A man who spent more than two decades behind bars for a wrongful murder conviction is now living his life here in Southwest Florida.
Now, Clay Chabot is telling his story.
Like many others in our community, Chabot moved to Southwest Florida a little later in life.
“Other than the heat, I love Florida. I love the water. I always have and need sunshine,” Chabot said.
But Chabot does have a unique twist in his story.
Born in Ohio, Chabot joined the military and served in the Navy. Once discharged, he moved to Texas, and he and his wife had a son.
In 1986, Chabot’s life changed. He spent 22 years in a Texas prison after being wrongly convicted.
“I just gotten out of the military one year before so believed the justice just like everybody else as a kid, and I thought the truth would prevail, but all I had to do was tell the truth,” Chabot said.
He was convicted for the rape and murder of a woman he and his wife were friends with.
His brother-in-law pointed the finger at Chabot.
“So they went to him with same story or the same deal said, ‘Hey, will you testify against Clay?’ And sure enough, he did. He got on the stand, said we were both there and he pulled the trigger,” Chabot said.
After decades in prison, the Innocence Project got involved and helped get him out.
DNA evidence would later match Chabot’s brother-in-law.
“Always kept one foot out, one foot in. I watched a lot of people in there that they just give up and they delve into prison life, join the gangs or whatever. I didn’t do that. I got educated when I was in there, kept myself busy,” Chabot said.
He obtained several degrees while in prison and moved to Florida the morning after his release.
Now remarried, he lives happily with his wife in Fort Myers.
Chabot maintained his innocence throughout his time in prison.
At times he felt like giving up, but in his mind, he knew he was innocent, and now the rest of the world does too.