A suburban Chicago man who was exonerated after spending more than 20 years behind bars for an abduction and rape walked out of an Illinois prison Tuesday.
Angel Gonzalez was exonerated Monday in a 1994 rape and abduction in Waukegan. After also being cleared of unrelated charges of damage to state property, Gonzalez, wearing a gray track suit, walked out of Dixon Correctional Center.
"I'm free. Thank God," he said as he thanked his family, supporters, lawyers and the authorities who worked for his release.
Gonzalez, 41, said he had no reason to be angry.
"The past is the past," he said, adding he looks forward to continuing his painting hobby. "To be here today is making me feel alive again."
Gonzalez was convicted in the abduction of a 35-year-old woman from her Waukegan home and her rape at another location.
State's Attorney Michael G. Nerheim said Monday investigators collected forensic evidence from the victim and from the scene of the crime. He said Gonzalez was not excluded as a donor of that evidence based on DNA testing available at the time.
But Nerheim's office worked with the Innocence Project-New York to review and perform further examinations of the evidence as concerns about Gonzalez's guilt grew.
Subsequent DNA tests showed there were two unknown male DNA profiles found on the victim's shorts and personal items. Neither of those two DNA profiles matched the profile of Gonzalez.