Daniel Villegas was 16 years old when he confessed to killing two people in an El Paso, Texas park in 1993. He later said that he was coerced to confess by an El Paso detective who “violated his rights by allegedly threatening and intimidating him.” Villegas got his days in court. In 1994, a jury deadlocked on a verdict. In 1995, he was found guilty and sent to prison for life. His family never gave up on him, especially his former sister-in-law Lucy. When she remarried to a construction worker named John Mimbela, she told him Daniel’s story. Mimbela couldn’t believe anyone would confess to homicide if innocent. But then he investigated the case himself and launched a campaign to free Villegas.
Since Mimbela’s campaign, 22 years after the double homicide, Villegas has been given a third trial although the District Attorney Jaime Esparza is filing an appeal. Assistant District Attorney James Montoya argues that Mimbela has been hiring witnesses to the murders to work for his construction company and insinuates that Mimbela is bribing them with tickets to Cowboys games and boxing matches. Mimbela told El Paso Times: “I gave employment to a couple of people I talked to about (Villegas’) case because they needed work and I was looking to hire!” Dateline NBC will airs its investigative report which includes interviews with Mimbela on October 16, 9pm.