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SOUTHWEST OF SALEM: THE STORY OF THE SAN ANTONIO FOUR

The Texas Court of Criminal appeals ruled on Wednesday that Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, Cassandra Rivera and Anna Vasquez known as the San Antonio 4 were innocent after serving 15 years for child sex crimes they did not commit. The decision will allow the criminal records of all four women to be expunged.

The women were convicted in 1998, after two of Ramirez’s nieces, ages seven and nine, accused them of holding them by the wrists and ankles, sexually assaulting and threatening to kill them in 1994. One of the nieces later recanted, saying another family member threatened her into making the statements.

The story and the women are the subject of the documentary Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four. According to the film’s synopsis, the documentary “excavates the nightmarish persecution of Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh, and Anna Vasquez — four Latina lesbians wrongfully convicted of gang-raping two little girls in San Antonio, Texas. The film begins its journey inside a Texas prison, after these women have spent nearly a decade behind bars. They were 19 and 20 years at the time that allegations surfaced. Using the women’s home video footage from 21 years ago combined with recent verité footage and interviews, the film explores their personal narratives and their search for exculpatory evidence to help their losing criminal trials. 15 years into their journey, director Deborah S. Esquenazi captures an on-camera recantation by one of the initial outcry victims, now 25 years old although 7 at the time of the investigation. This brings the filmmaker into the role of investigator along with attorneys at the Innocence Project, who are just beginning their quest for truth in this case.”

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