Just this week, Tony Yarbough, who wrongly served 22 years in prison for the 1992 murders of his mother and sister, finally got to pray over a gravestone for them.
A Daily News reader had seen a story in this space that on Mother’s Day, after searching for their graves for three frustrating months after his release, Yarbough finally traveled from St. Albans, Queens, to Rosemount Cemetery in Elizabeth, N.J., and discovered his mother and sister lying side by side in an unmarked patch of grass under a budding tree.
That reader, who wanted to stay anonymous, had learned that only after attorneys Phil Smallman and Zach Margulis-Ohnuma took on Yarbough’s case did the Brooklyn district attorney start to realize an innocent man was incarcerated. The lawyers showed that DNA found in another woman who was raped and strangled in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, while Yarbough was in prison matched the DNA under the nails of Annie Yarbough. That meant Annie Yarbough, her daughter and her daughter’s friend had been killed by someone other than Tony.
After Yarbough was released in February, he told me the first thing he wanted to do was find out where his mother and sister were buried so he could pray over their graves. “I never had time to even grieve for them,” he said.
On Mother’s Day, Smallman and I watched Yarbough kneel over the unmarked graves. “Once I get a job, I will buy them a grave marker,” he said.