Judge was 'sympathetic' to convicted killer, victim's family says

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- During a hearing on Monday, a Harris County juvenile judge ruled that a now 18-year-old convicted in the murder of a good Samaritan should be released from detention.

Moyses Arreguin was shot and killed steps from his front door on July 2018 after trying to stop his teen neighbor from being robbed in north Harris County.

READ MORE: Good Samaritan's family fears loved one's killer may walk free

Three teen suspects were arrested for the crime. Two were juveniles at the time.

Gilbert Gomez, 19, confessed to the crime and pleaded guilty in the adult system. He was given 25 years in prison.

Meanwhile, a 15- and 16-year-old were both sentenced under the juvenile justice system.

Juvenile records are not public, but the family said the teen who was 16 at the time was sentenced to 10 years behind bars. The other teen was given 20 years, according to the victim's family.

On Monday, the teen who was 16 at the time went before a judge to determine if he would serve the rest of his sentence in adult prison or be released. He has served less than three years. Arreguin's family said Judge Natalia Oakes determined he should be released under the stipulations that he wore an ankle monitor and served seven years of probation.

"It was just painful to know that [Judge Oakes] thinks someone who can commit such a horrible crime can actually become a better person," said Arreguin's sister, Brenda Reyes. "Even [the suspect who was released] said he knows they are not getting enough time for what they did."

SEE ALSO: Family of neighbor shot and killed while helping teen fears no justice will be served

About 40 of Arreguin's family members and friends logged on to the Zoom hearing. They said it was apparent to all of them that the judge had more sympathy for the defendant than the family still grieving the loss of the father of two.

"She was very sympathetic toward him for some reason," said Roberto Negrete, Arreguin's brother. "I guess she doesn't know that he murdered my brother."

Based on the fact that the juveniles were given specific sentence lengths, former juvenile prosecutor Stephen Aslett told ABC13 that indicates it was a determinant sentence case.

"Normally, the juvenile justice system has to let you out at the age of 19, but with a determinant sentence you could be transferred to adult court system and be monitored in the adult court system until your sentence is up or you are eligible for parole," Aslett explained.

A transfer hearing must take place for the defendant before they turn 19 to determine if the defendant will be moved to adult prison or released, which is what happened Monday.

"A judge looks at a whole host of things," Aslett said. "What did they do? How did the murder happen? What was their history before the murder happened? How did they behave in juvenile prison called TJJD? What does the victim's family want? What does the prosecutor want?"

Arreguin's family did not want the teen to be released. They have concerns about their safety and the safety of the community.
They said the prosecutor brought up in court that the defendant had 20 infractions since being jailed and joined a gang in juvenile detention. Andy Kahan with Crime Stoppers wonders what sort of message this decision sends to Harris County.

"Basically, you are giving open season for juvenile offenders and for adults who realize, 'If I am going to be a criminal and I am going to rob people, I am going to go ahead and take juveniles with me and let them do the dirty work, because little if nothing is going to happen to them,'" Kahan said.

Judge Oakes issued the following statement when asked about her decision:

"Judicial Ethics prohibit me from commenting on an individual case. The Texas Juvenile Justice Code requires judges to balance effective rehabilitation with community safety."

The juvenile who was 15 at the time of the murder will have a transfer hearing in September, according to the family. They are concerned he, too, will be released.

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