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Parolee without GPS tracker charged with killing his grandmother

The sex offender was arrested and released at least 10 times in the last nine months, charged with parole violations over disabling his tracking device and other offenses, records show.

February 28, 2013|By Paige St. John, Los Angeles Times

SACRAMENTO — A paroled sex offender who has been in and out of the San Joaquin County jail repeatedly for disarming his GPS monitor is back behind bars, charged with killing his 76-year-old grandmother and leaving her body in a backyard wheelbarrow.

Police reports and confidential law enforcement files show Sidney Jerome DeAvila, 39, was arrested and released at least 10 times in the last nine months, charged with parole violations over using drugs and public drunkenness as well as disabling his tracking device.

A former ward of a prison psychiatric hospital after being convicted in 2011 of molesting children, he was considered a high-risk parolee because of a long history of violence and mental health problems.

Almost every time DeAvila was arrested, the records show, he was released the next day because of overcrowding in the San Joaquin County jail.

Before the governor and Legislature began referring parole violators to county jails rather than state prisons, DeAvila would have remained behind bars awaiting hearings that could have sent him back to prison for up to a year.

Now the maximum penalty is 180 days in jail. But many who breach parole never serve that time because many counties are, like the state, under orders to reduce inmate overcrowding.

Since the custody rules changed in October 2011, more than 3,400 warrants have been issued for GPS violators, the vast majority of them sex offenders, a Times investigation found. Lawmakers recently introduced legislation to require GPS violators to go back to prison.

DeAvila's most recent arrest for parole violation was Feb. 13, jail records show. He was released from the jail Feb. 20 and failed to get a new GPS monitor from the parole office, prompting a fresh warrant for his arrest.

On Tuesday, Stockton police were called after neighbors found the body of Racheal Russell, DeAvila's grandmother, with whom he sometimes lived, in a wheelbarrow in her backyard.

DeAvila was booked later that day on charges of murder, resisting arrest and violating parole. As of Thursday afternoon, he had not entered a plea.

Stockton police are awaiting autopsy results to declare a cause of death, police spokesman Joseph Silva said.

California corrections officials reiterated Thursday that counties, not the state, are responsible for determining whether and how long to keep parole violators in jail.

"We take absconding from parole very seriously," corrections spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said. The state "provides counties with the funding and tools needed to manage offenders at the local level. Parole violators can be held in county jail for up to 180 days, and we know sheriffs take their responsibility seriously and are making difficult decisions every day."

A spokesman for the San Joaquin County sheriff's office did not immediately return calls seeking comment. A local judge who presides over jail releases has said the county cannot accommodate parole violators without releasing other convicted criminals.

paige.stjohn@latimes.com

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