EL PASO, Texas -

Daniel Villegas' days are long and monotonous. They've been that way for almost half of his life.

But it's the nights that are worse.

That's when the nightmares of a spring 1993 night come back to him.

"I'm looking in the back of the police car, and I'm thinking, 'this has got to be a joke, this ain't serious,'" Villegas said during an interview at the Abilene jail he is imprisoned at.

It was serious. Villegas, then 16 years old, was charged with murder in the shooting-deaths of two teenagers, Robert England and Armando Lazo, in Northeast El Paso.

A murder weapon was never found and there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime. His conviction hung on a confession he says was coerced by detectives when he was 16 years old.

Villegas claims he wasn?t even at the scene. The admitted delinquent said he didn?t know the victims either. John Mimbela, an El Paso contractor, believes him.

?The biggest tragedy is that there's an innocent person in prison, and there's a guilty person out there,? Mimbela said.

The El Paso businessman said he heard about Villegas? case through mutual relatives.

In the past two years, he's $80,000 of his own money to find proof that Villegas did not commit double murder, but made the worst mistake of his life when joking with his cousin that he did commit the crime.

?It was just a stupid joke, being juveniles and all, we didn't think nothing of it,? Villegas said.

Word of Villegas? boast reached police fast and that?s when the real nightmare began, he said.

He was arrested and claims he was threatened and slapped by police detectives.

Villegas said the detectives told him, ?They were going to take me to the desert and beat me up, handcuff me to the car, then whip me again, then let me walk home, and then when I hit the highway, they were going to pick me up again, and they were going to whip me again. And they were telling me they were going to give me the electric chair, and I believed them, too."

Villegas said the ordeal lasted seven hours.

?The big factor was fear,? He said. ?Fear and I was drained. I was drained emotionally and everything else. I mean, these guys put me through hell. I would have done anything just to get away from them.?

Get away. That?s also what Jesse Hernandez said he wanted to do, as well. Hernandez said he was a good friend of the victims and a witness to the murders.

He said the detective questioned him, as well - and let him go only after his mother stepped in.

?He kept on saying it and saying it and I started thinking 'did I? I don't remember if I blanked out. Maybe I did and I don't remember? because he kept on pushing and pushing,? Hernandez said.

Villegas also started doubting himself.

?I said ?maybe we just blacked out man, because I can't see why these guys would write these statements against me,?? he said.

Hernandez was cleared, but he still has nightmares over the incident.

?Until this day, I have such anger toward (the detective) because he left me with some nightmares and I'm a grown man,? Hernandez said.

The nightmares continue for Villegas, as well.

?I always have nightmares of him chasing me down, trying to kill me, and I've been having those nightmares for years,? Villegas said.