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While the 'Central Park Five' were in prison, the real rapist continued to attack women.

In 1989, Matias Reyes was working in a deli in Manhattan packing shelves.

The muscular 18-year-old was a loner, and his only real acquaintances were his customers.

He had a low IQ and dropped out of school in ninth grade.

His reports noted that he was “emotionally disturbed”.

Despite moving from Puerto Rico to New York City to be with his mother as a child, as an adult he slept in his van around the corner from work.

Watch the trailer for When They See Us based on the story of the Central Park five below, post continues after video.

Video by Netflix

In late 1988, he committed his first attempted rape.

Armed with a knife, he attacked a 27-year-old woman in the pews of a street church, choking her.

She persuaded him not to rape her.

In the April of 1989, he attacked, beat, and raped a 26-year-old woman in Central Park, before being disturbed by a passerby.

The victim noticed he had stitches in his chin, and a detective tracked down a medical centre and Reyes’ name, but that evidence was never followed up and went cold.

That name and that strikingly similar attack was never linked to the attempted rape, sodomy and brutal bashing of Trisha Meili, aka the Central Park jogger, two days prior.

Meili’s case went on to become “one of the most shameful miscarriages of justice in New York State’s history”.

The day after Meili was attacked, five black and Latino boys were arrested over the 29-year-old’s rape.

Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise became known as the Central Park Five, and were all convicted of the crime despite there being no physical evidence tying the boys to the scene, and despite the prosecution coercing confessions from the young men.

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At the time, they were aged between 14 and 16 and each spent between six and 14 years in jail.

central park five 2019
The Central Park Five in 2019. Image: Getty.

The teenagers were completely innocent, but they served their time.

As the boys were behind bars, Reyes went on to assault five more women but his crimes escalated as he broke into apartments to find victims.

Two months after the Central Park jogger attack, Reyes committed murder.

He broke into the home of Lourdes Gonzales, a pregnant mother of three, and stabbed her nine times in the chest and abdomen and once in the face with a kitchen knife.

He raped her and left her for dead, but alive she frantically called 911.

She died that night in the emergency department.

Reyes' final victim was his downfall. In August 1989, he followed a 27-year-old woman into her apartment and raped her. She escaped and ran for help and her doorman and neighbour apprehended her attacker who was shortly after arrested by police.

He became known as the East Side slasher and confessed to his crimes under interrogation, all but one that is.

He was sentenced to 33 years in prison in 1991, a year after the five young teenagers were sentenced for his 1989 Central Park attack.

The psychologist hired by the defence told court: "He was like a wounded child, a defective human being. Not psychotic, but someone whose impulse control was poor. He's manipulative. I wouldn't put money on anything he says".

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matias-reyes actor
Matias Reyes is played by Reece Noi in the Netflix series When They See Us. Image: Netflix.

Reyes met one of the boys doing his time while they were imprisoned together on Ricker's Island, a jail reserved for the state's worst criminals.

They got into a fight over the TV.

In 2001, Reyes and Wise met again in Auburn prison, where their chat was much more civilised.

Reyes found himself feeling guilty - knowing the man in front of him was innocent.

In 2002, he confessed to the rape and attempted murder of Trisha Meili telling police,"I know it’s hard for people to understand, after 12 years why a person would actually come forward to take responsibility for a crime.

"At first, I was afraid, but at the end of the day I felt it was definitely the right thing to do."

The Central Park Five's convictions were overturned and they won a US $41 million (AU $59 million) settlement from New York City for malicious prosecution, racial discrimination and emotional distress in 2014.

Instead of admitting to his crimes earlier and sparing the boys years of pain, Reyes only grew a conscience at the end of their sentences.

He remains in prison.

Read More:

Netflix's When They See Us: The sickening true story of what happened to the Central Park Five.

Trisha Meili is the 'Central Park jogger'. She wants her story to be one of hope.

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