The true story behind Netflix's new addictive documentary series, The Innocent Man.

Ronald Keith Williamson spent 11 years on death row for a murder he didn’t commit.

Born in 1953 in Ada, Oklahoma, Williamson was a promising baseball player. He even made it as far as playing for the New York Yankees, before he had to quit the game at 25 due to a shoulder injury.

Giving up on his baseball dreams, Williamson returned to his hometown. He quickly slipped into a deep depression and would sleep for 20 hours a day in his bedroom at his mother’s house.

The once talented athlete was then diagnosed with bipolar disorder. But instead of receiving proper treatment, he tried to drown his senses with drugs and alcohol.

Williamson’s life continued to spiral out of control. Then he became a murder suspect.

On December 8, 1982, Debbie Sue Carter, a local cocktail waitress, was found raped and murdered in her garage apartment. She was just 21 years old.

According to POLITICO Magazine, Debbie had been gagged with a bloody towel and the word DIE had been painted on her stomach.

On the night of her murder, Debbie had worked her regular shift at Coachlight, a bar Williamson frequently visited. After the murder, another customer named Glen Gore, told police he had witnessed Williamson arguing with Debbie that night.

A friend of the victim also reported that Debbie had said Williamson “made her nervous”.

Williamson officially became a suspect in the case, along with his friend Dennis Fritz. Williamson was unable to provide an alibi for the night in question because he couldn’t remember where he was, he also took two polygraph tests that came up as “inconclusive”.

But without any physical or circumstantial evidence, and with no confession, the case went cold.


Then five years later, Williamson was arrested for forging cheques and was awaiting trial in Pontotoc County Jail in Ada. A fellow inmate named Terri Holland told police Williamson had confessed to her that he had, in fact, murdered Debbie.

In May that year, police exhumed Debbie’s body and charged both Williamson and Fritz for her murder.

At this point, Williamson had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, as well as, bipolar disorder and depression. He was denied medication by prison staff and completely lost control at his trial.

As The Sun reports, he was convicted of Debbie’s brutal murder and was sentenced to death by the judge.

Williamson spent the next 11 years on death row in Oklahoma. Then, just five days before his scheduled execution on September 24, 1994, a judge issued a last minute stay.

The death row inmate was moved to a new treatment area for patients with mental health issues and it was determined he was completely unfit to stand trial.

In 1998, he underwent DNA testing and was cleared of all guilt. He was finally free.

The DNA evidence also led police to the real culprit – Glen Gore – the man who had been the prosecution’s main witness in the case.

On December 4, 2004, just five years after his release, Williamson died in an Oklahoma nursing home.

The 51-year-old had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. He had spent a fifth of his life behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.

After his death, Williamson’s story was turned into a non-fiction book by crime writer John Grisham, called The Innocent Man.

A TV series based on the book will drop on Netflix on December 14.