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SJ County named in lawsuit filed over death of woman

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POSTED August 19, 2013 1:32 a.m.

STOCKTON  (AP) — The son and daughter of a woman allegedly raped and murdered by her grandson are suing the state and San Joaquin County for releasing him from the county jail after he violated parole.

The killing in February attracted attention from critics of AB109, the law that has sent some low-level offenders from state prisons to county jails, forcing the releases of parole violators and petty criminals to reduce crowding.

The lawsuit filed this month claims parole agents supervising Jerome Sidney DeAvila knew he was a danger to 76-year-old Racheal Renee Russell. He had made threats against her and had a history of drug use and violence.

Russell’s nude body was discovered in a wheelbarrow behind her Stockton home. DeAvila, 40, was later found under the influence of drugs and wearing his grandmother’s jewelry.

DeAvila’s mother, Sandra Reece, and uncle Steven Russell Sr., filed the civil complaint Aug. 8 in San Joaquin Superior Court. The lawsuit alleges that officials did not affix DeAvila with a GPS tracking device or warn the grandmother of his release. “DeAvila has a lengthy criminal history, including sex crimes, drug use and violence,” the lawsuit says.

DeAvila had been in and out of jail for parole violations. He is a sex offender and his grandmother’s house was off limits because it is close to an elementary school.

Days before Russell was killed, DeAvila was arrested for violating parole, the lawsuit says. He was found in possession of methamphetamine and had removed his GPS tracking device.

The court ordered DeAvila released early on his own recognizance.

The lawsuit said that, in the past, officials would notify Russell of her grandson’s release so she could stay at her son’s house.

“They didn’t warn her this time,” family attorney Kenneth Meleyco told the newspaper.

County staff attorney Kristin Heggem told the newspaper she had not seen the lawsuit and therefore could not comment.

DeAvila is charged with murder, rape and robbery, and the courts are determining his competency to stand trial.

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