WARD, Ark. (KTHV) -- A man sat behind bars for more than a year and a thousand miles away from home all because of a lie. Thomas Mashburn just came home from a North Dakota jail after serving 542 days for a crime he never committed.
Thomas Mashburn, of Ward, was living in Minot, N.D. in Sept. 2011 working in an oil field. One night, he and his co-workers went to dinner to celebrate a birthday, and then went across the street to a place called The Dakota Lounge. Little did they know that by the wee hours of the morning, a man would be stabbed and Mashburn would be in jail.
"When I left, I got attacked, and I was knocked unconscious, and I really don't remember much about anything," recalled Thomas Mashburn.
It happened in a blink of an eye, he said. He went from talking to the soon-to-be victim inside The Dakota Lounge to being beaten unconscious and taken to the hospital.
"I opened my eyes up and there was the lieutenant from the Minot Police Department," said Mashburn.
That's when he learned that victim had been stabbed in the neck, and the cops believed Mashburn did it. Waiting to be booked into jail, Mashburn called his wife more than 1,000 miles away in Ward.
"I told her what I knew, which was I was being arrested for attempted murder, and I didn't know anything else," said Mashburn.
"He called me at 4:00 in the morning, asking for an attorney, and it's just been a whirlwind since then," said Mashburn's wife, Jessica.
For 542 days, Mashburn sat in a jail cell. He lost his job, and his wife became a single mother over night.
"I just knew he's not the type of guy to try and kill someone," said Jessica.
After 8 months with a public defender ignoring his innocence, Attorney Kerry Rosequist took Mashburn's case.
"The witnesses wanted to confer with one another before they gave their statements to police, which told me they were making up stuff," said Rosequist.
After 542 days behind bars, on February 28 five days before his trial was set to start, the state's attorney dropped the charges, citing a lack of credible witnesses, tampering with evidence, all of it coming to light while preparing for trial.
"It wasn't until I stepped foot outside the jail that I realized 'Hey! I'm going home," said Mashburn.
Mashburn boarded a flight home the very next day and reunited with his wife and children for the first time since his arrest. Though he's home and working to rebuild his life, Mashburn said he still doesn't understand how it all happened in the first place.
"I'm still as confused as the first day. I mean, how can this happen?" said Mashburn.
Rosequist said they are filing a civil suit against the state for keeping him in jail so long with so little evidence. He said the case has also been turned over to the FBI for a criminal investigation. A North Dakota judge ordered Mashburn's record be expunged and his name cleared.