ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- In December of 1981, a Catholic priest named Father Patrick Ryan was found beaten to death in a hotel in Odessa. Investigators eventually identified a suspect as James Harry Reyos, who was subsequently convicted of murder.
However, that conviction was called into question in 2021, when people in the community told Police Chief Mike Gerke that they doubted Reyos’ guilt. The questions led Chief Gerke to call for a review of the case by OPD’s Special Operations Bureau. Now, OPD said that review raised “serious questions”.
According to the Department, Reyos’ conviction was based almost solely on a confession that he provided in New Mexico while he was intoxicated. He later recanted the confession.
More than 40 years ago, investigators did not find any other evidence that substantiated the confession. In fact, the new review of the case revealed evidence that might show that Reyos could not have been present at the crime scene.
Fingerprint cards within the original case file revealed latent fingerprints at the crime scene that did not belong to Reyos. This, coupled with Reyos’ known whereabouts during the murder led the investigators to believe that another party (or parties) committed this murder.
Based on the facts found during this review, OPD presented its findings to the Ector County District Attorney’s Office. The ECDA then completed its own investigation and, according to OPD, both agencies agree that there is compelling doubt to Reyos’ guilt.
The murder of Father Ryan has now been reopened as a cold case investigation and has been assigned to the Cold Case Detective.