San Antonio Four: Friends Accused Of Raping 2 Girls Fought For 20 Years To Clear Their Names
“I’m sorry it has taken this long for me to know what truly happened,” one of the children involved later said.
Four close-knit friends in Texas who were imprisoned after they were wrongfully convicted of sexually assaulting two young girls spent over two decades trying to clear their names before the court exonerated them.
“Being a lesbian or a gay man in society at that particular time, it was viewed terribly considering how it is viewed now,” one of the accused, Anna Vasquez, said of the 1990s case. “It was a media frenzy about these four lesbians that gang raped these little girls.”
In July 1994, Elizabeth Ramirez’s two nieces, then ages 7 and 9, stayed at her apartment for a week. About a month later, Ramirez learned the girls were accusing her and three of her friends who they had come in contact with at the home of sexual assault.
A short time later, all four women, Ramirez, her roommate, Kristie Mayhugh, and couple Cassandra Rivera and Vasquez were blindsided when they were indicted in connection to the allegations, which they vehemently denied.
Ramirez theorized at the time that Javier Limon, her sister Rosemary’s ex-boyfriend — and her nieces’ father — was upset with her because she rejected his many romantic overtures after he went through a bad breakup with her sister, the Texas Observer reported.
In 1997, Ramirez was found guilty of aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child and sentenced to 37 and a half years behind bars.
The following year, Mayhugh, Rivera, and Vasquez were put on trial and received 15 year-sentences after a jury convicted them of the same charges as their friend.
According to the Texas Observer, in 2012, the youngest niece, Stephanie Limon, recanted her story about the four women, who became known as the “San Antonio Four,” explaining on video: “I remember everything [Javier] coached me to say, as well as my grandmother. I’m sorry it has taken this long for me to know what truly happened.”
“You must understand I was threatened, and I was told that if I did tell the truth that I would end up in prison, taken away, and even get my ass beat,” she reportedly claimed, adding, “I will make things right, and I am sorry for everything I put you through. I was only seven, and I was scared.”
Javier denied he coached or threatened his daughters.
In October 2013, attorney Mike Ware argued in a writ filed on behalf of the four women that key evidence and expert testimony for the prosecution was inaccurate and fundamentally flawed since, the Texas Observer wrote, “the medical understanding of what constitutes evidence of sexual abuse had changed” since the 1990s.
According to the publication, one doctor who testified against the women told the D.A. that “her initial claims at the trial are outdated and that she wouldn’t offer the same testimony today.”
The Bexar County District Attorney agreed to release the jailed women on bond the following month.
In 2016, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals exonerated the four women. Two years later, the felony convictions still on their records were expunged, NBC News reported.
To learn more about this case, stream Southwest of Salem: The Story of the Antonio Four on discovery+.