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Illegal Immigrant No-Showed ICE Appointments Weeks Before Allegedly Stabbing Man To Death

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Jason Hopkins Immigration Reporter
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An illegal immigrant released into the country by border officials failed to report to his immigration hearing scheduled just weeks before he allegedly stabbed a man to death, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Pablo Jose Gutierrez-Morales was among a trio of individuals arrested in May for the murder of a California man who dated a woman he allegedly wanted to pursue. ICE confirmed to the Daily Caller News Foundation that Gutierrez-Morales entered the U.S. unlawfully in 2022 and was placed into a program intended to monitor his whereabouts, but was later removed from the program. (RELATED: Illegal Migrant Arrested For Kidnapping, Sexually Assaulting Child Was Given Years-Long Court Date)

On Feb. 10, police in Pleasant Hill, California, found 37-year-old Santiago Jacobo dead from multiple stab wounds at a local park where he worked as a janitor, according to local media reports at the time. His wife, worried when he hadn’t come after his shift ended, first discovered his body and called 9-1-1.

Following an investigation that spanned more than three months, local investigators announced the arrest of three individuals allegedly involved in the murder: 31-year-old Pablo Jose Gutierrez-Morales, 24-year-old Vanessa Vera-Aguilar, and 25-year-old Jazmin Ruiz. All three were taken into custody under the charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, in what the Antioch Herald, a local media outlet, framed as a “love triangle” stabbing death.

Police tape is seen in front of a police vehicle as Manuel Oliver displays a banner calling on government officials to prioritize gun violence prevention from a construction crane near the White House in Washington, DC, on February 14, 2022. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP) (Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Detectives collected evidence indicating that the three suspects personally knew Jacobo — having previously worked with him at a local assisted living facility — and together they coordinated and executed the attack on him after he finished his shift as a custodian at the Pleasant Hill Park, according to the Antioch Herald. Investigators additionally determined that Jacobo had previously been in a relationship with Vera-Aguilar, one of the suspected murders, while Gutierrez-Morales was pursuing a new relationship with her.

Additional details about the relationship between the victim and suspects are not immediately clear. The Pleasant Hill Police Department did not complete a records request by the DCNF in time for publication of this article.

Federal immigration officials confirmed that Gutierrez-Morales is an illegal immigrant from Nicaragua who was released from their custody before the murder.

“Pablo Jose Gutierrez-Morales, an unlawfully present 31-year-old Nicaraguan national, was encountered by U.S. Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas Sector on July 11, 2022,” an ICE spokesperson stated to the DCNF. “He was paroled into the U.S. and monitored by ICE’s Alternatives to Detention (ATD) with instructions to report to Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), Los Angeles for reporting.”

“On Aug. 22, 2022, he reported to ERO Los Angeles and was terminated from the ATD program with future reporting requirements,” the statement continued, meaning he was removed from ATD and was put on an order of supervision that required reporting as determined by an ICE officer.

However, Gutierrez-Morales didn’t show up to his scheduled reporting appointment on Jan. 24, ICE said — less than a month before the killing on Feb. 10.

The discovery of Gutierrez-Morales’ placement into — and subsequent termination from — ATD marks the latest blemish in what has become a controversial program.

Established in 2004, the ATD program allows foreign nationals to avoid physical detention and move freely in the U.S.  while they await their immigration court dates. Federal immigration authorities use GPS monitoring, phone applications or other forms of tracking services to remain aware of their whereabouts.

Participation in the program has increased as the current border crisis rages on, with hundreds of thousands of migrants enrolled in the program, according to ICE. However, a previous DCNF investigation found the Biden administration has increased its reliance on a phone application that only tracks the location of an illegal immigrant at specific times, in lieu of relying on GPS monitoring, which can track them most or even all of the time.

EAGLE PASS, TEXAS – JANUARY 07: A U.S. Border Patrol agent watches as immigrants prepare to board a bus after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border on January 07, 2024 in Eagle Pass, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Thousands of illegal immigrants abscond from the program every month, according to leaked data.

A number of illegal immigrants have been placed into the ATD program, only to later be charged with high-profile crimes after being taken off the program or absconding from it altogether.

Josefina Cardona-Cardona, an illegal immigrant charged in May with attempting to hire a hitman to kill two people who testified in her son’s murder case, was also previously placed into the program before she no-showed her immigration hearing.

Gutierrez-Morales is currently being held by the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office without bail, according to their website. ICE confirmed to the DNCF that their office has lodged an immigration detainer for him, requesting local law enforcement to notify their agency before releasing him and to hold him long enough for a deportation officer to arrive and make an apprehension.

However, Contra Costa County, California is listed as a “sanctuary” jurisdiction by the Center for Immigration Studies for a 2014 policy enacted by the sheriff’s office that largely restricts how ICE detainers are honored. The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the DCNF.

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