CHICAGO (CBS) — A Cook County judge has ordered the immediate release of two men who spent 23 years in prison, after prosecutors agreed to dismiss all charges against them.
Jose Montanez, 49, and Armando Serrano, 44, were convicted in the 1993 murder of Rodrigo Vargas, whose body was found in a van parked near a Chicago elementary school, but the two have long contended they are innocent.
Attorneys from the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago said Montanez and Serrano were framed by Chicago Police Det. Reynaldo Guevara.
On Wednesday, Cook County prosecutors asked a judge to dismiss the case, and release Montanez and Serrano right away, and the judge agreed.
Both men were being held in prisons downstate. Serrano was being held at Dixon Correctional Center. Montanez was in prison at Danville Correctional Center.
Montanez was freed on Wednesday afternoon, CBS 2’s Sandra Torres reports.
Relatives were overjoyed when they heard the judge’s ruling to set Montanez and Serrano free.
“The experience I do not wish upon nobody, because it was devastating. It was sad. It was … I had no joy out of life,” said Montanez’s aunt, Carmen. “Twenty-three years without him has been devastating.”
Carmen said she can’t wait to see her nephew, “and hug him, and to know that he’s going to be home tonight.”