BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- A man wrongfully charged with murder was finally released from jail last week after investigators figured out he was innocent. ONLY ON 3, we talked with the man who paid the price for law enforcement's mistake.
Hernan Cruz spent 15 months behind bars at the Bladen County Jail. At the time he had no idea why he was locked up, but soon found out he was being accused of a murder he did not commit.
Cruz, who is in this country illegally, is a victim of what he calls questionable police work. Back in April 2009 he was framed for the death of a man, after he walked up to an acquaintance's home, which was the scene of deadly beating involving a baseball bat. Cruz had no idea what he walked in to. Cruz says as he walked up to the home several law enforcement vehicles pulled up. He asked his the man whose house it was what was going on. The man told Cruz a body was found near the road. Cruz says the man then went up to the investigators and spoke to them, before he knew it, Cruz was being questioned.
"They saw Mr. Cruz, approached him," Cruz's attorney Sam Randall said. "They thought he had what looked like blood on his pants. In his broken English he told them, 'No. It's BBQ sauce.' Later it was found out that it wasn't blood."
Cruz was arrested and taken to the Bladen County Jail. He asked why he was in hand-cuffs, but was not given an answer. He wouldn't find out the reason until a magistrate set his bond for $600,000. Cruz asked again why he was arrested, the magistrate told him for hitting and killing a man with a bat. Cruz would then spend the next 15 months in jail. He was released last week after investigators finally realized that the man who framed him was the real killer.
"He spent 15 months in jail for a crime he did not commit, and in my opinion it's based on a lack of investigation," Randall said. "They did the easy thing, and a lot of times people think of he's arrested he must have done something and that's not true."
Cruz says during this whole experience he was not afraid, knowing he was innocent, and knowing that God would make things right. He now hopes the state will come though and also make things right.
"It's not fair what they did to me," Cruz said in his native Spanish.
Randall will say little about what's next. He does admit, though, he wants compensation for his client's time behind bars.