Prosecutors have announced charges against three women in connection with the abuse, torture, and death of a 38-year-old autistic woman.
According to a news release from the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, on Feb. 27, Angelica Chacon, Patricia Hurtado, and Luz Scott allegedly tried to drive the victim, Mary Melero, to Mexico in a white passenger van to seek medical treatment. Federal agents reportedly noticed that Melero, who suffered from developmental disabilities, was “severely dehydrated and drugged” and had “numerous open wounds, including chronic bedsores with exposed bone, bruises, and lacerations on various parts of her body, and ligature marks consistent with prolonged restraint.”
Federal agents tried to talk to Melero, but she was unable to speak, the Attorney General’s Office said. Melero was subsequently transported to University Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, and died from her injuries April 7.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, Melero was part of the Developmental Disabilities Waiver Program in the state of New Mexico. The New Mexico Department of Health contracted with At Home Advocacy (AHA), which allows for caretakers to provide care for patients in a private residence setting rather than through an institution. Two of the defendants, Chacon and Hurtado, were reportedly paid $5,000 a month through AHA and the New Mexico Department of Health to care for the victim.
The Attorney General’s Office said AHA “received nearly $250,000 to coordinate care and support for Melero in the three years before her death.” AHA reportedly last conducted an at-home visit for Melero on Jan. 25, a month before the defendants attempted to seek medical care for the victim in Mexico.
The Attorney General’s Office announced May 18 that Chacon faces charges of abuse of a resident resulting in death, false imprisonment, conspiracy to commit false imprisonment, and failure to report. She faces a maximum sentence of 19 years in prison if convicted.
Chacon’s live-girlfriend, Hurtado, was charged with neglect of a resident resulting in death, abuse of a resident resulting in physical harm or great psychological harm, false imprisonment, conspiracy to commit false imprisonment, and failure to report. If convicted, Hurtado faces a maximum sentence of 20 1/2 years in prison.
Scott, who allegedly provided the van and assisted with transporting Melero through the state, was charged with false imprisonment and conspiracy to commit false imprisonment. Scott faces a maximum prison sentence of three years if convicted.
In a statement, New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez said, “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. This was torture. There’s really no other word for it.”
Torrez added, “We have a moral obligation to speak up for the most vulnerable members of our society, and I urge the governor and the legislature to take immediate action to overhaul the health and safety protocols at the Department of Health to ensure that this never happens again.”
New Mexico Reps. Liz Thomson and Kathleen Cates said, “Being state representatives enables us to speak for the voiceless. It is our mission to provide robust and proactive resources to those who have unique disabilities. We stand by the attorney general and anyone who strives to join us in creating systemic and effective changes to protect those who need extra support.”