In 1994 at just the age of 16, Mark Berrios, was given a life sentence for the murder or a pedophile.
He was 14 years of age when the murder actually occurred. As a runaway child in Jacksonville, Florida, Berrios says he was living on Daytona Beach when he first encounter Olen Lee Hepler, who offered him help.
Berrios says that being a homeless child and hungry he took Hepler up on his offer, not knowing that Hepler was indeed a child sexual predator and a pedophile.
He claims that Hepler imprisoned him after a kidnapping once he got into the car with him, against his will, and refused to release him. Berrios says that Hepler not only chained him up in a basement but sexually abused him on several occasions.
Many times Hepler would beat the young child Berrios before claims the victim, before physically restraining him and raping him through sodomy and oral sex.
Berrios claims that one of those abusive situations occurred and he could see Hepler firearm hoisted onto his side, and he was able to take it during a struggle and shot and killed his abuser. He then fled with Hepler’s car and wallet.
Just a scared teenager, in shock from the abuse and what had happened he was unable to bring himself to contact authorities immediately. Later police found him with the pedophiles car, just four months after his fifteenth birthday.
After a long and drawn out trial, at age 16, Berrios was convicted and given a life sentence for the murder. For decades he has tried to appeal before he was finally granted a hearing.
During the initial trial jurors were not allowed to hear about Hepler’s pedophile behavior or sexual assault. The prosecution was able to successfully suppress the information.
Not to mention the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office now states that Hepler was already under investigation for both child pornography and sexually molesting other children.
Justice was not served in the trial, Berrios’ defense says, and they seek to exonerate the now 38 year old victim for his act of what they call self defense.
His mother, Margaret Loring of Jacksonville, stated that, “Even if he didn't hurt my son physically, he did hurt him emotionally," she testified.
For over two decades she's been fighting the courts to gain her son's freedom. Her lucky break came when the United States Supreme Court sent out a ruling on an Alabama case that made life without parole for juveniles unconstitutional.
The now infamous 2012 case, Miller vs. Alabama, was a legal turning point for Berrios and his family that would open new doors. The decision would apply retroactively to juveniles already serving life without parole, giving them an opportunity for their case to be reviewed by a judge.
After gaining traction on social media, a group of victims of pedophiles and child sexual predators came forward with one if their members recognizing Hepler as the leader of a child sex pedophile ring.
A man in Connecticut discovered Berrios' story while researching information about his own sexual abuses as a child. Eric Levy, the victim of past a uses, said in a social media video, “I immediately recognized Hepler's name from my own time in Daytona Beach 30 years earlier.”
Levy said that Hepler was 'the worst' of a ring of people he said trafficked children in Florida. Levy said he was also a victim being one of those children of the child sex ring and has pledged to help free Berrios by testifying in court.
Justice may finally be served, when the case is heard on Monday. However much suffering Berrios has endured he will not be able to get the time lost back, but he may, with faith, get his freedom again.