Matias Reyes is a serial rapist who admitted in 2002 to raping Tricia Meili in 1989, over a decade after the Central Park Five, a group of black and hispanic teenage boys, were convicted for the crime. When Reyes came forward, the Central Park Five were fully exonerated. They were given a $41 million settlement from the City of New York for their wrongful conviction.
Reyes decided to come forward after he met Korey Wise in prison. Wise was one of the Central Park Five, and the only one of the group who was tried and convicted as an adult for the crime.
In 2002, Reyes, then 30, said at the time per The New York Daily News, “I know it’s hard for people to understand, after 12 years why a person would actually come forward to take responsibility for a crime. I’ve asked myself that question. At first, I was afraid, but at the end of the day I felt it was definitely the right thing to do.”
Prior to admitting to raping Meili in 1989, Reyes was already serving out prison sentences related to the rape of four other women, including one pregnant woman. Authorities were able to determine that Reyes’ DNA was a perfect match, with the DNA found in the crime scene.
Here’s what you need to know:
Reyes Is Still in Prison; He Is Eligible for Parole in 2022
According to the New York State Department of Corrections, Reyes is still in prison, and is eligible for parole in 2022. His parole hearing is August, 2022. He will have served 33 years in prison by then; he has an aggregate max sentence of life in prison.
According to The New York Times in 2002, Reyes had a troubling childhood history, he claimed, where his mother sold him to his father for $400 and he was sexually assaulted when he was seven years old. Reyes’ criminal history leading up to his conviction in the Central Park jogger case was incredibly graphic: he raped and stabbed 24-year-old Lourdes Gonzalez in 1989 (the same year Meili was raped), while her three children were listening in the other room.
Gonzalez was the only woman Reyes has been convicted of murdering, but as The New York Times reports, Reyes often gave his rape victims the choice between their life or their eyes, and would stab their eyes with superficial wounds.
Former homicide investigator Michael Sheehan told The Times in 2002, ”He is a complete lunatic.”
Reyes Claimed He Had a Crisis of Conscience in Jail, Leading Him to His Admission
During his confession in 2002 (which you can listen to in full here), Reyes said that he “wanted so bad to approach” Wise while they were in jail together, “and to speak to him and to tell him that it was me that did the crime he’s in jail for, that if he could forgive me.” He added, “But there was a thing in the back of my head that was saying, ‘You don’t know what this kid has gone through in 12 years of his life.”
He said in his confession,
“I struck her from behind, back of the head. She fell down. After she fell down, I dragged her to the bushes. I violated her – raped her. And after I’m finished she’s struggling. I beat her with a rock…I went off. I hit her a lot of times. I heard bones crushing.”
Reyes added in a 20/20 interview that he “thought” he left Meili there for dead, and didn’t know she was alive until later.
After hearing news of the exoneration of the Central Park Five and the conviction of Reyes, Meili spoke out, maintaining she remembered nothing of the evening but that she was surprised that only one man would have been involved. She said to 20/20, “When [Reyes] said that he and he alone had done it, that’s when some of the turmoil started, and [me] wondering, ‘Well, how can that be?'”
In an interview with Katie Couric in 2003, Meili said, “If [Reyes] is telling the truth, it’s a horrible thing if innocent people are sent to prison and — it only adds to the tragedy of that evening.” In other interviews Meili has maintained that she thinks more than one person was involved in the brutal attack.