Police officers are supposed to be the people with the strongest sense of right and wrong, and the people you can always turn to in emergencies.
So when some Chicago police officers told a 25-year-old who worked for the White Sox that they just needed a simple statement from him about a case they were working on, he trusted that they were doing the right thing. Sadly, that trust nearly cost Nevest Coleman everything…
The Birthday Party
On the night of April 11, 1994, Chicago native Antwinica Bridgeman was celebrating her 20th birthday with her closest friends. They didn’t know it at the time, but that night would be that last time the group of friends would see Antwinica alive.
The Missing Girl
After the birthday party, Antwinica disappeared. It wasn’t until April 28 that they discovered what happened to the 20-year-old when Michael Berger and Nevest Coleman, friends who attended the party, found Antwinica’s body in the basement of an apartment building…
The 911 Call
Antwinica had been brutally assaulted with a piece of concrete and a pipe, so the young men immediately called the police to report what they had discovered in the apartment building in the 900 block of West Garfield Boulevard on the south side of Chicago.
When police arrived at the scene, they determined that Antwinica had been raped and murdered sometime after her birthday party. According to the autopsy, Antwinica died of suffocation due to the piece of concrete jammed into her mouth. Police immediately opened an investigation and Detectives William Foley and Michael Clancy interviewed Antwinica’s friends and family to try and figure out who could have murdered her…
A friend of Antwinica told police that a man called ‘Chip’ had tried to sexually assault her the day before she disappeared but she had fought him off. Detectives believed ‘Chip’ was really 25-year-old Nevest Coleman, one of the young men who reported finding Antwinica.
The Prime Suspect
Nevest’s sister lived in the building where Antwinica’s body was found and the 25-year-old, who was a member of the grounds crew for the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park, was one of the people who attended Antwinica’s birthday and last saw her alive…
On April 29, 1994, police arrested Nevest and began interrogating him. Nevest had no prior record and denied knowing or having anything to do with the case other than finding Antwinica. After 30 minutes, a detective came into the interrogation room, called him a ‘lying assed n****r’, and then punched him 2 times in the head.
A Dirty Deal
After that, police told Nevest that all he had to do was answer their question and confirm their version of the story, which was that 2 other men abducted, raped, and killed Antwinica. However, instead of letting Nevest go, police charged him and the 2 men he was told to accuse with first-degree murder and aggravated criminal sexual assault…
1 of the 3 men refused to admit anything so the prosecution dismissed his charges. Nevest and Eddie Taylor were tried in May 1997. During the trial, police denied coercing statements and confessions and claimed the 2 men willingly told them everything.
Despite there being no physical evidence tying either of the young men to the rape or murder, 2 separate juries found both Nevest and Eddie guilty on May 13, 1997. The prosecution hoped the 2 men would get the death sentence, but they were ultimately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole…
2 Decades Later…
For the next 2 decades, Nevest’s life passed him by while he was stuck behind bars. However, in 2016, the Cook County State Attorney’s conviction integrity unit re-opened the case and had some of the evidence, like the sweatshirt and underwear the victim was wearing as well as some fingernail clippings. sent off to be tested.
Testing The Evidence
The crime lab found semen on the clothing, so the pieces of evidence were submitted to be tested for DNA. The results of the DNA tests did not match Nevest or the other 2 men the police had him accuse in his original statement, so the investigators submitted the DNA profile to the FBI DNA database…
The Real Killer
The DNA profile matched a man who had lived close by to Antwinica and had been convicted several times for rape. Because of the new DNA evidence and new evidence that the detectives working on the case had a long history of threatening suspects and coercing confessions, petitions were submitted on behalf of both Nevest and Eddie to vacate their convictions.
The Road To Freedom
On November 17, 2017, Nevest and Eddie’s convictions were vacated and they were both released from prison days later on November 20, 2017, after being wrongfully imprisoned for 23 years. And on December 1, 2017, the court did something Nevest had dreamed of for the past 2 decades…
An Innocent Man
In early December, the men were both exonerated and a judge granted Nevest a certificate of innocence. “I want to sit back for a while, get to know my family, and when the time comes around, go back to Comiskey Park,” Nevest said about returning to the baseball park, now called Guaranteed Rate Field.
Letting The Anger Go
Despite everything that has happened to Nevest, he has spent too much time angry while in prison and wants to enjoy the time he has left as a free man. “You can’t take that anger back to the streets and to your family,” Nevest said. “If I’m miserable, then everybody else around me will be miserable. If I’m angry, everybody else will be angry…”
A Second Chance At Life
“Why be angry? It’s time to live my life now. I have my son, daughter, three grandbabies, sisters and brothers. I don’t need them to be miserable and angry because I am. I live day by day and do the best I can. There isn’t any sense being angry anymore,” said Nevest, who has recently found out he has another reason to be happy.
A Second Chance At His Career
After Nevest was released from prison and exonerated, his childhood priest reached out to the White Sox and explained what had happened to their former employee. The team invited him in for an interview and welcomed him back to his old job. “I don’t have to worry about everybody giving me things. I can support myself now,” said Nevest. “They didn’t have to hire me back. I appreciate the White Sox giving me the opportunity to come back to work…”
The Welcome Committtee
When Nevest showed up at the stadium for the first time, he wasn’t the only one excited that he was back. Jerry Powe and Harry Smith both worked with Nevest at the stadium decades ago and testified on behalf of Nevest during his trial, and were both thrilled to welcome him back to the team. “Glad to see him out. Glad to see him back,” said Powe. “I’m so happy for him, me and the White Sox.”
Justice Is Finally Served
“It was amazing just to see Jerry and Harry standing there to greet me when I came in. Just to see them outside waiting on me, it was a great feeling. To walk around on the field to see how the field is. It’s totally different,” Nevest said. “We’re grateful that after more than two decades, justice has been carried out for Nevest,” the White Sox said in a statement. “It has been a long time, but we’re thrilled that we have the opportunity to welcome him back to the White Sox family.”