In January 1995, a taxi driver named Baithe Diop picked up a fare at West 141st Street in Harlem and drove to the Bronx. When they arrived at their destination, Diop’s passengers pulled out firearms and shot him to death.
Two days earlier and just a block from this killing, the police had discovered a Federal Express recruiter named Denise Raymond in her apartment with two bullet holes in her head.
The NYPD was quick to link both murders together, and they promptly started making arrests based on two key eyewitnesses: the first was 16-year-old Catherine Gomez, who stated that she’d overheard Devon Ayers bragging with three other men about the murder.
The other witness was a drug-addict named Miriam Tavares, who said she’d seen Ayers and a group of men fleeing Diop’s taxi.
Ayers and three of his friends, Michael Cosme, Carlos Perez, and Israel Vasquez, were arrested and charged with both murders. Subsequently, another two individuals, Eric Glisson (Ayers cousin) and Kathy Watkins were also arrested and charged in the Diop murder.
Ayers, Cosme, and Perez were sentenced to 50 years to life, and Vasquez got 25 to life. Glisson and Watkins were later each sentenced to 25 years to life.
The NYPD was lauded for another fine job done; however, there was a problem. All six individuals you were imprisoned were innocent.
Two gang members later admitted to the murder
In 2003 John O’Malley was a federal agent investigating a gang called Sex Money and Murder when he came across two gang members who were cooperating with authorities. Jose Rodriguez and Gilbert Vega told O’Malley that they had shot and killed a taxi driver in 1995.
Nothing more happened until nine years later when O’Malley came across a letter written by Eric Glisson while in prison. In the letter, Glisson accused members of the Sex Money and Murder gang of being the real killers, which tied in with what Rodriguez and Vega had stated.
The next month the Bronx DA reopened the case. The first thing the new investigators discovered was that one of the key eyewitnesses was now recounting her statement; the window she claimed to have seen the murder through did not have a view of the murder scene.
They then learned that the Diop on Raymond deaths were not linked. And finally, they found out the NYPD had withheld vital footage from a surveillance camera that exonerated the original suspects. An NYPD detective was later accused of perjury.
In January 2013, Bronx prosecutors vacated all of the convictions, and all of the suspects were free to go. In 2016 New York City agreed to pay $40 million to settle the lawsuits of five of the individuals who claimed wrongful imprisonment.
More from Dateline: Secrets Uncovered
Follow the links to read about more vicious crimes profiled on Dateline: Uncovered.
Previously on Dateline: Secrets Uncovered the case of Byron David Smith, who shot dead two teenagers who broke into his home. He argued it was self-defense, but police said he used unreasonable force by setting a trap for his victims before executing them.
Donald Bess raped and murdered 20-year-old student Angela Samota in Dallas, Texas, in 1984. He escaped justice for nearly three decades until advances in forensic science finally caught up with him.
Dateline: Secrets Uncovered airs at 8/7c on Oxygn.
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