SAN ANTONIO – The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Wednesday that the women known as the "San Antonio 4" be declared innocent and exonerated.
Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, Cassandra Rivera and Anna Vasquez were convicted in 1997 of attacking Ramirez’s nieces, ages 7 and 9. The girls were bound and sexually assaulted and their lives were threatened if they told anyone, authorities said.
One of the victims later recanted her testimony.
After being tried and convicted in 1997, the women were sent to prison. Rivera was paroled in 2012, but after new evidence came to light, the other three women were released on bail in 2013 with the help of the Innocence Project of Texas.
"They are innocent. And they are exonerated. This court grants them the relief they seek," according to the ruling.
Mayhugh was at work Wednesday, but the other three women described how overwhelmed they are by the ruling.
"I still can't grasp the fact of just being free, finally, after all this time," Ramirez said.
"Unbelievable. It's been a longtime coming, 22 years now," Vasquez said.
"I called my mom, my family, and we're just filled with joy today. We're so thankful," Rivera said.
District Attorney Nico LaHood released this statement about the ruling:
"It has been a long legal process for these women and our Office has worked with the defense to ensure justice was done in this case. With today's announcement, we believe the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' decision did that. The court's opinion has exonerated the women and their convictions are overturned. Today's ruling prevents any further prosecution of these cases. I pray peace and a new beginning for them."
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Watch the video below to learn more about the "San Antonio 4" and the documentary "Southwest of Salem."