UPDATED: 2/15/2012 11:45 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A federal judge has set a hearing this summer to determine whether a man serving a life sentence for a horrifying crime, should get a new trial.

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More than 16 years have passed since Debra Evans and two of her children were murdered in a bizarre plot to cut Evans’ unborn baby from her body.

Amanda Raskow, who was nine at the time, says she’ll never forget her neighbors and her best friend, 10-year-old Samantha Evans.

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So carting her infant daughter with her, Raskow showed up in court for a routine hearing on Fedell Caffey’s appeal.

“Once I heard Fedell was trying to get out, I just had to come and put a stop to it,” said Raskow.

Raskow remains convinced Caffey was involved even though he’s always maintained he had nothing to do with the 1995 murders of Debra, Samantha and Joshua Evans.

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U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly set July 9 for a hearing to determine whether Caffey deserves a new trial.

Attorney Richard Kling has represented Caffey on appeal until this point, but a new attorney is expected to be discussed, because Kling uncovered much of the evidence expected to be produced on Caffey’s behalf, and Kling expects to be called as a witness.

Caffey, now 39, was convicted and sentenced to death in Evans’ murder. His girlfriend, Jacqueline Williams, and Williams’ cousin, Levern Ward, were also convicted for their roles in the murders.

Caffey’s death sentence was commuted to life in prison when then-Gov. George Ryan cleared Death Row in 2003.

Prosecutors said on Nov. 16, 1995, Caffey and Ward killed Debra Evans, her 10-year-old daughter, Samantha, and her 7-year-old son, Joshua. Afterward, they cut Evans’ full-term fetus from her womb. The baby, named Elijah, survived and is now 16, living downstate with his grandfather.

Immediately following the murders, Caffey’s cousins claimed he wasn’t even there, and that Williams planned and carried out the murders on her own. Caffey’s family said Williams had told him was pregnant, and needed to produce a baby so he wouldn’t leave, CBS 2 reported in 1995.

That baby was allegedly the one cut from Debra Evans.

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Caffey has exhausted his appeals at the state level, but Judge Kennelly found that enough evidence existed to grant a hearing in federal court, notably accusations that the assistant DuPage County state’s attorney who prosecuted the case purchased illegal drugs from a key witness. The former prosecutor, Jeffrey Kendall, also is expected to be called to testify.