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Man whose murder conviction was vacated now accused of kidnapping in bizarre ransom plot

Ricardo Rodriguez, who spent more than two decades in prison for a 1995 murder before his conviction was vacated in 2018, is now back in custody on a slew of charges related to a break in last year at a Cragin neighborhood home.

The Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
The Leighton Criminal Courthouse
Sun-Times file

Just over a year after a man won his freedom in a murder case tied to a disgraced former Chicago police detective, authorities say he took part in a brazen home invasion and kidnapping on the Northwest Side.

Ricardo Rodriguez spent more than two decades in prison for a 1995 murder before his conviction was vacated in 2018 over allegations of misconduct in his case by former Detective Reynaldo Guevara, who has been tied to at least 20 wrongful conviction cases in Cook County.

Rodriguez, 47, is now back in custody, this time on a slew of charges related to a bizarre break in last year at a Cragin neighborhood home where Cook County prosecutors say he and several others pretended to be police officers, kidnapped a woman and demanded $1 million in cash for ransom.

At a hearing Friday, Judge Charles Beach set Rodriguez’s bail at $700,000, an amount higher than what Rodriguez said we would be able to post.

“Oh my God, Judge, that’s too high,” Rodriguez cried out in response. “I just got out on a wrongful conviction.”

Ricardo Rodriguez arrest photo
Ricardo Rodriguez
Chicago police

Three others have also been charged in connection with the break in, including Ricardo Rodriguez’s 38-year-old sister, Teresa Rodriguez.

Christina Rodriguez, 42, and Juan Rodriguez, 39, were indicted last September on 29 criminal counts ranging from kidnapping to impersonating a police officer. Both have pleaded not guilty, court records show. Their relationship to Ricardo and Teresa Rodriguez was not immediately known.

Early in the morning on Aug. 3, 2019, prosecutors say the four defendants banged on the door of the victims’ home in the 2200 block of North Leamington and announced they were the police.

When the homeowner peeked outside he saw a man — believed to be Ricardo Rodriguez — standing in front of the door wearing mask that covered the bottom of his face, a ballistic vest and a police star, records show.

The man at the door knew the name of the homeowner’s adult son — and fearing something had happened — he opened the door, prosecutors said. Once inside, the masked man put a gun to the homeowner’s chest and then tied him to a chair with a shirt.

Inside the home, the defendants searched for the homeowner’s son, who wasn’t there, and demanded the son pay them $1 million or a similar amount in drugs, prosecutors said.

When they couldn’t locate the homeowner’s son, the group took the man’s wife hostage, according to prosecutors, who said she was placed in one of the group’s cars and blindfolded. She was then taken to a home where the blindfold was removed, allowing her to see members of the group, who she later identified as Ricardo, Theresa and Christina Rodriguez, prosecutors said.

Later that morning, the couple’s son received a phone call from Theresa Rodriguez, whose voice he recognized from meeting her several months before, and she repeated the demand for money or drugs, prosecutors said.

Early the following day, someone dropped the kidnapped woman off at a gas station in Hermosa and she called her son, who then contacted police.

Automatic license plate readers in the area had recorded the plates of two cars allegedly used in the crime, prosecutors said, with one being registered to Ricardo Rodriguez at his Elgin home and the other having been rented to Christina Rodriguez.

A swat team searched Juan and Christina Rodriguez’s Jefferson Park apartment and recovered four ballistic vests, blank federal search warrants, a police badge holder and nearly a dozen firearms that could shoot only blanks, authorities said.

Days later, Juan and Christina Rodriguez’s landlord let police know they had returned home, and both were taken into custody, according to court records. They were released on bond earlier this year, records show.

Teresa Rodriguez was taken into custody in San Diego and returned to Cook County on Sept. 6, prosecutors said at her hearing earlier this month, and she was denied bail.

Ricardo Rodriguez was taken into custody Thursday evening at O’Hare International Airport after returning from Mexico, according to his arrest report.

Ricardo Rodriguez pleaded guilty to murder in 1997 and was sentenced to 60 years in prison for his role in a drive-by shooting in Humboldt Park, but he later steadfastly maintained his innocence.

That conviction was vacated in 2018 after a witness recanted and said Detective Guevara had pushed him to identify Rodriguez as the shooter, BuzzFeed News reported.

Prosecutors ultimately decided to drop the case, which a spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office said Friday was because of insufficient evidence.

Rodriguez has never been exonerated of the crime, though. A Cook County judge denied his petition for a certificate of innocence last December, which Rodriguez’s attorney’s appealed earlier this year. The status of the appeal was not immediately available, and Rodriguez’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

He is expected back in court Monday.