Nearly 50 years later. She's still determined to find her brother's killer after original suspect exonerated

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Posted at 9:32 PM, Jul 03, 2024

RICHMOND, Va. -- The family of a Richmond toddler murdered nearly 50 years ago is speaking out for the first time after the man convicted of the crime was exonerated last month.

"It's hard. It's really hard,” Sarah Martin said.

Just months before she was born in 1975, police found Martin's 3-year-old brother Christopher Harper, dead on the banks of the James River fully clothed, arms folded across his chest, 9 miles from his home.

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Christopher Martin

Police say he was also sexually assaulted.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about it,” Martin said tearfully.

Now, nearly 50 years later, no one knows who killed her brother. Especially since the man who admitted to, and was convicted of, the murder was exonerated in June 2024.

The Virginia Court of Appeals found over four decades later that Marvin Grimm was not responsible.

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"48 years of his life. He can't get that back," Martin said. "It's taken a hard blow to us."

Grimm's exoneration comes after he claimed evidence brought against him and his confession were all coerced.

Court documents from the exoneration state that new DNA evidence does not match his. The evidence that implicated Grimm in 1975 was analyzed by then-forensic scientist Mary Jane Burton.

It is important to note that Virginia's Department of Forensic Science is now looking into allegations of misconduct against Burton from her time at the state crime lab beginning in the 1970s following Virginia Public Media's 2023 reporting.

"There was a lot of stuff in there that is questionable. Why did they not look into this stuff before they sentenced him," Martin asked.

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Sarah Martin

Martin and her family never thought almost 50 years later that they would be left with no answers and the sting of an open wound.

She said they have been thinking back and questioning in their mind anyone who had anything to do with their family at the time.

The family believes healing can only come one way - which is through justice.

They hope people will come forward to give any details that could help the police and help the family get closure.

“I feel like it’s something I have to do. The person who did it will be held accountable today. It won’t be by me, but he or she has to answer to what they did,” Martin said.

If you have any information related to the 1975 murder of 3-year-old Christopher Harper, you are asked to call the Richmond Police Department.

Depend on CBS 6 News and for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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