Dallas Man Freed After 17 Years in Prison for Wrongful Murder Conviction

38-year-old Quintin Alonzo has served 17 years in prison for the murder of a Dallas teen that he didn’t commit. The real killer confessed years ago and was executed for his crimes, but it still took years for Alonzo to be exonerated.

“It’s the court’s hope that your next 17 years are happier than your last 17 years,” said Dallas County Judge Carter Thompson.

Alonzo’s mother couldn’t hold back her tears, and said all she wanted to do was hold him and tell him how much she loved him.

“I’m blessed, I’m blessed my baby is home,” said Alonzo’s mother.

Alonzo himself had few words to say.

On June 9, 2001, Santos Gauna graduated Molina High School and was days away from joining the Marines. He and his parents were gunned down outside of their house at his send-off party. An eyewitness later mistakenly identified Alonzo as the shooter.

“For the most part, that was the end of the investigation, when an eye-witness identified my client,” said his attorney Julie Lesser.

The man responsible for the death of the teen was Licho Escamilla, who was then 19 years old. He confessed the crime to his attorney, but due to attorney-client privilege, it was not revealed. At the eve of his execution in 2015, he confessed again—this time to prosecutors with the Conviction Integrity Unit. They launched their own investigation into Alanzo’s innocence.

“That’s why it’s so critical for us to have this kind of unit, so that if something happened and it was wrong, then we have a unit that can now go back and investigate,” said Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson.

The head of the Conviction Integrity Unit says proving Alonzo’s innocence was also trickier than most cases because it lacked DNA evidence. Fortunately, his case was fast-tracked at the very end, with attorneys on both sides working around the clock, so he could attend his daughter’s graduation.