Here's What We Know About 'Innocent Man' Subject Billy Charley

by Jordan Lauf

Spoilers ahead for The Innocent Man Season 1. Netflix's The Innocent Man takes a close look at two murder cases in Ada, Oklahoma, including that of Denice Haraway, who was killed in 1984. Two men, Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot, were convicted for her murder, but have since maintained their innocence. In examining their continued quests to be exonerated, subjects in the show float around a few other names, including Billy Charley, who they allege could be connected to the case. (Charley could not be reached for comment, but he was never charged in the case and maintains in The Innocent Man that he had nothing to do with Haraway's murder). Based on the series, it appears that now, Billy Charley still lives in Ada.

Charley's name is first mentioned in the show when AC Shilton, a journalist investigating the case, speaks with Mark Barrett, Ward's appeals attorney, about possible alternative suspects. According to The Innocent Man, a witness allegedly saw Haraway being shuttled away from the convenience store where she worked into a gray pickup truck with two men. Police brought in Ward and Fontenot for questioning after determining they resembled the two men in composite sketches drawn based on eyewitness accounts. That questioning led to Ward and Fontenot's confessions, which they've since claimed were coerced. (Bustle reached out to the Ada Police Department about Ward and Fontenot's allegations, but did not receive a response by the time of publication).


So, when looking at possible alternative suspects, Shilton and Barrett went back to the initial composite photos. According to them, a friend of both Charley and Ward's allegedly told police he believed the composite looked like Charley. What's more, Shilton and Barrett claim Charley owned a gray pickup truck at the time.

According to The Innocent Man, Charley was known to be close with another man, Jim Bob Howard, who people in town reportedly thought resembled the second man in the sketch. And in a prison recording of Ward from the '80s played in the documentary, he claims that Charley told him that while his parents had provided his official alibi for the night of Haraway's murder, he had allegedly been out at a bar drinking that evening.


During the filming of the series, Shilton and an old friend of both Ward and Charley, Johnny Daniels, attempt to contact Charley in the hopes of getting him to speak on camera. Daniels warns Shilton that she should not go to Charley's home to speak with him, as he allegedly has a history of violent behavior and might not react well to her inquiries. Instead, Daniels himself gives Charley a call. In the recording of the phone call featured in The Innocent Man, Charley maintains he had nothing to do Haraway's death, but he does admit to owning a gray truck at the time of her disappearance.

Shilton readily admits, however, that with no physical evidence tying Charley or Howard to the case, such speculation is just that— speculation. Charley was clearly reluctant to participate in the show other than to maintain he knew nothing about the case, and there is very little public information about his life today.