What officials won't tell you about their ankle monitor program

By Cathy Tatom - Investigative Producer, Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Five people dead. One seriously wounded.

In each case, the suspect was a state prison parolee ordered to wear a GPS ankle monitor as a condition of parole. And in each case, the parolee had an outstanding arrest warrant for violating that parole.

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The first suspect, Jose Gilberto Rodriguez (pictured above), is a convicted sex offender. Police said he cut off his GPS monitor on July 5. But it took three days for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to issue a warrant.

Rodriguez is accused in a terrifying July killing rampage that started just days after investigators say he removed the monitor. By the time Rodriguez was caught, three people were dead and one person was seriously wounded.

Edward Magana (L), Allie Barrow (C), Pamela Johnson (R)

  • On July 13, Pamela Johnson was found slain in her home on Bent Pine Drive.
  • On July 14, Allie Barrow was found dead in the the back of the Mattress Firm store where she worked at The Commons Shopping Center on West FM 1960.
  • On July 16, Edward Magana was found killed in the Mattress One store where he worked at Northline Commons at 1-45 North and East Crosstimbers Street.
  • On July 16, A METRO driver was shot and robbed near a gas station on the Eastex Freeway. He survived and is still recovering.

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Garry Jenkins (pictured above) is charged with murdering his own mother, 79-year old Vertie Hamilton, in her home on Audubon Forest Drive on July 9. Investigators say he also disabled his GPS ankle monitor before the crime.

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Paul Ramirez (pictured above) is accused of used a baseball bat to beat Charlene Cadwell to death 36 days after TDCJ issued an arrest warrant for him. The day of the crime, Cadwell's family says she called police multiple times saying she felt threatened by Ramirez.

These cases sparked a monthslong Channel 2 investigation focusing on dangerous parolees and the state's responsibility to protect the public when a parolee's ankle monitor is tampered with or disabled.

While TDCJ did issue arrest warrants after each suspect's ankle monitors alerted the agency to a problem, those warrants are bare-bones.

 

 
 
 

 

Unlike most states, TDCJ's parole officers cannot arrest their own wanted parolees. The agency must rely on local law enforcement agencies to make arrests. TDCJ can only issue the arrest warrants. The warrants for Rodriguez, Ramirez and Jenkins contain no indication of the offender's supervision status, or whether the wanted parolee could pose a danger to the public. Police agencies did not know from the warrant issued for Jose Rodriguez that he was on "SISP." That's TDJC's Super-Intensive Supervision Program for offenders with convictions for violent crimes such as sexual assault, murder and indecency with a child.

According to TDCJ's own policies, when a parolee's ankle monitor sends a tamper alert, a parole officer must imitate a face-to-face meeting with the offender within 24 hours. Alerts can be as simple as a dead battery or as serious as the parolee cutting off the monitor. If the parole officer can't make contact with the parolee, an arrest warrant can be issued.

KPRC2 Investigates wanted to know how long it normally takes TDCJ to make contact after an alert is received. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice told us on average it responds to ankle monitor alerts within two hours, but you'll have to take their word for it. When KPRc2 asked for TDCJ records to show the lapsed time, we were told those records were not available to the public. Pamela Thielke, director of the TDCJ Parole Division, told KPRC2: "The Attorney General's Office did show (in) their opinion and that it was not releasable again due to security reasons."

Not even the chair of the Texas Senate's Criminal Justice Committee can get a closer look at that information. State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, told KPRC2 Investigates he got the same answer we did. When asked if he thought that was a good enough answer from the agency, Whitmire said, "I'm going to tell you one more time: nothing's good enough for me until we fix a multitude of criminal justice issues."

When we asked Thielke if anyone outside TDJC monitor's the agency's efficiency in tracking down wanted parolees, she said, "I can't answer that to be honest with you. I'm not sure there's other individuals looking at this information."

We do know other agencies are looking at how they deal with parolee arrest warrants in the wake of these five killings. Sixteen local law enforcement agencies, including the sheriff's offices from Harris, Montgomery, Galveston and Waller counties, the HPD, Texas City Police Department, Galveston Police Department and Harris County Constables Precinct's 3, 6 and 8 have formed a coalition. They plan to make sweeps to arrest wanted parolees on at least a quarterly basis. Their first sweep netted 164 arrests.

PHOTOS: 86 offenders arrested in 2-week parole violator operation

The agencies also have an agreement with TDCJ to give them more information about dangerous violators when arrest warrants are issued.

"When they have one of these high profile violent offenders that cut their ankle monitor that are on the Super Intense Supervised Program, because of the nature of the violent crimes that they were imprisoned for, they immediately 24/7 365-days a year, we set up a protocol where they actually call the Real Time Crime Center which is up here in headquarters, and we immediately assign it to units to go out and find these characters," Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo explained.

In addition, Acevedo and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said they will look to state lawmakers to pass legislation in the 2019 session that will increase penalties for parolees who cut off their ankle monitors and flee their parole supervision.

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