Los Angeles man exonerated after 16 years in jail over ‘Teardrop rapist’ attacks
HE MAY have looked like a killer to a jury, but it turns out that a man who served 16 years in jail for three sexual assaults was actually innocent.
Los Angeles man Luis Lorenzo Vargas was linked to a series of assaults in 1998 because of a teardrop tattooed near his left eye. He has always claimed he was innocent but his requests for an appeal were knocked back. It wasn’t until DNA tests were performed this year that he is now being released, the Los Angeles Times has reported.
Police believed Vargas was a man dubbed the “Teardrop rapist”, who was believed to have a similar tattoo and has been linked to 39 assaults extending back to 1995.
Investigators believe the rapist is still at large and are now uncertain whether the attacker actually has a teardrop tattoo, it could also be a scar or a mole near his eye.
Vargas was partly convicted because of his tattoo but suspicions were also heightened because he had pleaded guilty to raping his girlfriend while drunk in 1992.
Three victims identified him as the man who attacked them and even though several co-workers testified that Vargas had been at work at the times the attacks occurred, the jury convicted him and he was sentenced to 55 years in prison.
According to ABC News in the US, Vargas was convicted of kidnapping, forcibly raping and sodomising one woman and attempting to rape two others.
But as the attacks from the “Teardrop rapist” continued, Vargas got help from the California Innocence Project to examine DNA from one of the victims.
As the judge tossed out his convictions on Monday, Vargas broke down in court.
“I’ve believed in my father’s innocence the day he told me he was innocent,” Vagas’ 25-year-old daughter told reporters after the brief hearing.
Vargas has been released from jail but is still in federal custody because of immigration issues. There are hopes he will be released soon and can be reunited with his daughter, who was just 10 years old when he was convicted.