The 21-year-old Williamson County, TX, man told KVUE News he was confusedwhen he was arrested on September 22, 2017 at the lumber yard where he worked. He couldn’t remember when he last spoke to the woman, whom he had dated years earlier in high school.
I had no idea why everything was happening, and I was lost,
The police, of course, knew better, as they always do, even when they’re completely wrong. Obviously, the perp knew why they were there, because they wouldn’t be there if he didn’t know. This was especially true for Precopia, after what he did.
She said he did it. There was the cut to prove it. What more could there be to know?
Precopia was taken to the Williamson County Jail, charged with burglary with the intent to commit other crimes. He faced 99 years in prison. His parents paid his $150,000 bond plus thousands more in legal fees to clear his name.
It might be a stretch to call him lucky, all things considered. He was arrested on a heinous charge, held in custody until his release and facing 99 years in prison. On the other hand, he wasn’t killed for resisting at the time of his arrest, even though he had no clue why cops were there and, as so often happens, might have become angry about the situation, the treatment, the craziness of it all and behaved poorly as a result. Happens all the time to good guys.
When he was held on $150,000 bond, his parents were able to get him out, to pay a lawyer to defend him. Many don’t have the ability to do either, making life not only unpleasant but making the ability to defend oneself far more difficult, if not impossible.
And then came the biggest stroke of luck, one that was purely luck as there was no way in the world this could have been foreseen as a critically important move.
The accuser said the attack happened on September 20, 2017 around 7:20 p.m., but Precopia’s mother, Erin, knew her son wasn’t even in town that night. He was with his mom at a Northwest Austin, TX, hotel — about 65 miles away from where the alleged attack happened.
And Erin had proof. She had taken a selfie with her son that night and posted it to Facebook. The photo was time-stamped and geo-located, proving Precopia was nowhere near the woman the night of the alleged attack.
Actual, hard, irrefutable evidence that Cristopher Precopia was innocent. Not merely “not guilty,” but completely, totally innocent. All because his mother took, and posted to Facebook, a selfie (groupie?). What are the chances?
This almost never happens, and when it does, it’s almost never this certain, this irrefutable. Sure, there are DNA cases that can disprove guilt, but those too are rare. Without this pic, it would have been Precopia’s denial of guilt versus the “X” carved into this woman’s chest. Notably, this woman’s name remains a mystery, despite the now-known fact that she’s the culprit rather than Precopia. Weird how that works, right?
Much of the response to this bizarre case reflects a gross misapprehension of how criminal investigations happen. People question how the cops didn’t conduct any further investigation into Precopia, what his relationship to this woman was, where he was when she claimed he broke into her home and carved an “X” in her chest.
Silly people, there was no cause for investigation. Police don’t engage in random investigation to waste their time, squander their resources, once they know who the perp is and have their case locked up. It’s not about investigating at all, but about finding the perp and nailing him. Once that’s done, the case is done.
The crazy woman, assuming you accept the premise that a woman who carves an “X” in her own chest in order to complain about a guy she dated years before and hasn’t seen since, is crazy, provided all the police wanted or desired. She told them of the break in, the attack and the identity of the perpetrator. What else could they need?
The question still remained: Why had Precopia been arrested, and had police done a thorough investigation? There was hard evidence. It just needed to be found.
Police experts say, in most cases, investigators should try to interview a suspect before filing charges to determine if they have a possible alibi. In Precopia’s case, police reports show he returned a phone call to police and left a message before they moved to arrest him.
The cops don’t seek to exculpate the perp. That they might have questioned him is true, but only to get a confession, or at least an inculpatory statement. They don’t interrogate to learn the truth, but to nail down proof of guilt. So what if Precopia denied committing the crime. That’s what criminals do, deny. And even if they had asked him, on the spot, where he was on that date, who would remember? And even if he remembered, that too is what criminals do, make up alibis to avoid the consequences of their crimes.
But this time, by the grace of god and a mom’s selfie, it was different.
“Most of the time, we deal with gray matters,” attorney Rick Flores said. “It’s not normally black or white. But this is one of those cases where I could definitely prove he did not commit this offense.”
You might think that Flores, selfie in hand, would have shown up at the second court appearance, if not arraignment, cleared up this mess and everybody hugged and kissed, apologized and sent Precopia home with the cops’, prosecutors’ and judge’s best wishes. Nope.
Nine months after Precopia’s arrest, Flores said he took the evidence of an alibi to Bell County prosecutors, who dropped the charge “in the interest of justice.”
Temple Police wouldn’t talk about their handling of the case. Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza said, “We are always willing to listen and examine new information, and that’s exactly what we did in this case.”
Few people would define Garza’s “always willing to listen” as taking nine months to concede that you arrested an innocent man because there was irrefutable proof of innocence. But still, Precopia was lucky, as he could just as easily been staring down 99 years but for that selfie. And those defendants who weren’t so lucky as to have their mom post a selfie wouldn’t have had much of a chance at all.