The Santa Rosa man suspected of killing his girlfriend Friday morning after a domestic disturbance was flagged by federal immigration authorities while in custody early this month.
Nery Israel Estrada-Margos, 38, turned himself in at the Santa Rosa police station just before 7 a.m. Friday, telling authorities that he had beaten his girlfriend after an argument and feared she might be dead, police said.
Santa Rosa police officers went to the Russell Avenue apartment that Estrada-Margos shared with the victim, Veronica Cabrera Ramirez, 42, and found her body.
Estrada-Margos was booked in Sonoma County Jail on murder charges Friday. An autopsy for Cabrera Ramirez is scheduled today by the Sonoma County Coroner’s Office.
Estrada-Margos was also arrested Aug. 2 for felony domestic battery after Cabrera Ramirez informed police about a July 31 incident. After he was fingerprinted and booked in Sonoma County Jail, Immigration and Customs Enforcement contacted jail officials and asked to be notified when he was released.
Estrada-Margos posted bail, set at $30,000, on Aug. 3. The Sheriff’s Office notified ICE that day of his release, but federal agents did not come to the jail to pick him up.
The Sheriff’s Office does not keep track of the number of times ICE agents come to the county jail to pick up inmates upon their release. But of the 139 responses to ICE requests for notification through July 31 this year, only a small percentage of inmates released were picked up by immigration authorities.
The Sheriff’s Office has faced significant scrutiny over its cooperation with ICE at the county jail. The Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach and county supervisors have pressed the Sheriff’s Office to limit its response to notification requests from ICE.
Starting Friday, the same day as the homicide in Santa Rosa, interim Sheriff Rob Giordano changed his office’s policy on interactions with ICE at the jail.
Federal immigration officials will now only receive responses to notification requests if a person has been convicted of a felony listed by the California Trust Act. The jail will cooperate when an inmate has been convicted of a Trust Act misdemeanor and 13 other crimes within the last five years. The additional misdemeanors, chosen by Giordano, include DUIs, battery and seven sex crimes relating to minors.
Estrada-Margos has no prior convictions, sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Spencer Crum said. Had the new policy had been in place Aug. 3, jail officials would not have notified ICE about his release, Crum said.
Giordano met with the IOLERO Community Advisory Council Monday night to answer questions on immigration policy. His predecessor, former Sheriff Steve Freitas, who retired July 31 for health reasons, never met with the advisory council, the only civilian oversight group over the Sheriff’s Office.
The interim sheriff is set to be interviewed by the Board of Supervisors this morning before they vote on whether to appoint Giordano to serve out the remainder of Freitas’ term through January 2019.
Neither the Sheriff’s Office nor Santa Rosa police collects information on immigration status of those arrested and booked in jail. The Sheriff’s Office does ask for place of birth on pre-booking forms, but is not releasing Estrada-Margos’ country of origin at this time.