Man Convicted of Raping 'The Lovely Bones' Author Alice Sebold Exonerated 39 Years Later

"I've been crying tears of joy and relief the last couple of days," Anthony Broadwater said after his conviction was overturned

anthony broadwater
Anthony Broadwater. Photo: Katrina Tulloch/The Post-Standard

A 61-year-old man was exonerated this week for the rape of award-winning author Alice Sebold after a judge overturned his 39-year-old conviction, citing concerns the wrong person was put away for the 1981 rape.

The Associated Press reports that Anthony Broadwater, 61, "shook with emotion" as he stood in an Upstate New York courtroom Monday, sobbing as a judge absolved him.

"I've been crying tears of joy and relief the last couple of days," Broadwater, who was released from prison in 1999, told the AP the next day. "I'm so elated, the cold can't even keep me cold."

The Onondaga County District Attorney's Office confirms that it requested Broadwater's conviction be vacated after authorities uncovered serious flaws with his prosecution and it was revealed that a different man likely committed the crime.

Officials believe Sebold, 58, was raped in 1981, when she was an 18-year-old freshman at Syracuse University — but now say Broadwater was not the perpetrator.

Alice Sebold
Alice Sebold. Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images

A 20-year-old man at the time of his conviction, Broadwater served 16 years behind bars following his 1982 conviction for Sebold's rape.

Sebold was a freshman at Syracuse University at the time of the vicious attack.

In 1999, the same year Broadwater was released from prison, Sebold published a memoir, Lucky, about the life-altering attack and her very long recovery. In it, she recalled being attacked by a Black man who she then spotted in the street three months later.

After seeing her attacker, Sebold — the author behind 2002's The Lovely Bones and 2007's The Almost Moon — went to police to report him. The area was searched, and eventually, Broadwater was detained after an officer recalled seeing him in the area.

A lineup was prepared at the police station, and Sebold identified a man who wasn't Broadwater as her attacker.

However, this did not stop authorities from pressing forward with his prosecution. Sebold identified Broadwater as her attacker during the trial.

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During Monday's hearing, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick called Broadwater's prosecution an injustice, adding that it "should never have happened," the Post-Standard of Syracuse reports.

anthony broadwater
Anthony Broadwater. Katrina Tulloch/The Post-Standard

Broadwater remained on New York's sex offender registry following his release from prison. The wrongful conviction made finding employment nearly impossible, he told the Post-Standard.

A GoFundMe campaign is now accepting donations for Broadwater.

Sebold has yet to comment on Monday's development. PEOPLE emailed her literary agency, but got no response.

In 2009, The Lovely Bones was made into a film starring Saoirse Ronan, Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon, and Stanley Tucci.

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