Jail makes changes after woman is bludgeoned

Moctezuma, Humberto Sandoval

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.

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Reporter Brian Hazle is a Shasta County freelance journalist.
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6 Responses

  1. Avatar Melissa says:

    In Tehama County, domestic violence resources are available at:

    Alternatives to Violence

    717 Pine Street | Red Bluff, CA 96080 | (530) 528-0226 | 1-800-324-6473

    Monday-Friday 9:00am-4:00pm | 24-hr hotline

    800 West Street | Corning, CA 96021 | (530) 824-7674 | Se Habla Espanol

  2. Avatar Karen C says:

    (quote) 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.

    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.(quote)

    It sounds like these deputies have no training and should be the ones in jail. What a dangerous thing to do, releasing such a menace back to the populace to commit more crime. Yes, you do owe us an explanation. Shame on you!

  3. Avatar Angela Fitzgerald says:

    The Shasta County DA – Crime Victims Assistance Center in Redding and Victim Witness in Tehama County both have jail notification systems in place. The Domestic Violence Coordinating Council (DVCC) strives to ensure system deficiencies are overcome immediately.

    Historically, it takes a coordinated effort of inter-agency communication to ensure victims' and their children's safety. Police officers need to state specifics on the booking forms to identify potential lethality, so that jail staff are properly notified. Jail staff must look at the initial arrest and perpetrators history to determine victims safety. Victims should be contacted within 24 hours of perpatrators booking, given safety planning, jail notification and possible relocation, prior to release. There is a whole system in place, which works well when agencies communicate.

    Shasta County is making stringent efforts to create a family justice center, where a representative from all of the agencies involved in family safety will be housed under one roof. This co-location model will allow better agency communication, while providing a safe environment for families to obtain the resources they need.

    Because of incidents like the one reported, it is time to stop running agencies in a silo-like fashion. Victims of crime and their children who witness trauma deserve better service, safety and community support.

    For more information about jail notification, victim safety planning, stalking resources, relocation eligibility and crime victims' rights, please contact Crime Victims Assistance Center at 530-225-5220. Also, Shasta Women's Refuge may be reached at 244-0117.

  4. Avatar Adrienne jacoby says:

    To all the above . . . . YA THINK????

  5. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.

  6. Avatar pmarshall says:

    What were they thinking????