Man Released From Prison After Almost 21 Years
Saturday, February 25, 2023

LANSING, MI – After almost 21 years in prison, Jeff Titus is a free man.

​Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Friday that the 71 year old Titus has been released from the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, where he had been serving a term after being found guilty of a double homicide in 1990.

​His release came under an agreement between Nessel’s office and the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School.

​On November 17, 1990, two hunters, Doug Estes and Jim Bennett, were shot and found dead in the Fulton State Game Area in Kalamazoo County, which is near Titus’ rural property. There were no witnesses to the murders and the killer left no physical evidence at the scene.

​Titus had been cleared as a suspect, as he had been hunting deer 27 miles. The original investigation eventually went cold. It was resurrected by the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit, and led to Titus’ conviction in 2002 on two counts of first-degree premeditated murder and two counts of felony-firearm. He was sentenced to life in prison.

​Researchers with the Innocence Clinic say that Titus’ rights were violated at trial in 2002 when his lawyer never was informed that Kalamazoo County sheriff’s investigators had gathered evidence years earlier against a man named Thomas Dillon.

Local prosecutors at the time apparently didn’t know about Dillon, either. Attorney General Dana Nessel acknowledged it was “powerful evidence” that might have prevented Titus from being charged.

​In 2018, the Innocence Clinic went to federal court, arguing that Titus' constitutional rights were violated because his trial lawyer was never told about another police theory of how the victims were killed.

​Separately, Dillon, a Magnolia, Ohio resident, was making headlines in his home state with his own arrest in 1993. He pleaded guilty to killing five people in that state who had been hunting, fishing or jogging, from 1989 to 1992. Dillon died in 2011.

​The file revealed that a woman and her son, taken to Ohio by investigators, had identified Dillon as the man in a car in a ditch near the Michigan murder scene. The woman also described a car that resembled one owned by Dillon's wife.

​Titus still could face a second trial, though David Moran of the Innocence Clinic suggested that was very unlikely.


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