Robert Gayol

Framed by lying witnesses, including innocent co-defendant

Robert Gayol was one of five men wrongfully charged with, and four men wrongfully convicted of the torture-murder of a 56-year-old furniture dealer, Sindulfo Miranda, in the Logan Square neighborhood on the near northwest side of Chicago in July 1997.

Gayol was implicated in the case initially by a police informant, Miguel LaSalle, who falsely claimed that he had overheard Gayol, Omar Aguirre, Edar Duarte Santos, Luis Ortiz, and Ronnie Gamboa plot the crime, then saw them with the victim around the time of the crime, and even spoke to one of the men, Santos, via cell phone during the crime.

Following Aguirre's arrest in November 1997, a lengthy police interrogation ensued, resulting in a false confession in which he also implicated Santos. In 1999, Aguirre was convicted by a Cook County Circuit Court jury and sentenced to 55 years in prison. Santos, meanwhile, remained in the Cook County jail awaiting trial. Finally, in 2002, Santos pleaded guilty in return for a sentence of only 12 years, meaning that, with day-for-day good time, he would be released in 2003.

Ortiz originally was convicted and sentenced to life, but later turned state's evidence against Gayol in return for having his sentence reduced to 25 years. Gayol was sentenced to life in prison.

The fifth accused man, Gamboa, owner of a bar on North California Avenue where LaSalle falsely claimed to have overheard the plot, was acquitted.

The truth came to light when the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago developed evidence that the Miranda crime actually had been one of a string of drug-related kidnappings and torture committed by nine members of the Latin Kings street gang, who were charged in December 2002. The U.S. Attorney also charged Miguel LaSalle with making false statements implicating the innocent men in the crime.

Case Data

Jurisdiction: Cook County, Illinois
Date of crime: July 1997
Date of arrest: November 7, 1997
Sentence: Life
Exoneration date: December 18, 2002
Months wrongfully incarcerated: 49
Defendant date of birth: 1963
Defendant race: Hispanic Race of victim(s): Hispanic
Defendant prior felony record: Burglary
Known factors leading to wrongful conviction: Eyewitness perjury, false confession of co-defendant, perjury of alleged accomplice in return for sentence reduction
Exonerated by: Federal investigation identified actual killers

— Rob Warden