UPDATE: Family of Rape Victim Hopeful DNA Evidence Will Solve Case

By: WSAZ News Staff Email
By: WSAZ News Staff Email

UPDATE 8/20/14 @ 11:17 p.m.
PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Every time the family of Joseph Lavigne, Jr. is in a courtroom, they have reason to be optimistic.

"Any court hearing, any progress is renewed hope for us," said Lavigne's sister Laurel Haught.

The past 18 years, their family has been torn apart. For more than 16 of them, Lavigne has been behind bars serving time for convictions of sexual assault. child abuse, and incest.

He was convicted in 1996 for raping his 5-year-old daughter.

"I know I'm innocent, that's not a factor," Lavigne said during a previous trial.

On Wednesday, they were back in their all-too-familiar seats, asking another judge to do what numerous others have not.

However, what the family believes is a little victory got the OK.

The defense made a motion to have DNA testing done on pieces of evidence from the scene.

"Eighteen, twenty years ago they didn't have the capabilities," Haught said, "even 2008 they don't have the capabilities they do now."

Though Prosecuting Attorney Mark Sorsaia was hesitant, he didn't fight it.

"The state is never afraid of DNA testing, forensic testing," Sorsaia said. "We want the truth."

"If the person who perpetrated this crime is still out there, we need to find that person, and this evidence is a way to do that," said Valeena Betty.

Betty is with the West Virginia Innocence Project, which has pushed for the DNA case. They are also paying all costs.

For Lavigne's family, it provides encouragement that their husband, father, and friend could soon be home.

More importantly though, it could mean his name -- after all these years -- may be cleared.

The defense believes it will take about six months for the DNA tests to come back.

ORIGINAL STORY 8/20/14 @ 10:29 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A man who has spent the majority of the last 18 years behind bars could possibly be let free.

Joseph Lavigne was convicted of raping his 5-year-old daughter in 1996. He was freed in 2011 when a judge overturned that conviction.

The following year, the State Supreme Court of Appeals ordered Lavigne had to serve the remainder of his 60-year sentence.

During a hearing on Wednesday, the West Virginia Innocence Project asked to use DNA techonology to test evidence in the case involving hairs that were found on the victim. A judge granted the motion.

Those tests are expected back in about six months.

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