This is not Jorge Hernandez. It's Roberto Cruz Recendes, age 40, the man who actually raped and beat a 94 year old woman in Palo Alto, CA in 2002. More than six years after wrongfully arresting and charging Hernandez, an 18 year old former soccer star at Gunn High School, Palo Alto detectives, working with the FBI finally tracked Recendes to a village in Mexico and succeeded in extraditing him back to the states to face trial. DNA evidence proved to be both Hernandez's salvation and Recendes' doom.
Police arrested Hernandez with great fanfare after they obtained a "confession" from the young man during an interrogation, only part of which was videotaped. The taped portion revealed that Hernandez was struggling to come up with details of the assault -- which supposedly occurred during a blackout while he was drunk -- but proved to be enough of a confession to get him arrested. Three weeks after his "confession," DNA evidence proved he did not rape the victim who had only identified a single assailant. Although charges against him were dropped, local authorities did not remove the cloud of suspicion from Hernandez, claiming that their investigation was still open and that he was still a suspect.
Recendes's downfall was that he was later arrested on charges of domestic violence and incarcerated in state prison. He was paroled in 2006 and deported and required to give the state a sample of his DNA as a condition of his parole. A few months after he left the country, the state Bureau of Forensic Services made the match to DNA left on a ring Recendes left at the crime scene.
The irony is that the ring is what led police to Hernandez in the first place. The ring, which was engraved with the word "Edwin" and was decorated with a Quetzal, Guatemala's national bird, was reported as missing by Hernandez's brother Edwin who also drew police suspicion. During Hernandez's interrogation, the police pitted one brother against the other and used Edwin to pressure Hernandez to confess to the crime.
Tracking down Recendes was a major undertaking, requiring some heavy lifting by the FBI and then the cooperation of Mexican authorities who picked him up in December 2007. Then the lengthy extradition process took its course, finally resulting in a decision by Mexican officials, after reviewing the evidence, to agree to his extradition.
All this was of course was news -- great news -- to Hernandez, now a 25 year old machinist living in Mountain View California. Quoted in the San Jose Mercury News, Hernandez was elated:
"Thank God they finally got the right person...I'm happy this is finally coming to an end. I'm finally able to get that nightmare off my back."
Hernandez's case was featured in a 2004 show on false confessions (which also featured yours truly) by 60 Minutes. Hernandez sued authorities for his troubles, ultimately settling with them for $75,000.