A three-judge panel in North Carolina has ruled that a 70-year-old man was wrongly convicted in the stabbing deaths of a mother and daughter nearly four decades ago.

The judges ruled Friday that Joseph Sledge was innocent and should be freed from prison. They heard from a DNA expert who said none of the evidence collected matched Sledge.

District attorney Jon David told the judges the justice system had made a mistake and he would reopen the case into the slayings of Josephine Davis and her daughter, Aileen. A day before the September 1976 killings in Elizabethtown, Sledge had escaped from a prison work farm.

Sledge is the eighth person exonerated after the state set up the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, the only state-run investigative agency of its kind.