Two at-home caregivers who were being paid by the state of New Mexico to care for a developmentally disabled 38-year-old woman face multiple felony charges for allegedly torturing the victim to death in a horrific fashion.
Angelita R. Chacon and Patricia Hurtado were taken into custody last week and charged with abuse or neglect of a resident resulting in death, false imprisonment, conspiracy to commit false imprisonment, and failure to report the death of Mary Melero, authorities announced.
A third woman, Luz Scott, who was not a paid caregiver, was also arrested in connection with the alleged crimes against Melero and charged with one count of false imprisonment and one count of conspiracy to commit false imprisonment.
“The abuse and neglect that she endured was horrific and the injuries she sustained are among the worst I have seen in my career as a prosecutor,” New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez said in a statement. “This was torture. There’s really no other word for it.”
According to a press release from the AG’s office, agents with Customs and Border Patrol on Feb. 27, 2023, discovered the victim in the rear seat of a white passenger van belonging to Scott. Authorities say that the three defendants were attempting to transport Melero from the U.S. to Mexico in order to get her medical attention.
When authorities found Melero, they said she was severely dehydrated, drugged, and bore numerous wounds indicative of long-term mistreatment. These injuries included chronic bedsores so severe that bone was exposed, bruises, ulcers, lacerations on various parts of her body, and ligature marks consistent with extended restraint, officials said. Tragically, Melero was unable to communicate when found, and she was immediately rushed to the University Medical Center in El Paso, Texas.
Border Patrol agents wrote in an affidavit that Melero appeared as though she wanted to communicate, “however, only tears fell from her eyes,” according to a report from the Rio Ranchero Observer.
Despite medical efforts, Melero tragically succumbed to her wounds and was pronounced dead on April 7, 2023.
The University Medical Center described Melero’s “extensive” injuries as being “chronic wounds” that continued to worsen.
“The filed arrest warrant indicates that the victim was left in a bathtub in her own feces for days at a time and according to medical professionals had infected pressure sores resulting in septic shock,” prosecutors wrote in the release.
Making matters worse, Melero had been enrolled in the Developmental Disabilities Waiver (DD Waiver) Program administered by the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH). Through this program, DOH contracted with At Home Advocacy (AHA) and three other contractors to provide supplemental care for individuals with disabilities, including Melero.
Prosecutors say that Chacon and Hurtado were contracted caregivers with AHA, receiving approximately $5,000 per month under the DD Waiver Program to care for Melero. A preliminary review of business records revealed that AHA had received nearly $250,000 in the three years leading up to Melero’s untimely death for coordinating her care and support. The last in-person visit by AHA occurred on January 25, 2023, just one month before Melero was intercepted at the El Paso port of entry.
In a statement to USA Today, New Mexico DOH Secretary Patrick Allen said the alleged crimes amounted to the “worst breach of trust DOH has ever seen.”
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