SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) – A Southern California city will pay $700,000 to a man who was arrested in the 2011 killings of his mother and brother but was freed when his high school friend confessed to the crimes, lawyers said Tuesday.
The city of Brea agreed to pay Eder Herrera, 27, and put an end to his federal lawsuit against police.
"I was kind of hoping they would say sorry," Herrera said in a phone interview. "I am just grateful to have closure and finish this case."
Herrera alleged he was wrongly jailed for three months after his 53-year-old mother, Raquel Estrada, and 34-year-old brother, Juan Carlos Herrera, were stabbed to death in their Yorba Linda home. He was released in 2012 after authorities said they found evidence linking the friend — suspected serial killer Itzcoatl Ocampo — to the killings.
Ocampo, who was jailed after a killing spree targeting the county's homeless, died in 2013 after eating a cleaning product in his jail cell. Authorities said Ocampo had confessed to killing Herrera's mother and brother in a plot that also targeted Herrera after the friends had a falling out. DNA found on Ocampo's boots could be traced to the crime scene, investigators said.
As late as last year, however, authorities said they were still investigating whether Herrera might have played a role in the October 2011 killings.
James Markman, a lawyer for Brea, declined to comment on the investigation into the Yorba Linda killings. He said the settlement didn't mean Herrera shouldn't have been locked up.
"We're conceding only that that amount of money is worth getting rid of the entire risk," he said. A trial had been scheduled for May.
Messages seeking comment were left for Brea police, which provided law enforcement services in Yorba Linda at the time of the killings.
The allegations created a series of problems for Herrera, who fought with Orange County prosecutors to recover his car and other personal belongings seized as evidence during the investigation. He was also placed into deportation proceedings after his arrest but has since obtained temporary legal status under a program for young people brought to the country illegally as children, said John Burton, Herrera's lawyer.
The night his family was killed, Herrera had been driving around stoned and stopped to eat at a restaurant, according to his lawyer. Ocampo had gone to the family's house, and had Herrera stayed home, he probably would have been another victim, Burton said.
"He wants to move on. It is very painful for him," Burton said. "They were everybody to him. The way it all ended was just a nightmare for him."