A small crowd gathered near downtown Oswego Monday morning in support of Gary Thibodeau, who they believe was wrongly convicted of kidnapping 18-year-old Heidi Allen from a convenience store 20 years ago.
More than two dozen people held signs along Route 104 in Oswego, urging motorists to honk if they believe Gary Thibodeau should be free. Thibodeau's brother, Richard, and niece Amanda Crawford organized Monday's "Gary the Innocent" rally to make people aware of what Crawford calls an injustice.
"Gary's sitting in prison," Crawford said. "That's not justice for him. He should be free. He should be able to live out the rest of his life as a free man, because he did not do anything. Heidi and her family need justice. They need to put the right people behind bars. They need to know where their daughter is. They need to know what happened to her."
Allen was kidnapped on Easter Sunday 1994, at the D&W Convenience Store in New Haven. Over the last week, investigators have been searching in the Mexico area for Allen's remains, but nothing has been found.
Richard Thibodeau was also tried in Allen's kidnapping, but was found not guilty. He says the rally is his way of getting the word out so more people will come forward with information.
"There's a lot of people that are starting to see the light now about what's going on with this case," Thibodeau said. "And I'm hoping this helps my brother get out of prison for something he didn't even do."
Crawford says other people also believe that Gary Thibodeau is innocent, 20 years later.
"I have faith in the D.A. to do the right thing," Crawford said. "He is a different D.A. than what we originally started with. I would like for him to pursue all avenues. In the past couple years, people have come forward and said things, and some of them were turned away. Some of them haven't gotten a call back, or a response back."
Some of those rallying for Gary Thibodeau's freedom also chastised the Oswego County Sheriff's handling of his case. But across town, Oswego County District Attorney Gregory Oakes says law enforcement agencies have done their due diligence.
"Mr. Thibodeau received a fair trial in this county, and a jury of his peers found him guilty of this offense," Oakes said. "He filed a 440 motion previously, he's exhausted all of his state appeals and he's filed a federal habeas corpus petition. At each and every turn, the courts have found there was sufficient evidence to convict him of this crime, and until I see evidence that proves otherwise, I believe we have the right man in state prison."
Last week, a federal public defender for Gary Thibodeau filed a motion to have his conviction vacated, citing materials were withheld from the defense. Oakes says he has reviewed the motion.
In the meantime, Thibodeau says he wants justice for his brother, who he believes was wrongly convicted.
"All I know is I just want my brother out of prison," Thibodeau said."That's the only thing I can tell you. And he should have never been there in the first place."