Man wrongly convicted for killing his married lover walks free from prison after 20 years
60-year-old Roberts was declared innocent of the murder earlier this month and walked free from the Avenal State Prison in California, where he was held since 1999
A 60-year-old man, Horace Roberts, who was wrongly imprisoned for murdering his married lover walked free from prison after nearly 20 years, last week. He was exonerated after DNA linked the victim's husband and nephew to the murder.
Roberts was declared innocent earlier this month and walked free from the Avenal State Prison in California, where he was held since 1999, according to the Daily Mail. He had been wrongly accused of strangling and killing his co-worker and lover Terry Cheek and dumping her body by a lake near Interstate 15 in Riverside County in 1998, reports stated.
#BREAKING @CA_Innocence client Horace Roberts EXONERATED! Roberts spent more than 20 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Press conference happening now, as DA announces new arrests have been made.— Mike Semanchik (@MSemanchik) October 15, 2018
More here: https://t.co/F3zKhzyv3x#XONR8 pic.twitter.com/OKJnGQoN0q
The victim's 53-year-old husband Googie Harris and nephew Joaquin Leal were connected with the crime instead as new DNA evidence linked the duo to the case. The duo, who have been accused of murdering Cheek and setting Roberts up as revenge for the affair, was arrested on Friday.
Authorities, at the time of Roberts' conviction, believed that the 60-year-old had killed Cheek because she had threatened to end their affair. The victim was a mother of two. Police convicted Roberts based on the evidence found at the crime scene. Reports stated that the investigators found a watch dumped near Cheek's body, which they claimed belonged to Roberts. They also reportedly found his truck parked near the crime scene.
Horace Roberts, now 60, was convicted in July 1999 of second-degree murder in the April 1998 death of Terry Cheek. On October 3, nearly 20 years later, Roberts was freed from prison with the help of the California Innocence Project. https://t.co/wfEgIQF6jg pic.twitter.com/LzQSlM06sp— #NBC7 San Diego (@nbcsandiego) October 16, 2018
The prosecutors, at Roberts' trial, had argued: "What is more compelling than (Roberts') watch that's found next to the murdered woman's body? There's nothing more compelling than that." Roberts had also reportedly lied about his affair with Cheek to the investigators, which built a stronger case against him. He was eventually convicted by a jury of second-degree murder and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
The California Innocence Project, a non-profit organization, which has been probing Roberts' case for the last 15 years, said that the victim's husband had set up Roberts.
"'It's the oldest story in the murder business. Husband kills wife who is cheating on him. The twist, in this case, is that the husband then set up the lover to go to prison for the rest of his life," a spokesperson for the organization said.
Monday’s press conference and hearing for the Horace Roberts exoneration with @JustinoBrooks & @CA_Innocence. Read more about it on the @washingtonpost ⬇️⬇️⬇️ https://t.co/929pNqzp6b pic.twitter.com/gpV6iNmyOx— Elika Morris (@MsMorris_E) October 18, 2018
After the new DNA evidence emerged, the DA's Bureau of Investigation reopened the investigation into the case and found out that the watch actually did not belong to Roberts.
The Innocence Project also released a video showing Roberts coming out of the prison on October 3 and throwing his prison clothes into a trash can after over 20 years. Roberts, while sipping Pepsi in the back seat of his attorney's car, can be heard saying in the video: "This is what I missed more than anything - my freedom."