He was charged with first degree murder: Police accused Richard Polak of killing 28-year old Charles Freeborn. After a ten day trial, Polak was acquitted of all charges. But he said the life he returned to wasn't what he was expecting.
For Richard Polak, it started with a bad decision- one police said tied him to a murder.
“Next thing I know I’m working at my friend’s house, Myron’s house, and I get a phone call from a friend of mine and he says dude you`re all over the news. I said for what? He said for a material witness warrant,” Polak remembered, “Every word out of their mouth was homicide, they wouldn`t accuse an innocent man, what kind of life is that for a child. I was like dude I didn`t do this, I’ve had the same job for years. I’m a foreman at a big construction company. And they`re like we don`t care. We know you did this. We just can’t prove it yet.”
Police spent nearly a year trying to prove it, while Polak waited in jail for a trial that would last 10 days.
If he was found guilty, he would have been sent to prison for the rest of his life, for the murder of a person he said he never even met.
“It was hard to focus. I really hoped that the jury was paying attention,” said Polak, remembering the moment in court right before the not guilty verdict was read. In that moment, Polak thought it was finally over, but he says months later, little has changed.
“I still lose sleep over it. I lost a lot. I’m still in a struggle to get my family back. You go to apply for a job, and you look at the criminal history, and since I’ve been all over the media, it’s hard to get away from,” Polak said, “I stay with my mom now because I don`t have a place. They took that from me. Renter’s credit is shot. All my credit card bills I couldn`t pay because of the nine months I was in jail.”
He said although it was a struggle, he said he has finally found a job, but his main focus now is getting his son back, who is currently in custody of DHS.
“I have to be out here on Wednesdays, it has to be during the day time, they got me on a high security case because I think I might steal him or something. Or hurt somebody, so I have to do all my visits inside the DHS room, with a 13 month old toddler,” said Polak.
Polak said he's trying to understand, be patient, and just do what he is told, “DHS decided I needed to maybe go through some outpatient treatment, so I’ve been doing that 3 times a week. I go to NA meetings, I see a therapist, at least once every other week,” explained Polak. He continued, “don`t get me wrong, my DHS judge seems to be giving it a fair shake but the process has already started and I just hope it works out for us. I would like my son back. I am a good person, I got morals. I didn`t kill nobody. I sure as hell didn`t shoot no house with no kids in it.”
Which is what the jury found, but Polak is coming to realize that it may not end with the verdict.
“It`s depressing. I mean the whole situation is depressing. You think it would go away when they let you out, but it doesn`t,” said Polak.
Police say they consider the case closed. They still believe they went after the right guy, and the jury got it wrong.
Freeborn's family says they were also completely shocked by the verdict of the trial. Since Freeborn's death, family and friends have planted a tree in his honor and still remember him daily. We tried to speak with them further, but attempts to contact them were not returned.