Court Overturns Inmate’s Conviction In ’92 Slaying Of Waukegan Girl

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (CBS) — He was sentenced to life in prison for a horrifying crime he claimed he never committed. Now, Juan Rivera could go free.

A state appeals court overturned his 1992 conviction for murdering an 11-year old girl. Holly Staker was fatally stabbed and sexually assaulted while babysitting in Waukegan.

Eventually, Rivera was brought in and interrogated for nearly 24 hours straight. He ended up confessing to the crime and was ultimately sentenced to life.

Now, an appeals court has ruled in his favor. As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, his family members say the Lake County state’s attorney and one of his lead prosecutors should now be punished.

“We started jumping up and down. We were hugging and crying.  I can’t describe the emotions we were going through,” Miguel Diaz ,  Rivera’s brother, said Saturday.

Melissa Sanders-Rivera is married to Juan Rivera.  She spoke to him in Stateville Correctional Center after he learned he’d likely be getting out soon.

“It seemed surreal.  He’s in shock,” Sanders-Rivera said.

Rivera is hoping to be with his family by Christmas.  But his brother says that hope and joy is tempered by the realization that his brother lost 20 years of his life.

“They destroyed not only my brother but the entire family,” Diaz said.

“They” are the state’s attorney and main prosecutor in Lake County.  Diaz says they prosecuted his brother, even though a court-ordered leg monitoring system showed Rivera never left his house on the day of the murder.

More importantly, Diaz says, they prosecuted his brother even though DNA found on the victim wasn’t his. Diaz says Lake County has become a national laughingstock.

Rivera’s wife says what happened to her husband can be summed up in a word – “injustice.”

The Lake County state’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

  • Jim Hamilton

    Yeah so what I’m not fully convenced he’s innocent but yeah sometimes an innocent person gets convicted it’s not a perfect system but it’s our system if you don’t like it go back to mexico.

    Why is it that very time a lawbreaking menace gets killed it’s always the cops fault?

    Darrin Hanna’s mother, blasting out murder when that’s just not true.

    Imagine police called they have a pregnant woman and an out of control Black guy in a dark apartment. Police aren’t going to back down so Black man better come out and surrender. If I’m a cop going into that situation and run into a combative suspect black or white, mexican it don’t matter. I’m going to do all I can to make sure I bring this guy down and that I come out alive and he is no longer a threat to the pregnant girl and her sister. At this point I’m not real worried about the pregnant woman beaters safety either, if he don’t comply, it’s dark, he don’t want to come out he’s going down before me or any of my fellow officers and I can just imagine all of the officers there were feeling something like this.

    Darrin was not murdered he brought this unfortunate instance upon himself. Stop blaming the police officers here’s the story.

    He had an arrest record, mostly (I wonder what they are hiding behind this word) for retail theft, he was going through drug problems according to family

    Hanna was arrested Nov. 6 by North Chicago police after the sister of his 21-year-old pregnant girlfriend called police because the couple was fighting at his apartment in the 1700 block of Park Avenue and she heard Hanna threaten her sister. Police said officers entered the dark apartment and they had to physically restrain Hanna when he was injured and then taken to the hospital. He died at Vista East Medical Center, Waukegan, on Nov. 13.

    Complements of

    Now Darrin’s mother can’t see the menace that her son truly had become He was a drug using, thief (mostly retail but maybe a few cars I don’t know) woman beating thug. Darrin studied a little bit of criminal justice and still chose the way of life that brought about his untimely demise.

    Now Darrin‘s mother, in her blind love for Darrin, is trying to ruin the lives of the fine, upstanding , brave men in uniform, that were just doing there civic duty, These police officers had no idea what they were going to encounter in that dark apartment and when they did meet up with Darrin, obviously he didn’t give up peacefully they had to subdue a combatant, angry, black man in the dark.

    Darrin may have played some basket ball, and believed in Jesus when he was little but he left all that behind and chose a of life of crime that gave him a criminal record and he was still actively being a criminal at the time of his death. He was well educated on right from wrong even his mother taught him that. Now she is angry and lashing out. Those police officers didn’t wake up in the morning and say hey lets go murder Darrin Hanna today, they were sent there summoned by the violent actions of Darrin, a known criminal and now a mad, pregnant woman beating, thug.



      • Jim Hamilton

        So true they think it’s ok when an officers life is being threatined or lost because he was a cop and thats what happens to cops sometimes, But when it happens to the drug using, habitual offending thief they start screaming oh no not my baby.

        Well I’m here to say for the good guy that thats ok he was a druggy, thief menace and sometimes they end up this way

  • bill gates

    wow you would think they could of put why the conviction was over turned kind of a important part of the story

  • Blinded

    Well the lack of DNA . They still haven’t proved he was there . And there is no evidence. Clearly there’s some kind of racism going on here, obviously. And jimmy, nobody is going anywhere because the guy’s a U.S CITIZEN . Well maybe he will be able to go to the Bahamas now compliments of our tax dollars and the stupidity of the police dept. and the Lake county and state officials. What do you base your accusations on ? Race ? Why don’t you ever mention Brian Dugan in your story ? And what’s Hanna have to do with this story anyway ? Xavier, the law helps ? Really ? They will pick one of town over ANY civilian any day. Help ? Please ! I see them at ‘”work” everyday . Their stupidity only makes thugs richer. ALWAYS !

    • Jim Hamilton

      @Blinded Why do you change your name so much? Anyways i didn’t say anyone was going any place they took down my post but what it said was Our system isn’t perfect but it’s our system and if Rivera or his family don’t like it they can go back to mexico. His legal status wasn’t even metioned.

    • Jim hamilton


      Why are you bringing up stuff from the 80’s anyways these are current events were discussing here but if you want to know about Brian Dugan yes he was a bed wetter

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