HOUSTON - In a jailhouse interview, Darius Elam says he never met Rick Bowen and has no idea who murdered the 27-year-old father of three back in 1983.
"We had three boys I was pregnant at the time of Rick’s death so my third son Joshua never did know his dad," said Rick Bowen’s widow Vicki Atkinson.
She says she has no doubt about Darius Elam’s guilt.
"As Christians, we want to think that we can forgive," said Atkinson. "But this is tough, this is hard.
"Nobody absolutely nobody in our family brothers and sisters aunts and uncles cousins nobody believes he did this crime," said Darius’s brother Samuel Elam.
"I believe he’s innocent based on the evidence and based on my spiritual connection with God," said Tammie Lang Campbell founder of the Honey Brown Hope Foundation. "God sent me in there to bring Darius out and that’s what we are going to do."
In May of 1983, Darius Elam and Rick Bowen were both fathers with bright futures.
"Darius got a scholarship to Texas Southern University for running track that’s how he ended up in Houston," Samuel Elam said.
"They called him bear back in college he gave the best bear hugs and he was so genuinely full of love," said Cathy Bowen Rick Bowen’s sister-in-law.
Rick Bowen was last seen alive leaving a banquet
"It took 2 days before we found him and it was actually a family friend who found him," Atkinson said.
"He had been abducted after a fundraising event and made to drive to Rice University parking lot and that’s when he was shot in the back of the head," Bowen said. "His wallet and his pocket change had been stolen."
The day before Bowen’s body was found Darius Elam and a friend of his Clarence Richardson were arrested.
Police say they were using Bowen’s credit card at stores in the Galleria. Elam, however, says he didn’t know Richardson was using Bowen’s credit card. Instead, Richardson claimed he found Bowen’s wallet in a park.
"90 days later or so I and I alone was charged with Aggravated robbery and the guys using the credit cards were not," said Elam.
Elam went to trial not for capital murder but for aggravated robbery.
"I went to trial because I knew at least I thought I knew they couldn’t convict me of something I didn’t do," he said.
Elam was sentenced to life.
"After the trial was over the jury came up to me and said I’m sorry we couldn’t give him more than life," said Atkinson. "They were totally convinced he was guilty without a doubt."
"I cried like a little boy then I thought you know what I’ve got to fight," Elam said.
"The system still has its knee on our necks and strangling the very life out of us," Campbell said. "For 38 years this man has been wrongly incarcerated no physical evidence no eyewitness no admission of guilt,
There are just 2 things connecting Darius Elam to Rick Bowen’s murder: a yellow piece of paper and jailhouse informants.
This is part one of a two-part exclusive story on FOX 26 that will be published on Wednesday.