Horace Roberts

County of Conviction: Riverside
Convicted of: Second Degree Murder
Sentence: 15 Years to Life
Year of Conviction: 1999

“What is more compelling than [Horace Robert’s] watch that’s found next to the murdered woman’s body? There’s nothing more compelling than that.” (Prosecutor’s Closing Statement, July 16, 1999.) Indeed, he was convicted based largely on evidence presented at trial that his watch was found next to the murdered victim. Little did the prosecutor know, fifteen years later, DNA testing would reveal the watch did not belong to Horace. Rather, it belonged to someone related to the victim who had ample motive to kill her or have her killed.

Terry Cheek never reported to work late at night on April 13, 1998. Four days later, she was found strangled to death and her body abandoned in the rocks on the shore of Corona Lake. The last persons to see her alive were her two daughters and husband. Suspicion quickly turned to Horace Roberts early on in the investigation because Terry had been having an affair with Horace and, when questioned about the affair, lied to co-workers and lied to police. Although he lied out of shame and embarrassment, the police did not see it that way. Instead, they saw a man covering up for a brutal murder.

It would take three full jury trials to get a conviction on Horace. The prosecution’s case against Horace consisted of pointing out Horace’s inconsistent statements, pointing out his lies designed to cover up an affair, the presence of his truck near the crime scene, a purse in Horace’s possession that one of Terry’s daughters thought Terry left with the night she disappeared and, above all else, Horace’s alleged watch found next to Terry’s body.

After his conviction and appeals, Horace contacted the California Innocence Project. Over the next decade, the California Innocence Project had DNA testing done on the watch, Terry’s fingernails scrapings/clippings, and a rope that was used to strangle Terry. While no DNA was found on the rope, DNA evidence shows the watch belongs to one of Terry’s family members who had motive to kill her. DNA under her fingernails is not Horace’s, but an unidentified male. The investigation is ongoing.