VISALIA, CA (KMJ) — A California parole board recommended the release of convicted murderer 48-year-old Gerardo Zavala.
Prosecutors strongly oppose the release of Zavala.
This is the second time the board has recommended his release but former Gov. Jerry Brown overturned it in 2018 after prosecutors appealed the decision.
Zavala was arrested and convicted for taking part in the kidnap, torture, and murder of 17-year-old Eric Jones in 2001.
They went into the garage where others were waiting and the group jumped Jones.
Investigators say the group called Jones, who is black, racial epithets and accused him of wanting to steal their property.
One of the men threatened Jones with an AK-47 while the others beat him with a pipe, electrocuted him with live wires, repeatedly inserted a squeegee handle into his rectum.
After torturing him for hours, they duct-taped Jones and put him in a car trunk and drove him to a remote area outside Allensworth, and shot him 10 times at point-blank range, killing him.
Zavala was arrested a few days later and confessed to taking part in the torture and murder.
Assistant District Attorney David Alavezos prosecuted 5 of the men involved and argued against Zavala’s release at the hearing.
Alavezos described the crime scene as “the worst I have ever seen.”
A jury convicted Zavala in 2006 of second-degree murder, torture, and kidnapping. He was sentenced to 18 years-to-life in prison.
Co-defendants Jorge Vidal, Keith Seriales, and Daniel Portugal were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Another co-defendant, Tyrone Ebaniz, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon.
Brothers Juan and Gerardo Soto, also involved in the crime, are believed to have fled to Mexico.
“In 2020 we have witnessed the tidal wave of commentary and protests that purport police officers are what is wrong with our justice system in America. Instead, decisions like this should remind us that the complete dismissal of the gravity of crime and the impact it has on victims, their families, and our communities is the glaring problem with our justice system,” said Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward. “Unless Governor Newsom overturns the parole board’s recommendation, another murderer will be released. How the board failed to take a stand for Eric, an innocent 17-year-old young man who was brutally tortured, sodomized, and executed, is beyond comprehension. We will again be appealing to the Governor to overturn this decision.”
The Tulare County District Attorney’s Office says residents can contact Governor Newsom to request he overturn the release by calling (916) 445-2841 or through his website at https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail.
Click to listen to the report by KMJ’s Liz Kern