Who Is Matias Reyes? New Details On The Man Who Admitted To Rape Of Central Park Jogger

Photo: NYPD/PBS Learning Media
Who Is Matias Reyes? New Details On The Man Who Admitted To Rape Of Central Park Jogger

The case of the Central Park Jogger was one of the most infamous crime stories in New York City. In 1989, Trisha Meili was out for her nightly jog after leaving her job at Salomon Brothers when she was attacked in Central Park. A passerby found her beaten nearly to death and the staff of the hospital where she was taken said they are still haunted by her injuries. She laid in a coma for 12 days, with no one sure whether she would live or die.

Melli’s injuries were consistent with a series of attacks conducted by a criminal that newspapers were calling the East Side Slasher, police instead arrested five teenagers who had been in the park that night. Known as the Central Park Five, police coerced confessions from them all and they were all convicted of the rape and brutal assault on Meili.

They were innocent.

Matias Reyes was serving a 33 year sentence for several other rapes and a murder when he confessed to the rape of Meili in 2002. He claimed at the time that he confessed because it was “the right thing to do” and that he was the sole assailant. But Trisha Miele isn’t so sure. Thanks to new DNA evidence, she wonders whether there were others involved in her attack and what really happened to her that night.

Who is Matias Reyes and what happened to the Central Park Jogger? Read on for all the latest detail.

1. Trisha Mieli

On April 19, 1989, Trisha Meili left her work around 8pm then headed into Central Park for her nightly run. "I would run to the park, usually entering at the 84th Street entrance just by the Metropolitan Museum of Art," she told 20/20 earlier this year. "I would go to the 102nd Street cross drive that would go from the East Drive of the park over the West Drive of the park.” Hours later, two men would find her unconscious in a ravine. She had been raped and beaten brutally. The men called for help and she was transported to a hospital where plastic surgeon Jane Haher said: "I have seen traumatized patients many, many times. But I have never seen somebody, like, destroyed. Her body was just so swollen — unrecognizable, really.” Meili lingered in a coma for days and awoke wondering what happened. She had no memory of the attack that left her with lasting injuries.

The attack was brutal.

2. Chaos in the park

That same night, there were multiple other crimes taking place in Central Park. There had been 30 or 40 teenagers running amok in the park, pulling people from bicycles, punching people, stealing wallets and watches. I mean, it was kind of a crazy series of incidents that took place in the park," former newspaper columnist Ken Auletta told 20/20. Police arrested five of the teens involved in the mayhem, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise and Antron McCray and questioned them in connection with the assault. After hours of questioning, each of the teens confessed to the crime and implicated the others in the rape.

New documents have been released.

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3. Central Park Five

All five boys were tried for the assault on Meili in a series of cases that brought national attention. All five were convicted and sentenced to anywhere from five to 15 years in prison. The only problem was, they were innocent.

Public sentiment about the Central Park Five was negative in the extreme.

4. Reyes Confession

Matias Reyes was serving a 33 year sentence for three rape convictions and a murder conviction. He had been on a brutal crime spree in 1989, beating and raping women, then stabbing their faces to try to harm their eyesight so he couldn’t be identified. He was even said to have given some of them the choice of dying or being stabbed in the eyes. According to Ranker he was finally caught when he broke into a woman’s apartment to assault her and she managed to escape to the lobby of her building. The doorman apprehended him and called the police. Reyes admitted to his crimes. Then, in 2002, 13 years later, he would tell authorities that he was the Central Park Rapist. According to the New York Post, he said at the time: “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.

Reyes confessed 12 years later.

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5. Convictions vacated

With Reyes’ confession, the District Attorney at the time withdrew all the charges against the five teens convicted of the rape. Their convictions were vacated but they sued the city for coercing the false confessions out of them and their wrongful imprisonment. After decades of legal maneuvering, the City finally settled the case for $41 million.

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The convictions were vacated.

6. Doubts

But Trisha Miele doesn’t think that justice has been served. Later DNA analysis showed that Reyes had indeed been responsible but other evidence pointed to additional assailants. The doctors who treated Meili said her injuries were consistent with more than one person beating her, including handprints of several different sizes on her body. Meili told 20/20: "I always knew that there was at least one more person involved because there was unidentified DNA. So when I heard the news that there was an additional person found whose DNA matched, that wasn't a tremendous surprise. But when he said that he and he alone had done it, that's when some of the turmoil started, wondering 'Well, how can that be?'"

Meili has never been sure what happened.

Meili wishes there had been further investigation because the information that’s been released decades later leaves her with doubts about Reyes’ confession. She told 20/20: "I so wish the case [brought by the Central Park Five] hadn't been settled. I wish that it had gone to court because there's a lot of information that's now being released that I'm seeing for the first time. I support the work of law enforcement and prosecutors. ... They treated me with such dignity and respect.”

We may never know if Mattias Reyes was the only person who attacked Trisha Meili that night.

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.