Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Santos Rodriguez


Convicted of second-degree murder in Hampden County, Massachusetts, in 1954, at the age of 25, Santos Rodriguez was exonerated in 1957 after the actual culprit admitted the crime in order to clear his conscience.
 
On January 26, 1954, Mildred C. Hosmer, a 43-year-old woman with a history of excessive drinking and disorderly conduct, was seen at the Franklin Grille, a bar in Springfield, talking with several men, including Santos Rodriguez and Lucien J. Peets. Later that night, Hosmer was found dead by Ralph Ramsdell in Ramsdell’s room although he reportedly had no idea how she got there. Ramsdell, who had spent the evening in Northampton, and whose alibi was easily cleared by the police, was a friend of Hosmer and had given her a key to his room. Based on descriptions by eyewitnesses, Rodriguez was arrested and charged with the murder of Hosmer. Rodriguez, a Puerto Rican immigrant with little comprehension of English, was frightened, and he was coerced by police to write and sign a statement confessing to Hosmer’s murder.
 
During his trial, the prosecution’s case rested almost entirely on this signed statement, as well as several eyewitnesses who had seen Rodriguez with Hosmer at the bar. Rodriguez protested that he wrote his statement only because the police forced him to; the police maintained that Rodriguez wrote his statement voluntarily. 
 
“I am innocent! I pray every day that the killer will confess. He knows that I am not the guilty one, but he walks the streets until the day they find him. God is big and he never makes a mistake like us. Then all those people who lied about me will pay for it, especially the material witness. They will all be sorry when it’s too late. I am still young and God will help me. That’s all I have to say,” Rodriguez told the court.
 
Despite the lack of any evidence that put Rodriguez at the crime scene, he was convicted of the murder of Hosmer and was sentenced to life in prison.
 
Almost two years later, Walter A. Swift, Rodriguez’s defense lawyer, found two new witnesses who had seen Rodriguez walking toward his residence on the night of the murder. Swift also questioned an old witness who stated that he saw Hosmer leaving the bar with Lucien J. Peets.
 
On February 6, 1957, Peets, after pleading guilty to charges of assault and robbery in another case, voluntarily confessed to the murder of Hosmer. Peets was quoted as saying he had not confessed before “because I was afraid it would break my mother’s heart.” Peets’s mother had died the month before he made this confession. Peets, who had been unaware until then that Rodriguez had been convicted and imprisoned for the crime, wanted to clear his conscience now that his mother was dead. After being found legally sane, Peets was convicted of the manslaughter of Hosmer and sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison.
 
On April 9, 1957, Massachusetts Governor Foster J. Furcolo pardoned Rodriguez. He was released from Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Norfolk after serving three years of a life sentence. In 1958, the State of Massachusetts compensated Rodriguez $12,500 for his wrongful incarceration.
 
– Michael Fong
State:MA
County:Hampden
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Reported Crime Date:1954
Convicted:1954
Exonerated:1957
Sentence:Life
Race:Hispanic
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:26
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, False Confession