On Aug. 17, 1992, 11 year-old Holly Staker was baby-sitting a 5-year-old boy and his 2 1/2-year-old sister. After eating pizza, the boy went out to play. At 8 p.m., when a neighbor noticed he was still outside, the boy said he was locked out. The neighbor took the boy to his mother at her job at a nearby tavern. The mother, Dawn Engelbrecht contacted Holly's mother, and the two of them went to the apartment, where they found the 2 1/2-year-old girl unharmed but Holly was dead in a bedroom. She had been stabbed 27 times and brutally raped.
In the days after the crime, Juan Rivera was jailed on an unrelated burglary charge. Another inmate told authorities that Rivera told him he knew who had killed Holly. Police focused on Rivera, then just a few days short of his 20th birthday. Ultimately, Rivera signed two confessions to the crimes. He later testified at a pretrial hearing that he was coerced into confessing and had nothing to do with the rape and murder. Engelbrecht, whose children Holly was baby-sitting, had initially told police after Rivera was arrested that he had approached her outside her apartment on the night of the crime and asked, "What's happening?" She later recanted that identification, however, and said she believed Rivera was not Holly's killer. In 1993 Rivera was sentenced to life in prison.
That sentence and the conviction were set aside in 1996 by the Illinois Appellate Court, which ruled the judge in the case had made errors.
In 2005 new DNA testing excluded Juan Rivera as the killer rapist prompting a third trial with Juan, his family, defense attorneys and supporters believing in his innocence, confident that Juan would finally be released.
On May 8, 2009 Juan was convicted of Holly Staker's rape and murder yet again, even though DNA excluded him. Prosecutors cited Juan's confession as proof of his guilt. FREE JUAN RIVERA- Rob Warden of the Center on Wrongful Convictions.