Though it is likely that Rodrigo Hernandez was factually guilty of the crime for which he was executed, I nonetheless opposed the execution. I opposed the execution because Hernandez was convicted in part on a disputed confession which the police failed to record. I'm weary of our justice system condoning such failure to preserve evidence and / or the willful manufacture of evidence.
One commenter provided a link to an article about Hernandez that I had not read. The article provided some additional information regarding both the alleged confession and the DNA evidence. First the DNA info:
With no sign of Verstegen or her 1991 Pontiac Firebird, a massive search began: ... Susan Verstegen's brother-in-law and her boyfriend, Douglas Kirchner, found the Firebird. A handprint was on the driver's side door and “dragging finger marks were on the inside of the back window,” made by “smaller fingers,” according to police records. A wet spot was on the back seat.
Police cut the wet fabric and filed it as evidence, along with soil samples from beneath the car, cigarette wrappers, latent fingerprints, vacuum samples, the drum, nail clippings and swabs from Verstegen's body. ...
Four years later, when the national DNA system was established, the evidence was submitted. Monney would continue to get letters from SAPD detectives informing him they'd reopened the case. Four investigators took it up at different times.
When it became apparent that wouldn't happen, Hernandez, who once lived here, admitted he shot and killed Muriel Stoepker, 77, near Grand Rapids Community College campus, and raped and strangled Susan Verstegen, 38, whose killing in San Antonio led to his execution Thursday.
“I can tell you, Mr. Hernandez did not want (the execution) to happen,” Michigan State Police detective Sgt. Sally Wolter said Friday.
Just minutes before his execution Thursday night, Rodrigo Hernandez confessed to the 1991 killing of Stoepker and 1994 killing of Verstegen, police said. He was put to death in Huntsville, Texas. ...
Police in 2010 tried to talk to Hernandez, but he refused pending the outcome of appeals. After appeals were exhausted, police again tried to talk to Hernandez. He admitted to having sexual relations with Stoepker, but said he did not kill her.
Wolter said Stoepker’s family took comfort in knowing that the person who killed her finally took responsibility. Police were confident based on the scientific evidence, but also wanted to rule out the possibility any others were involved.
Wolter said police are confident Hernandez acted alone. She said that once Hernandez realized that the execution would occur, he consented to an interview with Texas Rangers and admitted to the killings. He told police that he had a gun that accidentally went off, killing Stoepker.
“I think for the Stoepker family, and also for the family in Texas, the Verstegen family, he has now admitted responsibility for the crimes. That was their hope, for (the killer) to take responsibility and show some remorse,” Wolter said.
She said it helps families to know “they have the right guy.”
The Metro Cold Case Team, comprised of Grand Rapids police, Kent County sheriff's deputies and state police, also took satisfaction in the confession. Between his statements and physical evidence, police have determined he alone killed Stoepker and can close the case.
I want to tell everybody in the world I love everybody. Keep your heads up. We are all family, people of God Almighty. We're all good. I'm ready. This stuff stings, man.