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Paul Valderrama


Between 3:00 and 3:45 a.m. on June 27, 1973, 18-year-old Kevin Wolf and his girlfriend, Margaret Haderahan, were sleeping in a car parked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art when a group of men forced their way into the car. This group of men, whom Haderahan described as Hispanic, proceeded to drown Wolf in the pool in front of the museum and gang rape Haderahan.
 
The following month, July 1973, six young Hispanic men were sought in connection with these crimes: Paul Valderrama (also referenced as Paul Valderamma), Juan Garcia, Miguel Rivera, Juan Marrera, Israel Santiago, and Fidel Santiago. In exchange for a reduced sentence, Juan Garcia agreed to testify against the other five men.
 
In June 1974, 20-year-old Paul Valderrama was arrested in Puerto Rico on a Federal fugitive warrant and transported to Philadelphia to stand trial for his alleged involvement in the murder of Wolf and rape of Haderahan. Valderrama was tried on murder and rape charges in February 1975. The primary evidence against him was the incriminating testimony of Juan Garcia. In his defense, Valderrama presented evidence that he was in Ciales, Puerto Rico, at the time of the Museum of Art crimes. Valderrama claimed that he was employed by the town government in Ciales in June 1973. To support this alibi, Valderrama provided testimony from several reputable witnesses, including Ciales’s director of public works (who was also Valderrama’s supervisor), the municipal treasurer, and the mayor. The prosecution rebutted this testimony with the testimony of a Social Security Administration employee, who testified that Valderrama’s records did not show that he had earned any wages during the last three quarters of 1973. After more than ten hours of deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict, and Valderrama was sentenced to life in prison on February 21, 1975.
 
Leading up to and following Valderrama’s conviction, his attorney, David Weinstein, continued to seek additional information from the Social Security Administration and the government of Puerto Rico regarding Valderrama’s employment. In a letter dated March 5, 1975, less than two weeks after Valderrama was convicted, the chief of the Social Security Division of the Puerto Rico Department of Treasury stated that the municipality of Ciales had reported wages for Valderrama, but had done so without a social security number. The wages had been suspended until Valderrama’s social security number could be obtained, so they were not reflected in the Social Security Administration records at the time of Valderrama’s trial.
 
On the basis of this new evidence to support Valderrama’s alibi that he was in Puerto Rico at the time of the crimes, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court awarded Valderrama a new trial on July 14, 1978. The district attorney then dismissed the charges against Valderrama in 1979, and he was released from prison.
 
In 1981, Juan Garcia, who had testified against all five of his alleged accomplices, was released from prison after serving less than six years. Following his release, Garcia changed his story, admitting to private investigator Russell David Kolins in December 1981 that neither he nor any of his five co-defendants had been involved in the crimes at the Museum of Art. Garcia claimed that police pressure had caused him to falsely confess and implicate the other men, and he provided a 128 page sworn statement recanting his trial testimony.
 
 – Meghan Barrett Cousino
State:PA
County:Philadelphia
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Reported Crime Date:1973
Convicted:1975
Exonerated:1979
Sentence:Life
Race:Hispanic
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:20
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation