Suspect held in Eureka shooting death was in jail last month, let go with no bail

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 ~ Updated 10:06 PM
Victor Acuna-Sanchez, 18, is being held and is a suspect in the shooting death of Laura Acevez, 21, of Eureka Springs, police said.

EUREKA SPRINGS -- A Berryville teen-ager arrested in connection with the New Year's Eve shooting death of 21-year-old Laura Acevez in Eureka Springs had been in police custody as recently as Dec. 10, newly released court records show.

Victor Acuna-Sanchez, 18, was freed from the Carroll County Detention Center that day, after District Judge Scott Jackson decided he should not have to post bail. He had been arrested the prior day and charged with violating a judge's order to have no contact with Acevez.

At the time, there were actually two court orders barring Acuna-Sanchez from seeing his estranged girlfriend.

The first stemmed from a Sept. 1 charge of third-degree domestic battery, after Acuna-Sanchez allegedly beat Acevez and took a hammer to their car because she refused to give him the keys. Acevez told police he had also ripped the stuffing from their infant son's car seat. His license was suspended at the time.

He was arrested on Sept. 1 and released on Sept. 4, after posting his $595 bail. Two days later, on Sept. 6, Acuna-Sanchez allegedly attacked Acevez again, strangling her on the floor of her apartment while their 2-week-old son gazed on, police said.

This time, he was not arrested for nearly a month, and then on a routine traffic stop. He was charged with aggravated assault against a family member, theft and interference with emergency communication, along with various unrelated misdemeanor charges.

Acuna-Sanchez was released about six weeks later on Nov. 15, after posting his $18,000 bond, and three weeks after that, Acevez was found in a pool of blood in her Eureka Springs apartment.

For a second time, their baby, now 5 months old, gazed on.

Investigators are awaiting the results of ballistics tests before deciding whether to file murder charges against Acuna-Sanchez, said Carroll County Sheriff Bob Grudek.

When Judge David Clinger released Acuna-Sanchez on Nov. 15, he did so on two conditions: He was to promise, again, to have no contact with Acevez or their infant son; and he was to call in to the local Probation and Parole Office twice weekly. If he violated those conditions, prosecutors could ask the judge to revoke his release and hurl him back into jail.

In the weeks leading up to Acevez's death, Acuna-Sanchez violated both conditions yet remained free.

In a letter sent to prosecutors on Jan. 2, Kent Villines, assistant area manager for the Arkansas Department of Community Correction, said Acuna-Sanchez had never called in to the Probation and Parole Office as required.

"I checked with all personnel at the Berryville Probation/Parole Office (sic.)," he wrote, "and no one knew anything about this situation. Therefore, Victor Acuna has not been checking in with this office at any time."

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Devon Closser said she did not know why no one, apparently, noticed that Acuna-Sanchez had not followed the judge's orders, though she added that the call-in requirement was rather "unusual."

It is not clear whether the Berryville Probation and Parole Office ever received the judge's order. Someone at the office repeatedly hung up on a CCN reporter who called Monday.

Reached at his home later that day, DCC manager Villines referred questions to the Department of Community Correction's headquarters in Little Rock. As of press time late Monday, CCN had received no response to its phone messages.

As for violating the no-contact order, Closser said prosecutors had not asked that Acuna-Sanchez's release be revoked after the Dec. 9 arrest because they were not aware of it. Jackson declined to comment when asked by CCN about his decision to release Acuna-Sanchez without requiring bail.

When asked whose responsibility it was to notify prosecutors when a no-contact order was violated, Closser responded she was "not sure that there is a procedure that is in place," but that the arresting agency or the jail sometimes do so.

Sheriff Grudek said Monday that notifying prosecutors would have been the responsibility of the Berryville Police Department, who made the Dec. 9 arrest.

Berryville Police Chief Dave Muniz said it was not his officers' job to notify prosecutors of such violations.

"My guys did the appropriate thing," he said. "... If he was released again, that was the judge's decision."

Closser said the system "could use some fine-tuning."

"It's hard for us to do anything about it if we aren't aware of what's happened," she said, "and it's hard for us to be aware what's happened if no one is required to notify us."

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  • The justice system certainly failed this young girl. NO bond when he obviously had a record of violating court orders. Good job Scott Jackson!!!

    -- Posted by gftiger on Tue, Jan 8, 2013, at 1:01 PM
  • im sorry that this happened to this young lady .and the fact that the public really wants to point fingers at everyone ,but the person that is the one that did this act blows my mind.this young man had a violent history.he will have to pay for the sins he has god and to the highest level of the justice system.but im sorry this is not the fault of judge jackson,or the sheriffs is the fact the this young man has issues that need some serious help.he is very twisted and needs to go to prison.i am sure that the judge had a reason for his release.just as im sure that all the other legal offices did.the fact of the matter is this young man killed ,and stole this young lady's future.that is the crime.pray for her son ,and her family.and stop blaming the people that are not to blame.

    -- Posted by kimberly b. on Tue, Jan 8, 2013, at 9:11 PM
  • i am not trying to say that the system did not fail this beautiful young did.i am saying that no one person in the lagal sysytem is to a whole yes.but pointing fingers at one judge is not the way to handle is a tragic senseless crime that was committed.and my heart breaks for her son,and her family.yes i agree that the whole system did's to be fixed.but,where that should begin i dont know.

    -- Posted by kimberly b. on Wed, Jan 9, 2013, at 8:27 AM
  • No Judge Jackson was not the only person to blame for this however he was the last judge that this man stood before. Yes this man was obviously crazy, that is even more reason why after several times of breaking his agreement, harsher punishment should have been used. Judge Jackson should have seen that even a 15,000 bail and countless trips to the jail were not enough to keep him from making violent decisions. We as a community need to step up and let our community officials and law enforcement agencies know that we are not going to stand for this. I wonder what would have happened had this been a prominent individual of our community that was being threatened? Would their attacker have been released from jail with no bond? How would Scott Jackson feel if he was the one that was in danger? Would more precautions been taken then? In many instances women are afraid to stand up to their attacker, to get protection orders against them, and this is exactly why. No one protects them. This is a tragedy and I sincerely hope that there are procedures that are developed within our county to keep this from ever happening to anyone again.

    -- Posted by gftiger on Wed, Jan 9, 2013, at 12:50 PM
  • In response to gftiger I think you hit the nail on the head. had it been a prominent citizen or someone from a certain "family" things would have been handled differently.. and that is a shame to know that regardless who you know or what your bloodline happen to be you might not be protected. prayers to this young woman's family . wake up people EVERYONE should have the right to be safe.

    -- Posted by justmimi on Wed, Jan 9, 2013, at 2:10 PM
  • Jackson is about as impotent as his father was. Good old boy.....right along with Tony Rogers...

    -- Posted by rockpilefarmer on Wed, Jan 9, 2013, at 5:47 PM
  • Elections have consequences. Karma, left over and served cold.

    -- Posted by Atlas Shrugged on Wed, Jan 9, 2013, at 8:38 PM
  • This is so sad carroll county has failed another family.this little baby is going to grow-up with no mommy and a daddy who well spend sometime in jail get out and say it was all mommys fault I have watch carroll county fell so many children it is unreal what kind of life are they showing children there the ones who are being abuse get left in there homes even thou the police knows what these children are going through lets turn are heads mommy and daddy are druggies thous kids are not going to mount out to nothing just like the parents it is time for everyone band together and make them do something to protect the children of carroll county

    -- Posted by lilgirl on Wed, Jan 9, 2013, at 10:07 PM

    Two prior arrest for beating and strangling? Does anyone in their right mind suggest that a judge would not have this information? This is akin to someone passionately making a case that the earth is flat.

    Reality is this information was known. The end game and result was a matter of time.

    One can ignore reality, but one can not avoid the consequences of ignoring reality.

    -- Posted by Atlas Shrugged on Sun, Jan 13, 2013, at 11:54 AM
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