(Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series.)
“September 5,” said Cruz, choking back tears. “That's the last time I laid eyes on my children. They made me leave my kids on their birthday. Since then, my daughter turned three, my other daughter turned one, I don't even know what she looks like."
Cruz said her children are her sole motivation in continuing the fight to clear her name. Along with filing a perjury claim with Virginia State Police, in which she alleges 16 witnesses lied on the stand, her attorneys have also filed an appeal.
"I’ve also been in contact with several organizations that deal with [wrongful convictions]. I'm not going down without a fight. I've contacted Innocence Project. I've contacted several other projects that handle in cases like these,” she said.
The Attorney General is reviewing Virginia State Police's findings into Cruz’s perjury allegations, along with evidence she submitted.
"I think that if I didn't have everything that I have, I don't think nobody would rush to step in,” said Cruz, laying out documents to help substantiate her claims. “But because of everything that I have, I think a lot of things are going to come into play. And I believe the Attorney General and them will step up and do the right thing when it comes to that. Just because you can't deny what's right in front of you," she said.
Cruz tells WHAG she wasn't given a fair trail. She states public perception started to change after media outlets reported that a search warrant, filed by the police department, suggested she may have smelled of gasoline, the accelerant used in the deadly fire.
"This community will never begin to understand my pain,” said Cruz, struggling to explain her feelings towards
Cruz noted that she was born and raised in the small, Virginia city and now feels ultimately betrayed by her peers. “Had everybody not been so quick to judge, had they waited to actually get, to hear my side of it, before everybody jumped full force in, it would have made a big difference.”
Cruz believes that the charges fell on her, because it was easiest for the investigators to accuse her instead of someone else. “They had to have somebody, and because I was there, I made a good scapegoat."
Despite her convictions, Cruz said she's hopeful about the future and has no plans to stop fighting for her life and for her children. She believes one day she'll clear her name.
"Everyday that they walk free, I promise you, one day I will prove it. And when I do, I will see them sitting in here for the rest of their life. Because with my last breath I will get justice for my son. One way or another I will get justice for my baby," said Cruz.
Part one of this story can be found here.