John Ruth III
John Ruth III

New forensic technology, including in the area of DNA analysis, could help answer remaining questions in the unsolved 2002 homicide of Windsor Township resident Stacey Farmer, who was gunned down in the driveway of his home.

John Edward Ruth III was released from York County Prison Friday -- the same day a York County judge granted the York County District Attorney's Office request to withdraw charges of first- and third-degree murder against Ruth.

Ruth, 58, spent more than two years locked up while awaiting trial.

Insufficient evidence: "We have insufficient evidence at this time to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt against John Ruth," chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker said at a press conference Thursday.

Farmer
Farmer (.)

Because of that, the right thing to do was dismiss the case and return Ruth to freedom, he said.

But Barker said that's not the end of the case. Newly developed forensic techniques, including in DNA testing, could help prosecutors compile more evidence in what has already been an extensive 12-year homicide investigation that has compiled some 13,000 pages of discovery, he said.

No truth, no justice: "We are hoping to be able to get more answers," Barker said. "You cannot have justice without truth."

If more evidence is found and it should point toward Ruth, prosecutors can ask a judge for permission to refile the charges, and that wouldn't be double jeopardy, according to Barker.

He said the case will be forensically driven.

When asked if witnesses' memories have faded with the passage of time, Barker said, "I'll put it this way: Time has an impact. Time is not always your friend."

Barker said he hopes to begin receiving results of forensic testing is about six months or so.

Mum on 'suspect': He declined to say whether Ruth is still a suspect in Farmer's homicide, explaining it would be inappropriate for him to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation.

York County District Attorney Tom Kearney said much the same thing. However, Kearney then noted that Ruth's DNA was found under Farmer's fingernails, and prosecutors said they stand by that piece of evidence.

Defense attorney George Matangos, representing Ruth, said prosecutors consulted with him prior to having the charges dismissed.

He said Ruth's life has been affected.

"He's been in jail for two years for a crime he maintains he didn't commit," Matangos said. "From the beginning he's maintained his innocence."

The homicide: Ruth was arrested nearly a decade after Farmer, 33, was killed early on June 27, 2002.

He was shot in the head at close range and was found at 3:20 a.m. in front of his home at 880 Snyder Corner Road, York Area Regional Police said.

At the time of his slaying Farmer was free on bail, accused of helping friend Duane L. Frey cover up another homicide that also happened on Farmer's property.

Frey was later convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for killing Hopethan "Flex" Johnson, 29, of Red Lion, on May 26, 2002.

Police said Farmer had at least peripheral involvement in Johnson's murder as well, and charged him with evidence-tampering and hindering the prosecution of a suspect.

Farmer was killed two days after The York Dispatch published an article quoting Farmer's family members as saying Farmer planned to go to police and come clean.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.