Readers revved up over exonerated man’s plight buy him a car

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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The thought of Alan Northrop taking the bus every day to his $10.80-an-hour job was too much for Laurie Davis.

Prompted by a Sunday Columbian article about Northrop’s financial woes following a wrongful conviction on a rape charge, Davis started a donation fund to buy a basic vehicle for him.

It wasn’t a lofty plan. She wanted to show a little kindness to the Ridgefield man because he hadn’t received much benevolence in the past 17 years, when he had been in prison. It wasn’t until last year that he was released from prison after a new DNA test exonerated him of the crime.

A little kindness turned out to be a lot.

Motivated by Davis’ generosity and touched by Northrop’s story, which was featured in the April 3 Columbian, 21 readers donated anywhere from $10 to $250. The total of $2,300 was more than enough to pay for the vehicle.

Northrop still faces the struggle of acclimating to a new life, which included not having transportation to his job at a metal fabrication outlet in Vancouver.

Last week, Davis met with Northrop, 47, in the parking lot of a local bank to hand him the check, give him a hug and offer some encouraging words.

“He was very grateful — very excited,” Davis said. “He said he didn’t know how to thank me. I said, ‘No, this is from a lot of people.’”

Northrop said the donation choked him up. After his incarceration in 1993, he said he was long chastised as a “rapo” by fellow prison inmates and still battles the stigma.

To receive the opposite reaction from the community now: “It’s an honor, very emotionally overwhelming and unreal at the same time,” Northrop wrote in a text message.

Davis said she started the Alan Northrop Donation Fund at Columbia Credit Union as a way to bring justice to an unjust situation.

“When I sat there on Sunday, reading that article, it was so upsetting to me,” she recalled. So she started the fund, dropping $1,020 in to get the ball rolling.

After a small item publicizing the fund ran in the newspaper, the donations poured in.

Meanwhile, Northrop found a 1997 Mazda pickup that an old friend wanted to sell for $1,700. After The Columbian put the two in touch, Davis and Northrop chatted and agreed that the remaining money could go toward paying his rent.

They met on April 22 at a Columbia Credit Union branch to finalize the plans for the purchase. Northrop drove his new truck.

As they were saying their goodbyes, Davis recommended that they stay in touch. Northrop said he’d like that.

Davis hopes they will, and at this point it looks favorable.

“We’re Facebook friends,” she said.

Laura McVicker: 360-735-4516 or laura.mcvicker@columbian.com.