Man Kills Wife, Pins it on her Lover Who Spends 20 Years in Prison for Crime He Didn’t Commit

Horace Roberts Exonerated as California Innocence Project Solves 20-Year-Old Murder

Horace Roberts Exonerated

Horace Roberts walks with California Innocence Project attorney, Michael Semanchik, after 20 years of wrongful incarceration.

Riverside, October 15, 2018 – After spending more than 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Horace Roberts was declared factually innocent today of the murder of his former lover Terry Cheek. It was announced that Cheek’s husband, Googie Harris, and his nephew Joaquin Leal, have been arrested and will be charged with the murder tomorrow.

The California Innocence Project took on Roberts’ case in 2003. “The Project initially became interested in the case because there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime,” said Justin Brooks, Director of the California Innocence Project and a Professor at California Western School of Law. “The body was found along Interstate 15 and Roberts’ truck was found nearby. That was used at trial to link him to the crime, but it made no sense that he would leave his fully operable truck along a highway and walk away from the crime scene.”

In 2007, the California Innocence Project conducted DNA testing on crime scene evidence that revealed two unknown male profiles that could not be distinguished and matched to the DNA databank. In 2017, the California Innocence Project conducted more sophisticated DNA testing that was not available at the time of trial or in 2007. DNA under Cheek’s left hand fingernails matched Joaquin Leal, a convicted sex offender. DNA under her right hand fingernails and on a bloodstain on her pants matched an unknown male.

“No one had any idea who Leal was since his name did not appear in any of the case files,” said Michael Semanchik, Managing Attorney at the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law. “Leal is Googie Harris’s nephew, and ultimately the investigation led back to both of them committing this murder and leaving Cheek’s body on the side of the freeway.”

“Googie Harris set Roberts up,” continues Justin Brooks. “It’s the oldest story there is in the murder business. Husband kills wife who is cheating on him. The twist in this case is that the husband then set up the lover to go to prison for the rest of his life.”

“One of the most outrageous facts of this case is that Harris continued to maintain the lie and showed up at Roberts’ 2011 parole hearing to oppose his release,” says Semanchik.

“These are the days we live for at the California Innocence Project,” says Brooks. “Horace Roberts is free and home with his family and justice is finally being served.”

About the California Innocence Project

The California Innocence Project is a California Western School of Law clinical program dedicated to the release of wrongfully convicted inmates and providing an outstanding educational experience for students enrolled in the clinic. The California Innocence Project receives approximately 2,500 claims from inmates each year and has freed 29 wrongfully convicted clients since its inception. Read more at:

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Horace Roberts Released From Prison, Reunited with Family After More Than 20 Years.