PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Washington County District Attorney is now raising the alarm on how the county handles pretrial release, especially with domestic violence cases.
This comes after a man facing domestic violence charges shot and killed two women before turning the gun on himself, all while he was out on GPS monitoring.
“In the last two years’ time, we had 13 domestic violence-related murders in Washington County. It’s probably the single biggest cause of homicide in Washington County,” said Kevin Barton, Washington County District Attorney.
Barton says one of the most recent cases involved the Nov. 16 murders of two women in rural Washington County. Court records show Carlos Jimenez Vargas was facing domestic violence charges against family members, including a reported incident where when his wife threatened to leave him, he grabbed a bag of guns and said they would have to shoot each other.
She told police she was able to get the bag back from him and told him she would stay, calming him back down. But after his arrest, a judge granted him pretrial release — not requiring bail — and with a GPS monitoring bracelet — under the condition that he did not contact his family or go to the home on SW Scholls Ferry Road. However, according to DA Barton, that home address was never red-flagged.
“There’s this idea that it’s somehow real-time tracking of what’s happening. The reality is, GPS monitoring is of little use and most of the time, it only tells us what happened after the fact because it’s not as though there’s a person or computer monitoring a particular defendant who has been released from custody, pushing a button and calling the police the minute that person goes where they’re not supposed to be,” said Barton, adding that still, the address should have been flagged. “It’s a complete failure that the GPS company didn’t have the address from the court.”
Data from Jimenez Vargas’ device shows a month after his October release, he went to the home on Nov. 14 for 14 minutes, but police were never alerted by the GPS company that the device was documented there, so no arrests were made.
Two days later, he went back there for almost an hour, shooting and killing his wife and her sister, before killing himself, according to police. Barton says it’s an example of the failures in the current pretrial release policies he hopes the courts will address — before this happens again.
“It’s always hard to go back and say, if something had happened differently, then a crime wouldn’t have occurred,” said Barton. “It’s a complete failure when that particular person went to that house where he shouldn’t have been, for that to have not been a violation of his release, and for that not to have triggered the mandatory arrest that occurs when there’s a violation of that release, that is, it’s shocking. It’s absolutely shocking and I believe if things had worked as they should’ve worked, he would’ve been in jail where he belonged rather than murdering two people two days later.”
KOIN 6 reached out to the Washington County Circuit Court for more information as to why Jimenez Vargas was released without bail being required and for a response to DA Barton’s letter but have not yet heard back.