Tehama County changed its inmate-release policies this week after an inmate who was mistakenly released without posting bail bludgeoned his ex-girlfriend, breaking bones and fracturing her skull, sheriff’s officials said.
The attack took place just days after Humberto Sandoval Moctezuma, 40, had been jailed on suspicion of harassing the woman, the Sheriff’s department said.
Moctezuma is back in the Tehama County Jail on suspicion of attempted murder, authorities said Thursday.
The attack occurred Sunday at a home on Valley Vista Drive in Corning –six days after Tehama County Sheriff’s Deputies discovered Moctezuma hiding in a closet at the same home, where his ex-girlfriend lives.
He was arrested, but jailers mistakenly freed him a few hours later, requiring only that he sign a written promise to appear in court.
The victim, 29-year-old Susan Cortez, suffered life-threatening injuries, including a fractured skull and multiple broken bones. Deputies found her lying in a pool of blood after her children reported the attack. She was in fair condition Thursday, the sheriff’s department said.
Sheriff Clay Parker, who learned of the incident from a journalist on Wednesday, has made some policy changes, jail Sgt. Steve Becker said.
“The policy has been changed so that this type of thing won’t happen again,” he said. “It’s one of those unfortunate things. Accidents happen.”
Becker did not answer questions about exactly which policies were modified, added or eliminated, or to what extent the deputies had been retrained, but referred them to Sheriff Parker. Parker did not respond to repeated attempts for comment Thursday.
The sheriff’s staff e-mailed a 177-word narrative around 4:30 p.m. Thursday saying that Parker, who is running for re-election this year, had left the office for the day.
On March 8, sheriff’s deputies found Moctezuma hiding in Cortez’s closet, Becker said.
A few hours later he was released without posting bail, but did sign a written promise to appear in court for arraignment at a later date, a department spokesperson said in a prepared statement describing the assault and subsequent arrest.
Moctezuma then returned to the home on Valley Vista Drive in Corning and repeatedly beat Cortez with a wooden club as her children watched, the sheriff’s department said Thursday. Deputies found her in a pool of blood on the driveway.
Sheriff’s department officials reached by telephone Thursday would not comment about what, if any, training deputies receive regarding domestic violence and strategies and tactics that may help protect victims. The department also refused to say whether Moctezuma has a history of violence or whether he had ever been arrested prior to March 8.
“It’s our policy not to release that type of information,” said Tymber Taylor, a sheriff’s service officer in the department’s records division.
Details of the beating and the bungled release of Moctezuma spread like wildfire among groups that serve battered women and those who work to prevent abuse.
“I think in general the law enforcement community wants to do things right and wants to protect the victims, but mistakes do get made,” said Linda Dickerson, associate director of the Shasta Women’s Refuge in Redding.
It’s known among victims’ advocates that violent acts are much more common in the weeks and months after domestic abusers are challenged by their victims, Dickerson said. Triggers include calls to police, filing for restraining orders or other actions that jeopardize the perpetrator’s power, she said.
Many counties, including Shasta and Tehama, have notification programs that contact victims when their abusers are released from jail — when the likelihood of violent retribution rises dramatically, Dickerson said.
“We encourage women to call our hotline so that we can help them decide how to ensure their safety,” she said. “They can remain anonymous and ask questions. Our primary concern is to help them find ways to prevent the violence by removing the opportunity for violence.”
The Shasta Women’s Refuge and its shelter for abused women is located at 2280 Benton Street in downtown Redding. The 24-hour hotline is (530) 244-0117.