MISSOULA – As attorneys make final preparations for a hearing which could determine whether two men accused of murdering a Helena bartender should be set free, there’s a widening investigation into the man who might be the killer — and that probe is spreading to other states.

MTN News broke the story last week about the Montana Innocence Project asking a Lewis and Clark District Court judge to free Freddie Joe Lawrence, 56, and Paul Jenkins, 64.

They’ve been in prison for the 1994 murder of Donna Meagher, who was kidnapped and killed as she left work at the Jackson Creek Saloon in Montana City.

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The Montana Innocence Project is basing their request on DNA evidence which they say conclusively points to David Wayne Nelson — who’s already in prison for the brutal murder and robbery of Bev Giannonatti and her son Greg in Deer Lodge two years ago.

The Department of Justice is investigating not only Melson’s connection to Meagher’s murder but his possible involvement in other cold cases as well.

Attorneys say in court documents that others who knew Nelson say he’s bragged about killing Meagher and also about his possible involvement in murders in other states.

Reporting by Jill Valley for MTN News