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FREE TO KILL: Pima County probation caseloads exceed state law

According to police reports, 20-year-old Andres Machado was on probation when he killed Emma Dominquez.
Published: May. 18, 2022 at 11:29 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A dangerous felon, ordered not to possess a weapon, was released by the court system repeatedly.

According to police reports, 20-year-old Andres Machado was on probation when he fired a round into a moving vehicle. The bullet struck 18-year-old Emma Dominquez in the neck, killing her.

Dominquez’s mother wants answers after discovering Machado was a probation domestic violence absconder.

Leanna Alvarez said she has little confidence in the criminal justice system in Pima County.

“I see that most of the people that lose their lives are from repeat offenders that get out and end up taking someone’s life,” Alvarez said. “(I never thought) I would be in the situation that I am today.”

Machado was sentenced to three years probation in August 2021. Five months later, a petition was filed to revoke that probation.

That happened after Machado picked up several new charges, a violation of his probation. Machado then disappeared.

Probation officers said it’s easier for probation violators to “fly in the wind,” because caseloads are high. That is especially true for the domestic violence warrants absconder team.

“Very, very high caseloads,” a probation officer said. “(It’s) more than any regular probation officer.”

There are countless cases, the probation officers said, of victims needing protection from violent felons. And they get frustrated when they’re released over and over again.

The probation chief told KOLD the vast majority of all caseloads consist of higher risk, higher need offenders making it challenging for the department.

State law puts a cap on caseloads for standard probation officers — an average of 65.

The counts are well above that in Pima County.

The Probation Department supplied us with these averages since 2020.

  • 2020 -- 76
  • 2021 -- 73
  • 2022 -- 74

To compare, Maricopa County reports lower counts --

  • 2020 -- 59
  • 2021 -- 58
  • 2022 -- 63

Documents obtained by KOLD show counts in the domestic violence unit range from 75 to 81, with an average of 78 in May 2022.

Some caseloads, they report, have hit 90.

“It’s very hard, almost impossible to supervise that many people and keep the community safe as well as the victims,” said one probation officer.

And word has gotten around the streets. They said probationers believe certain violations will just get them a slap on the wrist.

“These technical violations turn into larger violations,” said a probation officer. “What happens is the defendant sees nothing is being done to them. Well, I didn’t show up for court. Who cares that I did not go to treatment? They’re not doing anything to me. They just tell me not to do it again. And it piles and it piles.”

And the work piles and piles for the probation officers.

Last year, Machado was ordered to go through domestic violence offender treatment, DUI treatment and alcohol screening.

Court records show he had been given repeated chances to get on the right path, similar to what KOLD discovered with other violent felons. Read more in our “Free To Kill” series at https://www.kold.com/news/free-to-kill/

You can request an investigation by emailing our team at kold-investigates@gray.tv

“There comes a point where you say enough is enough,” a probation officer said. “They’re not getting it. It was constant, keep working with them, keep working. We need to keep the population down. We don’t need to have so many petitions to revoke.”

Alvarez has seen enough and called her daughter’s death a failure in the system, one that has now left the family with a gaping hole in their hearts and lives.

“She just got cheated out of her life for what, I don’t know,” Alvarez said, “But I just promise that she will get justice and we’re not going to give up, we’re going to keep fighting for her.”

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