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ABC-7 Xtra: A verdict 25 years in the making — the case of Daniel Villegas

Daniel Villegas is now a free man and no longer has too look over his shoulder wondering if a District Attorney can come for him once more.

On Friday, Oct. 5, Villegas was found not guilty for the deaths of Armando “Mando” Lazo and Robert “Bobby” England in 1993, this after Villegas admitted to shooting and killing both men 25 years ago.

Both teens were gunned down in a drive by shooting after a late night gathering in the city’s Northeast near Transmountain Road. Days after the shooting, his cousin, David Rangel called Villegas to ask if he knew anything about the double murder.

Villegas, who was 16 at the time, claimed he was forced in to confessing and recanted his story. His first trial ended in a hung jury on 1994, but in 1995 he was convicted. After serving 18 years in prison, his conviction was overturned on the basis of ineffective counsel.

District Attorney, Jaime Esparza chose to try Villegas a third time, rather than let him live out his life a free man.

John Mimbela, a family friend, entered the picture, hiring attorney Joe Spencer to defend Villegas.

Villegas’ third and final trail began on Tuesday Oct. 2.

This time, one by one, boys now men, testified they too were coerced into fabricating a story that fit what detectives wanted to hear, that Villegas pulled the trigger.

Even state witnesses, two teens who were with England and Lazo the day they were shot, told jurors, they too were victimized by detectives trying to get them to confess they shot their own friends that night.

In the end, the state presented no firearm, no DNA, no forensic evidence linking Villegas to the shooting.

The defense took a gamble calling no witnesses, convinced the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

At around 5 p.m. Friday, the jurors reached a verdict — not guilty.

Tonight, ABC-7’s Saul Saenz will continue ABC-7’s complete coverage of the case that’s stood the test of time.

He will be joined by John Mimbela – Villegas’ family friend, Joe Spencer – Villegas’ attorney, as well as the District Attorney Jaime Esparza, who was the original prosecutor in Villegas’ first two trails.

Tune in to ABC-7 for ABC-7 Xtra at 10:35 p.m.

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