30 Nov 2015

Man in prison for rape convictions cleared by DNA testing after 16 years

A California man who spent 16 years behind bars for sexual assault convictions was cleared on Monday after DNA evidence linked the crimes to another man.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Ryan exonerated Luis Vargas after DNA evidence linked the crimes to the so-called “teardrop rapist,” who is suspected of more than 30 rapes in the Los Angeles area since 1996 and has never been identified, AP reported. 
The teardrop rapist gained his nickname for a teardrop tattoo under his eye. The rapist was known for grabbing his victims and threatening them with a weapon before pulling them into a secluded area and raping them, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Vargas, lived near the area where several assaults took place and was misidentified as the rapist because of a similar teardrop tattoo, according to the Times. 
In 1999, he was sentenced to 55 years in prison for three sexual assaults, but as he sat behind bars the rapes continued, the Times reported.
Vargas, who has maintained his innocence, reached out to lawyers and students at the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law. He told them he believed the teardrop rapist committed the assaults of which he was convicted, according to AP. The group took up Vargas’ case in 2012.
After his name was cleared, Vargas, 46, was taken back into custody because his green card was revoked when he was convicted of the crimes, AP reported.
His lawyers told his family they believed Vargas will be free to go home soon. 
His daughter, Cristal Nora Vargas, told KABC-TV, she is ready to help her father take back his life.
"This is all I've ever wanted, and I thank God for this one because God knows the truth behind all of this," she told KABC. "It's a relief because I believed in my father's innocence the day he told me he was innocent. Growing up, I would cry myself to sleep. My father meant the world to me, and he still does."

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