10/24/07 — Dail's ex-girlfriend sues for child support

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Dail's ex-girlfriend sues for child support

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on October 24, 2007 2:28 PM

After spending 18 years in prison for a rape he did not commit, Dwayne Allen Dail now faces a civil lawsuit seeking back child support, court records show.

Dail's former girlfriend, Goldsboro's Lorraine Michaels of Harley Trail, filed a civil action in Wayne County Family Court on Oct. 18, according to records.

The couple's son Christopher Allen Michaels, who turned 18 on Saturday, is the subject of the suit, records show.

A first hearing is set in Family Court on Nov. 26 at 9:30 a.m., records show.

The complaint Ms. Michaels filed through Goldsboro attorney Sarah L. Heekin shows that both Ms. Michaels and Dail are believed to be presently unemployed.

But because Dail may be entitled to compensation now that Gov. Mike Easley has pardoned him, Ms. Michaels seeks some of that money for child support, court records show.

"Based on information and belief the defendant shall be entitled to compensation in the approximate amount of $360,000, that amount being based on $20,000 per year for defendant's wrongful incarceration in excess of 18 years," the complaint states.

That is the same amount that Dail is due from the state because of his pardon.

The complaint says that the couple's 18-year-old "has since birth been in the primary control and custody" of Ms. Michaels.

"The plaintiff is the natural mother of the minor child and has been a fit and proper person to have the care ... of the minor child and for his entire life the plaintiff has been the sole provider for the health and well-being and financial needs," the complaint states.

Ms. Michaels seeks "a reasonable sum for the care and maintenance" of the couple's child, including "his share of uninsured medical dental, orthodontic, optometric and prescription drug expenses of the minor child," the complaint states.

Ms. Heekin could not immediately be reached for comment. She is now a partner of Bland, Heekin, Smith, Strickland & Stanley, the firm of Don Strickland, who prosecuted Dail before his 1989 conviction in a 1987 rape of a 12-year-old girl.

Dail is now living in Fort Myers, Fla., with his family. He has said he hopes to go back to school and earn a degree in criminal justice. He said he wants to be able to help other people avoid being unfairly convicted.

Dail was freed after DNA samples taken at the time of the incident proved he was not the assailant.

Goldsboro attorney Shelby Benton, Dail's public defender at his original trial, said she is representing him again in the child support action.

Mrs. Benton said that state law holds that while a person is in prison, child support is no longer owed.

"I don't think he's very locked in at all," Mrs. Benton said. "The state says if a person is incarcerated, child support abates.

"We will be vehemently defending the action," she said.

The former public defender, now a state certified family law specialist, said the state law is in place for a reason.

"If you're incarcerated by the state, you don't have an ability to make income," Mrs. Benton said.

Mrs. Benton said previously Dail was the only person she had ever represented who was convicted that she felt was innocent.

"I felt like he was a good kid, which he was what he was at the time," she said. "When I saw him and I saw Chris, I told him if he needed anything, call me."