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Daniel Villegas gathers with friends and family at church after the dramatic not guilty verdict

The powerful moment when Daniel Villegas was acquitted in his third trial in the double murder of Armando Lazo and Bobby England back in 1993, was heard through out the courtroom Friday. Cheers of celebration erupted when the not guilty verdict was read.

Villegas in front of a packed courthouse earlier today, was given his freedom. Now Villegas going from the courthouse, to God’s house

Friday, Villegas went straight to St. Mark’s Catholic Church, to thank God. Villegas faced life in prison, after turning down a plea deal that would set him free, if he pled guilty. He took a chance at clearing his name. His gamble paid off.

Three trials, 18 years in prison, and a quarter of a century later, Villegas is a completely free man, cleared of the double murder accusation that claimed the last 25 years of his life.

His mother speaking to ABC 7 after the verdict was read, happy her son can now start living his life saying, “And so now he know’s he can go where-ever he wants around the world and be with his family, and not have it hanging over his head.”

Villegas describes that moment he learned his fate as unforgettable. He said “It was 25 years of hell. It just came out of me at that moment. That’s as best that I can describe it. It just gushed out, it was amazing,” Villegas said.

Villegas’ wife Amanda said she encouraged her husband to turn down that plea deal, and clear his name. She told ABC 7 that she told him, “We don’t have to duck. We can fight it. You can win it. And I told him since he was in there, have faith that your going to get out. I promise you everything is going to be okay.”

Villegas was right, and he kept true to his word, heading straight to church after leaving court to thank God for seeing him through this ordeal. He was joined by friends and family. John Mimbela, the man who financed his defense also there, and grateful to the jury for their decision.

Mimbela said, “They came back with the right decision and I’m sure when they saw Daniel’s reaction and I’m sure they know in their hearts they made the right decision. I just want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.”

Villegas told ABC 7 that he is grateful to all of El Paso. “I mean I’d just like to thank all of El Paso. Thank you for having my back. Thank you for being there because that helped me a lot,” Villegas said.

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