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Conn. man jailed for 21 years in killing he did not commit to seek up to $8 million from state

Wrongful Imprisonment-1.jpg

FILE - In this Aug. 19, 2009, file photo, a smiling Kenneth Ireland leaves Superior Court in New Haven, Conn., after all charges were dropped against him in connection with the rape and murder of Barbara Pelkey. New DNA evidence proved he did not commit the crimes. Ireland filed a wrongful imprisonment claim against the state seeking up to $8 million, and a hearing begins Tuesday, July 29, 2014, to determine how much he should be compensated. (AP Photo/Bob Child, File) (The Associated Press)

A man who was imprisoned 21 years for a rape and murder he did not commit is set to testify at a first-ever Connecticut hearing to determine how much he should be compensated.

Kenneth Ireland, who was imprisoned at the age of 18 and released in 2009 at age 39, after DNA tests, is seeking between $5.4 million and $8 million. The hearing scheduled for Tuesday marks the first time a wrongful imprisonment claim is going to the state claims commissioner, said his lawyer, William Bloss.

Ireland says in his claim that he lost the opportunity to learn a trade, earn a living, get married and raise a family. Labeled a sex offender, Ireland said in his claim he witnessed and experienced prison violence, losing part of a finger.

Attorney General George Jepsen has told Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr. that he does not object to the award compensation sought by Ireland.

Ireland was convicted in 1989 for killing Barbara Pelkey, a mother of four, in 1986.

In 2007, the Connecticut Innocence Project, which looks into potentially wrong convictions, began reviewing the case against Ireland. Following DNA tests, a Superior Court dismissed all charges against him.

In 2012, Kevin Benefield was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the beating death of Pelkey, who was 30. Benefield worked at a catering and car business in the Wallingford building where Pelkey worked and Ireland was employed at a local sandwich shop.

Investigators looking into Pelkey's death took a sample of Benefield's saliva in 1986 and submitted it to the state police crime lab in 2009 because of new DNA technology that had been developed. Testing linked Benefield's saliva sample to the killing, police said.

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