During a fight with his girlfriend in December 2009, Richard Noguera allegedly boasted that he had killed a father and his baby a statement that detectives later used to slap him with murder charges.
It was all a lie, according to Noguera's attorney, one designed to scare the woman.
"He basically made a stupid statement about what a bad guy he was and he killed these people," said defense attorney Danny Brace. "He was just being stupid, I guess, saying stupid things that were not true."
On Monday, prosecutors dismissed the charges against the 34-year-old Noguera in the 2007 fatal shooting of Sean Aquitania, 21, and his infant son during a botched robbery. Authorities cited "insufficient evidence" to support the charges.
Noguera was scheduled to be released from the Sacramento County Main Jail on Monday night.
Still in custody are two other suspects accused in the crimes, David Ortez-Lucero, 27, and Christopher Nicholas Strong, 28. Noguera lived with the two men at the time of the shootings.
"We're aware of alleged incriminating statements made by Noguera to another person after the crime but for various legal and factual reasons, that evidence is insufficient to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt," said Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi.
He declined to comment further.
Deputy Jason Ramos, spokesman for the Sheriff's Department, said authorities there agreed with the district attorney's decision.
He emphasized that detectives decided to arrest Noguera in October based on evidence they had at the time that they felt pointed to his involvement in the killings.
However, he said, "the job of the homicide detectives doesn't stop when the arrests are made. The investigation continues."
New information led detectives to change their minds about Noguera's involvement, Ramos said.
He added that detectives do not believe there are any suspects outstanding in the case.
Brace said detectives have cellphone records showing Noguera was at home at the time of the slayings.
No agreement was made before the charges were dropped, but Brace said his client could be called to testify against Ortez-Lucero and Strong.
He said Noguera did not immediately want to talk to reporters, but that he was relieved to be going home to his family.
"He's just glad (prosecutors and detectives) did their job and did the right thing," Brace said.
As for Ortez-Lucero and Strong, detectives allege the two men went to a known drug house on Country Greens Court on Sept. 14, 2007, to commit a robbery.
At the same time, Sean Aquitania and his 7-month-old son Sean Jr. were headed to the same home to visit friends. They stumbled upon the robbery, and the baby likely was shot when one of the suspects pistol-whipped his father, causing the gun to fire.
The elder Aquitania was shot to death inside the home, possibly after he realized the baby had been shot and charged inside to confront the suspects.
Detectives believe Strong was accidentally hit during the fight, suffering a gunshot wound that was treated by Strong's acquaintances with alcohol, gauze and masking tape.
Four years passed before detectives compiled a case to support the arrests of Ortez-Lucero and Noguera in October. They arrested Strong in January.
All three were charged with two counts of murder and one count each of burglary and attempted robbery. Along with the charges came special-circumstance allegations of multiple murders, murder during the course of a robbery and murder during the course of a burglary, making the suspects eligible for the death penalty.
Despite community outrage over the killings, prosecutors decided earlier this month not to pursue capital punishment. As a result, the remaining defendants face sentences of life in prison with no chance of parole if convicted.