Priyanka Deo
Publish Date

The following story was published by Block Club Chicago on Feb. 13, 2024.

Brian Beals was visiting home in fall 1988 when his life changed forever. 

Beals, then 22, was majoring in administrative justice and law enforcement at Southern Illinois University. He wanted to become a police officer modeled after the coaches who taught his Englewood sports teams. A lifelong athlete, he played college football in Carbondale. 

Beals was home in Englewood to see family and friends during the holiday break. Then there was a shooting the afternoon of Nov. 16, 1988.

Demetrius Campbell, 6, was killed, and his mother, Valerie Campbell, was wounded. Beals was convicted of murder.

Beals, his family and, later, the Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield spent more than three decades on a mission to prove Beals’ innocence. Finally, Beals walked out of the Robinson Correctional Center this December, exonerated after spending 35 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

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