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Texas massacre to highlight shortcomings in the state’s parole system

DALLAS – Texas criminal suspect in a criminal rampage that killed three people was arraigned on capital murder charges Monday in a case that authorities say highlights cracks in a criminal justice system that is slow to nab parolees when they pose new threats.

Jose Gilberto Rodriguez, 46, was denied bond during a hearing in Houston. Researchers say that Rodriguez is linked to the shooting deaths of three people who have more than four days in the Houston area this month, including two people who worked at the mattress stores. He was apprehended in a stolen car last week.

Rodriguez had cut off his ankle monitor several days before the first killing, sending a warning to the parole division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, authorities said. The monitor stopped transmitting three days later, and an arrest warrant was issued that day. But researchers do not see him as a suspect in the murder until a week later.

Parolees can go days unnoticed, after they violate the terms of their release to parole. Over the last month, there were about 7,200 parolees and nearly 1,500 in the Houston area that were searched because they failed to report to their parole officer, according to KHOU-TV in Houston.

And on some days, officers have to deal with hundreds of notifications about violations that, in many cases, are false signals, such as those arising from a defect only monitor. State parole officials do not have the power to arrest, so warrants should be issued for another station to act.

Parole officers also each have dozens of parolees to check, with caseloads sometimes upwards of 110 or 120 criminals, according to the Texas State Employees Union, which represents parole officers. The union estimates of the number of parolees requiring supervision will climb to approximately 87,000 next year in Texas. The union said that the state not hiring enough people to keep.

“Caseloads at the current level, combined with a high staff turnover and a lack of funded positions, have led to a large number of officers have to double up on caseloads to cover an open position,” the union said in a recent legislative memo.

Houston police Chief Art Acevedo wants to create a system to assess parolees’ criminal history and the priority that needs to be searched for others by the use of “risk-assessment categories.” The offender with a history of sexual abuse, for example, would be asked before any other white-collar offenses.

Acevedo the immediate concern is the more than 500 parolees with a violent history of living in the Houston area and focused on an active arrest warrant for violating the conditions of their parole. He wants to be with around 10 Houston officers who focus on parole violators and signs of an officer of each law enforcement agency in Harris County to create a task force of about 40 people to go after reoffenders for their actions turn violent.

“Teeth should be provided by the front-line enforcement of the law,” Acevedo said. “I don’t believe that we’re doing as good a job in the enforcement of the law by lean resources.”

Rodriguez is suspected of killing a 62-year-old woman, whose body was found in her home on 13 July, a 28-year-old employee of a Houston mattress store and found dead the next day, and a 57-year-old man, who worked at a mattress store in Houston on July 16.

Rodriguez is also a suspect of the robbery, shooting and injuring a bus driver and two home-invasion robberies, investigators said. Investigators say a gun was found in the stolen car, Rodriguez drove when he was arrested.

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Associated Press writer Michael Graczyk contributed to this report from Houston.

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