BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says 48-year-old Gerardo Zavala, whose parole from prison was criticized by the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office, was released into ICE custody Thursday.
Zavala is one of several men convicted for the death of Eric Jones, who was 17 years old when he was kidnapped and tortured in Delano before being driven to Tulare County and shot 10 times. Two men, Gerardo and Juan Soto of Delano, are still wanted after they apparently escaped to Mexico after Jones’ death. Zavala was sentenced for second-degree murder and other charges in 2006, while co-defendants Jorge Vidal, Keith Seriales, and Daniel Portugal were sentenced to life in prison. Tyrone Ebaniz, whose confession led to the other arrests in the case, was sentenced 15 years for kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon.
Zavala was recommended for parole last month and Governor Gavin Newsom took no action on the decision, allowing his release.
The Tulare County District Attorney’s Office had criticized the decision in a release, but acknowledged that Immigration Enforcement had a hold on Zavala so that he could be detained once his sentence was served. However the Tulare DA also noted it did not know how the case would be affected by the executive order issued from President Joe Biden, which paused certain deportations for 100 days so cases could be reviewed.
An ICE spokesman told 17 News Wednesday that the agency was still reviewing guidance on the order before commenting on Zavala’s case, however local immigration attorney Win Eaton said there was nothing in the executive order that would stop ICE from being able to detain people, especially those with serious crimes. And while the order may stop people from being deported “right away,” says Eaton, it doesn’t stop the immigration court’s regular due process.
Jones’ family members say even if Zavala is deported, they do not believe he should have been released due to the suffering the teen endured before his death.