Kirstin Lobato will be happier than most to leave 2017 behind. Twice convicted of the brutal murder of a homeless man in Las Vegas, the 35-year-old is expected to start a new chapter when she becomes a free woman for the first time since 2001. A judge granted a request from a district attorney Friday that she be cleared of all charges and released "with prejudice," meaning Nevada can never again prosecute Lobato for Duran Bailey's murder, reports the Intercept. The move followed a judge's order vacating Lobato's murder conviction on Dec. 19, based on hours of testimony from pathology and entomology experts. They said Bailey, 44, was killed—his carotid artery was slashed and penis cut off—around 9pm on July 8, 2001, while 18-year-old Lobato was hours away from Sin City, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Prosecutors had claimed Lobato killed the homeless man in the morning—based on a rumor that she cut the penis of a man who tried to rape her weeks earlier—but that conflicted with an absence of blowflies, which collect on dead bodies. "Although we fully believe in her guilt … our resources are such that we are electing not to proceed with the third trial of this defendant, particularly considering the more than 15 years she has served in prison," Chief Deputy District Attorney Sandra DiGiacomo said Friday. It's not yet clear when Lobato, who had no connection to Bailey, will walk free. Though the judge said she should be released "forthwith," Lobato was convicted of voluntary sexual conduct in prison in 2007, which added a year to her sentence. Her Innocence Project attorneys say they will push for her immediate release regardless. (Read more wrongful conviction stories.)