#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 15°C Thursday 7 July 2022

Man freed after 16 years in prison for rape he didn't commit

DNA evidence linked the crimes to a serial rapist on the FBI’s most wanted list.

Image: Apexchange

A MAN IMPRISONED 16 years for rape and sex assault convictions was exonerated yesterday and ordered freed after DNA evidence linked the crimes to a serial rapist on the FBI’s most wanted list.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Ryan granted a petition supported by prosecutors to release Luis Vargas, who was serving a sentence of 55 years to life in prison for three sexual assaults.

Vargas broke down, placing his hand to his forehead and covering his eyes as the judge ordered the case dismissed during the brief hearing packed with family and law school students who had worked to free him.

Vargas, 46, who was taken back into custody because of immigration issues, told his lawyers to tell his family not to worry and that he would be home soon.

“He is really positive, he is just an uplifting person,” said lawyer Raquel Cohen of the California Innocence Project. “I think he’s let go of any bitterness and he’s just happy to move forward and be reunited with this family, hopefully for Christmas.”

Crystal Vargas Crystal Vargas, daughter of Luis Vargas, who had been in prison for 16 years, reacts as she takes questions from the media outside Los Angeles Superior court, after her father was exonerated. Source: Apexchange

His lawyers expect he’ll be released by immigration authorities because he was a legal resident at the time of arrest and the matter is connected to a conviction that has now been reversed.

Lawyers and students for the innocence project at California Western School of Law took up the case after Vargas got in touch in 2012 and said he thought he was wrongly convicted of crimes that were the work of the so-called Teardrop Rapist.

The notorious predator known for a tattoo of a teardrop under his eye has been linked by DNA to 11 crimes and is suspected of 35 in total across the Los Angeles area, the innocence project said. Vargas has a similar tattoo.

Vargas had insisted on his innocence all along, telling the court at his 1999 sentencing that he was concerned the individual who “really did these crimes might really be raping someone out there, might really be killing someone out there.”

In cases dating back to 1996, the Teardrop Rapist approached girls or women in the early morning walking to school or work, pulled a weapon such as a gun or knife, forced them to a secluded area and sexually assaulted them, officials have said.

Read: US hostage released in Syria after two years

About the author:

Associated Press

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel