A Turlock man convicted of killing his girlfriend’s 9-month-old son has been found suitable for parole after serving about 19 years in prison.
A jury in January 1995 found Fernando Arreola, 43, guilty of second-degree murder for the 1993 death of Jason Allen. Prosecutors said Arreola denied responsibility for the infant’s death until a 2012 parole hearing, when he admitted he killed the child.
A parole board on June 12 found Arreola suitable for release from prison, the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office announced this week. Now, the governor has 120 to 150 days to decide whether to approve the board’s decision and grant parole for Arreola.
Prosecutors said Arreola also has admitted he abused Jason at least 30 times during the five months he lived with the baby and his mother before the assault that caused the child’s death.
The child died as a result of shaken baby syndrome suffered Oct. 31, 1993, while Arreola was home alone with the child, according to the prosecution. The baby received initial treatment for head injuries at Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock, then was taken to a Fresno hospital, where he died the following day.
Stephanie Allen, the child’s mother, initially was charged with murder, but the charge was reduced to involuntary manslaughter because she was not in the home when the fatal injury occurred.
Allen later agreed with prosecutors to testify against Arreola in exchange for reducing her charge to being an accessory after the fact. She testified in the trial that she never saw Arreola hit or shake the baby out of anger, although she said he had done so in a playful way. She also said Arreola liked Jason although sometimes was jealous of the infant.
Arreola, who was then a 23-year-old truck driver, claimed the child suffered the injuries when he fell from a couch in the couple’s home. On March 3, 1995, Judge Charles Stone sentenced Arreola to 15 years to life in prison.
At the June parole hearing, Deputy District Attorney Sandra Bishop argued that Arreola should not be released because of the cruel and callous nature of the crime and the extreme vulnerability of the baby. She also argued that Arreola has shown a lack of remorse and was considered a moderate risk of committing violence after a 2012 psychiatric evaluation.
The parole board noted that Arreola had no criminal record before assaulting the child, had not been in trouble in prison since 2007, received positive work performance evaluations and participated in numerous self-help prison groups.
If Arreola is released from prison, the parole board has ordered, he must stay away from the child’s mother and not be left alone with any child.