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Abbott orders probe after 2 Dallas parolees with ankle monitors accused of murder

Gov. Greg Abbott ordered Monday two state criminal justice agencies investigate whether lapses occurred on their watch after two Dallas parolees with ankle monitors were accused of murder within two weeks.

Abbott wrote in a letter addressed to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the state board of pardons and paroles that ankle monitors did not deter Nestor Hernandez and Zeric Jackson from the “heinous crimes” in which they are suspected. Hernandez is accused of two slayings at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, while Jackson is accused in a Lake Highlands killing.

He ordered the two agencies, which are in charge of parole decisions and monitoring parolees, to present a joint report for his office with administrative and legislative recommendations by Jan. 4.

“Although nothing can be done to bring back these victims, Texas must protect Texas residents from similar acts,” Abbott wrote.

The board of pardons and paroles came under scrutiny from Dallas and state officials after the hospital slayings. But the board defended releasing Hernandez from prison early following a felony conviction, saying the circumstances were “not unusual.” It was unclear whether the agencies were investigating prior to the letter.

Amanda Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said the agency received Abbott’s letter and is conducting a “comprehensive investigation” into the supervision of both parolees.

“The agency has already taken additional steps to prevent lapses in supervision, such as a review of policies and operations, additional training requirements for staff, and conducting compliance audits,” Hernandez said. “TDCJ is committed to providing public safety and making any necessary changes to help prevent any future tragedies.”

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment.

Hernandez, 30, is charged with capital murder, aggravated assault against a public servant and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after police said he opened fire Oct. 22 in Methodist Dallas Medical Center and killed Katie Annette Flowers, a 63-year-old nurse, and Jacqueline Ama Pokuaa, a 45-year-old social worker.

He was visiting his girlfriend in the hospital’s labor and delivery wing for the birth of their newborn baby when he began to act strange and accused her of cheating on him, according to an arrest-warrant affidavit. Pokuaa was shot when she went into the room to provide routine patient services, Dallas police said. Flowers then looked inside the room and also was shot, police said.

Hernandez wore an ankle monitor and was granted permission to be at the hospital for the birth, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He was paroled in October 2021 after he served 80% of an 8-year prison sentence for aggravated robbery. Officials said he cut off his ankle monitor earlier this year, then served an additional 100 days in custody before he was released.

About two weeks after the Methodist case, police said Jackson, also a parolee with an ankle monitor, fatally shot 39-year-old Brian Dillard in the 10000 block of Audelia Road in Lake Highlands. Dillard was with Jackson’s girlfriend, who told police she was in the shower when she heard a loud bang and found Dillard on the floor with the front door propped open against him, according to an affidavit.

Jackson was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2007 for a deadly aggravated robbery. He’d been denied parole four times, but after a fifth review, was released May 6 of this year with his enrollment in the prison system’s super intensive supervision program, which included the ankle monitor, according to the board of pardons and paroles.

Dallas police Chief Eddie García, who has been outspoken about the ineffectiveness of ankle monitors, said in a written statement Monday that he applauds Abbott and the agencies in “doing their best to ensure the safety of our communities and in turn, greatly assisting us in the process” even though the victims’ lives can’t be brought back.

“Violent criminal accountability is a major issue, not only here in Dallas or Texas, but nationally,” García said Monday.

Both police and civil rights groups criticize ankle monitors — which provide supervision for some out on bail or on parole or probation — but research shows they’ve only grown more popular. Police say the monitors aren’t enough to keep violent criminals in line, while some researchers and groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union say there’s no evidence the ankle monitors are rehabilitative.

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot also took aim at ankle monitors after the Methodist case. Most people do comply while on electronic monitoring, Creuzot said at the time, but said too many people cut off their monitors or go on to commit violence while wearing the device. His office declined to comment Monday.

Both Hernandez and Jackson remained Monday in the Dallas County jail.

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