A convicted child molester linked to the crime that sent an innocent deaf man to prison in Texas was indicted Thursday in two similar cases involving sexual assaults on children.
A Dallas County grand jury indicted Robert Warterfield, 42, on two unsolved 1989 cases involving Dallas children who were 7 and 9 at the time they were attacked. ...
The cases shouldn't have taken two decades to crack. Evidence of Warterfield's likely involvement had been sitting untouched and ignored for more than 16 years in Dallas County files but was recently discovered by Watkins' Conviction Integrity Unit, which examines possible innocence cases. ...As it turned out, Warterfield had actually confessed to the rape that Stephen Brodie was ultimately convicted for as part of a plea bargain in a separate case, plus fingerprint evidence at the scene matched Warterfield but not Brodie.
In his 1994 plea bargain agreement, Warterfield essentially presented a road map of his crimes. Attached to his pleas bargain is a supplement that lists 13 sex assaults. The deal he reached was that if prosecutors charged him in any of those 13 cases, they could not use his guilty plea against him in pursuing convictions.Indeed, police ignored physical evidence pointing to Warterfield instead of Brodie and relied on the deaf man's confession instead, which was secured after he was "questioned for hours by Richardson police without an interpreter, according to court documents."
Two of the cases listed in the plea agreement are the ones for which Warterfield was indicted Thursday.
Another case listed in the plea bargain was the one that led to the 1993 wrongful conviction of Stephen Brodie, who was exonerated last month after spending 10 years behind bars.
In Brodie's case, a 5-year-old Richardson girl was assaulted by an unknown man who entered her room at night and led her outside to a nearby yard. Brodie was eventually convicted, despite a lack of physical evidence tying him to the crime. Brodie, who has been deaf since childhood and communicates by sign language, was questioned for hours by Richardson police without an interpreter, according to court documents.
A year after Brodie's conviction, Richardson police learned that a fingerprint at the crime scene belonged to Warterfield, who around the same time pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in 1994. Warterfield also was suspected by Dallas police in the other unsolved sexual assaults and attempted assaults of young girls in the area.Bully for Craig Watkins' Conviction Integrity Unit for finally springing Mr. Brodie and bringing the right guy to justice. With 20/20 hindsight it's easy to see this false conviction could have been prevented or at least rectified much earlier. The question now is whether Texas will have the foresight to implement reforms to prevent more false convictions in the future?
But Richardson police never charged him, believing they had arrested the right man in Brodie, according to court documents.
Watkins' office reopened the Brodie case and supported his release. In doing so, the unit asked the county forensics lab to conduct DNA tests on the other "North Dallas Rapist" cases from two decades ago listed in the plea bargain documents.
The testing confirmed matches between Warterfield and the 1989 cases. Watkins declined to say whether DNA tests are pending on the other cases.