Man Convicted Of Murder Conspiracy Ordered Freed

CLEVELAND (AP) - A man convicted in 2000 of conspiring to kill a woman in 1978 must be freed because the charge was filed after the six-year statute of limitations expired, a judge ruled.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Bridget M. McCafferty ruled Monday that Charles E. Tolliver Jr. must be released. Tolliver was hoping to be released by Wednesday.

In September an appeals court overturned his conviction because the statute of limitations on the conspiracy charge had expired.

Tolliver was charged May 25, 2000, with aggravated murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the strangling of Elaine Lovett on June 2, 1978. A jury acquitted him in October 2000 on the aggravated murder count but found him guilty on the conspiracy charge.

He was serving a 10- to 25-year sentence.

Tolliver's cousin, Andre Fortson, was convicted of aggravated murder in the case and is serving a life sentence.

Prosecutor Patrick Lavelle had argued that Tolliver had fled the state to evade prosecution until the statute of limitations expired.

Mark Rudy, Tolliver's lawyer, said Tolliver had been in prison in Ohio five times, serving more than six years, during the time he was supposedly avoiding prosecution.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)