Families of wrongfully accused rape, murder suspects seek settlement

Families of wrongfully accused rape, murder suspects seek settlement

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Forrest County and The City of Hattiesburg are scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court this week for a court-ordered settlement conference in the case of three men wrongfully accused of rape and murder.

Phillip Bivens, Bobby Ray Dixon and Larry Ruffin were jailed in 1979 for the rape and murder of Eva Gail Patterson of Forrest County. The men, who have passed away, were exonerated in 2010 after DNA evidence proved their innocence.

Hattiesburg City Attorney Annie Amos said the city is hoping to get things resolved with the men's estates when they go to court Wednesday and Thursday. She said the city is involved because of one of the arresting officers who served on a task force, but no other details were offered.

DNA pointed to Andrew Harris as the rapist and murderer, but the district attorney at the time decided in 2012 not to prosecute him after consulting the victim's family. Harris was indicted the day the men were exonerated in 2010, and his case was passed to the inactive file, meaning he could be prosecuted if he is ever released from serving his sentence for a 1982 rape conviction.