Bond reduction request denied for capital murder suspect

(From left to right) Edna Rivera Cantu, Alfredo Huerta and Julio Cesar Deleon

A defense attorney argued Wednesday that a capital murder suspect with an immigration hold would be eligible for release despite that hold because she’s a Dreamer.

State District Judge Israel Ramon Jr., however, denied the request because he’s already lowered 29-year-old Mission resident Edna Rivera Cantu’s bond and because she’s faced nine disciplinary actions in the Hidalgo County Detention Center since her arrest in late July last year.

She is facing a charge of capital murder along with 27-year-old Peñitas resident Julio Cesar De Leon and 21-year-old Mission resident Alfredo Huerta over allegations they organized the kidnapping of 23-year-old Fernando Garza Jr. on July 24, 2019.

Hidalgo County investigators say De Leon and Huerta took Garza to an orchard and shot him in the face.

The trio has pleaded not guilty to the charges and all were initially held without bond.

Since then, however, Rivera received $580,000 in bonds on the capital murder charge, as well as on three drug charges, which have since been reduced to a total of $92,000.

Her attorney, Jaime Aleman, asked Ramon, the judge, to reduce her capital murder bond to $70,000, her bonds on possession of controlled substances counts to $2,000 apiece, and to grant a personal recognizance bond on the possession of marijuana charge.

During arguments Wednesday, Aleman told Ramon that prosecutor Angel Davila would bring up Rivera’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold because Rivera is not a U.S. citizen.

Aleman argued she would be eligible for release as a DACA recipient under the Obama administration program, which granted temporary relief for people brought to the country illegally as young children.

The defense attorney also said Rivera owns property in Hidalgo County, which was one of the last places Garza was known to be alive, according to authorities; and that she has children, all of which tie her to the county.

Davila, the prosecutor, disputed the assertion that the ICE hold wouldn’t apply because of Rivera’s DACA status, telling the judge that if she were in ICE custody she could be given the option to self-deport.

However, if that happened, Davila said the state would immediately try to get her back into its custody if ICE took custody of her.

Not only that, Davila said Rivera has had nine infractions in county jail since her arrest, including multiple write-ups for trying to contact male inmates, for intoxicants, including hoarding pills and possessing alcohol, and for starting a fight with a pregnant inmate. She has also been caught with a sharpened object, Davila said.

In a hand-written letter to Ramon filed with the court on Sept. 1, Rivera says she doesn’t belong in jail because she didn’t commit the crimes she’s charged with.

Investigators, however, allege in a probable cause affidavit she helped bind Garza’s wrists and “knew what was going to happen.”

“I’m alone in this place. My mom died Nov. 6 2014 and my dad is lost in Mexico. I don’t have brothers or sisters. I don’t have nobody that can take care of my kids. I’m about to lose my kids with CPS,” she wrote. “I’m heart broken because my kids need me home. I’m asking you to show me some mercy.”

She also said she’s doing everything she can to remove her ICE hold so she can stay in the country legally.

Ramon denied the bond reduction request, saying that he is disturbed by the numerous jail violations.

Huerta remains jailed on a $750,000 bond on a charge of capital murder. He has an out-of-state warrant.

De Leon remains jailed on $102,000 in bonds for the charge of capital murder, and for three drug charges.