Third of 3 men convicted of 1994 Newport News murder released from prison

Posted at 5:23 AM, Jul 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-12 12:52:06-04

JARRATT, Va. - It's been 25 years.

Darryl Hunter was only 15 years old when he was locked up for the murder of 19-year-old Steven Smith in Newport News. His brother, Nathaniel Pierce, and friend, Reginald Fletcher, were also convicted and imprisoned.

All three denied their involvement in the murder with both Pierce and Fletcher granted parole in 2018.

Friday morning, Hunter will be the third released when he walks out of Greensville Correctional Center.

"I feel so good right now, just to get my life back and be able to walk out that door with my health. I am just thankful for everything you all have done for me," Pierce told News 3 immediately following his release in December. "Two of the three is free and soon it will be three of the three."

Pierce reached out to News 3 in a letter from prison in 2017. He explained his story and claimed he was innocent.

In the following investigation, News 3 uncovered court records showing a jury convicted the three largely on witness testimony and that since then, many of those witnesses signed sworn affidavits saying they lied in their testimony against the men.

Fletcher was the first released by the parole board following our reports, followed by Pierce. Hunter was granted parole in March.

Although the men are walking out of prison, however, they're still convicted of murder.

All three maintain their innocence and are seeking exoneration. They've called on the help of nationally-known attorney Ben Crump, who famously represented Trayvon Martin's family after he was killed in a 2012 altercation with George Zimmerman.