Former Greensboro resident LaMonte Armstrong, who was wrongfully convicted and long imprisoned, died recently, according to a statement from the Duke University legal program that won him his freedom.
The tweeted message Friday from Duke law school's innocence project did not say what had caused the 69-year-old Armstrong's passing, noting only that it was "with sadness that we say goodbye."
It is with sadness that we say goodbye to LaMonte Armstrong. LA now rests among the angels. He had a big heart and smile that filled a room. In December, he spent 2 days paying off other people's layaway. He always paid it forward! His absence leaves a hole in our hearts. RIP LA. pic.twitter.com/qhZrLZVcjT— DukeInnocence (@DukeInnocence) August 16, 2019
"LA now rests among the angels. He had a big heart and smile that filled a room," said officials at the Duke program that works to free people who are wrongfully convicted.
Armstrong, who went on to live in rural Alamance County, won his freedom in 2012 after 17 years in prison. He was freed when new evidence emerged that he was not involved in the 1988 killing of N.C. A&T professor Ernestine Compton in her Pichard Street home.
Then-Gov. Pat McCrory issued Armstrong a “pardon of innocence” in 2013, leading to a subsequent payment of $750,000 from state government for his improper incarceration.
The soft spoken, college educated Armstrong later won $6.42 million from the city of Greensboro and its insurers to end a civil suit that he brought in federal court.
Armstrong initially had been found guilty in 1995, seven years after the Compton murder, partly because of flawed police work. The State Bureau of Investigation also played a role by failing to accurately identify a palm print left at the crime scene by another man thought to have been Compton's actual assailant.
After winning his settlement in the federal lawsuit three years ago, Armstrong told the News & Record that he did want not his multi million-dollar windfall to change him in any way. He said he planned to continue working as a peer counselor at a Durham nonprofit.
"It seems the more that I continue to be of service to my fellow man and help people, the more God continues to serve me," he said.
In their post on Friday morning, officials at the Duke wrongful convictions program indicated their former client stayed true to his word.
"In December, he spent 2 days paying off other people's layaway(s). He always paid it forward!" they said. "His absence leaves a hole in our hearts. RIP LA."
Contact Taft Wireback at 336-373-7100 and follow @TaftWirebackNR on Twitter.