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Freeing the San Antonio Four

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

Anna Vasquez planned on attending nursing school when she was arrested at age 19; Cassandra "Cassie" Rivera was raising two young children when arrested at age 19; Elizabeth Ramirez was 20 years old and pregnant when arrested; Kristie Mayhuh, arrested at age 21, was studying to become a veterinarian.


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Along with faulty medical evidence given at trial, the jury heard a maze of contradictions from the supposed victims. On and off the witness stand, their accounts changed, sometimes in dramatic fashion.

The assaults happened at night, then in the morning, then in the afternoon while "Full House" was on TV. They were assaulted in the living room, or in the bedroom, either together or separate. Mayhugh wasn't there. Or was she? Their father picked them up from the apartment following the assault. Then it was Ramirez and Mayhugh who drove them home. Ramirez pointed a gun at the girls as they spoke to their father on the phone, threatening them to keep quiet. Then, Ramirez and Vasquez each had guns. Then, only Vasquez had a gun.

Only in the second trial did jurors hear of allegations the girls made in 1992: that a mysterious 10-year-old boy sexually assaulted them while living with their mother in Denver, Colorado. The girl's mother, Rosemary Camarillo, in a brief interview with the Current this month, said she first heard of the allegations during the trial. The claims of abuse in 1992 surfaced conveniently just as Camarillo, Ramirez's sister, and Javier Limon, the girls' father, battled for custody of the girls.

According to publicly available records, it doesn't appear police, prosecutors, or the defense ever fully vetted the Denver allegations. Apart from questioning the victims and the four women, San Antonio Police Sgt. Thomas Matjeka appears to have only taken statements from the girl's father and paternal grandmother. The girls testified to screaming throughout their ordeal at Ramirez's apartment, yet it appears police never questioned neighbors to determine whether they heard anything.

The women's defense was simple: the girls were lying.

Ramirez said she knew why. Limon, the girls' father, put them up to it, she claimed at trial and in an interview with the Current. She said Limon would often writer her love letters, and when she became pregnant he proposed marriage. "That's when he said he wanted to father the baby, and I told him he was crazy." Limon, Ramirez claims, was upset she turned him down, and furious to think it was for another woman.

Limon had custody disputes with all three of the women with whom he's fathered children. Allegations of sexual abuse again surfaced in his family in 2008, when one of his daughters accused her oldest brother of assault during a long custody dispute with his third wife, Carina Hooper, said Hooper's family when reached by phone this month.

The recantation by Ramirez's youngest niece this September corroborates Ramirez's story, say lawyers with the Innocence Project of Texas.

"I remember everything he (Limon) coached me to say, as well as my grandmother. I'm sorry it has taken this long for me to know what truly happened," the victim, now 25, wrote in a letter to her aunt, in which she calls her father an "evil monster."* "You must understand I was threatened and I was told that if I did tell the truth that I would end up in prison, taken away, and even get my ass beat."

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