Luis Vargas' rape conviction overturned after serving 16 years in prison

Anabel Munoz Image
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Luis Vargas' rape conviction overturned after serving 16 years in prison
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Luis Vargas, who served 16 years in prison, had his rape conviction overturned on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015.

A man falsely accused of rape had his conviction overturned by new evidence.

Luis Vargas, now 46, sat before a judge on Monday emotionally as his lips quivered.

Vargas served 16 years in prison after being convicted of raping three women, victims of the "Teardrop Rapist."

But he's maintained his innocence for years, reaching out to the California Innocence Project to point out reports of crimes identical to the one he was convicted of.

His attorneys requested new DNA testing, which cleared Vargas of the crimes.

"The best thing about this case was that technology had advanced to the point where we were able to determine that this DNA evidence could be used to show that this other person committed the crime," Alex Simpson, the associate director of the California Innocence Project, said.

The Teardrop Rapist is linked to more than 30 sexual assaults in Los Angeles since 1996. The suspect has a distinct teardrop tattoo and is still on the loose.

Vargas' attorneys said he was mistakenly identified by the victims because of a similar tattoo.

His daughter, Cristal Nora Vargas, who was 10-years-old when her father was arrested, attended Monday's proceeding.

"This is all I've ever wanted and I thank God for this one because God knows the truth behind all of this," she said. "It's a relief because I believed in my father innocence the day he told me he was innocent. Growing up, I would cry myself to sleep. My father meant the world to me and he still does."

Luis Vargas wasn't able to return home with his family on Monday because his green card was revoked and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed a hold on him after he was convicted.

His attorneys are working to get his green card reinstated.

For now, his daughter is planning an afternoon in the park, so he can spend time with the granddaughter he's only met once.

His mother said her son had one simple wish from her.

"He said, 'mom, please buy me a big hamburger and we will eat it together," Blanca a la Torre said laughingly outside the courthouse in Downtown Los Angeles.