ABC’s ’20/20: One Night in Central Park’ and the Emmy nominated Netflix series ‘When They See Us‘ both tell the story of the aggravated assault and rape of Trisha Meili – who was found in a critical condition in Manhattan’s Central Park on the night of April 19, 1989. That night at least 8 other individuals were harassed, robbed, or assaulted. Five young defendants were wrongfully convicted of harassing her, and they all served out their entire sentences before they were exonerated, which was a direct result of the confession made by Matias Reyes.
Who Is Matias Reyes?
Matias Reyes was born in Puerto Rico in 1971 before he moved to New York as a child with his mother for a better life. However, that was not what happened for him, at all. The mother-son duo went their separate ways when Matias was about 15 or 16. And, apparently, he suffered sexual abuse as a young boy as well, before he went on to commit heinous crimes himself. Growing up, he was always considered to be a loner, and because of that, his criminal tendencies only bubbled up more inside him. “Even as a child growing up in the school system, he exhibited violent behavior,” revealed one of his court-appointed lawyers to The New York Times. “To the average person, he would seem perfectly normal, but he was far from normal.”
Matias committed his first known attempted rape at the age of 17, as a mere teenager. In 1988, he threatened a then-27-year-old Jackie Herbach at knife-point at a church just east of Central Park. She was able to talk him out of not raping her and walked away unscathed. Unfortunately, his future victims were not so lucky. His next known attack transpired just two days before the widely publicized Central Park Jogger attack, on April 17, 1989. That day, in northern Central Park, Matias targetted a 26-year-old woman and began to beat and rape her before fleeing the scene after being spotted by a passerby.
The victim of this assault later told police that her attacker was Hispanic and had what appeared to be fresh stitches on his chin. And, after checking local hospital records for a man matching the description, the investigator on the case got a name: Matias Reyes. Unfortunately, as the officer-in-charge was transferred and the victim had relocated, Matias was never brought in and walked away without retribution. After this, was, of course, the horrific assault and rape of Trisha Meili, for which Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise, were convicted.
Matias, who was working as a deli clerk and living out of a van at the time, continued his spree of rapes and violent crimes for months. He even earned himself the nickname “East Side Slasher.” He went on to rape five other women by forcing his way into their apartments. One of his victims was even murdered by him. He had killed the then-pregnant mother of three, Lourdes Gonzalez, by stabbing her nine times in the chest and abdomen and once in the face, while her children were in the next room.
Where Is Matias Reyes Now?
Matias Reyes was finally caught on August 5, 1989. That afternoon, he broke into a 24-year-old woman’s home before proceeding to rape her and ravage her home. Eventually, though, while he was still there, she managed to escape and fled down three flights of stairs, to the lobby, where she found others and explained to them what had happened to her. When Matias followed her, they did the right thing and pinned him down until the police arrived. In custody, Matias confessed to one murder, five rapes, and two attempted rapes. From there, he went to trial, where he pleaded guilty to all his charges and was thus, sentenced to 33 1/3 years to life in prison.
During his initial questioning, Matias never once mentioned the Central Park Jogger case or his involvement in it. In fact, he didn’t even think to speak up about it until he met Korey Wise at the infamous Rikers Island jail, where they got into a fight over a TV. Then, more than a decade later, they bumped paths again when they found themselves at the Auburn Correctional Facility. It was in late 2001, and for whatever reason, Matias felt as if it was time for him to tell the truth. And so, he admitted to being the one who attacked and raped Trisha Meili, and revealed that he acted alone.
In his confession tape, Matias said: “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.” Ultimately, though, Matias could not and can not be convicted of his confessed crime because of the statute of limitations on it. However, he is still in prison for his earlier crimes and will remain there for at least a few more years. Matias is eligible for parole in 2022, but because of his own confessions and DNA evidence, he’s likely to stay incarcerated for life.
Read More: Where Is Trisha Meili Now?