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Ricardo Rachell

Other Texas Child Sex Abuse Cases
On Sunday, October 20, 2002, an eight-year-old boy was seen running down Griggs Road in Houston, Texas, waving his hands in the air and crying. An 82-year-old man stopped and came to his aid. The man took the boy to a Wyatt's Cafeteria, where two women helped get the boy to his home that evening.

The boy was in a state of intense emotional distress—one witness would later say the boy was almost "convulsive." He said that a man with a knife had tried to kill him. He did not describe the man.

When police came to the boy’s home, he said he had been near the 3700 block of Southlawn when the man had offered him $10 to pick up trash. The man then grabbed him, and took him away on the man's bicycle. The boy’s six-year-old friend who was with him just before the boy was abducted also told the police the man had offered his friend $10 to pick up trash, and the man had been on a bicycle.

At that point, the only description the police could get from the boys was that the man was a Black man about 30 years old.

The next morning, on October 21, 2002, the mother of the eight-year-old kept her son home. She drove her older son to school and when she was returning, she saw an individual whom she believed was the suspect. She returned to her house, gathered two friends and the eighty-year-old boy, and began looking for the man she had seen.

When she spotted the man, she asked her son if this person was the attacker, and the boy said yes. She followed the suspect, who went to a home. Police were called, and when they arrived, they found the boy’s mother in a verbal confrontation with 45-year-old Ricardo Rachell, the man she had followed to what turned out to be his mother’s home.

Rachell was put in the back of a police car and asked if Rachell was the person who had kidnapped him. The boy said yes, and then told the officer that Rachell had taken him to a vacant house, pulled down his pants, and held him by the waist from behind.

The officer called the Harris County District Attorney’s office requesting authorization to make an arrest. An assistant district attorney declined and asked for further investigation. Rachell was released.

The officer located a vacant new home on Foster Street near where the boy said he had been abducted. The officer found a door had been forced open and muddy footprints led to ae second floor bedroom, Additionally, officer said he saw bicycle tracks in the yard next door.

Later that day, a Houston police juvenile sex crimes officer was assigned the case. She arranged for the boy to be taken to the Children's Assessment Center (CAC). During an interview there, the boy said he had been sexually assaulted. The boy said his attacker was a black man with a “messed up” eye and no teeth. The boy said the man's face got that way because the man had been shot when he was looking into people's windows. Asked how he knew that, the boy said he heard people say it in the neighborhood. The boy said his attacker had a scarf in his mouth, and was wearing blue pants and a tee shirt, and dark sunglasses. He said that he had seen Rachell in the neighborhood once before, when Rachell was throwing rocks at some boys.

After the interview, the boy underwent a sexual assault exam and a sexual assault kit was prepared. The mother told police that she had saved the clothes her son was wearing and handed over a bag containing the clothing.

The next day, October 22, 2002, police requested that the Houston Police crime laboratory test the clothing and sexual assault kit for fluid and fiber evidence of the sexual assault kit and clothes.

October 24, 2002, Rachell was arrested and charged with sexual assault of a child. He gave a sample of his DNA. During an interview with police, Rachell denied assaulting the boy. He said the accusations were false.

Meanwhile, news reporters had begun investigating the Houston police crime laboratory. Two experts, William Thompson from the University of California Irvine and Elizabeth Johnson, former director of the DNA laboratory at the Harris County Medical Examiner’s office, reviewed records gathered by the reporters and concluded there were substantial problems in the lab. They found that analysts were distorting statistics, fudging results to fit the prosecution theory of cases, and not following proper scientific procedure. The lab shut down in December 2002.

No testing was performed on the evidence in Rachell’s case.

On December 12, 2002, police went to the boy’s school where they showed him and his friend a photographic lineup. Both independently selected Rachell’s photograph as the attacker.

In May 2003, Rachell went to trial in Harris County Criminal District Court. The boy’s mother testified that she believed Rachell was the person who attacked her son when she saw him on the street based the description the boy had given her the night before: blue pants or jeans, blue shirt, dark sunglasses, black shoes, and a towel in his mouth. She did mention a deformed face. She conceded she wasn’t sure until she came home, got her son, and took him out where he identified Rachell.

The boy testified and identified Rachell as his attacker. During cross-examination, when asked if he noticed anything unusual about Rachell, the boy mentioned his haircut. He did not mention Rachell’s eye. The boy’s six-year-old friend also testified and identified Rachell, saying Rachell had an eye patch and a rag around his face as if it were a mask.

During closing argument, the defense argued that there was physical evidence that could have been tested, but had not been tested.

On June 3, 2003, the jury convicted Rachell of sexual assault of a child. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Rachell’s conviction was upheld on appeal. In 2007, Rachell wrote to the Houston police department requesting DNA testing. Rachell asserted that the crime was committed by Andrew Hawthorne, who was known as the “Yellowstone Park Serial Rapist.” Hawthorne was serving a 60-year prison sentence for three sexual assaults in 2004 that all occurred in the same geographic area as the assault for which Rachell was convicted.

In 2008, DNA tests excluded Rachell and identified Hawthorne as the attacker. Hawthorne later confessed to the assault. In December 2008, Rachell was released from prison and in 2009, the Harris County District Attorney's conviction integrity unit supported a state law petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by Rachell's defense attorney. In 2009, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted the writ of habeas corpus vacating his conviction. The prosecution dismissed the charge in May 2011.

In 2009, Hawthorne pled guilty to the assault. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison to be served concurrently with his prior 60-year sentence.

In July 2011, Rachell was awarded $493,000 in state compensation plus an annuity of $2,800.
– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Last Updated: 1/31/2024
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2002
Sentence:40 years
Age at the date of reported crime:45
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes