The discovery of a Labrador led to the unraveling of a case against a US man jailed for 50 years for molesting his daughter, who claimed he had killed the animal to frighten her into silence.
Joshua Horner, 42, a plumber from the western state of Oregon, was convicted in April last year of sexually assaulting a minor by a jury that had failed to reach a unanimous verdict.
Horner's daughter had testified during the trial that her father threatened to harm her animals if she told the police, and that he had shot her dog Lucy in front of her to drive home his point.
The animal was found alive and living with new owners, however, by the Oregon Innocence Project, a non-profit legal organization that had agreed to review the case on Horner's behalf.
Horner had insisted he did not harm Lucy and that finding the dog would prove he was innocent and that his daughter had lied under oath.
Officials from the Innocence Project said the Labrador was tracked down to the town of Gearhart, northwest of Portland, and was identified because of distinctive features.
In its motion filed on Monday to dismiss the case, the district attorney's office noted that Horner's daughter had refused to talk to investigators about her trial testimony after the dog was found alive.
"While I cannot say with certainty that Mr Horner did not sexually abuse the named victim, I can say I am not convinced by a preponderance of the evidence that is now available that he did, and I am certainly not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt," district attorney John Hummel said in a statement on Monday.
Horner was freed from prison in August and was awaiting a new trial after an appeals court had overturned his conviction on grounds his defense had not been allowed to introduce evidence unrelated to the dog.
"Kelli and I are ready to pick up the pieces of our lives," he said on Monday, referring to his wife, as the couple came out of the courthouse following the judge's decision to dismiss the case.
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