My name is Evaristo Salas Jr, I was born and raised in the small farming town of Sunnyside, Washington in the United States of American.
On May 22nd, 1996 at the age 15, I was charged with a murder I did not commit. Three months later, I was transferred from the juvenile detention center to the Yakima County Jail, and tried as an adult. I was placed in solitary confinement due to my age.
In mid-December 1996, my trial began and it lasted approximately 6 days. I was convicted on December 19th, two days after my 16th birthday.
On January 9th 1997, I was sentenced to 32 years and 9 months in prison.
On February 12th 1997, I was transferred to an adult prison to begin my sentence.
In the space of 8 months, the entire trajectory of my life was forever altered.
Nearly 24 years have passed since that terrible day, and yet I still remain in prison unjustly.
This webpage is not meant to persuade, or convince anyone of my innocence, that has already been established and was proven, by the hard work of a small team of investigators. They discovered and released exonerating evidence in my case on the documentary "Wrong Man", that premiered on the Starz television network on June 10, 2018.
The fact I still remain in prison, after that evidence was revealed, is what I need to bring to your attention. It took 8 months for my wrongful conviction to take place, yet the evidence that exposes my wrongful conviction and proves my innocence, was revealed nearly 2 years ago. Yet I remain in prison. It should not, under any circumstances, take that long for an innocent person's Petition to be reviewed by the Courts.
With that being said, I will now provide a basic summary of my case.
On November 14th 1995, at approximately 6.16pm in Sunnyside, Washington, Jose Arreola was sitting in the passenger seat of his two door extended cab Nissan pickup truck (the truck had been lowered, and had very dark tinted windows) which was parked in the parking lot, in front of his apartment complex. He was shot twice in the head through the passenger window. He later died of the wounds.
On November 14th 1995, Ofelia stated that she, her boyfriend Jose Arreola and their infant child, had just pulled into their apartment complex in their two door Nissan extended cab pickup truck. Ofelia stated that upon arriving at their apartment complex, at about 6.16 pm, she and Jose stayed in the truck, talking for about 5 minutes. Ofelia then began to exit the truck with her child, when she noticed what she described as a 15-16 year old and a 7 year old approaching from the rear of the pickup truck. She then looked at them for about 3 seconds and then looked down into the pickup truck where Jose was still seated in the passenger side, she then nodded in the direction of the approaching individuals thinking them to be friends of Jose.
(It should be noted that Ofelia stated in her statement on 11/14/1995, that she first noticed these individuals in the rear view mirror while she was still seated in the truck, but later testified at trial that she was outside the truck when she first noticed them).
At that point she turned to walk away, when she heard 2 shots, she then looked back to see the 2 individuals running away. She ran to a neighbor's house, and had them call 911. Ofelia stated that she had never before seen the individuals who had shot her boyfriend.
On May 14th 1996, the informant stated that sometime between the months of January and February, he was driving by an apartment complex, and noticed a group of about 8- 9 individuals standing in a yard drinking, and decided to pull over and drink with them. He then noticed 2 individuals which he describes as two kids one being taller and the other shorter. He overheard one of them say "pistola" (which is Spanish for gun) he then moved closer, hearing the taller one say "I am glad I didn't have to clean up that mess". The informant also mentioned that he also heard them say it was a gang initiation. He didn't have any other details to offer. He then claimed that the picture Sgt. Riverd laid on his desk, was the taller individual he heard say, "He is glad he didn't have to clean up that mess."
SUSPECT - OFELIA
What was unknown to the jury and I, and was only discovered and revealed by the investigators of the documentary "Wrong Man", was that Ofelia was actually the prime suspect, in having some kind of involvement in the murder of her boyfriend, until she reportedly picked my photo out of a photo montage on May 13th 1996.
According to Sgt. Riverd’s own notes, Ofelia became a suspect in the murder when her and a group of friends convinced a towing company owner to release the truck under false pretense, 4 days after the murder. The truck had been placed there and secured by the Sunnyside Police Department, to be processed for evidence, since it was the murder scene. Upon releasing the truck, Ofelia and her friends sanitized it. One of her friends who participated in sanitizing the truck, recalled removing skull fragments from it.
Upon being confronted by the Sunnyside Police Department, she lied, giving three separate stories.
The officer noted that during the entire course of the investigation Ofelia has been very uncooperative and was pumping them for information.
The Sunnyside Police Department requested Ofelia to take a lie detector test. She initially refused, but then agreed. The test came back inconclusive.
The Sunnyside Police Department requested that she be charged with rendering criminal assistance, and the request was forwarded to the Prosecution. Ofelia was never charged for reasons unknown.
SUNNYSIDE POLICE DEPARTMENT
I was convicted by the testimonies of one eyewitness and a Police informant. These 2 statements were all it took for a jury of 12 to convict me of murder.
The sole eyewitness, reportedly saw the suspect, or suspects, for 3 seconds on a dark foggy night, in a poorly lit parking lot. Then after viewing 46 separate photo montages, she picked my photo out of the last photo montage, 6 months later on May 14 1996.
The paid Police informant claimed to have overheard, what he described as 2 kids talking about a gun and a shooting. Sgt. Riverd from the Sunnyside Police Department stated that he and the informant were in his office going over some search warrants in an unrelated case. When Detective Mottice asked if he would like to speak to “Junior Salas”. Sgt. Riverd stated he had no reason to speak to Salas, but decided to take 3 pictures of me instead. Upon returning to the office, Sgt. Riverd threw the 3 polaroid pictures down on his desk, at which time the informant looked at the pictures and said “What do you need me for? You already got the person who said he shot the guy” Sgt. Riverd stated this is what led him to show Ofelia the photo montage. This took place on May 6th 1996. Ofelia was shown the photo montage 8 days later, on May 14 1996.
State v. Evaristo Salas
Cause No: 96-01430-9
THE WRONG MAN
The investigator for Starz television network documentary “Wrong Man” contacted the informant and asked for an interview. Initially, the informant refused, citing his fear of the Sunnyside Police Department, and what they might do to him. He eventually agreed to the interview, in which he stated that he was paid with drugs and money by Sgt. Riverd, to set me up for the murder. He was also given a statement already typed up to sign, and later coached before Trial, about what to say by Sgt. Riverd. He agreed to be interviewed on camera, and take a lie detector test, about what Sgt. Riverd told him to do. The lie detector showed he was being truthful.
This interview can be seen on Starz television network documentary "Wrong Man". (Link above).
Evaristo Salas Jr.
On January 4th 2020, a Petition for a new Trial was filed on my behalf, by my lawyer and the lawyers of the Northwest Innocence Project, presenting this evidence to the Courts.
A hearing date was originally set for early March 2020, but has been rescheduled for June 5th 2020.
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic has added further uncertainty, when it comes to the Courts. I am hopeful that I will be granted a new Trial and immediately released.
My wife and I have worked tirelessly for my freedom. Each day that I am in prison is another day I am unable to spend with my wife and son.
I would ask everyone who wishes to help me, to write or email the Governor of the State of Washington, Jay Inslee and/or the Prosecuting Attorney of Yakima County, and humbly ask that I be granted a new Trial, or immediately released, in light of the new evidence that proves my innocence.
Thank you for reading my story and for helping me.
This is the story of truth. A truth that will send me home.
Evaristo and his family