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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Conditional leave scrutinized after released convict kills ex-partner

Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Ana Escobar Pabón

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said Tuesday that an investigation must be conducted into what happened in the case of 52-year-old convicted murderer Hermes Ávila Vázquez, who was freed into the community due to provisions for conditional leave under Law 25, and killed his ex-partner, Ivette Joan Meléndez Vega, 56, last Sunday in Manatí.

“Well, that case is very particular. The matter has to be investigated to the fullest,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “There was definitely something wrong with the system. That much is clear. From what I see in the reports themselves, apparently this person even deceived the very doctors who were evaluating him. So certainly that person has to be immediately readmitted to the correctional system of Puerto Rico, because he came out under the diagnosis that he was paraplegic, that he could not move, that he was totally paralyzed, when we see that he had no such limitation. So there has been a great deception here, not to say a great fraud. The authorities have to take action on this matter and remove this person from the free community immediately.”

The governor left the investigation of what happened in the hands of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Ana Escobar Pabón.

“She manages the correctional system very well; she has a clear command of all the details of it,” Pierluisi said. “I am sure that she is going to take action on the matter … and if precautionary measures have to be taken to prevent it from happening again, she will take them. I recognize that this is a particular area of expertise. We are talking about a particular law. From the information that reaches me, it is not a large number of cases that are covered by this law, but the secretary who has the details, let her speak precisely. What I’m going to do is, of course, supervise her, be aware … that she’s doing what she has to do, because there was certainly a failure here. There’s no doubt about that. And what we have to see is why, so that it doesn’t happen again.”

Ávila Vázquez, who was serving a sentence for first-degree murder in 2005, received an extended pass in April 2023 on the grounds that his health conditions did not allow him to function as a normal person. When he was arrested by authorities, he was observed walking without difficulty.

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