and Seminary.
We recently found out that his application for victim’s compensation could not be processed until January 22nd, the State did not allow one to apply until 60 days after their exoneration and release from a wrongful conviction. Depending on the State Legislature, it could take a year before he could see any money.
Craig is extremely grateful for the contributions made so far. He has been spending some of his free time sending “Thank You’s” to all those that have donated. At age 70 his employment opportunities are limited and he needs assistance with housing, food, clothing, medical expenses, living expenses and the ability to enjoy this planet from outside of prison. As soon as he gets his ID, and can open a bank account, he can start using the GoFundMe money to create a life of his own. He feels blessed but he knows there is still a long road ahead. Craig is still taking all of it in and is appreciative of every moment being a free man. GoFundMe Studios made a video about our story and you can watch it above.
Thank you for listening to our story, making a donation, and sharing this link with your family, friends, and community: https://www.gofundme.com/craig-richard-coley-free-at-last
- Caren Maslowsky