Jose Montanez, Armando Serrano to be released after 1993 murder charges dropped

Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Murder charges dropped for 2 men
Jose Montanez, 49, and Armando Serrano, 44, were released Wednesday from Illinois prisons.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Two Chicago men imprisoned for 23 years were released Wednesday after 1993 murder charges were dropped due to misconduct allegations.

Jose Montanez, 49, was released from Danville Correctional Center, and Armando Serrano, 44, was released from Dixon Correction Center.

Relatives of both men embraced Wednesday morning outside a packed Cook County courtroom after a judge's ruling. The prosecutor's decision came after an appeals court ruling last month found "profoundly alarming acts of misconduct" led to the men's convictions in the death of Rodrigo Vargas.

Montanez and Serrano were found guilty of killing Rodrigo Vargas in 1993 and were sentenced to 55 years in prison. They have long said they were set up. Neither man ever confessed and there is no physical or eyewitness evidence linking them to the crime.

The pair said they were framed by Chicago Police Det. Reynaldo Guevara, an Area 5 investigator who is at the center of a handful of wrongful conviction probes.

Montanez and Serrano's lawyers said the only evidence against their clients was manufactured when Guevara fed a heroin addict a false story implicating the two men. That man later admitted he gave false testimony after he was threatened, intimidated and abused by Guevara.

Guevara refused to testify, invoking the Fifth Amendment on grounds that truthful answers may implicate him for subsequent criminal charges.

A Cook County State's Attorney's Office spokesperson said in a statement that the office "has conducted a very thorough review of this case and determined that we are unable to meet our burden of proof at this time, so we believe that it is in the best interests of justice to dismiss this case."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.