Oregon Man Held in Prison for 2½ Years (and Counting)…as a Material Witness

Sunday, March 15, 2015
Benito Vasquez-Hernandez

An Oregon judge has ordered a man who has been accused of no crime held for more than 900 days as a witness to a murder case involving the man’s son.


Benito Vasquez-Hernandez and his son Moises Vasquez-Santiago were arrested in Madera, California, in September 2012 because of the suspicion that Moises’ older brother, Eloy Vasquez-Santiago, had killed a Hillsboro, Oregon, woman named Maria Bolanos-Rivera who had disappeared a month earlier. Three days after the arrest of his father and brother, Eloy turned himself in and was charged with murder. He confessed to murdering Bolanos-Rivera, a mother of six, but did not provide details about where her body could be found.


Prosecutors asked a judge to hold Benito and Moises as witnesses and Judge Don Letourneau agreed, setting their bail at $500,000 each. Both are desperately poor.


While in jail, Moises was diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia, with his first psychotic break probably coming while he was jailed, records say.


Moises was released from custody last September after 727 days in jail when he gave a statement to prosecutors on video. But Benito seemed disoriented during the same process and didn’t address any of the questions posed by the judge or prosecutors. He just kept repeating, “I didn’t do anything.” Without the deposition ever really starting, Benito was ordered back to jail, where he has remained since. “It was not a matter of contempt or defiance,” Benito’s attorney, Alan Biedermann, told The Oregonian. “It was the result of his failure to understand the process.”


Benito’s incarceration may soon end. Eloy’s trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday and once Benito testifies, he should be released. Whether Benito, who is now 58 years old, says anything worthwhile is doubtful. Judge Letourneau previously wrote in an email to prosecutors, “It is totally predictable that the material witnesses will not say anything that will benefit the state at trial.”

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Oregon Man Commits No Crime, but Held in Jail for 900 Days (by Emily E. Smith, The Oregonian)

Murder Witness Remains In Jail Despite Protests: ‘I Didn’t Do Anything ... I’m Innocent!’ (by Emily E. Smith, The Oregonian)



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