Updated 7:45 p.m.
Four San Antonio women, who were falsely accused of sexually assaulting two young girls in 1994, have had their convictions expunged by a Bexar County judge.
Anna Vasquez, Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, and Kristie Mayhugh, who are openly gay, were accused of molesting Ramirez’s nieces. They were convicted in 1997 and 1998 and spent about 15 years in jail.
In 2016, they were exonerated and their conviction was overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Judge Catherine Torres-Stahl signed the order expunging their records Monday.
“We are finally able to reclaim our lives in the way that we need to. We’re able to apply for jobs, we’re able to travel, we’re able to different things without people pulling up your record and seeing immediately that we were accused or actually convicted of aggravated sexual assault,” Rivera said.
The original accusations included satanic overtones. One of the girls would later recant the story as an adult.
It was this moment the four had waited over two decades to experience.
”We all said that we just wanted the truth to be known and then for our names to be cleared and having that today after 24 long years, it's just an amazing feeling,” Vasquez said.
For Elizabeth Ramirez, Torres-Stahl’s courtroom was familiar — it was the same courtroom where she was convicted in 1998, she said. Now, it was the room where all the charges and convictions against them would be erased.
“It's just an overwhelming feeling — is like no words can express or, you know, explain or describe,” she said. “Just the feeling that we have within. It's like nervous, scared, but at the same time relieved and just happy.”
In 2011, the women received assistance from the Innocence Project of Texas and attorney Mike Ware.
“It's a real honor to represent these ladies,” Ware said. “And it's so satisfying to see this sort of important punctuation mark put on this case and really ending every bad aspect of this case by expunging these records that never should have been there to begin with.”
Finally free of convictions in criminal background checks, the San Antonio Four can resume living their lives.
“Before I got into this situation, I was going to school at Texas A&M to be a veterinarian. So I kind of got detoured off that,” she said, adding that she plans to return to school to become a veterinary technician.
The four women were featured in a documentary called "Southwest of Salem, the story of the 'San Antonio Four,' " which debuted in 2016.