Matias Reyes is a rapist and killer who testified to the rape and deadly assault of Trisha Meili, the "Central Park Jogger," on April 19, 1989, while completing a life term for prior crimes.
Five minors were accused of the attack on Meili in 1990. It was based on admissions wherein they accused each other. They claimed the testimonies were forced or acquired inappropriately throughout the trial.
In May 2002, Reyes admitted to the crime, and their sentences were overturned in December. Reyes violated Meili, but DNA proof couldn't prove that he did so alone, as he asserted.
Matias Reyes' Background
Matias Reyes' life had been marred by tragedy right from the outset. He was born in Puerto Rico in 1971 and came to NYC with his mom as a child, as per an interview with a jail psychologist.
When he was just a two-year-old, he was supposedly auctioned to his dad for $400. He said two elder children sexually abused him and tossed him into a river when he was seven.
Reyes' lawyer, Richard Siracusa, stated, "Even as a child growing up in the school system, he exhibited violent behavior… To the average person, he would seem perfectly normal, but he was far from normal."
Matias Reyes was just 17 when he tried to rape a woman for the first time. Jackie Herbach, the 27-year-old victim whom he was keeping at knifepoint, persuaded him out of it.
His second known assault attempt occurred on April 17, 1989, in the very same park as Trisha Meili's disastrous jog. Reyes assaulted a 26-year-old lady, beating her into sexually assaulting her. However, he escaped when a bystander noticed him.
Then, on that April evening in 1989, he savaged Meili.
Central Park Jogger Case
Matias Reyes was camping out of his vehicle when he assaulted Meili. Reyes worked as a bodega worker in Harlem during the day and was a sexual predator at night.
He was subsequently accused of an unconnected murder and owned up to the assault of Meili while serving his life sentence in jail. Thus, this confession exonerated the Central Park Five after several of them had spent more than ten years in prison.
Trisha Meili was beaten and raped nearly to death in Central Park between 9 - 10 p.m. on April 18 of 1989. Passers-by discovered her partially bare and blood-soaked lifeless body a few hours later.
Doctors said that she would most probably die as a result of her wounds. She suffered a cracked skull, was hypothermic, and was drained of 75% blood. However, quite miraculously,
During the crime, 14-year-olds Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana were jailed at the Central Park police station for "unlawful assembly." Officials said a gang of 30 to 40 teenagers was seen abusing and harassing locals.
Richardson and Santana were detained as a result of the uproar. As Meili was discovered close to death hours after, they was were still jailed. The media frenzy around her case was immediate.
The NYPD anticipated that the case might blow up at sunrise. Therefore they made a series of hopeful arrests. As a result, on April 20, they arrested 16-year-old Korey Wise and 15-year-old Yusef Salaam.
The final arrests thus consisted of the Central Park Five: Yusef Salaam, Keven Richardson, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, and Korey Wise. They were all black teenagers.
Santana later claimed that he was intimidated with life imprisonment if he did not admit to assaulting Meili. He claimed he had no idea who Meili was or what had occurred to her. Despite their innocence, the five lads were subjected to investigation by the cops.
After being deprived of sleep for over a day, the teenagers were compelled to testify to wrongdoings they did not know. Their own words were used against them. They got charged with riot, assault, sexual abuse, sodomy, rape, and attempted murder.
Matias Reyes, the genuine perpetrator, took 12 years to confess that he was the real criminal behind Meili's ordeal.
"I know it's hard for people to understand, after 12 years, why a person would come forward to take responsibility for a crime… At first, I was afraid, but at the end of the day, I felt it was the right thing to do." Matias Reyes said.
Authorities thought his admission was genuine. He had personal knowledge of the scene of the crime, which only a criminal could have. Moreover, there was the issue of DNA that didn't fit any one of the Central Park Five.
Matias Reyes' Other Crimes
Matias Reyes did not attack anyone else till June to stay off the radar after the massive media attention his assault on Meili had generated. Then, he began his rampage with a vengeance. Lourdes Gonzalez, a 24-year-old mom of three, was his single known homicide victim.
Reyes broke into her house, dragged her into her bedroom, and locked the door. He assaulted her and knifed her in the stomach while she was carrying.
As Reyes escaped, the lady's three kids heard the whole ordeal via the room door. Lourdes dialed 911. However, she expired in the elevator. She'd been slashed nine times in total, including one in the face. One of her kids reported hearing Reyes say: "I'll take your eyes or your kids."
Reyes raped a lady known as "Meg" by infiltrating her residence on East 91st Street on August 5, 4 months following the assault of Meili. Luckily, she was able to flee to the apartment lobby in only a towel and get assistance.
When two Good Samaritans pinned him down in the corridor while waiting for the cops, Matias Reyes was finally captured.
Matias Reyes destroyed the lives of many in his lifetime. His rape victims and their families would forever be scarred. Moreover, the lives of the Central Park Five were also tarnished as they spent their entire youth in prison for crimes they didn't commit.
However, in the ordeal the Central Park Five faced, Reyes and even the authorities were to blame. They coerced the kids into confessing to Reyes' crimes to close the case as soon as possible.
The 1980s were a dark era for New York City. The crime rates were at an all-time high. The residents, especially those who weren't rich or white, lived in constant terror.