40 year old murder case gets a second look

After a second look at the murder file investigators had some concerns
40 year old murder case gets a second look
40 year old murder case gets a second look(CBS7)
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 5:36 PM CST
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ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) -On the corner of 2nd and Belmont once stood the old Sand and Sage Motel. The location for the murder of Father Patrick Ryan. Where it was once thought he was killed by James Reyos.

But now that conviction is being questioned and the case has been re-opened after the Odessa Police Chief took a second look through old files.

James Reyos is 66 years old and from Chama, New Mexico, and for the last 38 years, he has been under the surveillance of the state’s prison system after he admitted to the murder of Father Patrick Ryan.

However, that confession was made while Reyos was intoxicated, and that wasn’t the only hole in his conviction.

When investigators took a second look, the holes got bigger, and evidence pointed toward it being highly improbable that Reyos was even at the murder scene.

“To get to Odessa to commit the crime he would have to have driven at an extremely high rate of speed all the way for the timeline to fit it just doesn’t make sense right? It doesn’t make sense that there are fingerprints at the crime scene but his fingerprints aren’t at the crime scene. It doesn’t make sense that the crime scene is pretty violent but yet he had very minimal, there was like no injuries on Mr. Reyos. I mean those things don’t add up” said Mike Gerke, Chief of Odessa Police

And because of these uncertainties, Chief Gerke went across this street to the DA office where Gregory Barber was waiting to take the case.

“You know ministries change, defense attorneys and councils change things like that. Whenever the police department got their attention while they’re doing a cold case they brought it to our attention” said Gregory Barber, 1st Assistant District Attorney at the Ector County DA Office

Gregory Barber has been practicing law for decades and during that time has never been involved in a case like Mr. Reyos, and neither has his partner Carmen Villalovos who is a Senior Trial Attorney for the DA’s office, and both agreed something is missing with this case.

Villalovos says breaking the news to Reyos was moving.

“It was a very emotional experience and one that I thoroughly appreciated. I felt honored to be able to have that conversation with Mr.Reyos. I think anyone at this office would be able to say we do this job to help people” said Carmen Villalovos, Senior Trial Attorney for Ector County DA Office

And helping people is exactly what Reyos’s attorney, Allison Clayton, has been doing.

Barber brought the case to his long-time friend Clayton and she saw the same issues as everyone else.

“From the moment I got into the substance of the case I was wondering how on earth this man ever got convicted in the first place,” said Allison Clayton, Deputy Director of the Innocence Project of Texas

Clayton says Reyos first confession, which he later recanted, was made because Reyos felt guilty.

Reyos claims he and Father Ryan had a non-consensual sexual relationship.

“So you have all kinds of internalized guilt, internalized homophobia, and then on top of that you have the fact that James had asked Father Ryan for a ride from Denver City to Hobbs New Mexico on that day and James was just thinking if I hadn’t asked for the ride maybe things would’ve been different. Maybe whatever happened to him wouldn’t have happened to him” said Clayton

Clayton is working on getting Reyos exonerated, and we’ll continue to follow the legal proceedings over the coming months.