ONLY ON 3: Man framed for murder talks
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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.

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First of all, this man is an illegal immigrant, on the other hand, it could have easily been a man that was legal or a US citizen and he could have been accused!!! Now, we would still have a problem and the same problem is that a man would now be in jail following the poor low down dirty poor work from the detective (Lesane)! In the future we will all find out why they were fired in Bladen County. Right now everybody is mad at Storms, but he is really trying to hold out on these dirty cops that he fired! Just watch it will come out and be brought to the light! There is no telling how many people are in jail following the poor work of these detectives and deputies!I was harassed by Lesane when he was a deputy and he is non caring and nasty as they come. Everybody needs to just think outside of the box! It has nothing to do with politics or race! its what is right, wrong, and ethical! this could have easily been you or somebody else!!!

First of all, just because you are here legally you don't have to learn the English language good enough for this not to happen to you. Secondly, If this happened to an American in Mexico I would wager your thoughts would be holy hell. You can get medicaid and be here illegally, so why does it surprise you that he has human rights. That is how are system works and what makes our country so great. But not many of you have addressed the fact that investigators and the DA's office did such shotty work and took so long to figure this out. Regardless of his legal status, do you want those same people back on the street doing more shoddy work....and you being the next person sitting in jail for a crime that you didn't committ. THAT SHOULD be what you care more about from this story instead of the discriminating fact that he was here illegally and might get a dime or two off the county. Whatever he gets it will be less than what he would have made had he worked.

"Cruz, who is in this country illegally," Set him free on the mix up...then RE ARREST him and jail him for breaking our border laws and kick his rear end back across the border he came over! It ABSOLUTELY BAFFLES ME how we are allowing our OWN GOVERNMENT to TOTALLY IGNORE the law and allow these CRIMINALS to stay here....I DON'T CARE IF YOU HAVE TO ASSESS EVERY AMERICAN 1000 DOLLARS TO HAVE THE MONEY TO SEND EVERY ONE OF THEM BACK...I for one would HAPPILY PAY IT! It cost me MORE than that over the long haul to take care of these criminals that are allowed to walk free....if our own government is going to allow these ILLEGAL CRIMINALS to walk freely..then by golly they should let EVERY FLIPPING NON-VIOLENT offender out of prison NOW...if you are going to turn a blind eye to one law...SCREW IT...just turn a blind eye to all of them!

To bad this didn't happen in Brunswick County. The DA would have shown up unprepared and they would have dropped the case and let him go.

Just so everyone knows, being in this country illegally is a civil offense, not a criminal one. If this guy was breaking a civil statute, he in no way deserved to sit in jail for 15 months for murder, the absolute worst criminal offense a man can commit against another man.

your wrong...being in the country by circumventing the border safeguards, ie crossing ILLEGALLY, is a Federal Misdemeanor...overstaying your visa however, making you illegal, is a civil offense...

If he was a LEGAL citizen to begin with, then he would've known some part of the English language. Therefore, he could've defended himself properly.

His IGNORANCE of the language of the land he was in played a part in putting him in jail.

Now he wants COMPENSATION?

You're kidding me right?

Maybe any of these ILLEGAL people would like to try sneaking into a (normal) country with half a spine. They shouldn't be allowed here except by the correct process.

If he isn't a citizen, how does he get citizen's rights!?!?!?

1. There will be no special bilingual programs in the schools.
* * * * * * * *
2. All ballots will be in this nation's language.
* * * * * * * *
3.. All government business will be conducted in our language.
* * * * * * * *
4. Non-residents will NOT have the right to vote no matter how long they are
here.
* * * * * * * *
5. Non-citizens will NEVER be able to hold political office.
* * * * * * * *
6 Foreigners will not be a burden to the taxpayers. No welfare, no food
stamps, no health care, or other government assistance programs. Any burden will
be deported.
* * * * * * * *
7. Foreigners can invest in this country, but it must be an amount at least
equal to 40,000 times the daily minimum wage.
* * * * * * * *
8. If foreigners come here and buy land... Options will be restricted.
Certain parcels including waterfront property are reserved for citizens
naturally born into this country.
* * * * * * * *
9.. Foreigners may have no protests; no demonstrations, no waving of a
foreign flag, no political organizing, no bad-mouthing our president or his
policies. These will lead to deportation.
* * * * * * * *
10. If you do come to this country illegally, you will be actively hunted
&, when caught, sent to jail until your deportation can be arranged. All
assets will be taken from you.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
TOO STRICT?

The above laws are current immigration laws of MEXICO !!!

These sound fine to me. NOW, how can we get these laws to be America's immigration laws??

Because no one in office right now can afford to lose that many ILLEGAL VOTES.

You think any Democrat would win an election if the "Give me a hand out" population didn't vote for them?

The man is a criminal. He just got locked up for the wrong reason. He deserved to be in jail anyhow. Compensation to a non-citizen who is here illegally?? Give us a break. I agree his compensation should be a ticket back South of the Border at HIS expense. He has no rights, or should not have any.

It is unfortunate that this man was imprisoned. He should have been escorted back to the border, at his own expnse, if he has any assets!
The good news is that his living conditions while in that NC jail were probably better than the place where he came from.

He should return to his native country, learn our language, get educated and then come back to this country through the proper channels,if he wishes to do so, like I did!

Irregardless of this man's immigration status, the point of the story is that through poor police work, indifference to the human condition and low standards of investigation and backwoods prosecutorial discretion an innocent man sat in jail for 15 months. I suggest that all of you that have never been to the Bladen County jail make a visit over there and ask the Sheriff for a tour. The smell of Urine and rot in that place will make you want to vomit. The building is crumbling and most people would not consider leaving there animals in that place overnight. This man was arrested because the first white man that police saw (and talked to) pointed his finger at the non-english speaking mexican and they immediately arrested him because they saw a red stain on his pants.. BBQ sauce, not blood.

So let Bladen County pay and pay dearly. Let heads in the Detective Division Roll, let the DA who refused to dismiss charges when it was obvious that the man was innocent get disciplined for prosecutorial misconduct. And them Bladen COunty write him a check for false imprisonment, pain and suffering, lost wages and any other reasons that his attorney can come up with. Maybe, just maybe then Bladen County Sheriff's Office Investigators will do the right thing and expedite the investigation of cases with competent and fully trained professional law enforcement officers instead of these lazy, racist, bigots that don't care if they have the right man as long as they have the brown man.

Then and only then, if his immigration status is not legal, deport him back to Mexico or wherever he came from. Let him re-enter legally should he choose to do so.

There is no such word as irregardless.

Do you really think people expect the Ritz-carlton for doing wrong??

Yea, irregardless.

Too bad. Although the rest of your post is quite the eloquent argument, the first word is a hallmark of ignorance.

[Yea, that's what I do; I look for the mistakes and judge people on that instead of the quality of their ideas; maybe I'll get a job someday.]

Hah.

well it is in websters so it must be something. irregardless ? who wins ?

Thank you!!! The way you worded your comment has given me a much needed "tee-hee" for the day.

Did Steve make a mistake? It isn't that hard to do when one can't understand Spanish. There are so many dialects in the various Spanish speaking countries that even a translator can't interpret them all.

Ever illegal should be jailed until ICE can pick them up. He was just incarcerated on the wrong charge. Should he be compensated for his troubles? Not in a million years.

While I agree that the investigation was flawed, he was a criminal. Criminals who violate immigration laws should be in jail until the proper authorities can deport them.

Try going into another country besides the USA and you will be jailed for considerably longer periods. You don't have to be charged with any crime. Your mere presence without the proper documentation, will get one much more time than 15 months.

Many investigations are flawed due to LE not being able to understand the language. That is why foreignors should learn English before they are allowed into the US.

So I guess you figured out that Steve Lesane was the investigator or you know it. I guess you also know that he was one of the officers not sworn back in. I guess you know now that there was probably a reason other than politics for the hosue cleaning that is going on in Bladen County. No matter how we all feel about the immigration issues that plague our area, this man is still a human being that was wrongfully arrested, imprisoned and treated as if he were guilty. Put all of those issues aside for just a minute and consider him a man, not just a statistic.

Thank you WWAY3 for following up on this story. So, the report that the interim sheriff had turned a murdered loose was shoddy reporting....lacking true investigative journalistic intent. Sad that the personal politics of a few people in power in Bladen County can have that much effect on what news is reported and how that news is reported.

Is Mr. Cruz a legal resident of the US? Yes it is awful if he was wrongly imprisoned but on the other hand if here illegally it would not have happened in the first place. Just a thought.

He should have been released after it was proven it was NOT blood on his pants they had no evidence to hold him what gives? This is utter BS on the part of Bladen County's sheriff department! 15 months of his life gone, and people around that county will always look at him as a murderer no matter if it's proven someone else did it cause of the mentality in the county I feel bad for him! I say sue the crap out of the county and then move and start your life over Mr. Cruz!

Hey Einstein, how many murder investigations have you been the lead detective on? Likely ZEEERO! Your armchair quarterbacking and accusations of the Bladen County sheriffs department don't hold a cup of water!

And YOU encourage an illegal alien to sue when he shouldn't even be here in the first place and can barely speak English? I hate it for the guy, but uhhhh hey, those are the consequences for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Stuff happens.

I fully encourage YOU to go to Mexico, find yourself in the situation Mr. Cruz was in and find how long you will sit in a Mexican pigpen before anyone even finds you, much less how long it will take to get you out once they do...IF they do. THEN, sue them and see what you cross back over the border with.

All mouth and no brains! Yet, you continue to walk among us...

Wouldn't that be armchair detective work? Does armchair quarterback work as a metaphor? Then you mixed that figurative language with how much can be held in a cup?

Just asking, eh?

I would like to thank you for your comment, it shows the absolute ignorance and lack of compassion of people that beleive that immigrants have no palce in our little slice of the world. The fact is that they are here and it is not likely that they are going away anytime soon. This does not take away form the facts of this case. If they are to be held to our laws and punished under our laws then they are to be compensated under our laws just as any american citizen would be should they be wrongfully accused and imprisoned for a crime they did not commit.

Take the racism out of it and you simply have a case of inept at best, incompetent at worst police work. This man deserves whatever he can get out of Bladen County. And you deserve to get an education and a dose of morality.

Do you understand the term ILLEGAL? That means, "Against current LAW"! We have laws in the United States that allows immigrants to come here and become Americans. Do that legally and I don't have one single problem!!! So, why is it that you want to turn this into a racially motivated issue? Is it because that is the only way you can attempt to validate "illegal immigrants"? Do you use that "racial" accusation in an effort to remove the spotlight from the actual truth and confuse the issue? Remember, we have have people like the great Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton that have been playing that card like a cheap fiddle for years. It simply is not effective anymore.

Illegal is illegal and even though the sheriff may have screwed up, Cruz does not deserve and will not get compensation! This is nothing other that a crooked lawyer grandstanding and trying to fill his pockets. Cruz would do himself a favor to get back across the border and consider himself lucky.

You said it yourself, here is your quote, "If they are to be held to our laws and punished under our laws then..." So are just "some" laws supposed to be enforced? Is that what you are trying to communicate?

This has nothing to do with racism, it has to do with CHEATING and breaking US law and sucking off of the American taxpayers wallet. The US citizens are putting a stop to this...quickly!

You are blind in one eye and can't see out of the other. Oh and by the way, I happen to have an advanced degree in a highly technical discipline. It's how I was able to spot your poor sentence structure and 3rd grade spelling mistakes.

It's not immigrants that most people are against, it is the illegal immigrants. There is a proper process that people are supposed to go through not only to enter this country but also to become a citizen. Why would you want someone in this country who doesn't even respect the laws of this country? I read the story where 125 people became American citizens in Southport during the fourth of July. They prove that it can be done the right way.

I am not the person you were responding to, but I take exception to this being classified as "racist" (I hate using that Marxist term). Immigrants come in all sizes, shapes and colors.

While I'm sorry that Mr. Cruz was wrongfully imprisoned, and thus his rights were infringed upon, I am not totally sorry this happened. Perhaps we should all take a look at Mr. Cruz's criminal history. I assure you, it is extensive. I feel a little safer knowing that this man was not roaming the streets of Bladen County for fifteen months. Even now, Mr. Cruz still has charges pending against him from Driving While Impaired, Reckless Driving, and No Operator's License. YES, I KNOW HE SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN IN JAIL FOR A CRIME HE DIDN'T COMMIT. But chances are, if it wasn't this, he would have been in there for something else.

If he had stayed in Mexico or where he is from none of this would have happened. Now they want money he's illegal and should not be here anyway.Should be jailed for breaking federal immigration law and deported, Wake up America and run them out of here....

...being at the wrong place at the wrong time! Can WWAY find out if this man is in our country legally? If not, he is REALLY at the wrong place at the wrong time. IF he is not in our country legally, he deserves ZERO compensation and a quick trip back to his country (and should consider himself lucky). Had he spoken better English, he may have been able to avoid this trouble.

Would ANYONE like to speculate how long it would take for an innocent American to be exonerated and released from a situation like this in Mexico? Just a hint of a guess?

On the other hand if he is a legal citizen, pay him his due and apologize!!!