So-called “caregivers” who imprisoned, tortured, and murdered a 38-year-old disabled woman, Mary Melero, with autism were supposed to be her guardians to care for her. Instead, they physically and sexually abused her to the point she went into septic shock and died at an El Paso hospital after having a heart attack due to the trauma. Melero lived in Chacon’s house in Rio Rancho. The Santa Fe New Mexican first reported the story.
The two women responsible for her brutal torture and death, Angelita Chacon, 52, and Patricia Hurtado, 42, have been charged with several offenses ranging from neglect, false imprisonment, conspiracy to commit false imprisonment, and failure to report. Another woman, Luz Scott, has been charged with false imprisonment and conspiracy to commit false imprisonment.
Chacon faces a maximum of 19 years behind bars, Hurtado faces a maximum of 20.5 years, and Scott faces a maximum of three years, according to Attorney General Raúl Torrez.
“Melero was unable to stand and was unresponsive when she was found in the back of the van, lying on the floorboard wrapped in a blanket and dirty bandages covering her open wounds, but was crying…. Chacon told authorities they were taking the woman for medical treatment in Mexico,” USA Today reports.
“Chacon told investigators that the victim had spent three days in a bathtub with her own feces and urine, which investigators suspect may have contributed to the infections that led to her death, the affidavit said. She also told investigators that the victim had recently thrown a portable stereo at Chacon and she ‘threw’ it back at the victim, hitting her in the face and causing her lip to get ‘busted.’ Chacon said she asked a friend, who was not a medical professional, to stitch up the victim’s lip instead of taking her to see a doctor, according to the affidavit.”
Medical examinations show she was sexually abused. “A sexual assault nurse examination, to collect evidence commonly referred to as a rape kit, was performed on the woman March 5 due to her “traumatic injuries,” the affidavit states. It revealed the woman had several lacerations between her vagina and anus, as well as lacerations in her anus,” reported the New Mexican.
To make matters worse, Chacon and Hurtado, who were granted guardianship of Melero, got paid $250,000 in state funds, or $5,000 per month, to care for the woman, contracting through At Home Advocacy and three other contractors.
“Torrez said At Home Advocacy was supposed to conduct monthly home checks and had been to Chacon’s home about a month before to check on the victim. A representative for At Home Advocacy told investigators that ‘body checks’ were not performed during those check-ins, and staff didn’t observe any injuries on the victim at the time, according to the affidavit,” the report continued.
In a press release from New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Patrick Allen, the Department wrote, “Upon learning of this horrific case, DOH took immediate action and terminated agreements with the four providers involved: At Home Advocacy, Inc., Albuquerque; A New Vision Case Management, Corrales; Lynn Barbour, LLC, Albuquerque; Sylvester & Company, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque.”
The case prompted DOH to conduct and complete in-person wellness checks on all individuals being cared for under the state’s Developmental Disabilities Waiver (DD Waiver) programs to ensure they are in good health and being well cared for by providers, according to the release.
“The Department of Health will use every tool at our disposal to make sure we are doing everything we can to prevent future cases of abuse and neglect of our DD Waiver clients,” said Secretary Allen. “Persons with disabilities often rely on others for their day-to-day living. They literally entrust their caregivers with their lives. This vulnerable population has inherent difficulty advocating for itself, and are highly dependent on caregivers, often in the caregiver’s own home. People with developmental and intellectual disabilities are people who deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and care. When their care is covered by one of the state’s Medicaid funded DD Waiver Programs everyone is accountable, and we must ensure their health and safety needs are met.”