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Rivera found guilty in 1992 murder

May 8, 2009 9:15:05 PM PDT
A verdict has been reached the 1992 murder of an 11-year-old girl in Waukegan.Juan Rivera, who was 19 at the time of the crime, was found guilty in the case for the third time. He was convicted of raping and murdering Holly Staker as she babysat.

Rivera's family has spent a lot of time in court rooms since he was first convicted in 1993. This time, they had hoped the outcome would be different. Instead, there were tears from Rivera's mother as her son was convicted for a third time.

"You've got an innocent man in prison. All the evidence shows he was home. He didn't do this crime," said Rivera's brother Miguel Diaz.

There was no physical evidence linking Rivera to the scene. DNA evidence, in fact, shows that he was not there. Also, an electronic bracelet indicated he never left home on the night of the crime.

Rivera's wife, Melissa Sanders Rivera, spoke with him by phone Friday from jail before speaking with ABC7 Chicago.

"He's been through this. In Lake County, there's no justice, and we'll continue to fight. He's prepared," she told ABC7 Chicago.

Defense attorneys declined to comment but are planning an appeal. Prosecutors, in the mean time, say Rivera gave a confession that included details of the crime of which investigators were unaware. They argued the confession was enough to convict.

After four days of deliberation that nearly led to a hung jury, late Friday afternoon, jurors came back with a guilty verdict.

Prosecutors say the Staker family is happy with that verdict.

"Their evidence just didn't come across, and evidently, the credibility of these fine officers did," said Mike Mermel, Lake Co. assistant state's attorney.

Juan Rivera has already spent 16 years behind bars, and when he is back in court late in June , he could be sentenced to the rest of his life in prison.


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