Merry Christmas, Conwell Cormier.
Lafayette Parish prosecutors Tuesday dropped charges against the Carencro man accused of aggravated rape of a child and intentionally exposing the 5-year-old boy to AIDS.
The decision allowed Cormier to finally walk out of the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center, where he’s been held since his April 2013 arrest on the charges.
“I couldn’t ethically proceed in the prosecution where we might send an innocent man to jail,” Lafayette Parish Assistant District Attorney Pat Magee said.
Cormier faced life in prison and was scheduled for trial Dec. 15. But at a hearing three days before the trial, his court-appointed attorneys David Rubin and Lilian Hangartner told Judge Marilyn Castle that another suspect had emerged.
At the Dec. 12 hearing, Castle reduced Cormier’s bail from half a million dollars to $25,000, but Cormier remained in jail and the charges remained lodged against him. On Tuesday, that changed, and Cormier walked out of the parish prison a free man, a sheriff’s jailer confirmed.
The Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office has reopened the investigation, but has not named the person suspected in the rape. Calls made to the Sheriff’s Office late Tuesday seeking more information were unsuccessful.
According to court records, Cormier, 30, is bisexual and carries the HIV virus that causes AIDS.
In interviews with detectives after his arrest, Cormier maintained his innocence and threw some suspicion at the victim’s mother, who has not been identified.
Two detectives in April 2013 questioned Cormier for hours, telling him the boy provided vivid details of the molestation.
“Now what 5-year-old child could describe something like that?” a detective asked Cormier.
“One who have a sick mamma,” Cormier answered.
Authorities still believe the boy was raped, but not by Cormier. After the Dec. 12 hearing, Rubin and Hangartner told Castle the new suspect had been Cormier’s roommate at the time of the attack.
Efforts to reach Rubin and Hangartner on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
According to the June 2013 indictment that charged Cormier, the boy was raped around Jan. 1, 2013.