WOODLAND (CBS13) — The pandemic is now leading to dangerous convicted criminals getting out of prison.
“It’s not fair. It’s not just. Where’s my justice? My life matters too,” said Theresa Esparza.
Esparza fears for her life after her ex-husband, 65-year-old Santiago Cruz, was released from prison.
“I mean, he threatened people’s lives. He terrorized us. My kids were afraid of him. They’re still afraid of him. They’re afraid for me,” said Esparza. “Now I have to watch my back. Now I have to live in prison because now he’s not.”
Cruz was convicted for armed robbery, throwing a molotov cocktail in Esparza’s home while she was sleeping, and at one point, threatening to rape and kill her boyfriend’s daughter while he watched. He was serving a 125-year-to-life sentence.
Despite his life sentence, Cruz is now free in an effort to keep the prison population down to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“Dangerous violent criminals are being released and there’s nothing you can do about it,” said Melinda Aiello, Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney in Yolo County.
Aiello says the lack of transparency on who’s getting released and when is not acceptable. Aiello says neither the Governor’s Office nor the Department of Corrections has a clear answer. Aiello says her office is getting little to no notice on who’s being released, ultimately leaving victims like Esparza with no time to prepare.
“Criminals’ rights are trouncing all over victims and that just has to stop or we have to do it a better way or at least, again, allow victim’s voices to be heard,” said Aiello.
“I’m in fear for my life, my kids are in fear for my life. It’s not fair, why do I have to live in prison now? Why do I have to live like this?” said Esparza.
Neither the governor’s office nor the Department of Corrections returned calls to CBS13 regarding Cruz’s release. Aiello points out isn’t a temporary release. Cruz is officially out of prison on parole. He’ll only go back to prison if he violates his parole and not under the life sentence he was serving.