Dale Johnston grew up in central Ohio. After high school he joined the Air Force during the later stages of the Korean War. Upon completion of his tour of duty, he returned to Ohio where he worked as an auto mechanic and in construction until retiring early to picturesque Hocking Hills in southern Ohio.
On or about October 4, 1982, Dale’s daughter and her boyfriend were murdered and their bodies dismembered, with parts buried in a cornfield just outside of Logan. Other remains were dumped in the Hocking River.
Dale was the only person the police considered as a suspect. Dale wrote to the Ohio Attorney General asking him to take over the investigation of his daughter’s death, but was refused because Hocking County – not the state – had power over the case.
Numerous violations of Dale’s rights occurred during the investigation and trial. Still, he was sentenced to death in 1984. He believes the state expected his attorneys to abandon him once his initial trial was over. But they stood by him, promising to eventually win his exoneration. He remained on Ohio’s death row for more than five years and was incarcerated for more than seven years.
The Ohio Supreme Court overturned Dale’s conviction in 1988 because the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense, and because one witness had been hypnotized. The state later dropped all charges against him. He was released in 1990.
Today, Dale lives near Columbus with his wife, Roberta, and they are very active in their religious community. As a member of Witness to Innocence, he speaks about the death penalty when the opportunity presents itself.