February 05, 2018 06:02 AM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Ankle monitors are supposed to keep New Mexicans safe by allowing the courts and corrections to keep tabs on suspects, but the Second Judicial District Court’s Pretrial Services Division’s GPS monitor inventory reveals one in every five monitors go missing.
That allows many pretrial clients to skip court and remain missing for weeks.
Two agencies use GPS ankle monitors in Bernalillo County – the Second Judicial District Court’s Pretrial Services Division and Metropolitan Detention Center’s Community Custody Program, or CCP.
4 Investigates found that in 2017, out of 799 GPS trackers that were assigned to either pretrial or CCP defendants, 165 of the devices were lost or stolen. 154 of those lost devices belonged to pretrial services.
In August 2016, 42-year-old Stephanie Pacheco, a pretrial defendant, was allegedly in a stolen car behind a Home Depot when Albuquerque police officers arrested her. A judge ordered her to wear an ankle monitor until her next court date.
However, according to a six-month GPS monitor inventory 4 Investigates reviewed, she removed her GPS monitor and absconded.
Pacheco isn’t alone. Accused burglar and pretrial defendant Marcia Montoya, 41, cut off her ankle monitor and threw it into a dumpster last October. She was on the run from law enforcement for two months.
Pretrial defendant Michael Prudhomme, facing a child abuse charge, allegedly allowed his GPS unit battery to die in October as well. Currently, he is still on the run from police.
Further, pretrial defendant Daniel Kessler, charged with attempted murder, was on the run for three weeks after he removed his tracking unit.
Since June 2017, hundreds of GPS monitors in the pretrial services inventory have been allowed to die or were lost or stolen. One was even tossed onto the roof of a Walmart.
One CCP escapee was Seferino Gonzales. After he was arrested for car theft, forgery and passing bad checks, he was given a tracking device to wear. He allegedly cut it off.
South Valley resident Nina Chavez spotted Gonzales allegedly trying to break into a home in her South Valley neighborhood, where police promptly arrested him once again. What Chavez didn’t know until 4 Investigates informed her was that Gonzales was supposed to be wearing a tracking device.
“Someone is supposed to be checking on him, and if you see this pattern, why is it not triggering in someone’s mind that – hold on – this is not working for this individual.”
4 Investigates asked CCP Captain George Doyle about Gonzales, who he said escaped five days after he was put into CCP custody in June of 2017. He was on the run until officers arrested him just last month. Out of the approximately 100 people in CCP custody, six are on the run, according to MDC spokesperson Candace Hopkins.
“I would say that some of the unfortunate things are that the (criminal justice) system doesn’t always work as quickly as we think it should work,” Doyle said.
However, after 5 p.m. on weekdays, CCP is charged with taking on an additional 80 pretrial clients who are still waiting for their court date. According to the pretrial GPS inventory, pretrial service GPS monitors have been located in dumpsters and gated communities.
“It’s a little bit frustrating,” Doyle said. “It’s more or less what we come to expect. Even with our clients – they’re not like the majority of people in society.”
He added that his officers have rapport with the CCP clients, and even familiarize themselves with family members and work schedules so they’re easier to track – unlike the pretrial clients who they only know by name.
“We know them by name and possibly by address, and maybe have a number to get ahold of them,” Doyle said.
4 Investigates asked pretrial services for an on-camera interview, but we were turned down.
In an email, spokesperson Sidney Hill told us that when a GPS monitor is cut, a judge issues a bench warrant for their arrest.
Outside of that, there are no other consequences.