Father Spent 17 Days In Jail Before Police Realized He Wasn't A Murder Suspect
On July 25, the LAPD showed up to Guillermo Torres' workplace in Los Feliz and arrested him. He was accused of really being Samuel Calvario, a man suspected of murdering another man in 2000. However, he wasn't. He was just Guillermo Torres, a 45-year-old dad who had nothing to do with the murder. On November 9, 2000, Calvario was involved in an argument with his girlfriend. When 30-year-old good Samaritan Daniel Felix tried to intervene, Calvario allegedly shot and killed him. Though a warrant was issued for Calvario's arrest, he disappeared, never to be seen again.
According to the L.A. Times, police honed in on Torres after a woman scrolling through the LAPD's most wanted page saw Calvario's entry and believed she recognized him. At the time, LAPD Officer Kenneth Ahn said that this tip was the their first lead in the cold case in years.
While Torres sat in jail, two of his employers believed in his innocence and decided to try to help him by securing him a lawyer. One of them, Joanne Weinoe, told City News Service, "We said, 'This is crazy. This is not him.' You don't turn your back on somebody like that…We weren't doing to just let him sit there and rot."
They ended up finding attorney Leonard Levine, who told the Times it took him about five minutes to determine that the LAPD had the wrong guy. Levine discovered that the two men were different heights and that their timelines did not match up, as Torres had gotten married five years before the killing. Because Calvario had fathered a child, police were able to compare that child's DNA to Torres', which exonerated Torres.
Levine told LAist that police did not immediately test the DNA upon apprehending Torres, but instead sent the photos to the FBI for aging analysis first. "They had available the sure, foolproof way of establishing whether they had the right man or not, and they did not do it until he had already been incarcerated for 17 days," he said.
Samuel Calvario's 'Most Wanted' Entry (Photo via LAPD)
"This was a real tragedy and nightmare. This could have been anyone and they never really verified his identity. This should have never happened. They even held a press conference to announce his arrest and told people he'd been living a double life," Levine told the Times. Levine says Torres is considering "whatever legal action may be appropriate."
At the time of Torres' wrongful arrest, LAPD Officer Deen Alcaraz told the L.A. Times that he had never before had a citizen identify a suspect just by looking at the website—which means he still hasn't.