LAS VEGAS — A Nevada woman who was twice convicted of a 2001 killing and sexual mutilation that she insisted happened when she was more than 150 miles away was ordered freed Wednesday from a Las Vegas jail — five days after her exoneration and release from prison.
Kirstin Blaise Lobato, who was 18 when she was first arrested and is 35 now, was expected to be released from the Clark County Detention Center after a judge waived a one-year misdemeanor sentence in a 2007 prisoner sexual contact case.
Lobato's case gained a large online amid backing from advocates including the Innocence Project, which enlisted experts whose testimony about the absence of blowfly larvae on the slain man's body when it was found near a trash bin in summer heat narrowed his time of death to a period when Lobato was in her hometown of Panaca.
"We are extremely grateful this day has come," said Vanessa Potkin, an Innocence Project lawyer who said Lobato was the 200th person to win exoneration with the New York-based organization.
"It's devastating what happened to Blaise," Potkin told The Associated Press, "and unconscionable that she was wrongfully convicted of a crime that she had nothing to do with."
Lobato was 19 when she was convicted in 2002 of murdering Duran Bailey, whose body was found in July 2001 in Las Vegas with a slashed neck, cracked skull and missing genitals.
No physical evidence or witnesses connected Lobato to the killing , and she maintained she never met Bailey. But jurors were told that Lobato confessed in jail that she killed Bailey during a three-day methamphetamine binge after he tried to rape her.
The state Supreme Court in 2004 threw out the 2002 verdict and Lobato's prison sentence because her lawyers weren't able to cross-examine the prosecution witness who said Lobato made the jailhouse confession.Comment on this story
Lobato was tried again in 2006, convicted of manslaughter, mutilation and weapon charges, and sentenced to 13 to 45 years in prison.
The Innocence Project and attorneys David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld in Las Vegas took up Lobato's case after the Nevada Supreme Court in late 2016 ordered another evidence hearing.
The state high court faulted her trial lawyers for failing to hire an expert witness to pinpoint Bailey's time of death. Justices also cited what they termed "strong alibi evidence" from people who testified they saw Lobato in Panaca.