SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) -- Questions surfaced Tuesday about how an undocumented immigrant suspected of brutally beating his girlfriend to death in Santa Rosa slipped through the cracks despite already being on the radar of immigration officials.
Nery Estrada-Margos was flagged by Immigration and Customs Enforcement just two weeks before he allegedly beat his girlfriend Veronica Cabrera Ramirez to death last Friday.
Sonoma County deputies claim they told the feds he was about to be let of jail, but ICE officials never picked him up. Federal officials counter that they did not have time to send an agent to take the suspect into custody.
Estrada-Margos was arraigned in Santa Rosa court Tuesday on that murder charge.
Veronica Cabrera Ramirez, the mother of two teenage girls, was well loved and is now very missed by her daughters.
But members of her family told KPIX 5 her murder could have been avoided, if only immigration agents had enough time.
"This shouldn't happen, that's for sure," said Gerardo Lopez, the victim's ex-husband. "Someone made a mistake and then he killed her."
Just weeks earlier, the suspect was arrested for beating Cabrera Ramirez. But Estrada-Margos, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, was released after making bail.
ICE wanted Sonoma County authorities to alert them when Estrada-Margos was bailed out. However, Sonoma County officials say ICE never showed up for him when he made bail.
"It's up to them. If they can come and pick someone up, that's their responsibility, not ours," explained Misty Harris with the Sonoma County Sheriff's office.
Federal sources tell KPIX 5 that Sonoma County Sheriff's deputies did call to say they would be releasing Estrada-Margos.
ICE says it got the call at 8:20 p.m., but the sheriff's office released him 16 minutes later at 8:36 p.m. That was hardly enough time for agents to get to the jail.
Estrada-Margos was released on Friday, August 4th. Two weeks later, on August 18th, Cabrera Ramirez was dead.
The victim's family says if ICE had been given enough time to get to the Sonoma County Sheriff's office and collect the inmate, he never would have been able to commit this murder.
The family is angry and want answers.
"They should notify sooner. They should give them more time to take this guy and take him back to his country," said Lopez. "But now I am hoping he can be in jail forever."
When asked what they would say to the family, Sonoma County Sheriff's office spokesperson was sympathetic, but said the department was limited by the constraints of the law.
"First our condolences to the family. We can't predict someone's behavior," said Harris. "We have laws we have to operate within and can't change them based on the people that come through our doors."
ICE officials released a statement early Monday evening that said the brief amount of time between the Sonoma County Sheriff's office notifying the local ICE office of Estrada-Margos making bail and his actual release release was on ongoing issue with the county.
"A vast majority of notifications conveyed by Sonoma County to ICE in the past six months have failed to provide sufficient advance notification to pick up these criminals," the statement read in part. "The county's policy of notifying ICE only minutes before releasing a criminal alien clearly failed in this case as it has in too many others."
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