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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Riverside County pays $11 million to wrongly convicted man sentenced to 20 years in prison

Riverside County has paid $11 million to a former Temecula man who was sentenced to 20 years in jail for murdering his girlfriend before being acquitted by DNA evidence in 2018.

The 63-year-old lawyer for Horace Roberts, who lives in South Carolina, signed a settlement agreement with the county on May 25 to end the federal lawsuit filed by Roberts on September 28, 2020. July 6.

The settlement does not include Roberts’ attorneys’ fees or any liens related to the litigation.

Roberts’ lawyer declined to comment and Roberts could not be reached for comment. Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Googie Harris Sr., (Photo: Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Roberts alleged in the lawsuit that the investigators of the Riverside County Sheriff murdered his 32-year-old girlfriend and colleague Trichik on April 14, 1998 by concealing evidence provided by the prosecutor and forging police reports. They basically ignored all evidence pointing to the real murderer.

Prior to his arrest and his life being subverted, Roberts was a 40-year-old father of two and held a supervisory position at Quest Diagnostics in San Juan Capistrano, where he worked for ten years and worked for I met Cheek there. According to his lawsuit, Roberts also served in the Marine Corps for 8 1/2 years and was honorably retired in 1987.

The DNA evidence obtained by the California Innocence Project helped to link Cheek’s separated husband Guji Harris, his son Guji Jr, and Cheek’s nephew Joaquin Lyle to her murder.

Acquitted

Roberts was released from Avinal State Prison on October 3, 2018, after a judge of the Riverside County Superior Court declared him de facto innocent. Harris Sr. and Leal were subsequently arrested and charged with the murder of Cheek. More than a year later, in December 2019, Harris Jr. was arrested and charged.

Riverside County Pays $11 Million To Wrongly Convicted Man Sentenced To 20 Years In Prison
Joaquin Leal (Photo: Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Attorneys for the California Innocence Project stated that the jealousy of Roberts and his separated wife was the motive behind the murder. They said that the three suspects fabricated evidence to frame Roberts and even participated in a parole hearing, demanding that Roberts continue to be detained.

But according to Roberts’ lawsuit, this is only half of the story. Although the California Innocence Program insisted that Roberts’ conviction was not due to police or prosecutor’s misconduct, Roberts’ lawsuit alleges that the murder investigation was affected by forged police reports and concealed evidence pointing to the real murderer. No physical evidence was found at the crime scene linking Roberts to Chirk’s murder.

Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in 2018 that at the time of Chick’s murder, Roberts’ evidence included the location of Roberts’ truck, which was abandoned on Interstate 15. , About a mile and a half from where Chike’s body was dumped; Chike’s wallet was found in Roberts’ home; Roberts did not confess his whereabouts to the police.

Allegedly suppressed evidence

The lawsuit alleges that Chick left her purse at the Temecula home where she and Roberts lived, but the sheriff’s investigators wrote a false report stating that Chick’s family told them that she was killed last time. On the night she saw it, she carried her purse with her-these testimonies never existed.

“During their investigation, the defendant concealed the body, witnesses, and written evidence that they obtained from the state attorney, the plaintiff, and his criminal defense attorney, involving the body, witnesses, and written evidence of the elder Harris and his family. In doing so, the defendant allowed the real The murderer went unpunished, but focused on framing an innocent person,” the lawsuit said.

Riverside County Pays $11 Million To Wrongly Convicted Man Sentenced To 20 Years In Prison
Googie Rene Harris Jr. was tried in the Riverside County Superior Court on Tuesday, December 17, 2019. (Richard K. De Atley, SCNG)

Cheek left home to work on the night of April 14, 1998, and no one has seen him alive ever since. Four days later, on April 18, three fishermen found her body, which was dumped on the rocky embankment of Corona Lake near Temescal Canyon Road. A piece of black and orange rope and a men’s Lorus watch were found near her body. She was strangled to death.

A lawyer for Roberts said that the black-orange rope found at the crime scene was the same rope used by old Harris when he walked his dog at home.

The lawsuit alleges that the traces of the tyre found near the body of Cheek that returned to Temescal Canyon Road in an arc did not match the traces of the tyre of the truck that Roberts had been driving Cheek to.

According to the lawsuit, multiple witnesses told investigators that the watch found at the crime scene did not belong to Roberts. However, investigators pointed out in a report that Roberts’ wrist is exactly the same size as the wrist of the owner of the Lorus watch.

The DNA extracted from the watch matched little Harris, leading to his arrest in 2019. At the time of the murder, this DNA detection technology was not yet available. When the California Innocence Program submitted its findings to Hurstlin, he restarted the murder investigation, which eventually resulted in Roberts not guilty and arrested three people. suspects.

According to the lawsuit, the investigators also obtained evidence from multiple witnesses, which showed that the relationship between Chick and the old Harris was unstable. Court records showed that the old Harris abused, threatened and monitored Chick many times.

At a press conference in October 2018, Hirstlin called Roberts’ conviction and imprisonment a “tragedy” and publicly apologized.

Harris Sr. and Leal will appear in the Riverside High Court on October 22 for a pre-trial hearing. Riverside County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson John Hall said that according to the plea agreement with the prosecutor, Harris Jr. pleaded guilty on February 7, 2020, assisted in the murder afterwards, and will be sentenced on February 15, 2022 .

World Nation News Desk
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