As you may have seen the Chief of Police's son and daughter-in-law were very instrumental in getting a convicted murderer exonerated. The story has gained so much attention it made it to the Kelly Clarkson Show.

It all started when Harlee and Michael Gerke were on their way from College Station to Odessa and were listening to the podcast Crime Junkie where Ashley Flowers was talking about the murder case of Father Patrick Ryan back in 1981. A man named James Reyos was falsely convicted of the murder and was sentenced to 38 years in prison.

Harlee Gerke
Harlee Gerke

A Little Back Story...

Father Patrick Ryan befriended a man named James Reyos. Because James Reyos was the last person to have seen Father Ryan the night before he was killed, Reyos felt a sense of guilt for the Father's murder. One night in a state of intoxication and guilt Reyos called the police to say he had killed the priest. He later recanted to confession to no avail. Reyos would be convicted on shotty evidence. Despite the fact he was able to prove that he was out of town with gas receipts and a speeding ticket he got on the night of the murder. James Reyos was sentenced to 38 years.

After listening to the podcast Michael and Harllee took the story to Ryan's dad Police Chief Michael Gerke and he decided to look into the case. After doing some digging they were  able to prove through fingerprint evidence that Reyos was not guilty of the crime.

Where He Is Today

On October 4th, thanks to the help of the Odessa Police Department the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Reyos was innocent of the murder charge and recommended he be exonerated. James Reyos was given $80,000 in restitution for the 24 years he spent in prison.

Innocence Project of Texas
Innocence Project of Texas

According to People Magazine:

“This is the best day of my life,” Reyos, now 67, told Texas Monthly after the decision.

 Among those cheering on the decision were Harlee and Michael.

“Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought they would've found new fingerprints — new evidence that would've led to this man's exoneration,” says Harlee.

 “It was a perfect storm,” says Michael, 27.
 Says Harlee: "It's been such a crazy experience. We're so overjoyed that James Reyos is exonerated."
 Michael downplayed the role he and Harlee played in helping to clear Reyos' name.
 "I feel like we had the smallest part in this," he says. "All we did was know the right people to tell about it.
 "It's just amazing that he gets to be a free man now."
Reyos said in a statement: “This is the best day of my life,” Reyos, now 67, told Texas Monthly after the decision.
After hearing the story Kelly Clarkson invited Ashley Flowers, Crime Junkie podcast, to her show where she also brought on Micheal and Harlee Gerke told talk about how it all unfolded.


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Gallery Credit: Natasha Reda